Subject : Guidelines for Talfiq and Deviating from the Madhab
Fatwa Number : 3875
Date : 14-05-2024
Classified : "Principles of Fiqh "Jurisprudence
Fatwa Type : Search Fatawaa

Question :

What are the guidelines for deviating from one`s Madhab (School of Islamic jurisprudence) and combining opinions of different schools of thought (Talfiq), and is deviating from one`s Madhab, in some matters, considered abandoning it? 

The Answer :

All perfect praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. May His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions.

After the documentation of the four main Madhabs, the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, or Hanbali, the established practice among the majority of the Islamic community is to adhere to one of them. There is no religious prohibition preventing a follower (Muqalid) from strictly adhering to one of these four schools and never deviating from it. Similarly, there is no prohibition on a follower from transitioning from one school to another if they so choose. As Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami mentioned in his "Al-Fatawa Al-Fiqhiyyah Al-Kubra" (Vol.4/P. 289), "The Shafi'i, Abu Hanifa, Malik, and Ahmad, along with all the Muslim Imams, were guided by their Lord. May Allah reward them abundantly for their contributions to Islam and Muslims and unite us with them. Since they were all guided by Allah, there is no harm for someone to guide others to adhere to any of the four schools of jurisprudence, even if it contradicts their own school and beliefs, because they are guiding them to truth and guidance."

It is preferable for someone who has committed to a specific Madhab to not deviate from it in practice or in issuing legal opinions (fatwas). However, it is permissible to depart from it when necessary, such as when adherence to the Madhab becomes difficult for oneself or for the questioner. Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami mentioned in "Al-Fatawa Al-Fiqhiyyah Al-Kubra" (Vol.4/P. 316): "It is permissible for a mufti (Muslim jurist who issues legal rulings) to issue a fatwa according to his own Madhab or another Madhab if he understands the basis of the ruling and attributes it to the imam who holds that view."

The guidelines for deviating from one`s Madhab can be summarized as follows:

1-The adopted Madhab must be well-documented: This ensures that the individual has certain knowledge that the issue in question is addressed within that Madhab.

2-The follower must understand the conditions of the adopted Madhab for that particular issue.

3-Avoiding the pursuit of scholarly leniencies. Sheikh al-Islam Imam al-Nawawi mentioned in "Al-Majmu'" (Vol.1/P.55): "If it were permissible to follow any Madhab one wishes, it would lead to selecting the leniencies of various Madhabs according to one's desires, thus oscillating between permissibility and prohibition, and obligation and allowance; this would ultimately result in the dissolution of the bonds of religious duty."

4-Ensuring that departing from the Madhab does not lead to impermissible Talfiq.

5-There must be a necessity for departing from the Madhab: It is important to distinguish between the necessity for an individual to depart from a Madhab and the necessity for a mufti to do so. An individual should adhere to the fatwa of a mufti, who may depart from the Madhab for broader, public needs.

A follower leaving their Madhab in a particular issue is not considered a departure from their Madhab. This is because the follower might face hardship or difficulty, which can be alleviated by following another recognized Madhab. Through examination, we find many issues within the same Madhab that guide the follower to adopt rulings from other Madhabs for ease. Some of our Shafi'i scholars have mentioned, for example, the non-impurity of small amounts of water unless their properties change, following the Maliki Madhab. Al-Bajuri said in his [Hashiyat al-Bajuri 'ala Sharh Ibn Qasim, Vol. 1/P. 34], "And in this, there is leniency." Another example mentioned by Ibn 'Ajil al-Yamani al-Shafi'i includes three issues in Zakat (Alms) where it is permissible to give a fatwa contrary to the Madhab, i.e., by following another Madhab: transferring Zakat, giving it to one category of eligible recipients, and giving it to one person. [Hashiyat al-Jamal 'ala Sharh al-Manhaj, Vol. 4/P. 97].

For those seeking more detail, they can refer to books of fiqh and fatwas where they will find leniency in departing from the Madhab either as guidance for the questioner, for giving fatwas, or in judicial rulings.

Regarding the issue of combining opinions of different Madhabs, known as "Talfīq," it refers to the practice of a follower adopting two different opinions from two different imams, resulting in a third opinion that none of the imams originally held. An example of this would be a person wiping only part of their head in wudu (ablution) following the Shafi'i Madhab, and then touching their spouse without invalidating their wudu according to the Hanafi Madhab. Most scholars consider the worship invalid in such cases because the person performs an act of worship that none of the scholars they are following would deem valid.

Shaykh al-Islam Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami said: "It is a condition not to combine opinions of different schools (Talfīq) if one wants to follow or include in part of it (issue) the imitation of another imam because it has been established that combining opinions is forbidden. For example, following Malik in the non-impurity of the dog and Shafi'i in wiping part of the head is unanimously prohibited" [al-Fatawa al-Fiqhiyya al-Kubra, Vol. 4/P. 326].

Imam al-Balqini, followed by the scholar Ibn Ziyad al-Yamani, differentiated between Talfīq in a single case and two separate cases. The first scenario is prohibited, whereas the second is permissible. Ibn Ziyad explained in his [Fatawa] in the chapter on judicial rulings: "What is understood from their statements on imitation (Taqlid) is that invalid combination of opinions/rulings occurs when it is within a single case. For example, if someone performs wudu (ablution) following Abu Hanifa's ruling that touching the opposite gender does not nullify wudu and then follows Shafi'i's ruling on not needing to wipe a quarter of the head and then prays, their prayer is invalid because both imams agree that his purification is invalid. However, if the combination of opinions/rulings involves two separate cases, it appears that this does not invalidate imitation (Taqlid). For instance, if a Shafi'i follows Abu Hanifa in the direction of the Qibla but does not wipe a quarter of the head, his prayer is not invalid because the two imams did not agree on the invalidity of his purification, as there is disagreement on it."

Zayn al-Din al-Malibari commented: "I have seen in the Fatawa of al-Balqini what suggests that combining opinions/rulings from two separate cases does not invalidate imitation (Taqlid)" [Fath al-Mu'in, p. 615].

The result is that it is permissible to combine the opinions of different schools (Talfiq) within certain guidelines:

Firstly, the ruling resulting from Talfiq should not contradict scholarly consensus, explicit unequivocal texts, or clear analogy; such as someone marrying without a dowry, guardian, or witnesses, as this form has not been reported by anyone.

Secondly, the ruling resulting from Talfiq should not be something that both Imams do not say in the same case; such as wiping part of one's head following the Shafi'i school, while not intending it in ablution according to the Hanafi school.

Thirdly, there should be a need necessitating the Talfiq. It is not permissible if done out of personal desire, or to evade religious obligations.

Fourthly, it should not contradict the objectives of Sharia (Maqasid), which are preserving religion, life, intellect, lineage, and property.

In conclusion, it is permissible for a follower (Muqalid) of one of the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence to remain adherent to their school without deviating from it, which is preferable, better, and more accurate. It is also permissible for them to transition to another school, even without a necessity, on the condition that they adhere to the conditions and guidelines of that school regarding that particular issue. Combining between the schools of jurisprudence and the opinions of diligent scholars is permissible if the mentioned guidelines are met. A follower (Muqalid) may find themselves in a difficult or awkward situation in a specific issue with no way out except through combining opinions/ruings. This is especially relevant in financial transactions. Therefore, it is permissible for a mufti to combine opinions/rulings in issuing fatwas according to what they deem correct and fulfilling the needs of the individuals seeking guidance. It is also permissible for the questioner to act upon the combined ruling. And Allah the Almighty knows best.




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