Recognising the excellence of the Scholars of Islam, their capabilities, their rights, their station and their sincerity to Allah and His Messenger and advising for His sake, does not necessitate acceptance of all that one of them may say. Whatever is to be found in their rulings and verdicts which conflicts with what the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, came with; then they expressed a position based upon their level of knowledge, even though it was in opposition to the truth. However, this does not necessitate completely abandoning all their sayings, criticising them and distancing oneself from them. These two stances (absolute acceptance or rejection of everything they say) are outside the realms of correctness, and the correct path lies in between these two extremes. We also do not say that they have sinned, or that they are infallible. Rather, we traverse the path they traversed; and those before them from the Companions ... There is no contradiction between these two matters for the one whom Allah has expanded his chest with Islam. It may, however seem contradictory to two types of people:
- One who is ignorant of the capabilities and excellence of the Scholars; and
- One who is ignorant of the realities of the Shari'ah with which Allah sent His Messenger.
Whosoever possess knowledge of the Shari'ah and knowledge of the true state of affairs know for certainty that a Scholar having nobility in Islam, possessing a pious disposition and good manners, then mistakes and lapses will occur from such a person, for which he is excused, yet rewarded for his ijtihad. It is not permissible to follow him in his mistake, nor is it permissible to belittle him, nor to degrade his status and scholarship in the hearts of the Muslims.
From A'lamul-Muwaqi'in (3/294)