As-Sunnah Vol. 2 Issue No. 5


Dealing with Issues of Ikhtilaaf

When on a particular issue, there is no consensus among the scholars, then, it is an issue of Ikhtilaf or difference of opinion. These differences could occur due to variation of understanding, availability or unavailability of proofs, or mistake on the part of some scholars. This is why schools of thought differ greatly amongst each other on some issues of Ijtihad.

Ijtihadi rulings that are based upon mistakes or lack of evidence or founded upon weak proofs should be rejected. The fact that an Ijtihad has been made, does not necessarily mean that acting upon it is allowed, regardless of its accuracy. Imam Ibnul-Qayyim said, ‘Their view that in matters of dispute no views may be denounced is not correct. The criticism is directed either at the opinion and fatawa, or at the action. In the first case, if the opinion goes against Sunnah or a well-known Ijma, it must be denounced unanimously… The correct view is that of the Imams, which is that there is room for Ijtihad in cases where there is no clear evidence, which we should follow, such as a saheeh hadeeth, which does not conflict with other evidence of the same caliber. There are many issues concerning which the earlier and later generations differed, but in many cases, we have reached a point of certainty as to which of the two views is correct.’ [I’laam al-Muwaqqi’een (vol. 3/288)]

This is not to say, that there could not be instances of genuine differences, on which the scholars agree to disagree - but these are exceptions and not the rule.(*6)

The authority of an Ijtihad depends upon the strength of the evidence that it is based upon, because the fundamental reference point in all cases is the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. ‘When there is correct evidence it must be referred to and followed; it is not right to follow the opposite view with the excuse that there is difference of opinion on the matter. If the saheeh Sunnah, which has been reported via a sound chain from the Prophet (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) is rejected because there is someone who says something different concerning this matter, this implies that a person thinks that the words and commands of the Prophet (sallallahu alahi wa-sallam) do not carry any weight unless people unanimously agree with it, and the fact that someone disagrees with it, no matter who he is, is taken as a reason to take away this authority [of the Sunnah] and leave the matter wide open (to dispute). This is a dangerous path, and the one who follows it needs to review his faith.
It is essential to pay attention to teaching people to submit to Allah and to respect the texts of the Sharee’ah, and to take their religion seriously, and to avoid easy options and mistakes made by the scholars.’
[Muhammad ibn Abd-Allah al-Duwaysh, Al-Bayaan magazine, issue #153, p. 28]

In contrast to this concept is the Deobandi view of Taqleed that restricts a person to the Ijtihadi opinions of one particular school of thought without looking into the evidence that validates the opinion. Adherence to these opinions is necessary even if they appear to oppose the Qur’aan and the Sunnah, or even if the other Madhhabs disagree with it. For the Muqallid (one, who makes Taqleed), the statement of his Imam is considered proof in itself. He is to follow unquestionably the Madhhab’s position just as he would unquestionably follow the Book and the Sunnah, to the extent that the Deobandis say,

‘(Belief in)… Taqleed is essential for the protection of Eeman. Without Taqleed, one cannot obtain a true understanding of Eeman and Islam.’ [Kitabul-Imaan, (Eng. Trans.), P.72]

Ibnul-Qayyim says in I’laam al-Muwaqqi’een (1/21), ‘The third principle of Ahmad’s school of thought is, ‘If the Companions disagree on an issue, we should select what is closer to the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. We may not neglect their sayings. If we cannot give preference to one of their sayings by way of the Qur’aan or the Sunnah, we declare, ‘It is a matter of disagreement and we do not know which one is the right opinion.

Taken from As-Sunnah Newsletter -


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