“O you, who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result.” (Qur’an 4:59)
“And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.” (Qur’an 17:36)
Now my question is, does the above Qur’anic injunction prohibit us to adhere to a madhhab (an Islamic school of thought)? Because our mujtahid Imam differs on a lot of rulings. Since it is addressing all the believers, is it obligatory for us to investigate every aspect before practicing it? Or is it just addressing the people of knowledge? And how is it that all the opinions of the four madhahib are acceptable, even though they differ on the rulings for something as basic as salah (prayer)?
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) says, “Ask the people of knowledge if you don’t know.” Scholars agree that a person who does not know is obligated to ask the scholars. As in the axiom, “The scholars to the masses are like the evidences to the scholars.” What is obligatory is to ask a trusted scholar and follow what you think is closest to the truth. You are not obligated to go beyond your knowledge, but you are encouraged to ask and learn until you feel comfortable. The four madhahib are important in areas of worship, but in areas related to takhrij al-manat, tehsil al-Masalih and tahqiq of the maqasid (in short, what is best for you in the Hereafter, based on your current situation), I strongly advise you to ask contemporary scholars since “a fatwa [ruling] can change according to its time, place and the reality of the person asking.” Allah knows best.