For a person who was born in a city, a street is as common as dirt. It’s an assumption: any old street will do. All roads lead Rome, if you will. From this perspective, any particular road is superfluous. The road is taken for granted.
For a person who was born in the wild, what need is there of a path? There are no roads. One wanders about, being guided by one’s senses and experiences. It’s simply not conceivable that something as structured as a road, let alone a city, could exist or have a meaningful purpose.
This seems to be two of the main perspectives for those who ask me about the madhabs and why I chose to follow one. The city-dweller is the Hanafi, the Shafi’i, the Hanbali, the Maliki. The madhab is often mistaken for the end goal; the journey itself. But not all roads lead to Rome and even those that do take varying routes. Some roads are cul-de-sacs, dead ends, round-abouts. But a good map will allow one to navigate with accuracy and confidence, which is surely one of the primary goals of the above Four Schools. The madhab takes the road from being superfluous to fluid.
My thoughts here are not for advocating about madhabs. There is enough information out there on that. But for those young or young-to-Islam individuals who have asked and inquired about the Four Schools, I leave these few breadcrumbs for you to contemplate on. Are you a city-dweller? One who, if he or she is honest, does not know how to cross an intersection without the help of a traffic light let alone function without structure and rules. Or are you a wanderer? That one who has no need of structure? If you pick the latter, then my question for you will be, how will you proceed? Don’t take these words as antagonistic but rather to challenge your pre-conceived notions of what constitutes structure and why adherence to it is, in your world view, intrinsically tainted.
Though I love and even long for the country, I’m a city-dweller at heart.