Jurisprudential Disagreement Among Scholars

Disagreement among scholars regarding the interpretation of indefinite legal texts is something unavoidable due to the nature of such texts, the nature of those scholars, and the influence of the place and time factors. Such disagreement is not evil. Among the aspects of the advantages of such jurisprudential disagreement is that anyone who adopts any of the resultant different opinions is blameless, as long as the opinion is based on reasonable, acceptable jurisprudential disagreement.
Sheikh `Abdur-Rahman `Abdul-Khaliq, head of Heritage Establishment Committee in Kuwait, states the following: Jurisprudential disagreement used to be there among the Prophet’s Companions, their followers, and the best people of this nation. This is because such disagreement is unavoidable among those who are not impeccable. The only impeccable person was the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). Everyone else is fallible, so they are all bound to err.

Many of the early righteous predecessors stated that such permissible and acceptable jurisprudential disagreement represents a kind of mercy to laymen as follows:
1. Mercy represented in divine pardon:
Almighty Allah states in the Qur’an that the believers say: (Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget, or miss the mark!) (Al-Baqarah 2: 286). In addition, it is stated in the Sahih of Al-Bukhari that after Allah revealed this verse and the Prophet’s Companions recited it, Allah said in reply, “I will not (condemn you).” Thus, the jurist who errs is excused; rather, he is rewarded for his effort, as it is stated in the two authentic books of Hadith that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “During judging a case, if the judge exerts an effort to reach the right judgment and he reaches it, he gets two rewards; and if he exerts an effort to reach the right judgment but he errs, he gets one reward” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
2. Mercy represented in the permissibility of maintaining a different jurisprudential opinion as stated by many eminent jurisprudents:
Ibn Qudamah (may Allah bless his soul) stated in the introduction of his book Al-Mughni, “To commence, Allah, by His mercy and might, made the early scholars of this nation prominent figures, through which He set the rules of Islam and clarified the problematic rulings. Thus, their agreement is decisive evidence, and their disagreement is a great mercy.”
Likewise, the eminent Imam Al-Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with them all), said, “Allah bestowed a benefit through the disagreement of opinion among the Prophet’s Companions as regards their deeds. Whoever follows the opinion of any of them (the Companions) will surely find that it involves ease and that there was someone better than himself who maintained such an opinion” (See Jami` Bayan Al-`Ilm Wafadlih).
Moreover, in his book entitled Jami` Bayan Al-`Ilm Wafadlih, Ibn `Abdul-Barr stated, “`Umar ibn `Abdul-`Aziz and Al-Qasim ibn Muhammad once met and kept recalling the hadiths of the Prophet. In doing so, `Umar’s citations were contradictory to those of Al-Qasim, which made the latter upset. `Umar noticed that and said to him, ‘Do not be (upset), for what pleases me is that I get the best of camels (great rewards) through their (the Companions’) disagreement.’”
Furthermore, Ibn Taymiyah, the Sheikh of Islam (may Allah have mercy on him) stated, “A man composed a book on jurisprudential disagreement, so Imam Ahmad said to him, ‘Do not call it the Book on Disagreement, but call it the Book on Ease.”