Four Schools of Thoughts


This is a very beautiful delineation of the groups and sects in Islam - Please don't miss it, go through it

and you would gain tremendously - Insha Allah.

A.H.Nazeer Ahmed



This Jurisprudence (Fatwa) we have obtained from

Honorable Sheikh Safiur Rehman Mubarakpuri

(Author of "Raheeq ul Makhtoom")


Q. Is it obligatory to follow any one sect (school of thought) out of four Isclamic sects (Four Mazaheb) namely "Hanafi"  "Maliki" "Shafaee"and "Hanbali"?  Should a Muslim must select one leader (Imam) and neglect the remaining three? Please explain. (Mohammad Aqil – Jeddah)


Ans.  "First of all you must understand that "Islam" was given to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) by "Wahi" throughthe Archangel Gabriel. Allah (SWT) selected Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) for his religion to spread and made him innocent, completed His religion on him.  On the occasion of the last Hajj of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) this verse descended "Alyouma akmaltu lakum deenakum wa atmamtu alaikum ni'matee wa radaetu lakumul Islama deena" (Al-Maeda 5:3). "This day, I  have perfected your religion for you and completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you ISLAM as your religion" (Ch.V – The Table Spread V-3).


It is necessary here to understand that the religion had been completed onto Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and then he departed from this world after giving this religion to Muslims. Allah Himself proclaimed responsibility to safeguard this religion in the life of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), and said "Inna nahnu nazzalna azzikr wa inna lahu lahaafizoon"(Al-Hijr 9) " Verily We: It is We, Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e. Quran) and surely, We will guard it (from corruption)"(C15:V9) viz :: We have provided The Book (Quran and its meaning in the form of Hadeeth), We are its Guardian.  Therefore what Allah (SWT) had given us through His Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), in the form of Quran and its meaning, which were explained by His Prophet Mohammad's (PBUH) hadeeths, are intact to date in its original form.  Means religion is given through His prophet in the form of Quran and Hadeeth and He promised to safeguard these two in their
original form.  So whatever religion was given to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) by his lord is still in the same form.


Obviously what we can follow in the form of religion is Quran and Aadeeth. There is no any third thing which can be followed in the name of religion.

No doubt these imams were very high in their knowledge and deeds, and there were lot of others of similar caliber and even of higher than these imams in rank and caliber.  And beside these four scholars, three other scholars were also followed by people similar to "Hanafi" "Maliki" "Shafaee" and "Hanbali" as we find today people only following them.   There are some important points to be kept in mind here.


     Whatever Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) had given us that is intact and not lost, and can  not be lost as Allah Himself is its Guardian.


     Secondly that very religion was in practice in the time of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and after him, even till the time of imams who were born in the 2nd and 3rd century Hijri. Then they compiled their books. It is very clear here that a lot of time of Ummat al Muslima had passed practicing the same religion of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) without following any sect and Prophet said about those people who followed his way (other than any sect). "Khair al-qaroon qarnee thummalazeena yalonahum thummalazeena yalonahum"


Means, the best period is of mine, then that which is adjacent  to the period of mine then which is connected to that and so on.  All these three spans of time which are said to be the best by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) had passed before these 4 imams came in this world.  Therefore the best people of this umma had gone before the "Hanafi"  "Maliki" "Shafaee" and "Hanbali" periods. Whose followers were these best people of umma and to whom they never followed? The period of imams came long after the period of the best followers of Prophet.


     In so many issues these scholars had used their rational power, as the collection work of Aadeeths (Tradition of our Prophet) could not be done in their period, as now easily available to every Muslim. So these imams had used their rational power and later on it is found Ahadeeths were there on those issues.


Now I give you an example. Suppose you are traveling in the night, at the time of Isha' prayer you were not certain of the side of Qibla. You seriously ponder and decided to pray choosing one, same you did in Fajr prayer. After the dawn, you realized that your selection of Qibla side was wrong.  Your Isha' and Fajr which you have prayed are correct in absence of any authentic source of correction, so no need to repeat those prayers. But which side would you choose for your Zuhar prayer in the open light of sun? Obviously towards the true Qibla side, as it is now day light to guide you. Your Zuhar prayer would not be accepted by Allah (SWT) if prayed toward the same side you prayed Isha.


Similarly whatever decision imams have taken, as well as their followers did, in the light of their best knowledge, in absence of Hadeeth, was correct. As it is obligatory to decide after proper consultation (Ijtihad) in absence of any Hadeeth on any particular problem, so their act was quite correct.  But when all the Ahadeeth have been collected and it is found that some of the decisions were against the Ahadeeth of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), then there is no room to follow imams' decision which contradicts with Hadeeth of Prophet Mohammad.


It is similar to your Zuhar prayer which can not be prayed towards the wrong side of Qibla you had chosen previous night, for your Isha prayer and followed the same for your Fajr prayer, because you are now in daylight.


About twelve centuries have passed to the period of imams while the period of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is of more 225 years older.  Suppose Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) comes to you alive and asks you to do any deed and tells you the way how to do that, same time imam also comes to you alive and ask you to do the same task in different way, who would be obeyed.  Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) or imam?


There is no confusion in its answer that imam's way would be rejected and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) would be followed.  Yes, you are ordered to follow and obey the right path of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and not the path of contradiction. While a clear path is in front of us lead by our Prophet, why to accept the wrong one.


Neither the prophet is alive now, nor the imams but their paths are in front of us. Since there is no doubt that the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) would be obeyed and imams' contradictory path would be rejected if they come alive, there must not be any hesitation to follow the path of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in the light of his Ahadeeth rest all would be rejected.


Interestingly the same is taught by these four imams in their teachings. None of them said whatever I adopt you have to follow.  Imam Shafaee (RA) said " Iza saha al-hadeeth fa hua mazhabee" means "when there is authentic hadeeth available that is my religion".  Imam Abu Hanifa said " when you find a Hadeeth contradicting my mandate, throw my decision on wall,  means DO NOT FOLLOW MY SAYINGS.


When imams (RAA) in absence of Hadeeth did "Ijtehad" and instructed that do not follow this path if Hadeeth is available on this subject, REJECT US PLUNTLY.  They got free with this expression, in the sight of Allah.  Those who systematically follow the way of their imams rigidly are introducing a new thing which was never introduced beforein Islamic Sharia.



The obedience of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is far better than to start a new thing in Islam.  There is not even a single word in whole Sharia' about the following of any particular imam!  All Muslim umma in general and Islamic scholars in particular impartially must be benefited from their valuable work.


This is very dangerous that one person obeys a thing from any imam and other rejects it.   In principle which is according to Quran and Sunnat MUST BE ACCEPTED, and which is not in accordance with Quran and Sunnat MUST BE REJECTED.


These Imams neither told anyone to follow their school of thought nor did they leave any comprehensive "fiqh"for people to follow.  It is a sorry plight indeed that the people after them have created separate sects out of their teachings. Furthermore, if an Imam has given a ruling for a particular problem, people have taken that one ruling and proposed various additional judgments, which have no justification and then attributed them all to that Imam


In conclusion, it is important that in all of our deeds, ethics, sincerity, character and "Dawat wa Tableegh" preaching work, we must try to follow the path of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).   Because Allah (SWT) says in Quran about his Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) (Laqad kana lakum fi Rasool Allahi uswata hasana), For you the best ideal is Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

Therefore, the path that can lead a Muslim to paradise is the ONE which is prescribed and adopted by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) himself and his companions.  One who will adopt that way would get salvation otherwise shall be doomed and death (Halakat) would be his fate.


Wa billahi altaufique wa sal-Allah ala

Nabeeana Mohammad , aalhi wa sahbihi wa sallam.


(This reply was obtained from Sheikh Safiur Rehman Mubarakpuri in

Jeddah Dawa Center Hayya Salama, the recorded cassette is available

with Mohammed Aqil – Jeddah - Mobile: 0504686317)


I am thankful to all of those whoassisted us in the translation of this fatwa from Urdu to English - SPECIALLY:

Brother  Shamshad Ahmad, Jeddah


Sister Zeenat – Karachi

May Allah Reward them For their noble support… Aameen