The Difference between Splitting and Differing

By Shaykha Doctor Afan bint Hasan

Lecturer in the college of Education in Riyadh

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

These are some basic points of benefit for the layman and the student of knowledge about differing and splitting, along with the difference and similarities between the two. These terms were defined and taken from a book titled, ” The People of desires’ and innovations contractions in Aqeedah.

1-      Splitting is the severest kind of differing. In fact, splitting is a result of differing. Sometimes differing can bring about splitting and other times not. Nonetheless, every differing isn’t a separation.

2-      In most cases splitting occurs after information of facts has become known. Allah says:  And only those to whom (the Scripture) was given differed concerning it after clear proofs had come unto them through hatred, one to another.(Al-Baqarah 213) and He says: And be not as those who divided and differed among themselves after the clear proofs had come to them…(Al-Imran 105)

3-      Separating and splitting leads to destruction for anyone who follows it. The Prophet (sallAllahu alayhi was salam) said: “Don’t split among yourselves. Verily those nations before you split up and as result were destroyed.” (Bukhari 5/53). On the other hand differing doesn’t lead a person to destruction, because it only results from ignorance, a misunderstanding or a misinterpretation.

4-      Differing is a result of Ijtihad and good intention. The person is sometimes rewarded when he errs. Splitting isn’t a result of Ijtihad.

5-      Verily differing doesn’t lead to splitting and separating, and fighting in Islam. Ash-Shaatabi said [ Al-‘Itasam 2/232]: We find the companions of the Prophet (sallAllahu Alayhi was salam) differed in issues related to verdicts. They didn’t become parties, and split up, because they were one group. They only differed in the areas of the religion where they were allowed to. And this was only done from their judgment based on the Quran and Sunnah.” Splitting and separating is a cause for fighting, Takfir and disputing. Hence the person enters the fire.” This nation will split up into seventy three sects, each and every one of them are in fire accept one.“[ Abu Dawud 4596]

6-      Every splitting is a differing, but every differing isn’t a splitting. There are numerous issues which Muslims differ about . Therefore, in these issues, it’s not permissible to decree the person who differs as being a Kafir, or exiting the Sunnah.

7-      Every act of splitting and separating is blameworthy and dispraised. Every action of differing isn’t to blame.

8-      The person differing is excused, if it results from Ijtihad. However the person splitting isn’t excused. Reason being, his splitting is from him following his desires, innovating in the deen or a blameworthy kind of blind following.

9-      Sometimes differing is a mercy, and the people who differ are successful –if Allah wills. Splitting is a punishment and its people are punished. Ibn Taymiyyah said [ Majmu 14/159] : ” Differing in matters of religious verdicts is sometimes a mercy, as long as it doesn’t conclude to a greater evil.”

10-  In most cases, the people of splitting rely on the texts which aren’t entirely clear. Allah says: So as for those in whose hearts there is a deviation (from the truth) they follow that which is not entirely clear thereof, seeking Al-Fitnah [ Al-Imran 7] . The people who differ usually disagree because of their misunderstanding.

TN (Abu Aaliyah Abullah ibn Dwight Battle ( غفرالله له) In these 10 points taken from the book there are some important notes that need to be highlighted.

  • Differing isn’t allowed in all areas of the religion, such as Aqeedah, Tawheed or where there is Ijma, but in areas where Ijtihad is allowed, differing can occur and this shouldn’t result to a split in this ummah
  • Ibn Taymiyyah didn’t say that differing is a mercy in matters of belief, but in religious verdicts. And this area is vast. Scholars differ in numerous issues of fiqh. Such as niqab obligatory or not, touching the private part invalidates wudu or not, placing the hands on the chest after ruku ,etc. However, the person should go with the strongest opinion based on evidence.

Example: Some scholars differ in the issue of touching a women, if it invalidates a person’s wudu or not. This view with the Shafi school of thought is based on the ayat in [An-Nisa 43]: ” or you have been in contact with women…”

Ibn Abbass explained that the contact here in this verse is referring to sexual relations. So the strongest opinion is from the Interpreter of the Quran and it takes precedence over the interpretation of the Shafi jurist. And inshallah they are rewarded once for their view. Furthermore, there is weak hadeeth collected in the Musnad of Imam Ahmed:: The Prophet used to kiss some his wives and go to pray without making Wudu.”[ 6/210].

Imam Ash-Shafi said: “If this hadeeth is authentic , I don’t consider touching a woman a nullification of Wudu. At any rate, Imam Al-Bukhari graded this hadeeth as being weak and therefore Ash-Shafi held his view based on the verse and was unaware of Ibn Abbass’s explanation. We can see in Imam Ash-Shaf’I’s speech the acknowledgment that he could change his view if he had authentic proof before him.  [ Bidiyahtul Mujtahid 1/33 chapter the thing which invalidate wudu]

  • No one should impose the opinion they choose to follow on others in the areas where differing is allowed in this deen.

Translated by Abu Aaliyah Abdullah ibn Dwight Battle

Doha, Qatar 1434©

Reference: The People of desires’ and innovations contractions in Aqeedah, by Dr.Afan bin Hasan, printed by Maktabatul Rushd,  first edition 2001.vol 1

Please return to the salafi dictionary for more terms that cause confusion. I ask Allah’s help in completing this task.

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