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1. What is a Madhhab?  Why is it necessary to follow one?

The word madhhab is derived from an Arabic word meaning "to go" or "to take as a way", and refers to a mujtahid's choice in regard to a number of interpretive possibilities in deriving the rule of Allah from the primary texts of the Qur'an and hadith on a particular question. In a larger sense, a madhhab represents the entire school of thought of a particular mujtahid Imam, such as Abu Hanifa, Malik, Shafi'i, or Ahmad--together with many first-rank scholars that came after each of these in their respective schools, who checked their evidences and refined and upgraded their work. The mujtahid  Imams were thus explainers, who operationalized the Qur'an and Sunna in the specific Shari’ rulings in our lives that are collectively known as fiqh or "jurisprudence". In relation to our din or "religion", this fiqh is only part of it, for the religious knowledge each of us possesses is of three types.

2. Why Muslims Follow Madhhabs

 The work of the mujtahid Imams of Sacred Law, those who deduce Shari’a rulings from Qur’an and hadith, has been the object of my research for some years now, during which I have sometimes heard the question: "Who needs the Imams of Sacred Law when we have the Qur’an and hadith? Why can’t we take our Islam from the word of Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), which are divinely protected from error, instead of taking it from the madhhabs or "schools of jurisprudence" of the mujtahid Imams such as Abu Hanifa, Malik, Shafi‘i, and Ahmad, which are not?"

3. Why Does One Have to Follow a Madhhab?

[Nuh Ha Mim Keller:] I will close this answer by translating a conversation that took place in Damascus between Shari‘a professor Muhammad Sa‘id al-Buti, and a Salafi teacher. Buti asked him: 

4. Understanding the Four Madhhabs

The ummah's greatest achievement over the past millennium has undoubtedly been its internal intellectual cohesion. From the fifth century of the Hijra almost to the present day, and despite the outward drama of the clash of dynasties, the Sunni Muslims have maintained an almost unfailing attitude of religious respect and brotherhood among themselves. It is a striking fact that virtually no religious wars, riots or persecutions divided them during this extended period, so difficult in other ways.  

5. Fatwa on Following One of the Four Accepted Madhhabs

Amongst the most important replies that I have given, is my reply concerning the one who has deviated to the point where he censures the importance of studying the branches [furu'] of jurisprudence, and we seek refuge in Allah from the deviation of such a wandering deviant. Would that he simply had claimed independent reasoning (ijtihad) for himself only, and Allah is his reckoner, but abandoned the call of Muslims to leave that which is incumbent upon them. In our reply to such a one, we make mention what the scholars of the methodological bases of Islamic jurisprudence (usuli’un) and the Imams of jurisprudence themselves have said about such a matter.

6. FOLLOWING THE IMAMS OF THE MADHHABS OR TAQLID

The la-madhhabi author writes on the 385 the page:
"It was permissible for the imams of the religion to perform ijtihad. They wrote down the documents of the conclusions they drew. If someone follows the way concluded by his imam instead of what a document, an ayat or a hadith states, or what he himself finds out suggests, he becomes a heretic. Imam Malik, Ahmad and ash-Shafi'i said so, too."