Ash Shaatibee said: ‘If the person is an absolute layman then perhaps some problems may become apparent to him when he sees the different opinions amongst the scholars of Islamic laws. So it is necessary for the laymen in this situation to return back to making ‘taqleed’ of some of them, as it is not possible for him to make ‘taqleed’ of those with different opinions in the same issue at the same time, solely because this is impossible and the breaching of consensus.
Either there exists possibility to reconcile between the different opinions by acting upon them both or there is no possibility. If there is no possibility of reconciling between them then acting upon them both is impossible. And if it was possible then one’s actions would not be in accordance to either of the two opinions, rather a third opinion which no one has ever mentioned would be made. What supports this is that we don’t find any form of this action being acted upon amongst the earlier scholars from the righteous predecessors, so it is in opposition to consensus.
If it is established that one doesn’t make ‘taqleed’ of anyone except one of them, and every one of them claim that they are the closer to the truth than their rivals, and for this reason he opposed them, and if it wasn’t for this he wouldn’t have opposed them. As for the layman who is ignorant of the situations in which to use ‘ijtihaad’, then it is necessary that he is guided to the one who is closest to the truth from amongst the scholars. So this is established for the layman in general because he will give precedence according to who the more knowledgeable scholar is. This is apparent by observing the majority of the scholars and those similar to them and this fact is well known to them, solely because the scholar being more knowledge than the other is a factor which overwhelms the layman’s thinking which leads him to believe that the one possessing this knowledge is closer to the truth of The Judge (Allah), and not from any other aspect. So he should not make ‘taqleed’ except considering the fact that the scholar is a judge with knowledge of The Judge (Allah).’
Ash Shaatibee also went on to say: ‘Here is clarification of what is intended by the previous statement: ‘If the scholar is one whom the people have not bore witness to his knowledge, or he is certain that he doesn’t have knowledge or he has doubts . So choosing to be audacious and daring in these two situations is truly the following of one’s desires. The scholar should have sought a verdict from someone else regarding the issue and didn’t do so, so it is more deserving that he does not come forward in this issue except if someone else precedes him, who in all actuality didn’t precede him.
Sheikh Muhammad Naasirud Deen al-Albaani mentioned this and authenticated it, and commented on this saying: ‘This is the advice of Imam ash Shatibee to the scholar whom it is possible for him to place himself in front of the people with some type knowledge. Ash Shaatibee advises the scholar not to place himself in front of the people until the scholars bare witness or testify to his ability to do so, this being for fear of him being one of the people of desires. So what would you think if some of those people who are clinging to or associated with this Islamic knowledge of our time, no doubt that he would say: ‘this is not your field so go on your way, is there anyone who will take heed from this?
If someone from amongst the laymen asked a scholar, after diligently searching, then it is not permissible for him to ask about a particular ‘madth’hab’ nor a specific opinion, rather the wording of his question should be: ‘What is the Islamic ruling in this issue in light of the proofs and evidences from the Quran and the Sunnah?
Also it is not permissible for the layman, at any time to ask: ‘What is Imam so and so’s saying or view in the issue? Because it is obligatory upon the questioner to diligently search for the truth and then follow it, so the correct wording for his question should be: What is the Islamic ruling in this issue?
Imam ash Shawkani said: ‘As for what was mentioned in regards to excluding the ones whose understanding of the Islamic texts is deficient or negligent and making this justification for them to make’ taqleed’, then the issue is not as they have mentioned. For there exists an intermediary between ‘ijtihaad’ and ‘taqleed’. Indeed, it is the question put forth by the ignorant person directed towards the Islamic scholar according to his knowledge, not according to his outright opinion, nor his ‘ijtihaad’. This is in accordance to the actions of the companions, the ‘tabi’oon’ and those who proceeded them.’
Furthermore, Salih al Fulaani mentioned on the authority of al Asfahaani from his commentary of the Quran which was mentioned from Ibn Daqeequl Eid what is a summarization of his statement: ‘Indeed the ‘ijtihaad’ of the layman, amongst the scholars who have this opinion, is that if the layman asks in these times -in which verdicts based upon the selections of infallible human beings have become predominant-he asks the ‘mufti’: “Is this what Allah and His Messenger have decided? If the scholar answers: yes, then the questioner takes his answer and it is not necessary for the questioner to do any more searching than this. It is also not necessary for the ‘mufti’ to mention to the questioner the Quranic verse or hadeeth and the legality, while extracting the ruling from the correct fundamentals and principles.
However if the ‘mufti’ replies: ‘this is my saying, my opinion, or the opinion of so and so or a particular ‘madth’hab of the scholars of ‘fiqh’ or reprimands the questioner or remains silent, then the questioner can ask another scholar as long as he answers him with the judgment and decision of Allah’s book and the Sunnah of His Messenger , and answers him with what is obligatory within the religion of Islam regarding that particular issue. Whoever ponders and contemplates over the statements of the salaf and the four scholars of ‘fiqh’ regarding the encouragement of the people not to seek the answer to a religious issue except from a scholar of the Quran and Sunnah, in accordance to what we mentioned here.’
