اللَّهُــمَّ صَلِّ وَسَـــلِّمْ وَبَارِكْ على نَبِيِّنَـــا مُحمَّد ﷺ
When I first converted to Islam in 2015, I initially followed the Maliki madhhab, which has a number of excellent characteristics. I have since decided to move to the Hanafi madhhab for a number of reasons which, insha’Allah, I will enumerate below. Note that this pertains to living in America as an American convert. The situation of the land is to be taken into context.
I still highly respect the Maliki madhhab, as I respect all four. I may still yet, later on insha’Allah, return to the madhhab and study it deeper later on.
- Non-Muslims entering masajid. Hanafis permit this, but the Maliki madhhab forbids kufar entering masajid. This makes da’wa much more difficult. I actually converted to Islam by visiting masajid myself, first in China and then in America, where I finally was exposed to Islam in the English language, obtained an English Qur’an, and took my shahada. If I keep breaking my madhhab then either something about it is simply impractical in my context or there’s a dearth of ijtihad in my land to keep it relevant to its context.
- Widespread Salafism in America. Salafis do things which traditional ulema’ consider innovations that can make your day-to-day quite difficult. For example, the khatib may come down from the minbar and have someone else lead salah. This invalidates the entire khutba for a Maliki. Now you’re praying zhuhr and you only find out which khatib does this and which one doesn’t via experiencing it. Now you have the added complexity of avoiding certain khatibs. Hanafis say this is not ideal, but permissible. At least my jumu’a is still valid.
Some Salafi masjids start the khutba even before zhuhr time has come in. This invalidates the khutba for Malikis, but Hanafis (as always, it seems) have a more accommodating and nuanced answer.
Also some Maliki fuqaha are very strict on not even praying behind Salafis because of their aqida. Though sheikh Hamza Maqbul told me this only applies when someone publicly espouses and promotes a certain severely deviant point of aqida in public, and speculation about deviation is itself a deviation. So husn al-zhunn and carry on. Other Malikis give different answers, however, which may be harsher, yet when you prod deeper you can tell they really have not studied the issue nor respect the gravity of the implications of what they’re telling people. People are praying at home instead of the masjid because of this. Everything very quickly becomes quite difficult and complicated, as you can tell. The complexity just keeps growing. Just trying to attend jumu’a or attend salah becomes a headache, on top of the added everyday stresses of simply living in America as a Muslim.
When I ask Hanafi fuqaha, they give clearer answers that remove the uncertainty in my heart about these issues, like presenting the hadith “صلوا خلف كل بر و فاجر.” A Hanafi madrasa graduate, though of another madhhab, explained to me how Salafi aqida is still quite different from the actual mujassimah, therefore salah behind them is valid. Deviance has levels to it, from the minor to the severe. Politics overseas can also influence fiqh opinions, and we make take them on without evaluating their contexts.
Shallowness and depth become visible the more you are exposed to quality scholarship. We tend to think of Hanafis as being very rigid and strict, but actually I’ve found them to be very nuanced, especially when you talk to the right fuqaha. I am not sure if it’s simply the madhhab itself or its higher level of development in America, but they are far more situated to living among Salafis in terms of fiqh. I finally can just focus on what matters–my actual salah and practice of the din–instead of endless fiqh complexities that are incredibly distracting, with no access to Maliki Muftis to finally hammer out the issues once and for all.
- Jumu’a. This overlaps with point two on some things. Many “masajid” in America are actually musallas, and the khutba is not valid in a musalla according to the Malikis. So you either wind up cutting out half your options or doing talfiq with Hanafis on this point anyways. Then comes the fiqh of the second khutba. Then the khatib lets someone else lead. Then summer hits and they start before zhuhr. The list goes on.
- Highly-qualified scholars. There’s a serious dearth of highly-qualified Maliki fuqaha in the West, let alone Muftis. The result is there are a lot of tulab answering questions and teaching who are severely deficient in their ilm, often without realizing it, and they speak on things, ignorant of the nuances of the topic, which can be very harmful and jarring. It reminds me of hadith of the end-times. The lack of Muftis means ijtihad is basically gone, so everybody is pulling fatawa straight from mutun without proper training. It’s a disaster and quite honestly is starting to remind me of Salafism. The few scholars who are qualified–sheikh Hamza Maqbul, sheikh Rami Nsour, sheikh Salik, etc.–are so incredibly busy, and their busy nature only seems to grow and never shrink, especially as more people are finding them and asking questions, that their answers are becoming shorter, sharper, and less nuanced out of necessity. They may get a hundred messages a day. It’s exhausting, I am sure. And it’s just not sustainable without sending more people overseas to properly study this tradition, which can take many years to nail it down properly. I encourage Hanafi madrasas–like Darul Qasim, Qalam Institute, and the other madrasas in the West–to hire Maliki fuqaha and start teaching other madhhabs to those who follow them. The Hanafi tulab could take it optionally as an elective, but the other madhahab need domestic options to study their schools.
English-speaking, even native-born American Hanafi muftun are quite numerous and accessible. This is so very refreshing. I don’t feel the pressure anymore of researching basic things on my own, lacking nuance and doubting myself.
- Domestic study options. I don’t have to go to Africa to properly study Maliki fiqh. I can go to Qalam Institute, Darul Qasim, Darul Uloom, etc. and study Hanafi fiqh with a qualified mufti. I know that people are “studying” Maliki fiqh online and with other tulab, but these things are either very informal, the people are unqualified and lack exposure to the breadth of the Sunni tradition (cue above–saying ignorant things and lacking nuance), or the institutions are very new and infantile. The quality just isn’t there for all but Hanafis. I reiterate that I highly respect all four schools, but the only madhhab that’s really “there” is the Hanafi madhhab. There’s even ifta programs being offered now, and other specializations. The other three require you to go overseas to truly study with qualified scholars, let alone specialize.
- Easier to study. This is perhaps more subjective, but I find the mutun of the Hanafi madhhab to be far more detailed, laid out clearer, organized better, and more commented on. I pick up a translation of al-Akhdari or al-Ashmawiyah or al-Risala, and there’s no sharh or hashiyah. Even in Arabic I usually don’t find one. The result is I am still left with tons of questions about little details. I pick up “Ascent to Felicity” and it comes with a detailed sharh. The Quduri text used at Qalam Institute also has an excellent sharh that even covers ikhtilaf with Shafi’is. Next thing I know I’m using a Hanafi sharh to answer my Maliki questions about salah and wudu’. Might as well just go Hanafi anyways.
In my personal experience, I have found the Hanafis to be more detailed and nuanced, leaving no stone unturned, filling in all of the gaps. Maliki fiqh left me with more questions than answers. Perhaps this is simply due to a lack of quality scholarship in the West, but I think it’s at least partially due to the early encouragement of ijtihad in the Hanafi madhhab, answering hypotheticals and paving the way for future generations.
- More fatawa and ijtihad. This point merges with the previous point. Hanafi fatawa are everywhere online and they’re in English, alhamdulillah. Very few Maliki fatawa are available online, at least not in English, and I have access to zero Maliki muftis. Ifta is alive and well in the Hanafi madhhab and almost every question you could imagine has already been answered, given its proper nuance, and differences of opinion mapped out. I no longer have to rely on Salafi websites, I can find most questions answered by qualified Hanafis in English.
For example, I have only found Hanafis and Salafis (1,2) to have answered the question of being unsure of breaking your wudu’ on a detailed level. So when I read a hadith like this, I found no detailed answer from Malikis. So I am left to either my own ijtihad (which is not permissible since I am not a mujtahid), Salafis (but I’m not Salafi), Hanafi fatawa, or just leaving it up in the air and being in doubt. So Hanafi it is. Even if the Salafi answer is similar to the Hanafi answer, at least I have an answer from traditional scholars that I can settle on. Otherwise, I am left to doubt.
