Following an Imam/Mazhab understanding and misunderstanding

Issue of Following a Mazhab/Imam/Doing Taqleed among Muslims.
Among the Sunni muslims (means all muslims, other than Shias, We don’t know anything about shias) nearly 96% of muslims follow either of the four mazhab/Great Imams, (eg HANAFI’s 47%, SHAFAI 16%, MALIKI 28%, HANBALI 4%.1
Salafis 2who don’t follow any of the four Imam are nearly 3% of muslim population worldwide. (2Salafis are also called as Ahle Hadith in Indian subcontinents. Their critics call them Wahabi a name that salafis donot like to be called.All muslim should refrain from using a name that might hurt others.There is clear cut Hadith for this prohibition.
1This estimation is refrenced to the document THE 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS 2010 edition by The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre Page no.16&18 and of Wikipedia and merely estimation. Some of the other sources have estimated Hanafis more than 50% of the sunni muslims.)
Salafis are well known for not following mazhab/Imams. They believe in deriving the rulings directly from Quran and Hadith for every muslim.This is the reason why they object to those who follow a mazhab/Imam.
A full clarification of the importance and safeguard in doing taqleed and the pros and cons of not following a mazhab requires a detailed article.Mufti shykh Taqi Usmani (Authorative scholar and Former Judge of Shairah court Pakistan) has written a book titled ”THE LEGAL STAUS OF FOLLOWING A MADHAB”. This book  gives a detail of Quranic Ayats and Ahadith and position of Sahaba and Salfussalihin on the issue. It also answers about Salafis points regarding issue of Taqleed.
However, we will try to explain the basic points in brief.

We will discuss this issue in detail but Before we would like to discuss 

some Misunderstanding around Taqleed Issue among general public and internet debators.

Misunderstanding No 1
Some people think that Taqleed/following Imam is in whole deen/ Every aspect of Islam.

Truth :
It is wrong. There is no taqleed in 90% of deen. As ruling with regard to these are clear and whosoever has knowledge of language can understand it.

Famous Jurist Shaykh Khatib Al-Baghdadi writes:
"As far as the Islamic rules are concerned, there are of two types. The first are those which are known by necessity to be part of the Deen of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam like the five prayers, Zakaat, fasting in Ramadhan, Hajj; the prohibition of adultery, wine and so on. Taqleed is not allowed in these issues since they are such that everyone should know and understand. The second type are those rules which need to be understood and extrapolated such as the details of the rituals of worship, transactions and weddings, for example, Taqleed is allowed in these issues
since Allah says:
"So ask the people of remembrance if you know not." (Surah Al-Nahl: 43)
Al-Faqih wal Mutafaqqihah - page 67, vol.2 printed by Darul Iftaa, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 1389

Taqleed is done only in those aspect where more than one interpretation is possible from Ahadeeth.

The famous Islamic jurist, Shaykh Abdul Ghani Al-Nablusi states:

The issues which are agreed upon - without any doubt and by necessity - do not require any Taqleed of any of the four Imams like the obligation of Salaat. Fasting, Zakaat and Hajj, etc. and like the prohibition of adultery and fornication, drinking wine, murder, stealing and usurping. The issues which are debated are the issues where Taqleed becomes necessary."
Khulasataul Tahqeeq fi Hukm at-Taqleed wa at-Talfeeq - page - 4 printed by Al-Yasheeq, Istanbul

Misunderstanding 2.
Muslims has become divided because of Imams into four groups.And it is creating problems.

Among the Sunni muslims (means all muslims, other than Shias, We don’t know anything about shias) nearly 96% of muslims follow either of the four mazhab/Great Imams, (eg HANAFI’s 47%, SHAFAI 16%, MALIKI 28%, HANBALI 4%.
Salafis brothers who don’t follow any of the four Imam are nearly 3% of muslim population worldwide.
This estimation is refrenced to the document THE 500 MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSLIMS 2010 edition by The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre Page no.16&18 and of Wikipedia and merely estimation. Some of the other sources have estimated Hanafis more than 50% of the sunni muslims.)

A basic principle of all four Mazhab is to respect each other and their scholars are related with each other as teacher and students.
There are scholary discussion and debate but their is no groupism ever heard among them.
Their scholars and General public have mutual respect.

