The following is an academically written article on the issue of whether the lay Muslim is obliged to adhere to the rulings of any of the Four Sunni Madhhabs (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali) in all of its rulings (ahkam) or not. It was written by Shaykh Zameelur Rahman from England. It has been uploaded here for the benefit of all readers and with the permission of the author. It was originally uploaded on the following site which has more of the authors scholarly articles:
The last link mentioned:
“If the obligation of a non-mujtahid is only to follow, or make taqlid, of qualified mujtahids, why do scholars insist on the added obligation of restricting one’s taqlid to a single madhhab?
The paper linked below addresses this question, providing a detailed explanation for the necessity of adhering to a single madhhab in all its rulings.
The obligation and its legal basis are supported by statements and opinions from major early authorities across the recognised schools of jurisprudence. It is argued that this ruling is not only more sound in the present context, but is also supported by strong positions from within each of the four madhhabs, with some of the early scholars having quoted consensus.”
Note, that in a previous article uploaded here, it was mentioned from some leading scholars that there is scholarly consensus (ijma) on following of the Sunni schools of law. quotes:
The Hanbali scholar Imam ‘Ala al-Din al-Mardawi in his major Juristic compendium Al-Insaf, cites the statement of the famous scholar Imam Al-Wazir ibn Hubaira (died 560 ah):“Consensus has been established upon taqlīd of every one of the Four Schools and that the truth does not lie outside of them.” (Vol.11 p.169, Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah).
Imam Badr al-Din al-Zarkashi states in Al-Bahr al-Muhit,“There has been established a consensus amongst the Muslims that the truth is restricted to these (four) schools. This being the case it is not permitted to act upon an opinion from other than them. Nor is it permitted for ijtihād to occur except within them (i.e. employing their principles that is the tools of interpretation).” (vol.6 p.209)
In the famous commentary of the treatise of Imam Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani Al-Risalah, entitled “Al-Fawākih al-Dawāni,” Imam Ahmad al-Nafrawi (died 1126 ah) also confirms the Ijma of all the scholars that following one Imam is obligatory: “The consensus of the Muslims has been established upon the obligation (Wujub) of following one of the four Imams today; Abu Ḥanīfa, Malik, Shafi and Ahmad- May Allah be pleased with them… What we explained before, in terms of the obligation of following one of the four Imams, is in relation to those who do not possess the capability of performing ijtihād.” (vol.2 p.574, Bab Fi al-Ruyah wa al-Tathāub, 1997).