I have asked this question before, but I didn't get an answer. However, I have faith in Allah that if I keep persevering with the right intention then you'll eventually provide me with an answer.
I would like to ask a sensitive question.
Many 'Ulama from the golden past to the present have proclaimed it is Wajib to follow one of the 4 madhabs. I would like to know how does that apply to following a fatwa/scholar within the same madhab?
For example recently, I’ve had a few scholars who have differed on the following:
- Roadside assistance for car breaking down, and cover for central heating boilers – Many 'Ulama in South Africa from Darul Ihsan, Darul Azadville, Darul Taleemuddeen, and others have provided me with conflicting fatwas, some have said it's haLAL while others said it is haram (same as insurance).
- Whether my employer’s pension is halal or not- TheMajlis.co.za didn't even investigate my material, and said all pension schemes are haram while others are sceptical.
- Whether it is permissible to work for a bank – some ‘Ulama in the UK say such as its main source is interest, so its haram while others say it depends where you work in the bank, and if you’re directly involved in transaction including interest.
- Taking digital photography - Mufti Taqi Usamani said it is not haram providing it's not haram content, you guys firmly declare say it is haram regardless, and TheMajlis declare all tafsir is haram no matter how it’s presented.
- Copyright - Again Mufti Taqi Usmani, and you guys declare it is haram while TheMajlis.co.za are vociferous in claiming copyright is in the trash.
So, my questions are as follows:
1) Are the rules just as strict that one must follow one scholar/Mufti like following one madhab?
2) What are the exceptions, if any?
3) If, one’s chooses to follow what’s easiest for him, and his family like some of the examples above which, is important for an individual, and his family would he be:
b) If he is sinful i.e. it’s categorised as following one’s nafs, would the fatwa still be valid? For example if he acted upon the fatwa that his pension will be halal, and ignores the others forbidding/cautioning him then will the pension still remain halal? The angel recording his bad deeds will not document each pound/dollar/rand being earned/spent as haram.
4) This rule of not following your nafs when it comes to fatwa hunting is this an ijtihad among Deobandi ‘Ulama, or do ‘Ulama from the other three school of thoughts also proclaim that followers from their respective schools must not follow their desires, but preferably the opposing/stricter opinion if they find themselves in that situation.
Personal thoughts, I've been told following your desire means when you have requested a fatwa from a reliable Darul Ifta/Mufti, and the fatwa penetrates your heart (you have a hunch it's haq), but you ignore it, and follow another fatwa that accommodates your preference even though it's also from a reliable Darul Ifta/Mufti. If this is true, I find this illogical, and quite insulting.
- I find it illogical because how is a gut feeling/intuition/hunch call it whatever you want supposed to affirm whether a fatwa is haq or not? Surely, this can only be accomplished by reviewing all the fatwa on an academic level, and then one is in a position to conclude. Having said that does this approach not undermine the concept of taqlid? 'Ulama advise the laypeople not to ask too many questions, and for daleel unnecessarily, but their Task is to merely adhere to the wisdom of the 'Ulama.
- It's quite insulting because if one is to be tagged/labelled/accused of following his/her desires they would deduce from the evidence available their own verdicts. The very fact they're asking whether it is permissible shows they have concern that they don't want to do the wrong thing, and then be accountable for it in the court of Allah. It is very challenging for the layperson not to follow a fatwa that compliments his desires (if you can call it that), and to ignore others that consciously may "feel" closer to the truth when it's going to cause unrest in his family, and also have further detrimental repercussions for him/her in the future all just because they have to follow this "technicality" of accepting the haram by default when other opposing fatwa appear to be right? Let me give you an example. A friend of mine used to work in a bank for many years, and he was instructed by a couple of Muftis that working in a bank is haram because the source of income is haram therefore his salary his haram. Although, he wasn't told to pay all the money back he handed his resignation out of fear of Allah. Now he's on benefits looking for employment, and at some point he learned that it depends on which, sector in the bank one is working by another reputable Mufti. He was working in a department that did with interest directly, and gave up £15000 of family savings to pay up a year’s income! His wife's parents now asking for a divorce from him, and intend to take him to court to fight for the custody of the kids. He refused to accept another opinion even though he was encouraged to do so, but refused to do so because it was drilled into his head he’d be blameworthy for following his desires. Is this what the ‘Ulama expect families to go through, and to hold on firmly to this rigid taqlid methodology.
- Some say you follow the dominant opinion. Isn't this Salafi strategy? Furthermore how do you quantify in your local region let alone the world what is the dominant opinion? I mean that's just impractical, and to a certain degree if I can say quite silly.
- Some say it’s wise to stick with 1 to avoid the confusion that one might find themselves in as explained, but this is not Wajib is it? Also it’s easier said than done giving the nature of what ma’sil in question, and even Muftis can err.
A detailed yet simply answer would be greatly appreciated for my family. I am sorry in advance if my tone was brash, but it’s quite frustrating because one hand you want to do what’s best for you, and your family at the same time not to ruin your akirah. It’s really off-putting when really strict ‘Ulama reinforce this rule of not following your destined, and we’ll be destined to eternal damnation.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.
At the outset, we wish to point out your understanding of our opinion on digital photography and copyright is not correct.
The issue in reference is a recurring question that has been answered by our elders previously. You have raised valid points in your query.
The following content has been adapted with slight changes from the writings of Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (may Allah have mercy on him) and Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Zakariya Khandhalwi (may Allah have mercy on him):
The differences of opinion among the Ulama in those rulings which require assessment [ijtihad] is a natural thing and this has been ongoing since the time of the illustrious Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all) and the Followers (may Allah have mercy on them all). This is because they all sought the pleasure of Allah in researching and determining the most suitable and accurate answer for any given question.
Ask yourself: Was there ever a time or era when there were no such differences – whether in the early days of Islam or later?
In fact, since the beginning of the world there has never been a time when truth-seekers did not disagree. Allah has Himself sent down one and only one religion to all His Prophets (alayhim al-salam). While the basic principles of the faith [din] remained the same, there were differences in the details. In spite of this being a well-known fact, some people have still seized upon natural academic differences amongst the Ulama in an attempt to erode trust between the scholars and laymen.
As a result, many people have fallen in their trap and have started to say, “If there are differences amongst the Ulama then where can we go?” These kind of statements about differences amongst the Ulama have become commonplace while differences of opinion among doctors and specialists are an accepted fact and do not result in people mistrusting them.
It is important to understand that sometimes due to differences of disposition and nature, the opinions of some learned and righteous Ulama incline towards severity while others consider leniency to be necessary regarding the same issue.
That being said, seeking multiple answers to the same question is not the correct way. This is because when you seek a fatwa from two different Darul Iftaas and get two different answers, this will naturally result in your being confused and not having a satisfactory answer. This will not only lead to an erosion of trust for the Ulama, but will also lead to further problems such as:
1.) Either the person has difficulty in identifying the preferred view -or-
2.) Out of the multiple fatwas he chooses the fatwa that suits his own-self [nafs] -or-
3.) He knows from the beginning the answer he wants and continuously seeks fatwas from one scholar after another until he gets the fatwa he is looking for.
When a person seeks two views from two different scholars and gets one answer for declaring something to be permissible and another declaring it to be impermissible – he will most likely not be equipped to understand which view should be adopted.
The best way to avoid confusion and the trap of one's own nafs is to avoid seeking multiple answers in the first place. Instead, one should look for a scholar whose knowledge ['ilm] and practice ['amal] you are satisfied with. Don't just ask every single scholar, rather, seek out the one who is known for his knowledge and is trusted by the general Ulama for his accuracy in fatwas, piety, and is from the Ahl al-Sunnah wa'al Jam'aah. Once you have found such a scholar, stick to him and act according to the fatwas he gives you. If one faces a predicament in practicing upon a fatwa like the person you referred to working in a bank and is now undergoing divorce proceedings, he should present his predicament to the Mufti for further consideration. 
Mufti Sohail ibn Arif,
Assistant Mufti, Darul Iftaa
Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.