Tolerated Differing and Impermissible Differing in Islaam

Tolerated Differing and Impermissible Differing in Islaam
IMPORTANT Principles of Ahlus-Sunnah

1. The Great Imaams of Sunnah did not declare those who differed with them in the affairs of permissible ijtihaad to be astray and they did not make binding upon others their own juristic opinions.

2. Why would one person differ with another over a position of genuine ijtihaad?

3. Holding on to a position in ijtihaad firmly is allowable but vilification of one who holds the opposing opinion is not correct!

4. The Scholars have differed from the earliest of times, even the Sahaabah but they were united in the fundamanetals: The usool and the ‘aqeedah.

5. The student of knowledge, the one who has ability must seek out the truth when the scholars differ!

6. The student of knowledge does not precede the scholars and he prefers the opinions of the scholars over his own. And precedence is given to the elder scholars.

7. The difference between the refutation of Ahlul-Sunnah upon Ahlus-Sunnah and the refutation of Ahlus-Sunnah upon Ahlul-Bid’ah.

The Great Imaams of Sunnah did not Declare those who Differed with them in the Affairs of Permissible Ijtihaad to be Astray and they did not make Binding upon them their own Juristic Opinions

Shaikhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) stated:

“And there is no one from the Imaams except that he has sayings and actions that are not to be followed alongside the fact that he not to be vilified or debased due to them..”

The great Imaams of this era, the likes of Shaikhul-Islaam Ibn Baaz and Imaam al-Albaanee and al-Faqeehul-Allaamah Ibn Uthaimeen (rahimahumullaah) did not regard the affairs of ijtihaad to be ones which should be utilized to declare other Muslims to be sinners (faasiqoon) or innovators (mubtadi’oon) or hizbiyyoon if one differed with another in it. They did not regard the issues of admissible ijtihaad to be ones that cause hatred and enmity between them.

Shaikhul-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullāh, d. 728H) stated: “And there is no one from the scholars except that he has sayings and actions that are not to be followed―alongside the fact that he is not to be censured or rebuked due to them. Statements and actions that are not known to be in clearcut contradiction to the Book and Sunnah, rather they are affairs open to ijtihād regarding which there is differing among the people of knowledge and imān, then it is possible that these affairs may be clearcut to some to whom Allāh has made the truth clear―however it is not allowed for him to make binding upon the people that which is clear to him but not clear to them.” (Majmū’ al-Fatāwa, 10/ 383-384)

And this is of course related to the scholars – that in one issue from the affairs of ijtihaad that two scholars (or more) may hold two opposing positions whilst each one holds his evidence to be clear-cut in support of his position – yet all of them are united in the fundamentals and principles of Islaam, that which the Salaf of this Ummah were united upon.

Shaikhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) stated:

“So have knowledge that the distinguishing sign of ahlul-Bid’ah is to abandon the following of the Salaf – and for this reason Imaam Ahmad stated in his treatise [narrated by] ‘Abdoos bin Maalik: The foundations of the Sunnah with us is to hold fast to that which the Companions of Allaah’s Prophet (salallaahu ‘alaihi wassallam) were upon.”
[Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 4/155]

Unfortunately some who are new to Salafiyyah in our times and have not understood the usool and qawaa’id of this blessed da’wah, or they feign knowledge of it and in reality are ignorant of it – they are satisfied with little knowledge and are driven by blind following and zealousness, so they miss these beautiful gems of benefit. You find them making binding upon the people the simplest of affairs of differing in ijtihaad (in the affairs of fiqh) – calling the people to either take their position or the position of their Shaikh or else they will publicly and openly warn against them and call for their abandonment! One may even agree with them in the opinion they hold, yet they will still declare him to be misguided until he makes walaa’ and baraa’ (allegiance and enmity) based upon it as they do.

Until the one who has differed with them agrees with them in making enmity and allegiance around their opinions, they will claim that he has abandoned the Islamic fundamental of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.

These young ‘vanguards’ of the da’wah, as they see themselves, have understood next to nothing of these important principles. The reason is because they have not truly studied, they have not studied with a body of Scholars nor read their opinions, they restrict themselves to one set of opinions and declare those who oppose them to have opposed the Deen and the Salafi Manhaj, declaring others to be upon the path of misguidance. And you find them only utilizing the opinions of other scholars when it agrees with their own desires, and at the same time leaving out the fact that those scholars did not regard these issues to be ones that necessitate separation and division between ahlus-Sunnah.

Why would one Person Differ with another over a Position of Genuine Ijtihaad?

i) It is possible that a differing position is held by a person who seeks the truth – he understands and accepts the position of the scholars who took that particular position, so he is not blindly following, rather he is upon knowledge that he has gained – so even if he is mistaken, he is nevertheless excused because he has striven to reach the truth. This person is a seeker of truth, so if later he sees a stronger opinion from another scholar which convinces him otherwise, then he turns to that position. And this is from his excellence. And this was the way and the Minhaaj of the Salaf.

If he opposes one scholar in an affair of ijtihaad but agrees with another due to what he sees of evidence, then he is not considered to be misguided in his Manhaj or ‘aqeedah. Ash-Shaikhul-‘Allaamah Muqbil al-Waad’iee (rahimahullaah) stated in agreement to the great Imaams before him:

“As for when does a person exit the Manhaj of the Salaf as-Saalih – it is when he falls into innovations then he exits the Manhaj of the Salaf – either to Soofism or to Shi’ism or to establishing the birthdays or welcoming the secular laws or having restricted allegiance such al-Hizbiyyah (i.e. partisanship), so a person displays allegiance in accordance to his hizb (group or party) and enmity due to his hizb.”
[Tuhfatul-Mujeeb, p. 111].

So as the scholars have mentioned, such as Shaikh al-Albaanee, that when a person falls into innovation, calls to it and makes walaa and baraa (allegiance and enmity) around his innovation, then he exits the Salafi Manhaj.

ii) It is also possible that a person is upon the position of a particular scholar, not due any evidence or seeking of the truth, but due to that fatwa agreeing with his desires and the other fatwas opposing his desires, in which case he is sinful and should be advised with the fear of Allaah, the Most High. He is obligated to adhere to the truth regardless of whether it agrees with one’s desires or not. He cannot utilize the argument that many people use to support their desires claiming, “the scholars differ”. Rather difference of opinion is not a proof for any person to persist in following his own desires, al-Haafidh Ibn Abdil-Barr (rahimahullaah) stated:

“[Utilizing] difference of opinion is not a proof with any of the people of knowledge from the jurists of the Ummah, except for the one who has no insight, has no knowledge with him and has no proof for his saying.”
[Jaami’ Bayaan al-‘Ilm wa Fadhlihi, 2/229].

Also al-Khattaabee (rahimahullaah) stated:

“And differing is not a proof – rather the explanation of the Sunnah is a proof upon those who differ with each other, from the earlier people and the later people.” [A’laamul-Hadeeth 3/2092]

iii) It may be possible that a person is ignorant and thus he asks the people of knowledge as Allaah has commanded in His Book, or he reads or hears of a ruling and then adheres to it and he does not know how to utilize the evidences and proofs or how to derive rulings. This one is also excused if he is mistaken, but once the truth reaches him and it opposes the original fatwa upon which he based his action, he turns to the opinion that is supported by stronger evidences. So this one has fulfilled that which Allaah has commanded him with, i.e. “Ask the people of knowledge if you do not know.”

Holding on to a Position in Ijtihaad Firmly is Allowable but Vilification of one who Holds the Opposing Opinion is Not Correct!

Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) stated:

“And as for the one from whom it is known that the ijtihaad is admissible, then it is not permissible to mention him from the viewpoint of vilification of him and ascribing sinfulness to him, rather it is obligatory due to what he possesses of Imaan and taqwa to have allegiance for him and to love him.”

Some scholars hold very firm positions in the rulings that they derive. Others may hold opposite opinions. However holding onto a strong and firm ijtihaadee position of an ‘aalim based upon his understanding of the texts does not necessitate that those who hold another opinion based upon their ijtihaad are therefore deviants, hizbees or sinners, unless that position is something that the Salaf did not allow differing regarding.

Yes, one can hold with evidence that the ijtihaad of another ‘aalim is erroneous and incorrect, but he he may not say that he has left the ranks of Salafiyyah! For example, the scholars differ upon the issue of i’tikaaf, which is to seclude oneself in the mosque for a number of days in the worship of Allaah; and it is usually performed in Ramadhaan. Some have said (such as Shaikh al-Albaanee) that it is not be performed except in the three mosques: Masjid al-Haraam in Makkah, Masjid an-Nabawee in Madinah and the Masjid al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, and they brought forth their evidences. Yet others (such as Shaikh Ibn Baaz, Ibn Uthaimeen and al-Fawzaan) held that it can be performed in any congregational mosque, and they brought forth their evidences. Yet neither body of scholars declared the others to be innovators or sinners due to them not agreeing with the views of the other – nor did one accuse the other of abandoning the Islamic principle of “enjoining the good and forbidding the evil” or to be “corrupted in the understanding al-walaa wal-baraa”!

Another example is the mighty issue of the prayer: The one who abandons the prayer out of laziness or lack of desire to pray, is he considered to be an unbeliever? The scholars again take differing positions, some (such as Shaikh al-Albaanee) held such a one is not an unbeliever, so long as he does not deny its obligation – rather he is considered to be a major sinner, weak in Imaan. Those who differed with him (such as Shaikh Ibn Baaz, Ibn Uthaimeen, etc.) held such as person who abandons the prayer out of laziness even if he affirms its obligation, to be an unbeliever – yet neither side declared the other to be from the khawaarij or murji’ah or innovators. This shows a great understanding of the principles of the Deen – that the Salafus-Saalih and the Scholars who followed their path knew that which was admissible differing and that which is not admissible.

Shaikhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) made this clear in his saying:

Shaikhul-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullāh) said: “For this reason it obligatory to make clear the condition of the one who errs in hadeeth and narrating, or the one who errs in opinion and fatwa, or the one who errs in Zuhd and worship. That is the case even if the mistaken is a Mujtahid who is forgiven for his error and is rewarded for his ijtihād. Clarifying speech and action that is proven by the Book and Sunnah is obligatory even if that means opposing [the mujitahid scholar] in hi speech and action. And as for the one from whom it is known that the ijtihād is admissible, then it is not permissible to mention him from the viewpoint of vilification and sin because Allah has forgiven him his mistake. Rather it is obligatory, due to what he possesses of imān and taqwā to have allegiance for him and to love him and to establish that which Allāh has obligated from his rights such as mentioning him with good, supplicating for him and so on.” (Majmū’ al-Fatāwa, 28/233-234)

The point here to note is his saying: “It is not permissible to mention him from the viewpoint of vilification of him and ascribing sinfulness to him” – So if the scholar makes an admissible ijtihaad, even if it is opposed by others with “stronger” proofs, it is not permissible to malign him or to curse him and dishonor him, or to declare him to a hizbee or an innovator.

Indeed we hold that a scholar is rewarded even for his error in accordance to the hadeeth of the Prophet (salallaahu alaihi wassallam) which affirms that the mujtahid who is correct in his ijtihaad receives two rewards whilst the erroneous receives one reward. [al-Bukhaaree in al-I’tisaam, no. 7352]

The Scholars have Differed from the Earliest of Times, even the Sahaabah but they were United in the Fundamanetals: The Usool and the ‘Aqeedah

The scholars differ and they have differed from the earliest of times of Islaam, even the Sahaabah and those who followed in their path differed, but this differing was not in the usool or the foundations of the Deen. The Sahaabah differed in minor affairs of the branches (furoo’) and they were united in their ‘aqeedah as has been pointed out by the scholars of guidance such as Shaikhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah):

“And the intended purpose is that the Sahaabah – may Allaah be pleased with them – did not fight ever, over a principle (qaa’idah) from the principles of Islaam originally. And they did not differ in anything from the fundamentals of Islaam, not about the Attributes, not about the Qadr, not about the issues of al-Asmaa and al-Ahkaam (passing of rulings), nor in the issues of the rulership.”
[Minhaajus-Sunnah, 6/336]

Shaykh al-‘Allaamah ‘Abdul-Muhsin al-‘Abbaad (hafidhahullaah), was asked (dated 20/8/1423H), “Is it permissible to say that the Sahaabah differed in ‘aqeedah?” So the Noble Shaykh replied:

“There is differing found amongst the Sahaabah in the furoo’ (subsidiary affairs). And there is absolutely no differing found in the usool (foundations). And if there was, then what would the difference be between Ahlus-Sunnah and the innovators then?!”

The point is that there is a form of differing that is tolerated amongst ahlus-Sunnah whereby they do not declare each other to be disbelievers, innovators or sinners just because someone holds an opposing position. Rather the ‘ulamaa may rebut each other and an ‘aalim may refute a position that his brother from ahlus-Sunnah holds, but at the same time maintaining his honour; not warning from him or commanding others to stop taking from him; and not calling people to boycott him.

Regarding Imaam ash-Shaafi’ee (died 204H, rahimahullaah), al-‘Allaamah Rabee’ al-Madkhalee (hafidhahullaah) mentions that he refuted the opinions of his Shaikh, Imaam Maalik (died 179H, rahimahullaah); and he refuted the opinions of Abu Haneefah (died 150H, rahimahullaah) and that of his two companions. Also al-Layth bin Sa’d refuted the opinions of Imaam Maalik in a well-known treatise. And the two companions of Abu Haneefah (rahimahullaah), Abu Yoosuf and Muhammad bin Hasan ash-Shaibaanee opposed him in a third of his madhhab. Shaikh Rabee’ continued to say:

“The mistakes of the Ulamaa in this aspect of the (Religion) have been refuted much and often; and not a single one of the critics made takfeer (as a means) of lowering the rank of the one whom he refuted and manifested his mistakes. And no one spoke in this manner because these affairs are not reckoned to be sins and innovations by which one is declared a sinner, or a kaafir, or by which the precision and reliability of a narrator is disparaged. This is the methodology of the ‘ulamaa of ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah from the early period of their history up to this era of ours; but ahlul-Ahwaa wal-Bidah wal-Fitan (The People of desires, innovation, trials and tribulations) come out with new methodologies, such as the likes of the manhaj of Muwaazanaat in order to protect the people of major innovations.
[See Bayaan Fasaadul-Miyaar; Hiwaar Ma’a Hizbee Mutasattir; page:7-8]

Ash-Shaikhul-Faqeeh al-‘Allaamah Ibn ‘Uthaimeen (rahimahullaah) stated:

“Firstly, know that differing of the ‘ulamah of the Ummah of Islaam, if it occurs regarding ijtihaad then it does not harm the one who is not granted correctness [in his conclusion] because the Prophet (salallaahu alaihi wassallam) said: “When a judge makes a judgment, he makes ijtihaad, and he is correct, he receives two rewards. And if he makes a judgment, he makes ijtihaad, and he in incorrect, he receives one reward.” [al-Bukhaaree in al-I’tisaam, no. 7352]. However for whomsoever the truth has been make clear, then following the truth becomes mandatory for him in every condition. The differing that occurs between the ‘ulamah of the Islamic Ummah is not a reason for differing between the hearts, because the differing of the hearts leads to great and immense corruption, just as Allaah, the Most High, stated: “And do not dispute with one another lest you lose your courage and your strength departs, and be patient. Surely Allaah is with the patient.” [al-Anfaal: 46]. The differing between the ‘ulamah that is considered as allowable which is mentioned and cited, then it is that differing which has a possibility through investigation.

As for differing of general folk, those who do not understand and do not posses fiqh, then no recognition is given to it. For this reason it is an obligation upon the general person to return back to the People of Knowledge, just as Allaah, the Most High, has stated: “Ask the People of Knowledge if you do not know.” [an-Nahl: 43]. As for the saying of the questioner: Is that [allowance] in every affair of [differing]? Then it is not like that. Differing occurs in some issues, and in other affairs there is agreement upon, and there is no differing concerning them. However there are some issues in which there is differing of ijtihaad (juristic opinion), or that some of the people are more knowledgeable than others in their knowledge and understanding of the texts of the Qur’aan and Sunnah – and this is where the differing occurs. As for the affairs of the principle tenets, then there is seldom any differing in them.”
[al-Fatawa ash-Shar’iyyah fil-Masaa’ilil-‘Asriyyah min Fatawa ‘Ulamah al-Bilaad al-Haraam, p. 792]

Here Shaikh Ibn ‘Uthaimeen (rahimahullaah) affirms that there are differences in ijtihaad of the Scholars that do not necessitate separation of the hearts, let alone boycotting, hajr and warning against! Knowing the affairs where differing is tolerated and those affairs where it is not is very importance for those embarking upon rectification and disseminating knowledge. If one cannot distinguish between the two, he will be quick and hasty in ruling the people of Sunnah to be misguided as has become apparent amongst some of the youth! Or one may regard people of bid’ah to be upon the Sunnah as is the case with others!

The Student of Knowledge, the one who has Ability must seek out the Truth when the Scholars Differ in Ijtihaad!

The scholars’ differing in affairs of ijtihaad in which differing is tolerated is not an allowance to pick and choose as one wishes, rather the student of knowledge should look into the opinions of various scholars and seek that which seems to him to be closest to the truth.

Al-‘Allaamah Ibn ‘Uthaimeen (rahimahullaah) was asked by a student concerning the difference of opinion amongst the scholars due to their varying ijtihaadaat (juristic opinions) and that he is not able to reach a conclusion and this was causing him confusion. So the Shaikh (rahimahullaah) answered:

“This issue that has been put forward in this question by the questioner is not merely an issue for the student of the sharee’ah but indeed general for everyone – that if he sees differing of the ‘ulamah he falls into confusion – however the reality is that there is no confusion in that. This is due to the fact that if a person has differing fatwas in front of him, then he follows the one that is closest to the truth, in accordance to the abundance of his knowledge and the strength of his Imaan just as a person if he is ill, and two doctors differ [regarding the treatment], then the patient will take the saying of the one whom he sees to be stronger in proof in his description of the cure.

So if the two affairs to him seem the same in strength of evidence, i.e. that he is not able to decipher which of two scholars has the stronger position; then here some of the scholars have stated that the person should take the more difficult of the two opinions, as that is the safer approach. Some of the scholars have stated that one should take the easier position because this agrees with the ease of the Islamic Religion in accordance to the saying of Allaah, the Blessed and Most High: “Allaah wishes for you ease and He does not wish for you hardship.” [al-Baqarah: 185]. And His saying: “And He has not made for you in the Religion any difficulty.” [al-Hajj: 78]. And likewise the saying of the Prophet (salallaahu alaihi wassallam): “Make things easy and do not make them difficult.” [al-Bukhaaree in al-‘Ilm, 69].

This is because the origin is to discharge the affair until there is something firmly established to lift this origin. And this principle is for the one who is not able to arrive at the truth by himself – and if, however, he is able to reach the truth such as the student of knowledge who is able to read what has been said about this particular issue, then he draws a conclusion with what he sees based upon the sharee’ah evidences with him. And in this condition, he (the student of knowledge) is necessitated to research and read so that he come to know that which is more authentic from these sayings in which the scholars have differed.”
[Kitaab ad-Da’wah, 5; Ibn ‘Uthaimeen, pp. 45-47].

This is the detail and tafseel that the scholars provide that lay down for the Muslim – principles that keep him guided aright and prevent him from going beyond bounds with regard to his brothers from ahlus-Sunnah who differ with him in the affairs of ijtihaad related to the furoo’ (branches) of the Deen.

The Student of Knowledge does not Precede the Scholars and he Prefers the Opinions of the Scholars Over his own.
And Precedence is Given to the Elder Scholars

A student of knowledge should not formulate his own opinions without having a precedence of an ‘aalim, as this will cause him to fall into error and deviation, if not immediately, then over a period of time – making oneself independent from the scholars and their fatawa is a cause of destruction of a youth in the early days of his pursuit of knowledge.

The Salaf of this Ummah used to give precedence to the elders and more knowledgeable Scholars over the younger mashayikh, even though in both there is virtue. Shaikh al-Fawzaan mentions in his article entitled, “Fi fadhil-‘Ulamaa al-‘Aamileen wal-Haththi ‘alat-Ta’allum minhum” (The Excellence of the Scholars who Act, and Encouragement to Learn From Them) the statement of Abdullaah bin Mas’ood (radhi Allaahu ‘anhu) who stated:

“The people will not cease to be upon goodness so long as they take knowledge from their Scholars, their greater ones and their elders. So when they take knowledge from their young ones and their foolish ones, they are destroyed.” [Reported by Ibn Mandah in the Musnad of Ibraaheem bin Adham, pg. 34]

Al-‘Allaamah al-Fawzaan also mentioned the statement of Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu alaihi wassallam) in which he said:

“Indeed from the signs of the Hour is that knowledge will be taken from the younger/lesser ones.” [Reported by at-Tabaraanee in al-Kabeer (22/362), and declared authentic by al-Albaanee in as-Saheehah (695) and Saheeh al-Jaami’ (2207)]

The noble Scholar, Abdus-Salaam bin Barjis Al Abdul-Kareem (rahimahullaah) stated in his excellent treatise entitled, “Awaa’iqut-Talab”, that the people of knowledge differed regarding the explanation of the term ‘sighaar’* (younger ones) in these narrations. And the sayings have been mentioned by Ibn Abdil-Barr in “al-Jaami'” (1/157) and Imaam ash-Shaatibee in “al-I’tisaam” (2/93). Then he mentions that Ibn Qutaibah (rahimahullaah) proceeded upon the position that the term “sighaar” refers to those young in years, so Ibn Qutaibah (rahimahullaah) said regarding the saying of Ibn Mas’ood (radhi Allaahu ‘anhu):

“He intends that the people will not cease to be upon goodness so long as their ‘ulamah are the elders (in age), and their ‘ulamah are not young ones. This is because the delights and treats of youth have left the elderly one; and likewise have left him his hotness or anger, his hastiness, his foolishness; and he is now (in old age) accompanied by experience, practice and expertise. Doubts do not enter his knowledge, and he is not overcome by desire. He does not incline towards greed or covetousness, and he is not fooled by the Shaitaan as he fools the young one. And with years comes dignity, sobriety, reverence, awe and prestige.

It is possible that these (blameworthy) affairs can come upon a younger person that the elder one is secure from, so if they enter upon him and he delivers fatwa, then he ruins others and destroys himself.”

* The term can also be readily used to describe ahlul-Bid’ah as has been reported from Ibn al-Mubaarak.

The early Salaf were cultivated upon giving precedence to the fatawa and understanding of those who came before them from the early generations, al-Imaam al-‘Allaamah Ibnul-Qayyim stated:

“Chapter: The permissibility of giving fatawa based upon the narrations of the Salaf and the fatawa of the Sahaabah; and that they are more worthy of taking from rather than the opinions of the late-comers and their fatawa – and that they will be closer to the truth in accordance to them being closer to the time of the Messenger (salallaahu alaihi wassallam). And the fatawa of the Sahaabah are more befitting to be taken than the fatawa of the Taabi’een and the fatawa of the Taabi’een are more worthy to be taken than the fatawa of the following generation (Taabi’ee at-Taabi’een) and so on and so forth. So the closer one is to the era of the Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihi wassalam), then being correct is more likely. And this is a ruling in a general generic sense and not necessarily in everything from the affairs.” [I’laam al-Muwaqi’een, 4/148]

The Difference between the Refutation of Ahlul-Sunnah upon Ahlus-Sunnah and the Refutation of Ahlus-Sunnah upon Ahlul-Bid’ah

Ahlus-Sunnah hold that one is permitted to refute the opposing opinion with evidences and proofs, noting that this refutation is between ahlus-Sunnah and ahlus-Sunnah.

All of the People of Knowledge make mistakes, but the mistakes of Ahlus-Sunnah and Ahlul-‘Ilm differ from the mistakes of Ahlul-Bid’ah, both fundamentally and generally – just as the way in dealing with these differences, differs also.

So the mistake of the Scholar or student is refuted in the knowledge based issues, but he is not attacked or warned against or treated severely in the way the people of innovation and desires are treated. And upon this the people of knowledge have proceeded.

And there are a number of differences between this type of naseehah or response and the refutation which is carried out against ahlul-Bid’ah, the hizbiyyeen and the people of desires and separation. Several of those differences are mentioned below:

a) To refute and expose the callers to bid’ah and hizbiyyah is waajib by way of obligation upon a group of the Ummah (fard kifaayah). Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) stated:

“And like the Imaams of bid’ah from the people who speak with opposition and contradiction to the Book and Sunnah, or they have methods of worship in opposition to the Book and Sunnah; to make clear their condition and to warn the Ummah from them is an obligation by the agreement of the Muslims – the purification of the Path of Allaah, His Deen, His Minhaaj, and His Sharee’ah and to repel their transgressions and their enmity due to it, is an obligation by kifaayah (upon a portion of the Ummah) by the agreement of the Muslims. And if Allaah had not raised those who would repel their harm, then the Deen would have become corrupted – and their corruption is greater than the corruption caused by the enemy through warfare because when they conquer they do not corrupt the hearts and what is contained within them of Religion except over periods of time. As for these (callers to innovation), then they corrupt the hearts from the outset.”
[Majmoo’ al-Fatawa, 28/231-232]

And of course the Scholar of Sunnah who has erred who is known for his adherence to the usool and the qawaa’id (fundamentals and principles) who makes an error in ijtihaad is not to be treated in this manner. He is advised, corrected but he is not worse “than the corruption caused by the enemy through warfare”.

However if his opposition is in the usool, in that which the Salaf never allowed differing in, then he is advised by the Scholars who write to him, speak to him and rectify his affair. If he persists in opposing the usool of the Salaf, in those affairs agreed upon, then the scholars first and foremost refute such an individual, and the people follow them. Opposition to the ‘aqeedah and manhaj could be in one issue or many issues. It is not that the case that one opposition to the aqeedah is tolerated but many are refuted. Rather every single opposition to the aqeedah and manhaj is rebutted and is not tolerated. We are living in times where some ignorant people refuse to censure those who oppose the usool of ahlus-Sunnah; and they treat these contradictions to be like differing that occurs between ahlus-Sunnah in the issues of admissible ijtihaad. Shaikhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah strongly criticized this group in his saying:

“And another group, [then] they do not know the ‘aqeedah of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah as is obligated, or they know a part of it and are ignorant regarding a part of it, and that which they know, they conceal and do not explain it to the people, and they do not forbid the bid’ah and they do not censure Ahlul-Bid’ah nor punish or subdue them. Rather they may even have disparaging remarks with respect to the Sunnah and the foundations of the Deen, not distinguishing between the speech of Ahlus-Sunnah and that of Ahlul-Bid’ah wal-Furqah. Or they accept the different madhhabs of bid’ah just as the ‘ulemah excuse each other in the issues of ijtihaad in which there is [genuine] difference. And this is the condition of many of the murji’ah, and some of the Thinkers, the Soofees and the Philosophers.
[Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, Vol 12, slightly abridged].

Al-‘Allaamah al-Mujaahid Rabee’ Ibn Haadee al-Madkhaalee (hafidhahullaah) said:

“We have been afflicted in these days with those who falsely accuse true Salafis of being extreme and harsh in al-Jarh wat-Ta’deel (praising and criticising) and in other areas. He wages war against them in the most severe fashion whilst he makes peace with the people of innovation and desires, heaping praise and commendations upon them.

So (you find that) he falls into tamyee’ (softness and easy going) when dealing with the people of innovation and at the same time he shows a destructive form of extremism towards the people of Sunnah and the truth. His anger and his pleasure are in accordance to that which he desires and in agreement with those whom he aspires to embrace from the wealthy and rich.” [Recording from 23/Muharram/1430]

Then on the other extreme there are those who will warn against and call for the abandonment of ahlus-Sunnah on the basis that they have differed with them in an issue of ijtihaad or because others do not agree with the ijtihaad of their own Shaikh!

b) The refutation upon ahlul-bid’ah and the hizbiyyoon requires and necessitates that we do not mention their good deeds. To mention their good when the intent is to warn is to oppose the manhaj of the Salaf and bid’ah. And this is innovation is known as the bid’ah of al-Muwaazanah. This is because the wisdom behind this refutation is to clarify the truth and to nullify falsehood; and to warn people from them and cause the Muslims to flee from them. An ‘aalim of Salafiyyah, however, is not treated like this – his error is warned against without warning against him and his station is respected. This you find occurring in our times that the likes of Shaikh al-Albaanee would hold a position (such as in the issue of the niqaab being recommended and not waajib) and being opposed in that by the likes of Shaikh Ibn Baaz and Shaikh Ibn Uthaymeen, but at the same time respecting and honouring each other and mentioning the good in each other, and certainly not declaring each other to be innovators and hizbees!

c) The callers to bid’ah and hizbiyyah are warned against; and the people are warned from taking knowledge from them and from attending their sermons, lectures and classes. This is very different to how ahlus-Sunnah are dealt with from those who differ with your Shaikh in an issue of ijtihaad or those who have fallen into error in their ijtihaad. So it is permissible to say in one’s rebuttal that “this person is not to be followed in his error” – however the person of knowledge still remains trustworthy and knowledge is taken from him and his gatherings are attended and he is not abandoned. However if he opposes the usool and persists in that opposition then the scholars who are specialized in that affair advise him and hope for his correction; if he persists, then he is warned against to the level the scholars have mentioned.

d) The callers to bid’ah and hizbiyyah are boycotted in accordance to the sharee’ah legislation and its principles.And those upon the manhaj of ahlus-Sunnah and Salafiyyah are not to be abandoned and boycotted to due to an error or a perceived error in their ijtihaad.

e) Vilifying, debasing and exposing the callers to falsehood and innovation is a shar’ee requirement in accordance to ability and attainable benefits; and in accordance to the severity of their bidýah. And this differs from the treatment of the person of Sunnah who has erred, for he is still deserving of gentleness, leniency and mildness and is dealt with mercifully. And if there is some reason to exit this origin, then it is allowed in accordance to need. And the intent of vilifying and debasing the people of bid’ah is not to say that ahlus-Sunnah ever invent or fabricate falsehood against them, rather it is to make clear to the people their harm and their audacious conduct and their putting the people to trial by way of their misguidance.

So these are some guidelines with regard to understanding differences and how Ahlus-Sunnah deal with differing between themselves and how Ahlus-Sunnah deal with the oppositions of Ahlul-Baatil.

And all praise is due to Allaah, and may the peace and salautations of Allaah be upon His Messenger.

Abu Khadeejah Abdul-Waahid