Between following the evidence, and imitating the scholars.
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. And to what follows
Some of the brothers have asked the question: What is the ruling concerning two who differ in a fiqh matter? Is it the right of every individual to take the words of the imaam of his madhhab [school of thought], or should they research the matter and look into the evidences? Inform us of the ruling and may Allah reward you greatly.
So I answered them:
If there isn’t any clear evidence in a matter and the ruling of a matter is based on ijtihaad , then it is on the Muslim to follow the one whom he thinks is the most knowledgeable and pious from the people , and there is no blame on him if he does that.
As for the matter where there is evidence, then it is not allowed for a Muslim to take the words of his Imaam if those words go against the evidence. Instead, it is on him to leave the words of his Imaam, whoever he may be, if the evidence has reached him, and this is obligatory on the entire creation.
For the words of the scholars are in need of evidence and not vice a versa. Indeed the words of the scholars help to understand the texts and explain the matters and so forth.
As for the words of the scholars being an authority over the words of Allah and His Messenger, then none of the scholars have ever stated this. Instead this goes against the Quran and the Sunnah and the consensus of the Muslims, since Allah has commanded us to follow His Book and to obey His Messenger in many places in the Quran. Allah has said:
وَأَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَالرَّسُولَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ
“..and obey Allah and the Messenger so that you may receive mercy.” [3: 132]
And Allah said:
قُلْ أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ
“Say! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger.” [24: 84]
And Allah said:
حْذَرْ الَّذِينَ يُخَالِفُونَ عَنْ أَمْرِهِ أَنْ تُصِيبَهُمْ فِتْنَةٌ أَوْ يُصِيبَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ
“Let those who contradict his orders beware lest a trial or a painful punishment befall them.” [24: 63]
And Allah said:
يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلاَ تَوَلَّوْا عَنْهُ وَأَنْتُمْ تَسْمَعُونَ * وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ قَالُوا سَمِعْنَا وَهُمْ لاَ يَسْمَعُونَ * إِنَّ شَرَّ الدَّوَابِّ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ الصُّمُّ الْبُكْمُ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَعْقِلُونَ… الآية
“O you who believe! Obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not turn away from him while you are able to hear. And do not be like those who say: “We have heard,” but they do not hear. Verily! The worst of living creatures in the sight of Allah are the deaf and the dumb, those who do not understand.” [8: 20]
Verily the scholars [may Allah's mercy be upon them], used to advise their students not to blindly follow. Instead they made it binding on them to take the evidence since this is what is obligatory and a must for all the Muslims. So if the evidence reaches someone then he must follow that evidence and leave whatever opposes that evidence. Allah has said:
اتَّبِعُوا مَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكُمْ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ وَلاَ تَتَّبِعُوا مِنْ دُونِهِ أَوْلِيَاءَ قَلِيلاً مَا تَذَكَّرُونَ
“Follow what has been sent down unto you from your Lord, and do not follow any protectors besides Him. Little do you remember.” [8: 21]
And Allah even bore witness to the guidance of the one who obeys His Messenger, as is mentioned in Surah an-Noor:
“And if you obey him you will be guided.” [24: 54]
So whoever leaves the evidences for the words of Abu Haneefah or Maalik or Ash-Shaafi’ee or Ahmad, then he has gone against a principle that the Muslims have all gathered upon. Imaam A-Shaafi’ee [may Allah's mercy be upon him], has stated:
قال الإمام الشافعي رحمه الله تعالى: أجمع المسلمون على أن من استبانت له سنة رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لم يكن له أن يدعها لقول أحد
“The Muslims have all agreed that if a sunnah of the Prophet ‘s has reached someone, it is not befitting that he leave it for the saying of anyone.”
And Imaam Maalik [may Allah's mercy be upon him], said:
قال الإمام مالك رحمه الله تعالى: ليس أحد بعد النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم إلا ويؤخذ من قوله ويترك، إلا النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم
“There is no one after the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, except that their words may be accepted or rejected.”
So, as for those who are fanatics in following the Imaam of the particular madhhab, then this goes against the guidance of the predecessors, and is in opposition to what the Imaams of those madhhabs were upon. Since they were all agreed upon the dispraise of blind following and fanaticism. Verily, it is obligatory on the Muslim to go with the evidence, whether it be with the Maalikee school, or the Hanafee school, or the Shafi’ee school, or the Hanbalee school, or the Dhaahiree  school, or any other school. As Allah did not confine the truth to any of these schools, since the scholars of these schools were men, who were capable of being correct and also making mistakes. They were not infallible from mistakes and errors.
