June 14, 2003

Differing Opinions amongst the Scholars: Which Opinion is Right?

When I took an Islamic Studies course when I was studying at the Lahore
University of Management Sciences (in Pakistan), I learnt something which I
would like to share with all of you. Living in present times, we find that there
are a lot of practical issues regarding which the Islamic scholars are in
disagreement. Frequently, we are faced with the need to make a decision
regarding these issues. For example, the scholars seem to be in disagreement
regarding certain types of interest, photography, and so on. The question that
pops to mind is, ‘how do we make a decision regarding these issues if we have
to?’. After all, if one Islamic scholar gives us an opinion, we can always find
another Islamic scholar who will give us a different opinion. Regarding this, in
the Islamic Studies course I took, I learnt that in practical issues where the
scholars have differing opinions, we should do the following:


– We should consider all opinions,


– For each opinion, we should look at the
evidence in the light of which that opinion has been reached (Quranic verses and
sayings of the Last Prophet (SA)),


– After considering all opinions and looking at
all of the evidence for each of the opinions, we should do whatever seems most
correct to us, and


– At any time after we have made a decision as
to what action to take, if new information comes up, then we should be prepared
to reconsider our point of view.

Of course, the above method will lead to different people taking different
actions regarding an issue but that is only to be expected since even the
Islamic scholars, with their knowledge (which is obviously greater than the
knowledge of common Muslims) and the time that they have spent on understanding
the teachings of Islam, have not been able to come to a single decision. If the
above method is followed, everyone is doing the right thing even if the actual
decision made differs from individual to individual.

Today, we see Muslims all around us following their own methods to come to a
decision regarding such issues. There are those who just always take the easy
way out no matter what. There are others who just choose one or more of their
friends and always follow whatever those friends are doing. Surely, none of
these methods are the correct way of dealing with these issues. Furthermore, we
see Muslims who try to force others to follow what seems correct to them
(regarding these issues) and claim that whoever does not follow the particular
opinion that seems most correct to them is ‘wrong’. Surely, this cannot be
right. If a Muslim has used the above method to decide how to act on a
particular issue, then he/she can politely try convincing fellow Muslims of the
correctness of his/her point of view but it is not correct to force others in
this regard.

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