Another issue I’ve had is I have knee problems, so it’s hard to pray consistently on hard ground. So I place a piece of foam in my apartment on the hard floor for my knees. I have been left to doubt whether or not my salah is valid. Conveniently, of course, Hanafis have already answered this mas’alah.
The masa’il are numerous, these are only a few examples.
I now understand why sheikh Muhammad al-Kattani (قدس الله سره) encouraged Maliki scholars to become mujtahidun and keep ijtihad alive. My respect for such a view has grown significantly as I myself have grown. The masa’il will never end, but your relevancy will if you don’t have enough qualified muftun, and the result will be confusion and unqualified people answering questions.
- Business law and mu’amalat. I remember sheikh Yahya Rhodus visited Qalam Institute and said “I think we should all become Hanafis in fiqh al-mu’amalat.” Keep whatever madhhab for ibadat. But the Hanfis are clearly dominant in keeping up with the times. This ties into the previous point, a lack of ijtihad to keep the madhhab relevant. There’s a ton of questions you’ll encounter in your daily life, and the only ones answering them really are Hanafis (may Allah ﷻ reward Mufti Taqi Usmani and all of the other muftis with the greatest, amin) and some Salafis. Otherwise you’ll have to perpetually pester sheikh Hamza Maqbul for every single mas’alah you run into, while demands for his time and attention only grow. Might as well just go Hanafi for mu’amalat. While you’re at it, might as well throw in ‘ibadat, too, and save yourself the headache.
- More breadth in studying & practicing other madhahab. You can often tell that someone who has studied two or more schools is far more nuanced than those who have only truly been exposed to and practiced one. Their respect for other opinions is greater, they have far more nuance about their own madhhab, and their knowledge is broader and more profound. They often take more time to answer a question and pay more attention to detail. I generally recommend that everybody, who has the time and ability, study a second madhhab for exposure on at least a basic level. Know the history of the madhhab, it’s special qualities and pros/cons, and learn some of the basic fiqh and usul. Practice it in your ‘ibada for some time and figure out some of its nuances, eases, and difficulties. You’ll return to your own madhhab refreshed and, hopefully insha’Allah, with greater humility and respect for the Sunni tradition–an important quality to cultivate.
- Most Americans are Hanafi or Salafi. If you roll Shafi’i or Maliki, you’re a minority. If you want to study this din but don’t study Hanafi fiqh, you can’t serve the fiqh needs of a major segment of the community. Though the Shafi’i and Maliki madhhabs are growing, quality scholarship is lagging behind and unqualified self-study types abound.
- Easier to practice. This is perhaps more subjective, but each madhhab has its aspects of difficulty and ease. If you frequently hug and kiss your spouse, being Hanafi is easier. Maliki fiqh leaves you with doubts about that hug or kiss, and then, might as well just re-do that wudu’ rather than lose my khushu’. The fiqh of leather socks is easier to act upon. I don’t have to freak out about dalk in ghusl–did I miss a spot on Friday? What if I missed a spot the past five years? Fiqh of fasting is also easier, such as forgetfully eating/drinking or accidentally breathing in steam.
I’ve never been able to mentally figure out the complex interplay of recitation and raka’at in Maliki fiqh if you join a prayer late. It’s too confusing and difficult. I’ve always done it Hanafi, where you just pick up what you missed. Now I can focus on khushu’ and the meaning of the recitation.
If you pray sadl, you can tell everyone around you is uncomfortable and thinks you’re ignorant or a Shi’a. You can feel the negative energy no matter how hard you concentrate. So I’ve been praying qabd anyways. I can either battle ignorance for the rest of my life or just submit to the times, either doing talfiq or switching to Hanafi fiqh entirely.
As a Hanafi, my mind is finally at ease. I can focus on my akhira and worshiping Allah ﷻ. Maliki fiqh left me in constant worry and doubt.
Though it’s always a give and take. When your gum is bleeding, you have to wait around for it to stop before you can make wudu’ as a Hanafi. But I’ve found the sum total to weigh in favor of Hanafi fiqh for myself.
Perhaps, insha’Allah, I’ll keep adding to this list over time.