Imaam A-Shafi’ee [may Allah's mercy be upon him] said:
قال الإمام الشافعي رحمه الله: ما من أحد إلا وتذهب عليه سنة الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم وتعزب عنه، فمهما قلت من قول أو أَصلت من أصل فيه عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم خلاف ما قلت، فالقول ما قال الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم وهو قولي
“There is no one among us who has not had a sunnah of Allah’s Messenger elude him or have one slip his mind; so no matter what rulings I have made or fundamental principles I have proposed, there will be in them things contrary to rulings of Allah’s Messenger. Therefore, the correct ruling is according to what Allah’s Messenger said, and that is my ruling.”
Verily, the scholars [may Allah have mercy on all of them] have disputed on many matters in the religion. From the rulings concerning purification, prayer, zakah, fasting, Hajj, selling, divorce, adh-Dhihaar , and other things. While none of these scholars, who were firm in knowledge, ever said that it was allowed for every individual to take from where he pleases, concerning the different schools, without looking into the evidence, the exception being the blind follower who is not able to research into the evidences.
If it was permitted for every Muslim to follow his desires and pick and choose from all these different opinions and sayings, then the religion would be made up of these various schools of thought, and the Book and the Sunnah would be of little benefit. And we seek refuge with Allah from this!
So I say that which all the Muslims have agreed upon, that it is obligatory to take all matters of dispute back to the Book and the Sunnah, according to the understanding of the scholars of the early generation; looking into their words, and into their reasonings behind certain decisions on matters after looking into the evidences.
For example the scholars have disputed on the matters of what nullifies your purification. Like eating camel meat, touching a woman without sexual contact, and things that exit the body from other than the two private areas . For some have said that these things that exit, nullify your purification and at the same time are impure. Verily, every imaam had a saying about these matters. Concerning the eating of camel meat, Maalik, Abu Haneefah, and Ash-Shaafi’ee, were of the opinion that it does not nullify your purification. But, on the other hand, Imaam Ahmad [may Allah's mercy be upon him] was of the opinion that it did. And this was also what Ibn Hazm preferred.
The correct opinion concerning this, is the madhhab of Imaam Ahmad, since there are two authentic hadeeths from the Prophet that prove that the eating of camel meat nullify your purification. One of them is the hadeeth of Jaabir bin Samurah in Saheeh Muslim , and the other is the hadeeth of Al-Baraa collected by Abu Dawood  and At-Tirmidhee , and others.
As for the touching of the women or embracing or similar to this, then Imaam Ash-Shafi’ee was of the opinion that touching a woman nullifies your purification whether it is with passion or not. And Abu Haneefah was of the opinion that unconditional touching does not nullify your purification. And Maalik and Ahmad in one narration were of the opinion that it does not nullify your purification except with passion.
So, for the one who examines the various evidences in this matter will find that the Hanafee school is the closest to the correct opinion. And in one narration, this opinion is also accredited to Imam Ahmad and is also the preference of Shaikh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiah. Since there has not reached us any evidence that is authoritative in proving that touching nullifies the purification whether with passion or without. So in the absence of evidence, we return to the origin which is that the purification is not nullified. And the madhhab of Abu Haneefah is more clear on this issue than the other schools, since it has been narrated to us that the Prophet kissed his wives, left to the prayer, and he did not make wudu [ritual ablution]. While, at the same time, it is not narrated to us in the hadiths that it was with or without passion. Even though there is some problem with the authenticity of this hadith. Verily it was narrated by Abu Dawood, At-Tirmidhee, and Ibn Maajah, by the way of Wakee’, on the authority of al-A’mash, on the authority of Hubayb bin abee Thaabit, on the authority of Urwah, on the authority of Aaisha, but there is defficiency in it. As Hubayb did not hear it from Urwah.  But there are other hadiths that are authentic concerning this matter. And Allah knows best.
As for the things that exit from the body like blood and other things, then the madhhab of Imaam Ahmad says that these things nullify your purification. But the madhhab of Imaam Ash-Shafi’ee says that any of these absolutely do not nullify your purification. And this is the correct opinion, which is also supported by Imaam Maalik and in one narration from Imaam Ahmad. And this is the conclusion that Ibn Taymiah and many others came to. Since there is no evidence, that anything which exits from your body, other than the two private areas, nullifies your purification.
So these examples that I gave, are to show that the truth is not limited to a specific scholar, group, or school of thought. Verily, the Muslim is not commanded to follow and stick to a specific school of thought. Instead, he should seek out the truth, as every school of thought is correct in some things, and mistaken in others.