Imam Shafaee about Imam Abu Haneefah
"All are children of Imam Abu Haneefa in matter of Jurisprudence"
"When he Imam Shafaee visited his place. He prayed according to Abu Haneefa mazhab."
Once in Deoband one Alim was explaining the position of Hanafi that was different from Shafaee Position on particular issue. One of his disciple commented that even imam shafaee would have accepted your view.The teacher said if Imam Shafaee will come today I will become his Student.
In Kerala where Muslims are Shafaee.Madarsaas are run by Shafaee.There are  student from North India for them They arrange Hanafi teacher for Fiqh.They remain in same Hostel under same roof.

Misunderstanding  3.
Taqleed like a rope in your neck and other end is in Imams Hand.And you and other scholars of present and past have to abide whatever the Imam has say.

It is a very scientific and Rational process based on established priciples. Although it is after name of one person like Abu Haneefa/Shafaee/malik/hanbal Rahmatullah Alaihi..............But actually there were group of scholars expert in different field like Hadeeth/Quranic Tafseer/Arabic languaage who actively took part in the process.

Again it was relooked and Scrutenised by later scholars without any bias.They also differed from their Imam in the light of evidences and this process is continuous

e.g............ Imam Abu Haneefa work was scrutenised by Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad
...........Imam Shafaee work by Imam Mugni and Imam Nawwi R.A.
 Similarly for others.

Misunderstanding 4.

Some brothers claim that Imam and their associates were not knowing the Ahadith that is claimed to be against their views.

These Imams were people of unquestionable authorith.  .................I am  Giving example

Makki Ibn Ibrahim, teacher of Imam Bukhari; and any Hadith which Imam Bukhari has narrated with only three narrators in it's chain are mostly through Ibn Ibrahim.

Makki Ibn Ibrahim was also the student of Imam Abu Hanifa, he stated

"Imam Abu Hanifa was the most knowledgeable person of his time."
Narrated by Hafiz Muzzi in the footnotes of Tadhibul Tahdeeb above page 451

The Imams and their associates scholar were not only known to Aadith  (apparantly looking against their views) rather they have discussed it and have presented their understanding about the Hadith and Quranic and Ahadith evidence for their position.

Imam Al Awzaa`ee met Aboo Haneefah in Makkah and observed:

"Why do you not raise your hands just before rukoo` and after?"

Aboo Haneefah replied:

"There is no recorded word or action of the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, to authenticate this." 

"How so," replied al Awzaa`ee,

"when al Zuhree has reported this to me on the authority of Saalim and that of his father who said that the Prophet used to raise his hands at the beginning of the salaah and before and after rukoo`?"

Aboo Haneefah also reported:

"Hammaad related to me through Ibraaheem, through `Alqamah, through al Aswad, and through Ibn Mas`ood that the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, only raised his hands at the beginning of the salaah and did not repeat this action again."

Al Awzaa`ee then suggested that his authorities were more reliable than those of Aboo Haneefah,

Abu Haneefah who countered:

"Hammaad was more knowledgeable than al Zuhree, and Ibraaheem was more knowledgeable than Saalim.
`Alqamah was not below Ibn `Umar in rank. And if Ibn `Umar is to be credited as a companion of the Prophet, then al Aswad has many merits. And the merits of `Abd Allaah ibn Mas`ood speak for themselves.

" At this, al Awzaa`ee remained silent. [ Al Fikr al Saamee, 1/320.]

This incidence proves that every one was after sunnah and evidence based and having proof for his position.

Aboo Haneefah is reported to have said:

"Ours is no more than an opinion. We do not oblige or coerce anyone into accepting it. Whoever has a better judgment, let him advance it." [ Al Intiqaa', 140.]

We can thus see that all Muslims were followers and upholders of the Sunnah.

When the Sunnah was authenticated, no one deviated from it.

If differences occurred it was only because of varying understanding or interpretation.

However, when this happened each person accepted the other's point of view so long as the interpretation could be sustained by the text and there was no other authentic evidence to the contrary.

Islam has clear guidelines in this situation

Amir ibn Al-’As رضى الله عنه reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم say,

عَنْ عَمْرِو بْنِ الْعَاصِ أَنَّهُ سَمِعَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ إِذَا حَكَمَ الْحَاكِمُ فَاجْتَهَدَ ثُمَّ أَصَابَ فَلَهُ أَجْرَانِ وَإِذَا حَكَمَ فَاجْتَهَدَ ثُمَّ أَخْطَأَ فَلَهُ أَجْرٌ

“If a judge makes a ruling, striving to apply his reasoning (ijtihad) and he is correct, then he will have two rewards; and if a judge makes a ruling, striving to apply his reasoning and he is mistaken, then he will have one reward.”
[Sahih Muslim, Book 18, Number 4261]


Obedience is only for Allah and his prophetMuhammad Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam
1.     Obedience belongs only to Almighty Allah and his prophet. This is the logical requirement of the doctrine of Tawheed (belief in the Oneness of Allah) and Risalat. The obedience of Nabi (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) ,the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammed (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has been prescribed for us because he is the messenger of Allah Ta’ala and conveys to us the divine commandments; we are ordered to obey and follow him because Allah’s pleasure has been epitomized in his sayings and acts. Therefore, we are required to follow the Holy Quran, being the direct commandment of Allah, and the Sunnah of Nabi (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), being the indirect form of revelation.
Islam is the guiding source for all spheres of life till the day of Qiyamah.
Islam is the guiding principle for all aspect of life.It is not only the matter of deriving shariah rule for performing Salat, Roza,and ibadat. It has to give the guidance on the ever arising issues with the change of time and place.
Eg.Sharemarket,MutualFunds,OrganTranplantations,Insurane,Mechanised slaughtering,This list is never ending and new issues and problem will be added in it. This is natural and bound to happen. For which rule of Shariah has to be derived. 
Derivation of Rule of Shariah from Quran and Ahadith
1.   1The interpretation of the Quran and Sunnah requires an intensive and extensive study of both the sacred sources of Shari’a, which cannot be undertaken by every one.
2.   The inference of the rules of Shari’a from the Quran and Sunnah requires a thorough knowledge of the Arabic language and the knowledge of many other sciences,like Quran Tafseer,Context of a quran Ayah,Hadith,its status,Arabic Grammer etc which a common man/normal knowlegable usually does not posses.
Shariat has solved this problem
1.   If it is made obligatory on each and every Muslim to consult the Holy Quran and Sunnah in each and every problem rising before him, it will burden him with a responsibility which is almost impossible for him to discharge.
2.   The only solution to this problem is that a group of persons should equip themselves with the required knowledge of Shari’a, and the others should ask them about the injunctions of Shari’a in their daily affairs. This is exactly what the Holy Quran has ordained for the Muslims in the following words:
فلولا نفر من كل فرقة منهم طائفة ليتفقهوا في الدين ولينذروا قومهم إذا رجعوا إليهم لعلهم يحذرون
So, a section from each group of them should go forth, so that they may acquire the knowledge and the perception in the matters of religion, and so that they may warn their people, when they return to them, that they may be watchful.
(Verse: 9:121)
This verse of the Holy Quran indicates that a group of Muslims should devote itself for acquiring the knowledge of Shari’a, and the others should consult them in the matters of Shari’a.
This is exactly what the “Taqleed”/following a mazhab means. A person, who has no ability/knowledge to understand the Holy Quran and Sunnah, consults a Muslim jurist, often termed as Imam, and acts according to his interpretation of Shari’a.
Verse Number 1:
"O you who believe! Follow Allah; follow the Messenger and those of
authority (Amr) amongst you." (Surah Al-Nisaa: 59)
That of authority (Amr) has been explained by some as Muslim rulers while others have
viewed them as jurists. The latter view was the opinion of Abdullah ibn Abbas6,
Mujahid, `Ataa ibn Abi Rabah, `Ataa ibn Saib, Hasan of Basra, Abu 'Aliyah and many
others. After substantiating the proofs for this second view, Imam Razi gives preference
to it and writes:
"So taking those of Amr to mean scholars is more appropriate." 7
Imam Abu Bakr Jassas position is that there is no contradiction between the two
opinions. In fact, both are implied. Rulers should be followed in political matters and
jurists should be followed in legal issues. 8
Imam Ibn Qayyim says that following the rulers is in effect following the scholars since
rulers are also required to follow scholars in legal issues. Hence, "...following rulers is
subject to following scholars."
Verse Number 4.
"....So, if you do not know, ask those of remembrance." (Surah Al Nahl:43)
There is an academic principle in this verse, which is that those who are not
experts in a field should resort to seeking advice from those who are and act accordingly.
 Imam/Jurist is for knowing requirement of shariah.
He never deems a jurist/Imam worthy of obedience, but he seeks his guidance for knowing the requirements of Shari’a, because he does not have adequate knowledge for deducing the rules of Shari’a. This behaviour is called taqleed of that jurist or Imam.
Imam ruling is not anything parrallal or away from Sunnah
1.   1.The qualified Muslim jurists have devoted their lives for the study of the Holy Quran and Sunnah and have collected the rules of Shari’a, according to their respective interpretation of Shari’a, in an almost codified form. This collection of the Shari’a rules, according to the interpretation of a particular jurist, is called the mazhab of that jurist.
2.   Thus the mazhab of an Imam is not something parallel to Shari’a, or something alien to it. In fact, it is a particular interpretation of Shari’a and a collection of the major rules, inferred by the Holy Quran and Sunnah by some authentic jurists, and arranged subject wise for the convenience of the followers of the Shari’a.
3.   Therefore, the one who follows a particular mazhab actually follows the Holy Quran and Sunnah according to the interpretation of a particular authentic jurist, whom he believes to be the most trustworthy and the most knowledgeable in matters of Shari’a.
Need of well established jurisprudence
Life is in motion Time is always moving ,and the world will have new situation and challenges till the day of judgement.. Changes brought about by time and spaces are destined to come and Islamic ruling have to solve these needs of humanity according to Quran and Sunnah.. New situation can come on so many fronts. The Administration of a country with crores of population, legal status of Share markets and details of Islamic finance, Status of Muslim in a country where majority is non believer, use of mobile, and newer communication system, and countless other situation of local and of universal nature.
e.g With the advent of ULTRASOUND we can know the status of developing fetus and it it is found it is not developing and fetal heart sound has not come they will do MTP or Medical Termination of Pregnancy.Now what will be ruling for thos women about purity. The bllod coming after MTP will be Nifas blood/simple bleeding. Now you have two option either apply your mind with your limited knowledge of Quran and hadith or consult a person who has the requisite competence.  So naturally there should be a permanent mechanism to deal the situation. (example from jaded fiqhi masail…………..taqi usmani………..fiqh folder.
So this is arrangement from Allah so that can withstand all the Thats why a full department is developing as JADEED MASAIL AND ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE FOR THEM,Maulana Taqi Usmani,and Maulana yusuf ludhianwi from pakistan and Maulana khalid saifullah Rahmani from India are remarkable name working in this field.
A permanent mechanism should be for derivation of rule from quran and sunnah
The above discussion emphasize that there should be permanent mechanism to withstand all the changes brought about by time and space and can solve all the time bound needs of humanity till the day of judgement. dealing the  solution to there are Islam has solution of all challenges
Is it a handicap situation of dependency on IMAM/JURIST????
If you look superficially it seems there is dependency on Imam/Scholar for deriving Islamic law and it is a handicap situatin but actually it is a divine arrangement. Islam is final massage and it deals with all aspect of life till the day of judgement. So this is arrangement from Allah so that Islamiic priciples and ruling  can withstand all the changes brought about by time and space and can solve all the time bound needs of humanity till the day of judgement.
The great scholar of Islamic history, reformist and king Faisal Award winner Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi ( Ali Miyan) R.A. describe this situation of second hundred hijri in these words in his book Tareekh e dawat o Azeemat vol 1(page 80-81) {its English translation The saviors of Islamic sprit.”}
“Islam has expanded  to a vast and fertile areas of Syria, Iraq, Egypt and other African countries,Iran and central Asia. Administration of country, Maashrat, business, has reached to a complex situation. And it was urgent need to extraction and ISTANBAT and interpretation of the fine details of these principles. For this important job a very deep knowledge and understanding of Quran and sunnat and its practical application to the current situation were required.”
Need for permanent mechanism and its realization by Salfus Salihin
The Ulema and Mashaikh realized the situation in time and hundreds of scholar started devouting themselves for this noble cause. They took it as a permanent job. They were not only the famous four Imam but so many others either working at different Islamic centers.May Allah give them best reward.
Ali Miyan  further writes in his book
“It was bounty from Allah and pinnacle of destiny (IQBAL MANDI) of ummate muslima that muslims got people of special qualities for this important job.
They were outstanding in knowledge of quran and sunnat, intellectuality, piousness, piety,and Ikhlas. Thousands and thousand of such person devouted their life for this noble and essenitial cause. There were more scholar group but out of these four distinguished Imam emerged whose Jurisprudence ruling were compiled in a systematic way and their ruling is still alive and popular. These are Imam abu hanifa (Died 150 hijri,followed by nearly 47 % of muslims). Imam shafai (Died 204 H followed by 16 %) Imam malik (Died 179 H followed by 29 %),Imam Hanbal (Died 241H,followed by 2 %) . They comprise nearly 96 % of the total muslim population of the world.
            These Imams got very competent and  uncomparable quality disciple.Imam Abu Haneefa got Imam Abu yusuf,and Imam Muhammad,Imam Malik got Abdullah ibne wahab,ibnil qasim,Imam shafai got Muzni and Rabi, and Imam Ahmad got Person like Ibne Qadama.
Benefit of this system 
They not only derived ruling but also compiled the basis of ruling from quran and sunnat, Deviced principles that helped further generation of ulema and scholar to derive rules from Quran and sunnat and to guide muslims on all aspect of life, including finance and administration etc.
Some facts about the process of ruling and compilation of school of jurisprudence

1.    These interpretations are not independent view of any one scholar rather it is based on some established principles. And these principles are not few rather it is a complete science for derivation called usul al-fiqh (principles of jurisprudence).
2.    These principles have been devised after meticulous effort of the pious scholars of knowledge of Aslaf after deep study of Quran and Sunnah.
3.    Another important aspect is that the name of Fiqh according to its founder does not mean he was alone in the process of derivation of rules from quran o sunnat. Rather a group of ulema and scholars sometimes numbering to Hundreds and thousand  have took part in the process. And each were free to put his opinion and was free to differ according to his understanding.
4.    And in these interpretation there is continuity also and even Imams views has been scrutinized by his immediate students and followers. Two most trusted disciple of Imam Abu Haneefa was imam abu yusuf and Imam Muhammad.Rather they have compiled the fiqh of Imam Abu Haneefa. But they have differed on many ………………………….occasion from his Master Abu Hneefah. (examples…………………)    Similar is the case of Imam Shafaii and Imam Nawwi (R.A)

Process of continuity in the derivation of ruling  
What I mean to say if someone is following  the hanafi madhab .He is not only following the opinion and ijtihad of just Imam abu Hanifa rahimahullah. They are following thousands of ulama who have helped in compiling, checked and at times corrected these verdicts. If Abu Hanifa did a mistaken ijtihad, his students will correct him. This way the verdict of Imam Abu Hanifa will not become a valid verdict in the hanafi madhhab. 
In fact there exists many a ruling given by Imam Abu Hanifa (RA) that is not taken to be the ruling of the Hanafi Madhab, as his students and the consecutive generations of scholars, in the light of new evidences, amended the initial ruling.
For example Imam Abu Hanifa say that doing khilal of the beard in wudu is simply mubah but hanafi mazhab follow Imam Abu Yusuf who say it is sunnah. 

