Why are there differences among the mujtahids in their legal opinions?

by Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi


Many people wonder why it is that the mujtahids differ in their religious opinions, or fatwas, when the bases of their ijtihad are the same. Firstly, it should be said that any differences in the fatwas is hardly ever such as to be contradictory; it is almost impossible to find a case of one mujtahid saying some action is wajib and another saying it is haram.

Take, for instance, the case of salatu 'l-jum`ah, the Friday prayer. All the Shi'ah`ulama' are of the opinion that in the time of the presence of the Imam this salat is obligatory on Fridays, because it is the Imam, or his representative, who has the right to call the people to Friday prayer; but they differ as to what is the correct course of action when the Imam is in Occultation. This difference of opinion does not, however, create any practical problem for the community. The late Ayatullah as-Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim (d. 1970) was one of the opinion that salatu 'l-jum`ah is not obligatory during the Occultation of the Imam, but it does not matter if someone performs it supposing that it is expected (of him), provided that he also prays the noon prayer (salatu 'z-zuhr). Ayatullah as-Sayyid Abu 'l-Qasim al-Khu'i says that "one can choose between performing salatu 'z-zuhr or salatu 'l-jum`ah, but once the latter is established with all its conditions (fulfilled), it is precautionarily obligatory to participate in it." Ayatullah as-Sayyid Ruhullah al-Khumayni says that "one can choose between performing salatu 'z-zuhr or salatu 'l-jum`ah, but if one chooses the latter it is advisable (mustahab) to precautionarily perform salatu 'z-zuhr also."7 Although there are these differences in the opinions of these mujtahids, there is no clash that would, for example, prevent the follower (muqallid) of one of them participating in salatu 'l-jum`ah if it were established.

Secondly, it should be observed that the existence of differences in scientific opinions is not to be taken as a sign of a substantial defect in the quest for knowledge and a reason for abandoning it altogether; it is, rather, a sign that knowledge moves in progressive steps towards perfection. Differences of opinions are to be found in all sciences, not just in fiqh. There may, for example, be more than one opinion about the therapy for a particular patient's disease, and all of these opinions may be superseded later on by the development of new methods of dealing with that disease. Thus these observations can be seen to be relevant not only to differences between the opinions of contemporary scientists but also to historical differences, and all these differences should be regarded as signs of the dynamism within a science and stages to be passed in its route to perfection.

It should be remembered that the mujtahid formulates his opinions after pushing his research and study as far as he can; that is all that is expected of him, for he is neither inerrant nor an `alim bi 'l-ghayb (knower of the unseen). The muqallid is enjoined to follow his opinions. So, even if the mujtahid's fatwa is not actually in agreement with Allah's real command, neither he will be punished on the Day of Judgment for having issued the fatwa, nor will his muqallid for having acted according to it, for both will have done what was commanded of them and what was humanly possible for them to do.

Summary of Lecture by Br Jafer Ladak in dubai  at http://dubai.shiamedia.org/content/rabiulawwal1429/askariyya04.mp3

Jurisprudents have differed for centuries. The enemies want to break our  love for ahlulbayt in 3 ways  weak leadership, disregard for azadari, lower our love and respect of ahlulbayt.


Shias have two schools of thought;



Akhbari say there is no ijtehad. Derive law from quran and sunna and apply.

Allama Hilli is criticized because he classified hadith into mutawaatir, hasan and dhaeef, based on isnad (chain of narrators)

Usuli Derive law and make decision based on logic.

Akhbari is a school of ijtehad itself.!


Names of companions and what ahlulbayt have said also prove akhbari wrong.

Eg: 11th Imams letter to Qasim mentioning that ahmed hillal abratai is a liar and may allah never forgive his sins. Letter also mentions to inform others. Hence whenever we come across any hadith chain with this name it is disregarded. So eleventh Imam is proving that akbari claim is invalid & classification of hadith is required as done by hilli.


One person has many names in history

Miqdad had a very high status but he has six different names in hadith books based on tribe location and time period. Each member of the ahlulbayt had many companions ( > 200) and one has to know biography and background of each narrator ie 13 X 200 !

 it is also required to know the time period of the narration ie some companions changed sides in their lifetime too. An example is tasfir al askari tho shakh saduq and tabarasi have mentioned this as true ayatollah khui disagrees since one of the narrators Mohammed bin Qasim background is not known. Additionally ayatullah khui says its not eloquent enough. So due to this one Mujtahid may accept & the other reject the particular hadith & hence the fatwa may differ


No problem in differences in dates

Many people argue why there are two dates and get very concerned however there is no problem in multiplicity of dates/fasts. This is proven thru many narrations some of them being sixth imam enquiring of companion which fast is it today and saying there is no problem in difference.

In a letter from the prophet for jihad &,Some companions disagreed for date of rajab or shaban since its not recommended to fight in rajab. When the prophet was consulted he mentioned that there was no problem and people for whom rajab had not ended need not fight.

From www.almuntazar.com

Religious rulings : Causes of differences

Some people often wonder as to why are there differences in the rulings of the religious scholars (Mujtahideen). Which means, why are some minor differences found in the rulings of these scholars for some particular matter, when the rulings are based on four studies - Quran, traditions, consensus amongst scholars and logic.

It should not be forgotten that these scholars are humans like us. Its true that they have studied the Quran, learnt the science of traditions, referred to the opinions of other scholars., are learned people, intellectuals; and bearers of traditions; yet they are human beings. None can question the fact that Allah has bestowed man with varying capacities. The intellect of all human beings is not the same. One Mujtahid might reach a conclusion which might differ from another, on a particular issue. But this difference is not an evidence of either of them being wrong. For there might be a difference in the rulings, yet both can be acceptable and can also be implemented. For example, two engineers draw two designs for a building. If both the designs have planned a strong construction, then both of them are acceptable. And if there is a difference, it is neither a crime nor an offense. On the contrary, it is appreciated that two engineers have designed two different structures for one single building!

To elaborate, let us look at another example. It wouldn't be inappropriate if we translate "Mujtahid" in English as a "Doctor". He is a religious doctor, who composes his opinion, and obeying him is in conformity with logic and reasoning. Thus, to explain the issue further, we take the analogy of a medical doctor for a Mujtahid.

  1. To write a prescription, a doctor should be aware of the science of Anatomy - the study of the making of the body and the functioning of the joints. So that, he can very quickly detect the origin of the sickness.
  2. He should also be well-versed in the study of Physiology, so that he can follow which organ has failed in its functioning or has functioned contrary to its duty.
  3. His study of Pathology also plays a vital role. Because with his knowledge of anatomy, physiology and pathology, he can correctly detect the illness and can rightly explain the root of the disease.
  4. Pharmacology is also the subject of a doctor, so that after detecting the illness he can prescribe the right medicine for the patient, in order to relieve him from the illness at the earliest.

These are the four basic sciences for which any doctor, be he a specialist or a general physician, devotes an important period of his life. The significance of this study is such that, without its knowledge of which a doctor can never become a specialist. Their importance has made their study the foundation of a doctor's knowledge. For it is from this that he derives the skill to prescribe the right medicine for the sick. However, the prescriptions of the doctors differ, and consequently the constituents of the medicines differ, as well.

Now, the patient after some thought and pondering would definitely wonder, is it that I suffer from two different diseases or have both the doctors failed to diagnose my ailment?

Since he is an intellectual he will visit yet another doctor and present before him his dilemma. Seeing such a case, the third doctor will definitely declare, "My dear friend, both the doctors have diagnosed the same ailment, but since both are human beings, differing in intellect and analysis their prescriptions contain disparities. Although their prescriptions differ, the medicines are the same. The variance being the medicines of one prescription are manufactured by one pharmaceutical firm, the medicines of the other are manufactured by another firm. It wouldn't matter which medicine you use, both will have the same beneficial effect."

The system of the Mujtahideen is in perfect consonance with this example. They too base their rulings on four basic sciences - Quran, traditions, consensus and logic. As for the differences in the rulings, it is absolutely analogous to the differences between the doctors. Like the differences in the prescriptions, differences in the rulings is found, and the possibility of any damage is again remote. Because, like the third doctor, if another Mujtahid is referred, he will not term it as a difference but understand them both to be right on account of different analysis.

