When reading the rulings in the book we come by several instances where Imam Muhammad differs from Abu Hanifa. As one who does taqleed, which ruling should we follow? Do we take Imam Muhammad’s ruling or do we take Abu Hanifa’s?
Is it acceptable to take either opinion or does one need to consider the circumstances surrounding a fiqh issues prior to following a specific ruling? If one ruling is superior to another would it be wrong/sinful for someone to follow the weaker position whether it be Imam Muhammad or Abu Hanifa?
As we have covered in brief, the Hanafi school of law consists of a mix of opinions, amongst them many being those of Imams Abu Yusuf and Muhammad that were in difference to that of Imam Abu Hanifah.
Some scholars have purported that the majority of opinions that Imam Muhammad and Abu Yusuf differed in with their teacher, Imam Abu Hanifah, were in fact also based upon one of Imam Abu Hanifah’s opinions but not necessarily his final and preferred one.
In any case, there exists a plethora of opinions within each madhhab and it is the job of later jurists to give preference to the strongest view in light of the Qur’an, Sunnah, and principles derived from them.
Later books of Hanafi fiqh have given preference to one view over the other based on primarily evidences and sometimes need or circumstance. The role of a Mufti is to present the strongest opinion of the madhhab to the public and sift through weak and rare opinions to present the strongest.
It is therefore incorrect to practice upon a weak, unpreferred opinion, especially for the layman who is unaware for the basis and proof for each opinion. A Mufti qualified in the science of ijtihad, however, may sometimes find himself in a situation where he is forced to reanalyze an opinion and give preference to one over the other.
There are many rules and principles which guide the Mufti towards a proper understanding of the strongest opinion and in the case of necessity, when to adopt a non-preferred opinion of the madhhab.
These principles are discussed in advanced fiqh and usul al-fiqh studies.
[This is a short answer to a question on the comment section of the now dormant blog: attalib.blogspot.com. I’ve been trying to consolidate all the material on that site here so that if needed, I can close down that site.]