The issue of talfiq is an important one in discussions around Islamic law and ethics. It comes up all the time and can have major consequences on how one thinks about fiqh as well as the choices they make in their life.
Talfiq is basically to take an opinion from one school (i.e. Maliki, Hanbali, etc.) and combine it with another one in the same act of worship. So in the Shafi’i school for example bleeding does not break one’s wudu, but it does in the Hanafi school. Also, in the Shafi’i school reading “Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim” at the beginning of al-Fatiha is required while it is not in the Hanafi school. So if someone decided to go with their wudu not breaking during bleeding and then also choose not to recite “Bismillah” at the beginning of prayer then their prayer would be invalid according to both schools. This act of combining is referred to as talfiq.
Scholars take different positions on whether or not the prayer of an individual who did what is mentioned above would be valid. Recently I found a brilliant fatwa from Sh. Muhammad Bakhit al-Muti’i, former Mufti of Egypt during the early part of the 1900s. For anyone not familiar with the calibre of his scholarship I suggest browsing through some of his fatwas and books and reading about his life. This particular response is from November of 1919. I will include the PDF here which can be found in “al-Fatawa al-Islamiyyah” of Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.
The summary points are the following:
- It is permissible to do talfiq by taking a position from one madhhab and another from another madhhab as long as the consequence does not go against scholarly consensus.
- If the consequence does go against scholarly consensus and it is inconceivable for another mujtahid (on the assumption that there is one) to come to that conclusion then that type of talfiq is invalid by scholarly consensus.