Abouth those Islamic schools of thought

Something just occurred to me regarding the argument against choosing at will between the rulings of the various schools of thought (or madhahib). I often hear people saying that it is wrong because we’re picking and choosing what suits us in Islam. E.g. choosing the Shafi view about the time of Asr and then choosing the Hanafi view about what may invalidate my wudhu, etc. is frowned upon and has led to many ‘scholars’ declaring innocent individuals as deviants as a result of this.

Here’s what I don’t get. If it is accepted that each of the schools of thought have taken their rulings from the Sunnah, and each have also confirmed that their scholars have stated that if you find something in the Sunnah that contradicts their teachings, then follow the Sunnah, then what is the problem in picking and choosing between them? Am I not still picking and choosing between acts within the confines of the Sunnah as practised by Rasulullah (SAW) and the salaf?

What’s more interesting to me is that most of these differences are minor details relating to how the rituals should be performed, and none of the differences differ with the tenets or principles of Islam such that following it takes one outside the fold of Islam. So why must I pick a madhab and stick to it? Why must I label myself as a Salafi to be considered rightly guided? Why must I choose a specific scholar and not others, if each of them that I choose to take advice or guidance from base their views on the same Sunnah that is in line with the established principles of Islam?

The sectarian mentality has eroded the unity in the Ummah for many centuries now. Like I mentioned in a previous post, I have yet to come across an extremist that was not aligned to any specific sect. The moment we choose an allegiance towards a specific school of thought, we’re immediately compelled to defend that position as being the most correct position because if we don’t, we’ll be suggesting that we’re following a path that is not exactly straight. Our pride won’t allow us to do so.

Sectarianism feeds our inherent intellectual laziness, while at the same time it intellectualises Islam and loses sight of the essence and principles of Islam. We’ve created a cesspool of differences that have no bearing on the level of taqwa (piety) that we have because we’re so distracted by rituals and the ritualistic implementation of Islamic teachings. Look around you and see how many people complain that we’ve forgotten to be decent human beings despite our intellectual prowess in advanced sciences and the like. That’s what the sectarians have done to Islam. They’ve reduced it to an academic pursuit that has a hierarchy of titles attached to it (something that is never supported in any hadith or Quranic verse) yet profess to be upholding the Sunnah through those structures.

We’re missing the point it seems.

Zaid Ismail

Author, life coach, and mental health activist. We need to change the narrative from disorders, illnesses, and survival to accountability, understanding, and thriving.

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