Q. Which should I read for muʿtamad positions: ʿUmdat al-Salik or Kifayat al-Akhyar?
A. Ahmed bin Naqib al-Masri’sʿUmdat al-Salik is better if your goal is for learning the muʿtamad or official opinions of the Shafiʿi school. Taqi al-Din al-Hisni al-Husseini’s Kifayat al-Akhyar is better if you want to know the evidence and arguments behind the rulings, variations within the madhhab, and how those variations are weighed out. The author’s preference is not always the muʿtamad and its focus on variations makes it very easy to lose track. That said: it’s the better book to read if your focus is on learning how fuqaha think and do fiqh. And while a contemporary print of Kifayat al-Akhyar might warn you which rulings are muʿtamad and which not, the book is nearly five times the length of ʿUmdat al-Salik. You could readʿUmdat al-Salik once and Minhaj al-Talibin twice – and it would be less than reading Kifayat al-Akhyar and your knowledge of muʿtamad rulings would, in sha Allah, be stronger.