Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: “According to authentic ruling of great mujtahids (jurists) from all of the four schools, it is quite acceptable for a person who is following one of the four valid schools of jurisprudence to follow the ruling of another school so long as he is not simply picking and choosing for the sake of convenience and so long as he is not jesting with the Shari`ah. If a person is experiencing a genuine hardship, he can definitely follow the valid ruling of another of the valid schools. He can also follow a ruling given by a scholar whose knowledge and integrity he can trust regardless of the school he is affiliated with.
Wiping on socks — as long as they are thick and not transparent and cover up to ankles — is a valid ruling. You are allowed to follow that ruling of scholars and still remain a Hanafi. No authentic scholar worthy of the name has advocated that one must follow every single ruling of a single school in all of his life’s issues. Certainly, that was not the position of any of the great imams such as Abu Hanifah, Malik, Shafi`i and Ahmad and their close companions and disciples. Imam Shah Waliullah cites numerous examples to refute such a false doctrine. He cites the story of how Imam Abu Yusuf, the foremost companion of Imam Abu Hanifah, had once led the Jumu`ah (Friday) Prayer after having performed wudu’ (ablution) from water drawn from a well. After he had finished the Prayer, he was told that a dead rat had been found in the well. If he had been strictly bound by the teachings of his school, it was obligatory upon him to repeat his wudu’ and Prayer and everyone who had followed him would have to do the same. But Imam Abu Yusuf, without any hesitation, replied, “In that case, we follow the opinion of our brothers from Madinah that if water measures two qullahs (an old Arab container) it does not carry any impurities.”
Imam Shah Waliullah goes a step further to say that there is nothing wrong for people belonging to any of the four schools to choose rulings that are easier for them to follow. He refutes those who say it is wrong to do so by citing the general spirit of Shari`ah, which is based on taysir (removing hardship) and ease. Didn’t Allah say in the Qur’an that “He has not appointed for you any hardship in religion”? (Al-Hajj: 78)
In light of the above, authentic scholars of the four schools noted for their deep knowledge of Hadith and Fiqh have concluded that there is absolutely nothing wrong in following rulings of a school different from one’s own, so long it is a valid ruling.
As for the issue of joining two Prayers, it is also a highly authentic position of the majority of schools of jurisprudence. It has also been confirmed by authentic practice of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), his companions and the righteous predecessors. Thus you are not breaking any of the principles of the Hanafi School if you follow that ruling because of genuine hardship.
The ruling that allows for joining Prayers not merely in times of travel or war but also in times of hardship or dire necessity is also a valid ruling. One may do so without incurring sin when faced with an extreme case of necessity. Such is the case with a surgeon who must perform a surgery and he cannot take time off without risking the life of his patient; a physician who must answer his call of duty and has no respite allowed; a person working in an assembly line who cannot take time off to pray at the appointed time; someone caught in a traffic jam; a woman who is experiencing abnormal bleeding who finds it hard to purify herself for each prayer; one who is ill and finds it hard to keep his state of purity, etc. In all such cases of genuine hardship, one may act on the valid ruling that allows joining of two Prayers. This is the view of Imam Ahmad, Ibn Taymiyyah and others who are all reputed authorities in hadith and fiqh. This ruling, among other things, is based on the report of Ibn `Abbas that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) joined Maghrib and `Isha’ prayers in Madinah without any reason of rain or war. When asked why he had done so, he replied, “He simply wanted to remove hardship from his Ummah.”