Jurisprudence and Its Sources :
Literally, jurisprudence (Fiqh) has numerous meanings - Minute analysis and understanding resulting from intelligence, cleverness and relentless effort.

The Science of Jurisprudence :
The science of jurisprudence implies the knowledge of the practical laws and commandments of religion, which are essential in one's individual and social life. As jurisprudence means, to understand Allah's commandments and acting upon them, it is necessary that, to consider any action as a duty towards Him, its validity is established. So that one is convinced about the acts and the program of life which Allah has designed for man. Consequently, the scholars have defined Jurisprudence as, "The science of knowing the religious ordinances with proofs and concrete evidences."

Sources and References of Jurisprudence :
Just as sources and references are presented to prove the validity of a ruling in any practical law, evidences also exist in Jurisprudence. These sources help to establish the rulings as religious which are, as is well-known amongst the scholars and the learned, four in number -

  1. The Holy Quran
  2. The Sunnat: Literally Sunnat means way of life and tradition. Terminologically, it means the sayings and traditions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and his twelve successors.
  3. Consensus (Ijma'): It is an opinion for a particular matter, to which all religious scholars of all ages subscribe to. If there is apparently no clear Quranic verse or authentic tradition in this regard, the unanimity of the scholars is considered to be acceptable to Allah and the Masoomeen (as). Thus, it is considered to be "Proof" (Hujjah), and the unanimity is termed as ijma'.
  4. Logic: Fundamentally in Islam, the judgment of the intellect and acceptance of reasoned proofs, is considered as a foundation not only for religiousness and honesty but also for humanity. Thus, along with the above-mentioned three sources, logic is added to be the fourth source.

Inshallah, in the following lessons we shall deal with each of the above sources at a greater length. We request our respected readers to kindly read the treatise first in solitude, and then once again with their friends and relatives. However, still if any point remains unclear, kindly do write to Al-Montazar.

Also see How is Instability of Islamic Rulings explained?


The Problem of Contradiction


The last topic to be discussed in Usulu 'l-Fiqh deals with the problem of contradiction in the proofs of the shari'ah. The mujtahid has to layout a mechanism which he will use in case he comes upon contradiction in his sources. Our Imams have given quite a few guidelines to solve such problems; as mentioned earlier, the ahadith dealing with these problems are known asal-akhbaru ‘l-ilajiyyah.


The contradiction between the proofs can be found in different forms and has to be solved in different ways: (a) The contradiction between two oral-proofs can occur in following ways:


(a) The contradiction between two oral-proofs can occur in following ways:


i.        A nass and a hadith with an "apparent" meaning: the former is preferred over the latter. For example, one hadith says, "Pray (salli) the mid-night prayer;" and another hadith says, “Mid-night prayer is recommended (mustahab).” The first example is of a hadith with an "apparent" meaning: it contains the word "pray" in imperative form which is used both for obligatory acts as well as for recommendation. The second example is of a hadith which is a nass: it contains the words "rec ommended" which only means that the act is recom mended and not wajib. In this case, the nass will be preferred and used as a qualifier for the "apparent" hadith.


ii.      One is of a general nature and the other is conditional: the conditional proof curbs the generaliza tion of the former. For example, one hadith says, "If you break your oath, then you must free a slave;" whereas another hadith says, "If you break your oath, then you must free a Muslim slave." The second hadith will be preferred and used to curb the general implication of the first hadith.


iii.    One deals with the legislation of laws and the other restricts its application on certain individuals: the later over-rides the former. For example, one hadith says, "Respect the 'ulama;" while another hadith says, "Do not respect the fasiq 'ulama." The latter hadith limits the application of the former hadith.


(b) If two authentic ahadith contradict each other in such a way that it is not possible to reconcile them together, then both are to be discarded.


(c) If the contradiction is between "convincing oral proof' and an non-oral, non-convincing proof, then the former is preferred.


(d) If there is contradiction between a convincing proof and adhanni proof on the one hand and a proce dural rule on the other, then the former is accepted because the latter is applied only when there is no proof at all.


(e) If there is a contradiction between the principles of bara’ahand of istishab, then the latter is preferred.