As the school of the Hanbalees are correct in many of the rulings in the matters of this religion. likewise the Shaafi’ees, the Maalikees, and the Hanafees [are also right in many rulings]. While, at the same time, Imaam Ibn Hazm was alone in some of his opinions which actually are the correct opinion. Many of the scholars differed due to the availability of the evidences, distinguishing between the authentic and the weak, between the things that abrogate and are abrogated, and between the unconditional [mutlaq] and the qualified [muqayyad]. So the one who is in the right follows the one who has the truth with him without being biased. Likewise he opposes the mistakes without slandering or defaming someones person, or putting him at a low level. Since these scholars were striving to reach the correct opinion [mujtahidoon], and whether they were correct or incorrect, they will be rewarded either way.
So, after this, it is not obligatory on anyone to follow one of these scholars. And whoever thinks this has strayed far away from the correct path. Verily, it is not obligatory to follow anyone except the Messenger of Allah , since his saying is all truth and he does not speak from his own desire.
As for any others from the scholars and the Imaams of the various schools of thought, then we don’t take from their words except what agrees with the truth. And this is a serious matter that none deem important except the one who wishes to be guided and save his soul from falling into evil.
How many are the ones who claim to have knowledge and are busy writing, except that they are fanatics headed for destruction, and blind followers. They are angered by those who go against their particular Imaam but are not angered by those who go against the Book of Allah or the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah .
So the correct one is he who makes the Book of Allah and the sunnah of His Messenger the ruling over all sayings. Even if those who disagree, disagree with him and accuse him of heresy. Indeed, it has become a common practice of those who blindly follow and are fanatics, to label those who differ with them as heretics and astray. And this is the status of every liar, and the one who is a deviant from the truth and the straight path since when he is unable to provide the proof and the evidence he resorts to these types of tactics.
Verily, there is evidence in the Book of Allah and the sunnah of the Prophet , that the truth will have many enemies fighting against it, trying to prevent it from being manifest. They come with various molds that support their intellects, and satisfy their desires.
For the person on the truth, he should put all his efforts into it so as not to be shaken away from this truth that he is on. He should call others to this truth and Allah will provide him with help and support. And he will remain victorious as long as he is trying to give victory to the religion and the truth, with full sincerity to Allah and their will not cease to be aid from Allah as long as he stays on this way. Allah has said:
ينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
“As for those who strive hard in Us [Our cause], We will surely guide them to Our paths. And verily, Allah is with the Muhsinun [good doers].” [29: 69]
Also Allah has said:
يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنْ تَنصُرُوا اللَّهَ يَنصُرْكُمْ وَيُثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَكُمْ
“O you who believe! If you help (in the cause of) Allah, He will help you, and make your foothold firm.” [47: 7]
And whoever Allah helps then that is indeed enough against the evil of His enemies.
But the help will not come until there are first two things:
- Sincerity to Allah in both sayings and actions.
- In accordance with the guidance of the Prophet Muhammad.
So if these two conditions are met then nothing can oppose him, even if they were to all come together from the east and the west. Allah has said:
إِنْ يَنْصُرْكُمْ اللَّهُ فَلاَ غَالِبَ لَكُمْ وَإِنْ يَخْذُلْكُمْ فَمَنْ ذَا الَّذِي يَنْصُرُكُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلْ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ
“If Allah helps you, none can overcome you; and if He forsakes you, who is there after Him that can help you? And in Allah [Alone] let believers put their trust.” [3: 160]
And all praise is due to Allah. W’al hamdu lillah rabbil aalameen
Written by Sheikh Sulaymaan bin Naasir al-’Alwaan may Allah keep him firm and hasten his release.
 Ijtihaad: The reasoning process by which Islamic Laws are deduced after thorough research.
 The devout [scholar] is the one whose piousness prevent from speaking about Allah without having knowledge.
 Dhaahiree: A school of thought founded by Daawoud ibn ‘Alee, who took an independent path of reasoning based on the obvious and literal meanings [Dhaahir] of the texts of the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
 Adh-Dhihaar: The saying of a husband to his wife: “You are to me like the back of my mother” eg. unlawful for me to approach.
 Know that many Fuqaha may Allah have mercy on them take the ruling on the individuals lightly, so they rule on issues that they are Nagis [impure], while there is no evidence or true analogy. And it is stated in the Shar’i evidences that the individuals are Tahirah [pure] unless it’s proven otherwise [i.e. impure]. So until it’s proven with evidence that [something] is impure, it is pure, like the Maniy [semen] and so on, and Allah knows best
 an-Nawawi [4/48]
 ‘Awn al-Ma’bud 1/315
 Volume 1/122-123
 See Jaami’ at-Tirmithi 1/133, and Nasb al-Raayah 1/70-76 and Tanqih al-Tahqiq 1/437-442