Abdullah ibn Imam Ahmed said: “I asked my father about a man who wants to ask about an issue regarding his religion which he is afflicted by making various vows related to divorce and other issues as well, and within his city are the people of ‘ray’e’ opinions, and also the people of hadeeth-who from amongst them they do not recall nor memorize the narrations, nor do they distinguish between the authentic and inauthentic texts, and chains of narration. Who should I ask, the people of opinions or the people of hadeeth with what little they possess of knowledge?
Imam Ahmed replied: ‘Ask the people of hadeeth, and don’t ask the people of opinions, for the ‘da’eef’ hadeeth is better than the opinion of Abu Haneefah.’
Imam Ahmed permitted seeking religious verdicts from the jurists of the people of hadeeth, and the companions of Imam Malik, and referred people to them. He would prohibit the people from seeking religious verdicts from all those who turn away from and abandon the hadeeth and do not build or base their ‘madth’hab’ upon the ahadeeth. He would also not permit acting upon their religious verdicts.’
The Most Important Obligations Upon the one Seeking Religious Verdicts:
If a mistake from the first ‘mufti’ becomes apparent, then the questioner must return back to the correct statement. This is because, as it has been clarified that it is not obligatory upon the questioner to limit himself to one statement in particular, rather he is only obliged and ordered to act upon that which is correct based upon Allah’s statement: ‘Those who listen to the good advice (Islamic Monotheism) and follow the best thereof…’ (az Zumar 39:18) and this is what the scholars have mentioned.
Ash Shaatibee said: ‘With all respect, if some mistakes become apparent to him in various issues, and he was incorrect in relation to the correct knowledge of the Judge (Allah) then he should not take sides with his followers nor encroach upon them in regards to the issues which his mistakes are apparent. Verily his taking sides will lead to that which is contrary to the Islamic Laws, and secondly he will differ with his followers.’
The summarization of this section is that it is obligatory upon the Muslim who is seeking a religious verdict to search for a scholar of the Quran and Sunnah, just as the sick person who is afflicted and overcome by illness would search for the best doctor or specialist to cure his sickness. Furthermore, it is obvious to the human being in his worldy affairs that he is bound to experience hardships, and under these circumstances he diligently searches for someone to cure him, and he will only accept the view or treatment of the best of doctors. So similarly it is obligatory upon him to search and exert himself in finding and knowing the best people of Islamic knowledge. Just as if he needed something in his worldy affairs, even if it was trivial, he would consult the specialists of that field, and ask the people who have the most knowledge of that subject. Similarly it is obligatory upon him to search diligently for the learned scholar who is well versed about the Quran, Sunnah and statements of the scholars, and ask him. So how does one know who is a scholar?
The answer: ‘He knows him by the testimony of the scholars and students of knowledge bearing witness that he possesses knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah, perhaps the one who is in opposition to him will not testify to this nor consider him to be from the scholars, especially from those who view that the religion of Islam is that which the ‘madthaa’hib’ came with, and Allah is the Great Aider.
 (TN) He is the great Imam, faqeeh Abu Ishaaq ibn Ibrahim ibn Musa ibn Muhammad al Lakhmee ash Shaa<bee. The scholar and author of many important books. He died in the year 790 hijri. From amongst his compilations: ‘al I’tisaam’ (considered one of the main resources for researching religious innovations) also ‘al Muwafaqaat’ (which contains fundamentals and principles of ‘fiqh’ and much more)
 al I’tisaam 2/345
 Silsilatul Ahadeeth Saheehah 2/713
 Irshaadul Fuhool’ pg.268
 (TN) He is Salih ibn Muhammad ibn Nuh ibn Abdullah al Umaree al Fulaani, scholar of hadeeth and a mujtahid, he was a Maliki jurist from al Madinah. He was born and raised in Sudan then moved to Al Madinah unl he died in the year 1218 hijri. He is the author of the book ‘Eeqath himam U’lel Absaar lil’Iqtidaa’a bi sayid al Muhaajireen wal Ansaar’
 Eeqath Himam U’lel Absaar pg39
 Masaa’il Abdullah ibn Ahmed ibn Hanbal pg.438. also the meaning of ‘da’eef’ here mentioned by Imam Ahmed is equivalent to ‘Hasan’ amongst the later scholars, refer to footnote #226
 I’laamul Muwa’qaeen 2/60 and Eeqathu Himam Uleel Absaar pg.39
 al I’tisaam 2/345, also see what Sheikhul Islam Ibnu Taymiyyah said in his ‘Fatawaa’ and also Ibnul Qayyim said in his compilations especially ‘I’laam al Muwa’qaeen’.