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The issue of Tamazhub (Following a Madhab) is one that has kept many people busy. Should a Muslim follow a Madhab?, or should he not? This is a topic that everyone keeps on debating from scholars, to students and even common Muslims. Just about everyone from modernists, to traditionalists and even the orientalists are interested in it. 

In reality, lot of splitting among Muslims has occurred in the last two centuries over the ruling on Tamazhub. And this splitting is unhealthy in every sense of it. Especially, because this issue has been blown out of proportion. In today’s post we would like you to understand the issue in detail and give a practical rationale to it.

To start off, we know that scholars and common Muslims both have contrasting positions regarding it:

  • A group of scholars encouraged it. And in fact, some of them overemphasized it and deemed it necessary (Wajib). They went overboard and gave a ruling of disbelief & heresy against those who did not follow a Madhab
  • In contrast to this, other scholars  prevented from Tamazhub and exaggerated in warning about it. This group considered it to be an innovation.

There are many reasons due to which both sides came to a conclusion on their respective opinions. In all honesty, one of the main reasons is that they both pursued the truth and tried to achieve it. And there is no doubt about that. 

However, to make it simpler, the differences in these rulings occurred due to the following reasons: 

  • Some of the disputants were ignorant regarding each other’s opinions.
  • Some made it necessary because they failed to infer the rulings from the Quran & Sunnah
  • Some failed to sort the authentic reports and opinions from the weak, therefore considered the doors of Ijtihad to be closed.
  • Some of them considered it to be an innovation because they couldn’t understand the statements of Fuqaha (Jurisprudents) and considered it impossible to comprehend them.

We must also note that within the last century, some modernists wrote books where they spoke about the concept of renewing Fiqh and its Usool. In their books, they called for abandoning Tamazhub, not taking the statements and opinions of our Fuqaha (Jurisprudents) into consideration. They called for a campaign to start a new ijtihad according to the times we are living in.

However, a body of scholars did call towards the following one of the four different Madahib (schools of thought) and spoke very critically against those who went out of these schools of thought. 

They even went to speak very ill of people who went out of their school, even if it was only in a few matters, after a researcher performed a valid Tarjeeh (Weighing of Opinions). This was due to the high amount of taassub (Bigotry). Radical Madhabism was also a means to enslave people in their own understanding of creedal matters, because some Madahib are known to follow a particular theological pattern. Example, most of the later Hanafis follow Maturidism and a large majority of Hanbalis follow the Athari Creed. Similarly, many Shafie and Maliki scholars follow Ash’arism.  

Definition of a Madhab

Madhab means a collection of verdicts of a Mujtahid Imam which he professed with evidence, principles of inference (Usool) and all the rulings that were derived according to the Imam’s statements and principles. The Usool and Fatwa may be written by the Imam himself, or may be compiled by his students. It also consists of the research and rulings of all the scholars who tread the path of the Imam and his students, in deriving Fiqh and issuing Fatawa.

Q&A Are Madhhabs Innovations – YouTube

Definition of Tamazhub

Tamazhub simply means that a person who is not a commoner affiliates and adheres to some school of jurisprudence in its principles of Istidlal (inference) as well as its Fiqh (legal rulings). So, the issue of Tamazhub has nothing to do with a layman, or say the common Muslim. Many scholars are even noted to have said that the Madhab of a common Muslim is the Madhab of his Mufti.

The whole issue of Tamazhub deals with a Student of Knowledge, Fatawaa (legal rulings), and a person’s journey in seeking knowledge. 

This Tamazhub (adherence) is of two types:

  1. Adhering to the Madhab and not going out of it, even if it opposes the evidence, which is false. 
  2. Adhering to the Madhab while going out of it in some matters for some genuine reasons such as an opinion of the Madhab being weak and opposing clear/apparent evidence.

This affiliation/adherence isn’t done by a commoner, for a commoner has no madhab and it is done by people of knowledge only, who choose a madhab for knowledge-based reasons. Tamazhub includes three types of people:

  1. Those students who are above the level of commoners. They are those who are called beginner level students.
  2. Those scholars who have not reached the level of ijtihad.
  3. Those scholars who have reached the level of absolute ijtihad and affiliate to certain madhab without adhering to the usool and fiqh/fatawa of the madhab. Their affiliation doesn’t impact their opinions.

Tamazhub of Four Schools of Thought   

There were many schools of thought in the history of Islamic jurisprudence, but the scholars settled on four out of them. In fact many scholars said that it is not permissible to go out of these four schools of jurisprudence such as Abu Amr Ibn as-Salah (643H) & Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (795H). Other scholars cited Ijmaa (consensus) on this verdict, but according to the more researched opinion, it isn’t proven. 

In any case, Tamazhub of these four schools is permissible according to the majority of scholars.

[See: Raddul Muhtar 1/ 246 of Ibn Aabideen, Sharh Tanqeeh al-fusool 432 of Qarafi, Adabul Mufti wal Mustafti 161 of Ibn as-Salah,  al-Majmu 1/ 55 of an-Nawawi, al-musawwadah 2/ 921 of Aal Ibni Taymiyyah, Usool al-Fiqh 4/ 1562 of Ibn Muflih, al-Aadab ash-Shar’iyyah 1/ 226 of Ibn Muflih, at-Tahbeer 4/ 4087 of Mardawi,Jami’ul Masaail (al-Majmuu’ah ath-Thaaminah) 438-439 of Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmu’ul Fatawa 20/ 209 of Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmu’ur Rasaail 2/ 623-626 of Ibn Rajab, al-Insaf fi Bayani Asbabil Khilaf 34-111 of Shah Waliyullah Dehalwi, at-Tamazhub 2/ 763-860 of Khalid ar-Ruwayt’i] 

The four major schools of thought that we know today, that have been served and accepted by the Ummah are: 

1.     Madhab of Abu Haneefah Nouman Ibn Thaabit (150H)

2.     Madhab of Malik Ibn Anas (179H)

3.     Madhab of Muhammad Ibn Idrees Shafie (204H)

4.     Madhab of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (241H)

Which Madhab Should You Follow?

In general, there are two situations regarding choosing a Madhab:

The first one is when a person is in a country where people are on one specific Madhab and their teaching, fatwa are all based upon the principles of the same Madhab. In this case, the principle according to the people of knowledge is that he should adhere to the madhab of his country as long as he is there. 

It was narrated from Qadhi Abu Ya’laa that a person came to him to study madhab of Imam Ahmad. He asked him about his country and the person informed him.

The Qadhi said to him that people of your country study madhab of Shafie so stick to the madhab of your country, for it will cause dispute and strife if you adhere to Madhab of Ahmad in your country.

[See: al-Musawwadah fi Usool al-Fiqh 541 of Aal Ibn Taymiyyah]   

The second scenario is when a person is in a country where there are many Madhabs or there is no Madhab at all. In this case, scholars mentioned that he should select a madhab which is sounder in its principles, having many sources/works and shuyookh and through whom he can ensure correctly understanding legal rulings.

Difference Between Tamazhub & Taqlid

Many people consider Tamazhub and Taqlid as one and the same thing. This leads them to apply the texts of disapproval regarding prohibited taqlid on tamazhub, while this is not the case. This fatwa comes either due to bigotry or a lack of knowledge. Tamazhub and Taqlid are not same, there are a number of differences between the two:

  1. In Tamazhub, a person takes the statement of a Madhab of a Mujtahid while in Taqlid, a person takes a statement of a person who may not be a Mujtahid. For example, he may take the statement of a scholar who has not reached the level of Ijtihad (Juristic Reasoning).
  2. In Tamazhub, a person takes a statement and understands it along with the evidence while in Taqlid, a person takes a statement without evidence.
  3. In Tamazhub, a person adheres to a particular school of thought while in Taqlid, a person may take from a number of scholars or Mujtahids in different issues.
  4. Tamazhub represents a complete set of fiqh, usool, qawaa’id fiqhiyyah while Taqlid is devoid of this all.
  5. Tamazhub is done by people of knowledge and it cannot be done by a commoner, while Taqlid is legislated for a commoner. Some people call the asking of questions to the people of knowledge as Ittibaa. However, it is interchangeable, and a person who does not know, asks a person who knows. 
  6. Tamazhub is a tool by which a person can reach rulings in new issues by using the usool and fiqh of Madhab while Taqlid is not a tool for this.    
  7. Tamazhub is a sound way towards ijtihad, for a person learns the fiqh and usool in a systematic manner while Taqlid does not qualify a person for ijtihad.

Scope of Tamazhub

Tamazhub plays its role in three main areas:

Learning & Teaching

The scholars from the onset have adopted the way of Tamazhub to study and teach the issues/rulings of Fiqh and this approach continued till the present day.

If a student pursues the study of complete fiqh without following any madhab, it will be almost impossible for him, because the knowledge of fiqh is very vast and it can be covered only by following a systematic manner. The scholars of the four main Madahib have spent more than 1000 years in serving the usool, fiqh & qawaa’id of these different Madahib and transmitted it from one generation to the other generation. 

Today, we see a lot of great works in the islamic jurisprudence in which all the chapters of Usool & Fiqh are compiled in a precise systematic manner. This is why we see almost all the major scholars of this Ummah having learnt some Madhab.  

Amal (Action/Physical Worship)

Amal means that a person worships Allah with His intended ruling, for there is ruling on every issue in our Shariah. Some Ahkaam (Rulings) can be known clearly by a student from clear evidence. In such a case, there is no doubt that he will not oppose the evidence. However, in other rulings that are not clear and simple a student has to take the opinion of someone to guide him. This is because a person cannot abandon Amal (action). And with unclear evidences, a student obviously cannot derive dependable rulings.  

So, he will follow his Madhab till the time that he is not able to make any Tarjeeh. And there is almost no scholar except that he follows some Madhab in these types of rulings where evidence and opinions are different and contradicting in the sight of faqeeh.         


Fatwa has its own principles that are known to the scholars. The basic principle about it is that a person who follows a Madhab will give a Fatwa according to the Madhab of the country. This is why Ibn Aabideen says in his explanation of (Rasmul Mufti) that a person may be knowledgeable about the Madhab of Abu Haneefah but if he enters some other country, he will not issue fatwa except after knowing its culture and the Madhab according to which Fatwa is issued there. This denotes that Tamazhub has an impact on Fatwa. A person may worship Allah according to a certain opinion, but when it comes to Fatwa, he issues verdicts according to different opinions so as to not cause harm and strife.


There is no doubt that the four different schools of jurisprudence are a safe path leading to understanding of Islamic Shariah, in its Usool as well as Furoo (issues/rulings). The negative impacts caused by followers of different schools of jurisprudence does not legitimize the abandonment of these schools, especially when they have been followed for many centuries by scholars and the pupils. These Madahib have compiled almost the whole Fiqh of Shariah

They not only include the opinions of four schools, rather the works of these Madahib also mention and preserve those Madahib and opinions which were not served and were not preserved. If a person doesn’t study through these schools then he is bound to make mistakes as has been known by experience. So, Tamazhub is a safe, short and a better path for a student to learn the Shariah, for these Madahib mention the evidences, principles on which the rulings are based in a systematic manner.         

[See: at-Tamazhub Haqeeqatuhu wa Hukmuhu of Shaikh Abul Salam ash-Shuway’ir, Ma’alim al-Madhab al-Hanbali of Shaikh Ziyab Ibn S’ad, at-Tamazhub of Khalid ar-Ruwayt’i]  

Written by Shabab Ibn Ismaeel and Said Ibn Mukhtar