First of all, it is to be stated that Islam does not oblige a Muslim to follow a certain School of Fiqh. Rather, Muslims are to abide by the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which are the two authentic, perfect, infallible sources, whereas every individual judgment is subject to acceptance and rejection.
however, it’s not easy for a layman to choose between different Juristic opinions, and who knows not the judgment pertaining to a certain issue should consult a trusted scholar or a knowledgeable person and abide by the Madhhab of that scholar or person.
Moreover, the common Muslim should follow the Jurists of his country and their Madhhab. But he should not insist on abiding by his Madhhab or belittle the other Madhahib. If it appears to him that the judgment pertaining to his Madhhab is weak in a certain issue, he should follow the judgment of the strong and sound Madhhab. A true Muslim always seeks the sound evidence and abides by it wherever it might be.
In this regard, the European Council for Fatwa and Research, states that:
“Abiding by a certain Madhhab (School of Fiqh) is not a religious obligation. Neither Allah nor His Messenger oblige us to abide by Hanafi, Maliki school or otherwise. Muslims are to abide by the Qur’an and the Sunnah. These are the two authentic, perfect, infallible sources, whereas every individual judgment is subject to acceptance and rejection. The renowned Imams themselves forbade others to unquestionably adopt their opinions.
Muslim jurists, however, agree that there is no specific Madhhab for the layman, he should abide by the Madhhab of the one who is capable of giving him a Fatwa.
the term ‘layman’ here refers to the person who cannot study the proofs of every ruling and give priority to a ruling over another. Such a person should have no Madhhab. Choosing a certa
in Juristic School entails giving priority and preference to certain proofs over others; this is the job for only erudite scholars. As for a commoner, he should follow the opinion of the scholar who gives him Fatwa. Whenever he has a certain problem, he can consult an Imam or a Sheikh and follow his Fatwa. Almighty Allah says: “Ask the followers of the Remembrance if ye know not!” (An-Nahl: 43) And the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said concerning some people: “Why don’t they inquire if they know not, verily inquiry is the cure of ignorance.”
If an ordinary Muslim lives in a country in which all of its jurists follow a certain Madhhab, then he can follow the Madhhab adopted in his country. In fact, the common Muslim should follow the Jurists of his country and their Madhhab. But he should not insist on abiding by his Madhhab or belittle the other Madhahib. If it appears to him that the judgment pertaining to his Madhhab is weak in a certain issue, he should follow the judgment of the strong and sound Madhhab. A true Muslim always seeks the sound evidence and abides by it wherever it might be.
Imam Abu Hanifah is quoted to have said: “This is our opinion and we are ready to listen to him who brings a better opinion.” Imam Malik said: “Everyone’s opinion could be accepted or rejected except that of the one buried in this grave (pointing to the grave of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him). Ash-Shafi`i also said: “If a Hadith proves to be authentic (regarding a certain issue), then accept it and reject whatever religious opinion I may utter (regarding the same issue).”
Moreover, Dr. Rif`at Fawzi, professor of Shari`ah at Cairo Univ., adds:
“A Muslim have to abide by the Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunnah, making use of the rulings derived by jurists, even if such rulings are derived through independent juristic reasoning (Ijtihad) by means of analogical deduction (Qiyas) and the like. This means that by relying on analogical deduction, and opinions agreed upon by the consensus of scholars in what they derive from the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the act of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all), a Muslim can adopt any ruling that best suits his own circumstances.
this is not easy. Some Muslims are not qualified enough to study hadiths in order to discern their authenticity and reliability. In order to be on the safe side, it is better to adhere to a certain school of Fiqh from among the schools that are based on the Qur’an and Sunnah, paying attention to the agreements and disagreements that may occur among Muslim jurists (Al-Usuliyyin) regarding secondary matters (Furu`) of Shari`ah. I think it is better for lay Muslims to do so.
nevertheless, even if a Muslim abides by a certain school of Fiqh, he can select aspects from another school that best suit him provided that he is sure that what he borrows from other schools of thought goes in harmony with Islam and is supported by authentic hadiths.
In a bid to avoid absentmindedness, it is better for Muslims, who are not qualified enough not to deduce legal rulings from their original sources on their own but to adhere to one school of Fiqh.
On the other hand, Muslim jurists who are well versed in deducing rulings (ahkam) from their original sources, are permitted to use their own discretion and independent reasoning in deducing rulings on different matters. They also do not need to abide by a certain school of Fiqh.”