Imam Abu Hanifa says that any pure liquid can be used to remove impurity from body and clothes but the fatwa is according to Imam Muhammad who says that only water which is pure and purifying can be used to remove impurity from body and clothes.
The same is the case with the other 3 Imams of fiqh.
Only consideration was to uphold quran and sunnah
This process of formulating a ruling, checking, rechecking, and refining it in light of new evidences took place by a galaxy of scholars whose abilities far surpass anyone today. 
This it clearly pronounce that the process was very scientific and rational and these pious scholars has not kept any consideration other than to uphold the Quran and Sunnah.
Clarification of some doubts over the process
If we see from close and with open eyes we will find that a well established process for deriving rules is must for based on quran and Ahadith as Islam is accepted religion till the day of judgment and in different affairs of our life we come across so many new situation for which Islamic ruling has to be sought so this process is an arrangement from the divine MASHIAT of Allah that ummat has a well set principle to face all the daily arising situation and problems. 
Some brothers has raised the doubts that if it was so essential then Allah Taala why not established this system.
The answer is Some of us are not understanding its importance because in individual life of most of us in affairs of our MAASHRAT AND economics islam is not a guiding principle so we unconsciously misunderstand that Islamic rule are only for Ibadat (Namaz ,Roza,haj zakat etc) .And we unconsciously restrict the task of the derivation of Islam ruling to for Ibadat only.
    eg I have so many discussing the issue of Ameen with loud     voice/less voice, Position of hand in Prayer,and Rikat of Taraweeh and stressing his view while negating others  but hardly I have found anyone discussing the issue of Islamic ruling on economics, and interpersonal relations.
The next big question is when Quran and Ahadith are same then Why there is difference of opinion among Jurist
In order to understand this point properly, it will be pertinent to know that the rules mentioned in the Holy Quran and Sunnah are of two types. No difference of opinion in Expression and rules where only one interpretation is possible
For instance, Allah says:"Do not back bite" (Surah Al-Hujuraat: 12) Anyone familiar with the Arabic language will immediately understand the verse, since there is no ambiguity in the statement, and nor does it clash with any other Islamic value it is readily understood.
Likewise, the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam said: "There is no preference of an Arabover a non-Arab"
This Hadith is also clear and uncomplicated. A rudimentary knowledge of Arabic would enable its understanding. Similarly Some rules are mentioned in these holy sources in such clear expressions that they permit only one interpretation, and no other interpretation is possible thereof, such as the obligation of Salat, Zakat, Fasting and Hajj, the prohibition of pork, wine, etc. With regards to this set of rules, no difference of opinion has ever taken place. All the schools of jurists are unanimous on their interpretation, hence there is no room for ijtihad or taqleed in these matters, and because every layman can easily understand them from the Holy Quran and Sunnah, no intervention of a jurist or imam is called for.

1)  Some Expression and rule permits more than one interpretation
But there are some rules of Shari’a, the expressions used in the holy sources,the Holy Quran and Sunnah permit more than one interpretation. Where either of the two different situations may arise:
Example 1
While mentioning the period of ‘iddah (waiting period) for the divorced women, the Holy Quran has used the following expression:
والمطلقات يتربصن بأنفسهن ثلاثة قروء

and the divorced women shall wait for three periods of Qur
The word quru used in this verse has two meanings lexically. It covers both, the period of menstruation and the period of purity (i.e. tuhr). Both of them are possible in the verse and each one of them has different legal consequences.
The question that requires juristic effort is which of the two meanings are intended here. While answering this question, the juristic opinions may naturally differ and have actually differed. Imam Shafi’ (Rahimahullah) interprets the word Qur as the period of tuhr (purity), while Imam Abu Hanifa (Rahimhullah) interprets it as the period of menstruation. Both of them have a number of arguments in support of their respective views, and no on interpretation can be rejected outright.
It is in this way that the differences among certain mazahib have emerged.
Second    Example

Sometimes there appears some sort of two versions between two different traditions (Hadith) of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) and a jurist has to either reconcile them or prefer one of them over the other. In this case also, the viewpoints of the jurists may differ from each other.

For example, there are two sets of traditions found in the books of hadith, attributing different behaviours to Nabi (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) while going for ruku’ in prayer. The first
set of ahadith mentions that prophet used to raise his hands before bowing down for ruku’, while the other tradition mentions that he did not raise his hands except in the beginning of the salat.

The Muslim jurists, while accepting that both methods are correct, have expressed different views about the question which of the two methods is more advisable. This is another cause of difference between various mazahib.
In most of the difference  of opinion it  is of preference among ulemas and scholars and not   of     right and  wrong.

Third Situation and Example
There are many problems and issues which have not been mentioned in the Holy Quran or Sunnah in specific or express terms. Like the rule for busiess and transaction is there but what about share market and mutual funds, you are putting money in saving account and you will receive Interest amount even if you don’t want it. What to do in these situation.
The solutions to such problems are sought either
1.   Through some expressions found in the holy sources which have an indirect bearing on the subject.
2.   Through analogy (simulating to similar situation, Qiyas)
Here again the jurists may have different approaches while they infer the required solution from the Holy Quran and Sunnah. A Muslim jurist who has all the necessary qualifications for ijthihad is supposed, in the aforesaid situations, to exert the best of his efforts to discover the actual intention of the Holy Quran and Sunnah.
Islamic solution if opinion of two jurist are different.
This difference is in no way a defect in Shari’a; rather, it is a source of dynamism and flexibility.
If the jurist
does this to the best of his ability and with all his sincerity, his obligation towards Allah is discharged and nobody can blame him for violating the Shari’a, even though his view seems to be weaker when compared to the other ones.

Therefore, the mazhab of a Muslim jurist is nothing but a credible interpretation of the Shari’a. Another competent jurist may disagree with this interpretation,
One cannot DO
1.but he can never accuse him of the violation of Shari’a.
2.Similarly, no one can blame the followers of that particular mazhab for following the imam of the mazhab instead of obeying Allah and His messenger; because, they are following the mazhab as a credible interpretation of Shari’a, and not as a law     making    authority.

The next question which may arise here is what a layman should do with regards to this different mazahib, and which one of them should be followed.
Only four School are fully codified and survived till present time
After the age of the Companions of the Prophet and their eminent successors - in the period from the end of the first century after the hijrah to the middle of the third century all identified with Ahl al Sunnah (Upholders of the Sunnah) school, which was and still is the predominant school in the Muslim world.
Unfor tunately, only the works of four of the leading scholars or a'immah of these schools have been fully recorded. From these recorded works in their various forms, the juristic principles (usool) and methodologies of the different schools have become known. These leading scholars were:
1. Aboo Haneefah al Nu`maan ibn Thaabit ibn Zootee (d. 150 AH) (IMAM ABU HANEEFA)
2. Maalik ibn Anas al Asbahee (d. 179 AH)                                    (IMAM MALIK)
3. Muhammad ibn Idrees al Shaafi`ee (d. 204 AH)                         (IMAM SHAAFIEE)
4. Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal (d. 241 AH)                           (IMAM HANBAL)
Ther were other scholars also that worked around that age but there work either could not be codified or only partially codified.Some name among them were   Aboo Sa`eed al Hasan ibn Yasaar al Basree (d. 110 AH) . Al Awzaa`ee Aboo `Amr `Abd al Rahmaan ibn `Amr ibn Muhammad (d. 157 AH). Sufyaan ibn Sa`eed ibn Masrooq al Thawree (d. 160 AH)  Al Layth ibn Sa`d (d. 175 AH) Soofyaan ibn `Uyaynah (d. 198 AH) and some others also. However, the a'immah whose schools have lasted to this day, who have followers throughout the Muslim world, and whose principles and jurisprudence are still employed in assessing issues and in making legal judgments are mainly four: Aboo Haneefah, Maalik, al Shaafi`ee, and Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal. Although the Muslim jurists who have undertaken the exercise of ijtihad are many in number, yet the mazahib of the four Imams are more comprehensive, well arranged and well preserved.
What a A general muslim shoulddo
1. All of these mazahib, being sincere and competent efforts to discover the true intention of Shari’a, are equally true.
2. A Muslim should follow the mazhab of any one of the recognised mains, whom he believes to be more knowledgeable and more pious. The Muslim Ummah as a whole has taken them as the most reliable interpretations of Shari’a.
3.Although the Muslim jurists who have undertaken the exercise of ijtihad are many in number, yet the mazahib of the four Imams are more comprehensive, well arranged and well preserved.The rest of the mazahib are either not comprehensive or have not been preserved in a reliable form.
4.This is the reason why majority of the Ummah follows any of the four mazahib. If a layman adopts any one of the schools, in the matter of interpretation of Shari’a, his obligation of following the Shari’a is discharged.

(Ref of taqleed query: Contemporary Fatawa – Mufti Taqi Uthmani Saheb Pg.317 (Idara-e-Islamiyat)

Can Anyone change his IMAM/mazhab
Obviously he can but one important question will be that when two things are correct why you are leaving one for the other.
The next point is it should not be for the sake of easiness and for his desire /Nafs Parasti.And this is also the reason that it is important to to follow any one Imam completely and not to take something from here and there.Because in this case his desire will have a definite role.But those who are competent in the eyes of shariah to level of argument and counterargument he can do accordingly. But among present day muslim even a 0.5 % of muslims are not competene on this parameter.Even a simple graduate from Madarsa/Islamic university is not competent for this job in most cases.

I myself faced a situation after coming kerala.Most of the keralite people are follower of Imam Shaafaee.Whereas in north India most of them are Hanafi.I faced some difficulty specially with respect to size of the ablution tub,and some of the sea foods. When I asked Mufti from darul uloom deoband he replied straight that you can change to shafaee there is no issue at all with only condition that you have to follow shaafiee fiqh completely not partially Hanafi and Partially Shafaee.May Allah guide us on right path.