What are the rulings over differences in opinion between madh'habs? How should they be resolved? As an example: as the Hanafi interpretation of 'Praying the prayers according to it's time' leading to a later time for Asr.

How are these differences of opinion over madh'hab aligned with the ideology of Islam having no sects?


My understanding was that, in this example, there was a hadith that prayers should be prayed 'according to it's time' "In it's just time" and the Hanafi scholar ruled that this meant towards the end of it's time and the other 3 rules it meant towards the beginning of it's time. Thus there is a division, with one group believing one thing, and another believing another thing. And yet the different madh'habs aren't treated as sects. Why is this?


4 Answers 4


There are two type of differences among groups:

  • Difference in beliefs views
  • Difference in Fiqh views

The first one is what makes sects (Sunni, Shia, etc..), and it's actually a disaster. This difference shouldn't have existed at all. The whole Muslim Ummah should be united, we should follow what the prophet said "Follow my Sunnah, and the Sunnah of the Rashidi Khalifes succeeding me. Hold it with your teeth".

The second difference, which is difference in Fiqh, is what makes Mathahib. This difference has reasons, and is completely acceptatble (these differences doesn't have to be resolved), in fact Allah has a great wisdom about it, of which is mercy upon muslims so there's no very strict rules that may be hard to do, instead there is an ability to extract rules out of sources and, since sources (much of the times) can have more than one meaning or can be understood in more than one way, then it's very normal to have difference Fiqh views, this is not a bad thing (if it was, then Allah with his mercy wouldn't allow more than one understanding to his Ayat), in fact "flexibility" is one major "feature" of Islam.

The following hadith is an evidence that Islam encourages deriving rules (if the one who derives has the knowlegde):

'Amr bin 'Al-'As (May Allah be pleased with him) said:

I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) saying, "When a judge utilizes his skill of judgement and comes to a right decision, he will have a double reward, but when he uses his judgement and commits a mistake, he will have a single reward."

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

وعن عمرو بن العاص رضي الله عنه سمع رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقول‏:‏ ‏ "‏إذا حكم الحاكم، فاجتهد، ثم أصاب، فله أجران، وإن حكم واجتهد، فأخطأ، فله أجر‏"‏ ‏(‏‏(‏متفق عليه‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏

[Riyad as-Salihin:1856].

Although agreement (Ijmaa) is preferred, there is no problem at all having different opinions among Mathahib, because all mathahib don't derive rules from nothing, they absolutely but evidences.

An important fact to know is that the four Imams (Imam Hanafi, Imam Malik, Imam Shafei, and Imam Ibn Hanbal, may Allah be merciful to all of their majesties) where students of each other: Malik was a student of Hanafi, Shafei was a student of Malik, and Ibn Hanbal was a student of Shafei. They all greatly (and, in truth, amazingly) trust, love, and respect each other, the difference in Fiqh views is because of reasons, reasonable reasons. If the four Imams where very respectful to each other, they why followers should fight? this is a nonsence.

(Note: to understand really why having Mathahib is acceptable and a good thing in Islam, you should ask about the reasons for having different Fiqh views).

Sources that helped in making the answer:

A final thing I would like to say is that I agree to ashes999 answer.

  • A good answer but , the problem is that the fiqh becomes the entry point for Beliefs too i.e what about the beliefs derived from a different fiqh?. Moreover you should also mention schools which dont follow any Madhab and take the best according to the quality of ruling from any of the Imams
    – user940
    Jul 2, 2013 at 5:11

Knowledge of Islam can be divided into two layers: aqeedah (belief) and fiqh (laws). From this perspective, a sect is a group that distinguishes itself from the rest of the groups through beliefs.

Fiqh, on the other hand, does not make or break a sect; in fact, the four madhabs (in terms of fiqh) are simply codified rules for extracting law from primary sources.

All four madhaahib agree that you derive fiqh from the following sources in order of priority and strength:

  • Quran (ayaat)
  • Hadith
  • Ijmaa (consensus)
  • Qiyaas (analogy)

After this, each madhab differs about how to treat categories of sources.

Difference of opinion exists now, and agreed in the time of the Prophet. In one instance, he told people to "Pray Asr when you reach [a certain location for battle]." As Asr time came to a close, one group of companions stopped to pray, and one group hastened and prayed Asr when they reached (at Maghrib time).

