Acceptable and unacceptable differences
Fatwa No: 56408

  • Fatwa Date:9-1-2014 - Rabee' Al-Awwal 8, 1435
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A fellow Muslim said to me that he is convinced of the opinion of the Salaf regarding the issue of the Names and Attributes of Allaah. However, he does not like reviling the opponents in this regard. He says, "why do we not tolerate this difference of opinion in the same way we tolerate differences in Fiqh issues." How can I reply to him?


All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Slave and Messenger.

There are various issues regarding knowledge and religion. Differences are acceptable in some of them due to the equality of proofs or the absence of explicit texts. There are other issues regarding which differing is unacceptable because difference in this case is based on illegitimate reasons or because the differing opinion in such issues is considered to be odd.

Regarding the first kind of differences, one should not disapprove of the opponent for following another opinion based on acceptable differences. Such a difference should not be a reason for disunity in religion or lead to dispute and hatred. This applies to differences on secondary Fiqh issues among schools of Fiqh. Imaam Ahmad  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said, “A scholar of Fiqh should not force people to adopt his opinion or in creed issues over which the righteous predecessors differed and they are a few issues.

Ibn Taymiyyah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said, “I strongly forbid attributing disbelief, immorality, or disobedience to a certain person by name unless that person is informed of the message whose denier is considered a disbeliever, evildoer or disobedient. I state that Allaah Has Forgiven this Ummah its error. This covers verbal and practical issues. The righteous predecessors used to differ in many issues but there were no accusations of disbelief, evildoing, or disobedience against each other…

The second kind of differences of opinion is that which is unacceptable. The one who holds a different opinion in these issues should be disapproved. They are the agreed upon issues of creed and Fiqh. Allaah The Almighty Says (what means): {And whoever opposes the Messenger after guidance has become clear to him and follows other than the way of the believers – We will give him what he has taken and drive him into Hell, and evil it is as a destination. } [Quran 4:115]

In such issues, the person must disapprove of anyone who has a different opinion, such as the current difference of opinion in many issues of creed while the consensus of the Salaf (righteous predecessors) maintained a different opinion. An example of this unacceptable difference is interpreting the Attributes of Allaah figuratively on the basis of reasoning or any other innovated means. However, this does not mean that the opponent should be labeled with disbelief, Bid‘ah or disobedience unless he is informed of the message beyond the excuse of ignorance. Accepting this difference without disapproving or denying it leads to confusion between truth and falsehood, approving the deviant sects and not observing the command to enjoin good and forbid evil. Thus, there will be great corruption.

Consequently, it is clear that there is no similarity in the differences on the meaning of the Attributes of Allaah and secondary Fiqh issues such as putting hands before the knees on the ground before prostration.

Allaah Knows best.

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