❝The agreement of the scholars is a definitive proof, and their differing is a widespread mercy.❞
— Shaykhu-l Islam, Ibn Qudamah (r)
The difference in understanding the texts of the Shari’ah between the scholars really is a mercy. Unlike the claim of some people that valid differences are evil. If it ineed was a evil then the Sahabah would not have been allowed to differ in the presence and with the approval of the Messenger (peace be upon him). The one who knows of the blessing of Khilaf knows that Allah willed for us to differ. Any evidence in the religious texts to indicate that differences are an evil relates to differences on matters in which there is no room for difference, such as core Islamic principles. When the texts are looked at collectively, it becomes clear that this is the undoubted truth that the Ummah has agreed to.
Valid difference of opinion between the scholars is a mercy for a number of reasons:
1) The famous statement…
❝I would not have liked that the companions did not disagree. Their disagreement means that if one acts upon one of their opinions, they are not sinful.❞
— ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (r)
It is well known that the Madhahib of Fiqh often resort to opinions held by the other Madhahib for a need or necessity. Had those opinions not existed, then life would have been too rigid for people to act upon, and if someone was in a difficult situation, then it would take for the Mufti to oppose the consensus for him to find the questioner a concession.
2. Difference of opinion was Willed by Allah, and had Allah not wanted us to differ (on matters in which there is room for that), then He is able to make all the verses of the Qur’an clear-cut, but He, al-Mighty, did not do so. This indicates that He wanted the scholars to make Ijtihad and for there to be differences.
3. The beauty of Islam is that it contains rulings that are clear-cut and rigid; these ensure that our Deen is stable and not played around with by those who have a poison in their heart.
At the same time, it has flexibility which allows it to suit people in all places and at all times. The valid difference of opinion amongst scholars allows for flexibility. This balance of stability and flexibility is a great blessing from Allah.