It is very common these days to have people brandishing different fatawas (legal rulings) of scholars (and those that are not) on a single issue. This has sometimes led to avoidable disputes between brothers concerned. Part of the problem is that the disputing parties do not know or understand why scholars sometimes gives different rulings on seemingly similar issues. This is the issue that Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih AI-Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy upon him) has examined in this small booklet.
Even though it is small in size, it contains immense benefit for the Muslim readers, who can now understand why sometimes they have different rulings from the respected and trustworthy scholars on a particular issue. The author started by stating the purpose of writing the book:. "The differences between the rulings of this person and that person have become a source of confusion, or even more so a source of doubt, to many people, especially the layman who does not comprehend the origins of the differences: He also pointed out that the differing in this ummah did not occur in the usool deen (fundamentals of the religion and its primary sources), He also noted that these differences arose only after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him), and that this is to be expected, because as humans, we are prone to making mistakes.
After making a very important point that" none of the scholars who are trusted and relied upon with respect to their knowledge, trustworthiness and religion, intentionally oppose that which the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (peace be upon him) indicate"; he proceeded to list seven causes of differences with illuminating examples,
First cause: The scholar who erred in his judgement did not know the relevant evidence.
Second cause: The relevant evidence is known to the scholar, but he regards it to be in contradiction to a stronger evidence, so he holds on to that which he believes is stronger.
Third cause: The scholar knew the evidence but he did not recollect it.
Fourth cause: The scholar is aware of the evidence but understands it incorrectly.
Fifth cause: The scholar is aware of the evidence but it is in actual fact abrogated.
Sixth cause: The scholar believes that the particular evidence in question conflicts with either a stronger text or a consensus of the scholars,
Seventh cause: The scholar gives a ruling on the basis of a weak hadith, or his deduction is poor. After this, the shaykh discussed what should be our stand towards these differences. He first made a distinction between those who are truly scholars (people of knowledge) and those other than them (those upon knowledge but not from his people). He said our approach is to follow compulsorily, the scholar whose opinion is most accurate, regardless of whether he (the scholar) belongs to ones school of thought or not. The author continued by saying that it is not everybody who is capable of extracting rulings from the texts, so he divided the people into three:
(a) the scholar,
(b) the student of knowledge and
(c) the layman who does not know anything.
As for the scholar, it is obligatory upon him to express that which he believes the text indicates. As for the student of knowledge, he can act on evidences that he becomes aware of but he should very careful, and should not hesitate to ask those more knowledgeable than him. As for the layman, it is compulsory on him to ask the people of knowledge . The author also advised that the layman should look for the most competent person to ask from since that is what he will do if he was sick.
He then concluded by praying for the Muslims in general and sending prayers on the Prophet (peace be upon him). . The book though small in size will be of immense benefit for anyone that is interested in understanding the difference of opinions amongst Muslim Scholars, and it is a reflection of the great understanding of the issues by the author.
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited