A Lesson From the Sahaba on Fiqh and Ikhtilaaf (Differences of Opinion)

February 18, 2009 at 6:21 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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السلام عليكم

بسمالله الرحمان الرحيم

I was just listening to a part of the Seerah of Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم by Anwar al-Awlaki, and he made a very important point using a story from Muhammad’s lifetime (paraphrased):

After the Battle of al-Khandaq/al-Ahzab [Battle of the Trench], Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم  was told by Jibreel that there was still fighting to be done. He said that this fighting was to be with the last Jewish tribe in Madinah, Banu Quraidah:

Narrated ‘Aisha: When Allah’s Apostle returned on the day (of the battle) of Al-Khandaq (i.e. Trench), he put down his arms and took a bath. Then Gabriel whose head was covered with dust, came to him saying, “You have put down your arms! By Allah, I have not put down my arms yet.” Allah’s Apostle said, “Where (to go now)?” Gabriel said, “This way,” pointing towards the tribe of Banu Quraida. So Allah’s Apostle went out towards them. [Sahih Bukhari. Book: 52, Hadith: 68]

Thus, Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم  rushed to his Sahaba. He said, “No one among you should pray `Asr except at Banu Quraida“. [Tarikh Ibn-Kathir]

The Sahabah immediately gathered their supplies and embarked on their journey. Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم was not with this group.

Soon, Maghrib was drawing near. The Sahabah were discussing what to do. On one hand Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم gave a clear order, but on the other, they were risking missing Asr.

Two different opinions arose:

1. When Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلمصلى الله عليه وسلم said they should not pray Asr except in Banu Quraidah, he meant it metaphorically. In other words, he was simply telling them to rush towards Banu Quraidah right away. They felt they should pray now, instead of actually getting there and risking missing the Salah.

2. Others took Prophet Muhammad’s صلى الله عليه وسلم word literally. When he said they should not pray ‘Asr except in Banu Quraidah, they were not supposed to pray anywhere else, even if they risked praying late.

Both groups did what they thought was correct. Some stopped and prayed, others went on and prayed when they arrived to the general area of Banu Quraidah.

When they returned to Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم, they told him what had happened and how two different opinions arose. He did not say that either of them was wrong, and that both were acceptable.

Shaykh Al-Awlaki concluded this by saying the following:

This shows that there is room for the difference of opinion in Islam. We can see that even in the time of The Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم himself, different people interpreted the same Ahadith differently. And according to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم himself, both opinions were acceptable.

Similarly, when it comes to Fiqh today [especially differences in Madhahib like Shafi’i vs. Hanafi vs. Hanbali vs. Maliki], more than one opinion can be valid. The only condition is that the opinions are derived because that is what the scholar feels to be most correct in the eyes of Allah and His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم; the opinion cannot be chosen out of desire because it’s easier or satisfies your Nafs more, or because it “makes more sense”. Finally, it must not stray from the already accepted opinions unless you have adequate proof and adequate scholarship.

This post does not mean to say that anyone can grab a copy of the Quran and Sahih Bukhari and derive rulings. It means that when you see that scholars have differing opinions on a topic, one of them doesn’t necessarily have to be wrong

So have respect for your brothers of different Madhahib (as long as they are within Ahl us-Sunnah) and different opinions, and love them as you would love the people of your opinions and Madhab.

-Maqdis

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