Clarifying the Maxim: Our Madhhab is Correct and Possibly Incorrect While the Madhhab of Others is Incorrect and Possibly Correct.
By Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwāmah
Translated by Muntasir Zaman
Objection: The following maxim is often quoted in the books of Fiqh: Our madhhab is correct and possibly incorrect while the madhhab of others is incorrect and possibly correct. What kind of conduct is this with those who hold a different opinion? How can they say this when they granted permission to make Taqlīd and recommended the observance of differences?
Clarification: It is true that they said this, but it is our responsibility to understand it according to their explanation and not according to hearts that are ill mannered towards them or minds that have failed to understand their intent. The correct method of understanding their statement is by establishing the conflict between the two statements. Thus we say:
Their statement regarding Taqlīd is proof of their approval of the madhhab of the one being followed (the Imām), and their recommendation for observing the opposing view is a clearer proof of their approval and regard for the opinion of the one who differs, so how did they make this statement?
Thereafter, we should contemplate over the fact that they are scholars who understood what they wrote and what comes from their minds, and that this is not the statement of only one person from one madhhab. Rather, it is the statement of many scholars who converged upon and approved of it. As such, there has to be a reasonable explanation which we are unaware of and therefore we should search their works for an answer.
A correct explanation has already been put forward by a prominent critical scholar from the latter-day critical scholars of the Hanafīs, rather, their seal in Egypt, the erudite scholar al-Tahtāwī (d. 1231). Ibn ‘Ābīdīn was their seal in Shām after which Allāh decreed for him widespread acceptance.
In the beginning of his marginalia on al-Durr al-Mukhtār, al-Tahtāwī explains: