Ablution & contact with the opposite sex

Q4 :Schools of thought differ on the point of whether ablution is invalidated as a result of coming in contact with a member of the opposite sex. Therefore, if a person has to walk in a crowd, particularly in tawaf, where there is always the possibility of such a contact, should one make his intention as he performs his ablution on that particular occasion that he is following the Hanafi school of thought?

A4 : There is no rigidity in Islam about following a particular school of thought. Indeed, it is very rare that a person follows a single school of thought. Most people imagine that they do, but in practical life, they can hardly prove that. Let me explain. A person who has learned enough about Fiqh and how rulings on different matters are made is required to look at the evidence supporting any ruling made by any scholar on a particular question. He compares the evidence and determines which opinion is supported by better and stronger evidence. He then follows that ruling. This means that he may be following the Shaf'ie school of thought in respect of certain practices, and the Hanafi school of thought on a number of other issues, while he follows Imam Malik in certain matters and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal in others. He may go further than that and follow other leading scholars and imams on other questions. There is nothing to stop him from doing so as long as he is able to determine for himself the reason which makes him follow one imam on a particular question and another in a different matter. A lay person who has very little knowledge of Fiqh is sometimes thought to be the person who follows a single school of thought all the time. This is wrong. He may follow that school of thought in his worship, particularly prayers, because he learns these in childhood according to a particular school of thought. But when it comes to other matters, he goes to a scholar to ask about the rulings governing different questions. When the scholar answers him, he does not begin to ask the scholar in which book he read that ruling and whether it conforms to the Hanafi or Shaf'ie school of thought. He simply trusts his judgment, because he knows that he is an expert. Let us take this particular question on ablution. If a layman who believes himself to be a follower of the Shaf'ie school of thought comes in contact with a woman during tawaf, he feels unable to interrupt his tawaf for a fresh ablution. He continues and then tries to find a scholar. When he puts the question to that scholar, the latter reassures him that his tawaf is valid. He tells him to go ahead and offer his prayers in the normal way. If the man is somewhat rigid, the scholar will try to reassure him saying that a casual contact is different from a deliberate contact which stirs up certain feelings. Here the scholar is giving him the ruling of another school of thought. The layman does not inquire about that. He accepts the ruling and is happy with the outcome. The situation is comparable to that of a person who wants to build a house. He goes to an architect and tells him to draw him a plan with certain specifications. When the architect has done so, the man does not ask him how he has determined the strength of the pillars and in which book of architecture he read that a particular number of pillars going so much deep into the ground will be able to support a building of the height he wants. He simply accepts the judgment, because he is an expert, in the same way as the scholar is an expert concerning religious rulings. When we ask whether any person follows a particular school of thought rigidly, we might find some people doing so. These are scholars in their own right, and they have consciously chosen to follow a particular school of thought, because they believe that the method of construction and deduction of rulings it follows is the best.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )