Difference of opinions could be a healthy phenomenon and could also be a damaging one. This depends on the nature of disagreement and how it is perceived and tackled.
There are clear injunctions for Muslims to maintain unity and avoid division. Almighty Allah says: (And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves) (Aal `Imran 3.103) and says: (and fall into no disputes, lest ye lose heart and your power depart) (Al-Anfal 8:48)
However, this did not withhold Muslim jurists and thinkers from employing their intellects in comprehending and interpreting the divine message expressed in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. This, for a variety of reasons, has resulted in a wide range of interpretations that have enriched the intellectual debates throughout the Muslim history. Of course, not all of these interpretations are correct, acceptable, or even excusable.
Therefore, a group of Muslim scholars have occupied themselves with establishing the criteria and methodology of how to differentiate proper interpretations from improper ones. The unprecedented science of Usul al-fiqh provide the basic tools necessary to approach sharia texts and the requirements for those eligible for practicing this interpretation.
Dr. Hatem Al-Haj, Professor of Fiqh stated:
Allah says, (If your Lord had so willed, He would have made mankind one people, but they will not cease to differ, except those on whom Your Lord has bestowed His mercy, and for this did He create them.) (11: 118-119).
Human beings are diverse and different in their mental capabilities, world views, perceptions and thoughts. All these are catalysts to having multiplicity of opinions and judgments. When the constitution of the USA, which was written only about 200 years ago by humans, is interpreted by the Supreme Court, the judges differ in their interpretations and it is usually 5/4 or 6/3 division. Difference of opinions is not equal to dissension and doesn’t necessarily lead to it if the intentions are sincere and the methodology of deduction is sound and the ethics of disagreement are observed.
Let us follow those parameters to avoid the abhorred and forbidden dissension. Allah says, (And be not as those who divided and differed among themselves after the clear proofs had come to them. It is they for whom there is an awful torment.) (Aal `Imarn 3:105)
Let us cherish the intellectual freedom of our religion, and let us cherish the lack of papal hierarchy.
There are several benefits for healthy disagreement and variety of opinions that have always existed in our Ummah since the time of the Sahabah. Of those benefits is to protect the religion from human fallibility when people agree on something wrong, and of them is to stimulate the great intellectual discourse with the subsequent intellectual vitality which all resulted in this great fiqhi heritage of ours.
The disagreement over the ruling of covering the face and whether it is mandatory is an old one; and though the majority believes it is not mandatory, the other position can’t be discredited and the legitimacy of doing so is a matter of consensus. Men and women are different and equity is what Allah prescribed, but their roles will continue to vary.
The media may not say the truth at times and may spin it at other times. So, don’t base your opinions about your fellow Muslims on what you watch on FOX news. Having said this, there is a kind of extremism within some Muslims. There is also laxity in others, and that is a much bigger problem in my view. The only way to deal with both sides is to refer them to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger, as Allah says, (O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. (And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.) (Al-Nisa` 4:59)
The people who are most capable of referring matters to Allah and His Messenger are the trustworthy scholars who are deeply-grounded in knowledge. Allah says, (…if only they had referred it to the Messenger or to those charged with authority among them, the proper investigators would have understood it from them (directly).) (An-Nisa’: 83)