For us non-scholars, the result is simple: if an issue comes up, ask a scholar who you trust. If you insist on following one madhab, ask a scholar who specializes in that madhab. If you don't have any preference, then you can ask any scholar whom you trust.

Source: Usool Al-Fiqh course (18 CDs, audio)

  • @Songo yes, you are correct. In this, they are equally strong, because the Qur'an is the raw text, and the ahadith are an explanation of that text. It's not possible for them to contradict.
    – ashes999
    Dec 12, 2013 at 21:03
  • @Songo i wouldn't agree because even if Quran is the raw text it has a higher priority and can only be nearly reached by sahih hadiths! And the definition of ijmaa is different between the schools see maratib al ijma' مراتب الإجماع a book from Imam ibn Hazm! And Qiyas is for Hanafi higher then hadith al-ahad while for Hanbali Qiyaas is the last resort!
    – Medi1Saif
    Aug 11, 2015 at 12:38

Firstly we must acknowledge a few things...

1) All 4 scholars meant well and did their best to understand and explain Islam

2) All 4 scholars were human beings and are prone to mistakes.

The answer to your question would be "YES" and "NO".... and here is why....

YES it divides... If someone chooses to follow a specific scholar and calls himself a "hanafi" or "shafi" muslim then that is dividing.

YES it divides... If someone chooses to follow a specific scholar and calls the other wrong without listening to the other then that is dividing

NO it doesn't divide... If a person continues to call themself "MUSLIM" only

NO it doesn't divide... But if a person simply uses the opinion of one scholar but is open to the idea or reasoning of the other.

  • 1
    This answer is about Muslims more than Islam. Calling scholars wrong is not right, because rasulullah said "when a mujtahid makes ijtihad and he's wrong, he gets one hasanah."
    – ashes999
    Jul 27, 2012 at 8:56
  • Where did it say scholars are wrong? i said "prone to mistakes"
    – islam101
    Jul 27, 2012 at 22:20
  • 1
    Just to mention, following a madhab is not following one single scholar. But following a group of scholar who follow same "usool al fiqh" which was introduced by an knowledgeable scholar.
    – Gulshan
    Jul 28, 2012 at 5:45
  • @ashes999 Yeah, but the followers of a scholar do not get that hasanah if they don't think (assuming ijtihad was wrong).
    – user73
    Jul 28, 2012 at 23:01
  • 2
    Study works of these scholars but did any of these scholars say if you follow them you become "hambli muslim" or "shafi muslims"? So there is no such thing...we are one ummah "MUSLIM"
    – islam101
    Jul 29, 2012 at 0:08

As far as sects go madhabs aren't sects, they are schools of thought. These are necessary as the original ruling that can derived from the sources i.e. Quran, sunnah etc are all in arabic, hence the need for qualified scholars to extract ahkam (ruling) with knowledge. As for it being necesssary, Islam has spread over the world to non arab speaking nations and most people are not able to speak arabic nor are they near qualified to extract ahkam. Where there is ikhtilaf (difference of opinion) then the adaab al ikhtilaf (manners in dealing with difference of opinion) needs to be adhered to. All schools of thoughts respect different ahkam as long as they are from islamic sources, and historically and even now there is no problems with hanafis praying behind shafis etc. And Allah knows best.

  • 1
    This is what if interested in: adaab al ikhtilaf (manners in dealing with difference of opinion). How are these resolved? Jul 26, 2012 at 23:09
  • Generally adaab al ikhtilaf is having respect to a different opinion of yours. So if a hukm (rule) is derived from the sources by a scholar and another scholar finds a different hukm for the same case then, this is when it needs to be adhered to i.e. respecting the opinion of others as it has been derived from the sources. Generally if it is ijtihad then it known that there will be ikhtilaf.
    – Abu Nooh
    Jul 27, 2012 at 23:57
  • 1
    Generally muslims don't call themselves hanafi muslims or shafi muslims etc. So that isn't divding at all. What you will find is muslims follow a particulat madhab in say salah and sometimes even a different madhab in rules of hajj etc. A follower of a madhab is known as Muqallid someone who does taqlid (follows) this is divided into two muqallid ammi and muqallid tabi, the ammi are those who are trusting in the fiqh and just follow without question and the tabi are those who look up the madhabs and its rules and generally can weigh out stronger opinions.
    – Abu Nooh
    Jul 28, 2012 at 0:04

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