Development of Literary
Tradition in Early Islam
Tradition in Early Islam
Is carrying difference of opinion the same as having divisions?
There is big difference between the 2. Allah ﷻ uses the term “Farraqoo - فَرَّقُو” in the Quran (such as 6:159) in reference to divisions and not “Ikhtilaaf - اختلاف” which means “Difference of opinion”. The former means divisions based on disagreements on fundamentals of Aqeedah (creed) such as the 5 pillars of Islam & 6 articles of Imaan (Islamic faith). While the latter term means difference of opinion based on practicing of the Aqeedah especially matters related to 5 pillars, which is not only permissible but in fact encouraged. This encouragement stems from the famous Prophetic hadith "Ikhtilafu Ummati Rahma” which means “Ikhtilaaf (difference of opinion) in my Ummah is a Rahma (mercy) of Allah.” (Prophetic hadith) All Muslims, regardless of which Madhab (school) they belong to, are in agreement on those 5 pillars & 6 articles. If any group of Muslims differ on any of the basic pillars or articles, only then they become a division and considered outside of Islam, as per consensus of Islamic scholars.
Prophet’s Advice to Companions on Exercising Opinion
The Prophet ﷺ advised his companions to use their own judgment for matters they come across in case of not finding a solution for it in the Quran and the Hadith/Sunnah. Such as the following conversation between Muadh ibn Jabal (r.a) and the Prophet:
“According to what will you judge?” asked the Prophet. “According to the Book of God,” replied Muadh. “And if you find nothing therein?” asked the Prophet ﷺ “According to the Sunnah of the Prophet of God.” replied Muadh (r.a) “And if you find nothing therein?” asked the Prophet ﷺ “Then I will exert myself (exercise ijtehad) to form my own judgement.” replied Muadh (r.a). The Prophet ﷺ was pleased with this reply and said: “Praise be to God Who has guided the messenger of the Prophet to that which pleases the Prophet.” - Such judgments exercised by the companions based on their own knowledge, understanding of Deen (Islamic way of life) and personal insight, resulted in difference of opinions they had for matters they came across in case of no clear evidence in the Quran and hadith/sunnah.
Background behind Madhabs and their Formation
With the spread of Islam, the companions were sent to different regions to instruct new Muslims about religion. The students of such teacher companions became experts in their teacher’s methodology and every famous Islamic city followed their methodology to practice Islam while simultaneously building on their expertise. This led towards the creation of Madhabs (school of thoughts) and development of Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) within each school in different parts of the Muslim region. All schools accepted and respected each others methodology and science of practicing as long as it fell within the parameters of Quran and authentic hadith/sunnah without any breaches in the fundamentals of Islam (6 articles & 5 pillars). In fact in the case where their own thought would not provide an answer, the expert Islamic scholar (Mujtahid) would refer to other schools to seek an answer and would solve the matter. Hence one of the earliest pious Muslims and Caliph Umar Bin Abdul Aziz (r.a) said “It would not please me more if the Companions of Muhammad ﷺ did not differ among them, because had they not differed there would be no leeway (for us).”
It is human nature to differ. All humanity is not black and white and therefore the entire Islamic world cannot be exact same. An event recorded from the life of Imam Malik bin Anas - founder of the Maliki Madhab - is worth mentioning that explains why all Muslims cannot be the same:
Abbassid Caliph al-Mansur, after hearing Malik's answers to certain important questions, said: "I have resolved to give the order that your writings be copied and disseminated to every Muslim region on earth, so that they be put in practice exclusively of any other rulings. They will leave aside innovations and keep only this knowledge. For I consider that the source of knowledge is the narrative tradition of Medina and the knowledge of its scholars." To this, Malik is said to have replied: "Commander of the Believers, do not! For people have already heard different positions, heard hadith, and related narrations. Every group has taken whatever came to them and put it into practice, conforming to it while other people differed. To take them away from what they have been professing will cause a disaster. Therefore, leave people with whatever school they follow and whatever the people of each country chose for themselves.” 
 Ikhtilaf (differences) among the Madhhabs in Islam - Dr. G. Fouad Haddad -
 STORIES OF THE COMPANIONS, Mu’adh Ibn Jabal (RA) - https://hadithoftheday.com/muadh-ibn-jabal/
 Malik ibn Anas - Difference of Opinion.