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If the Imams of the four schools [madhahib] established all of their rulings from the Qurâan and the Sunnah, why have they differed on so many points? How can two authentic narrations from the Messenger of Allah appear to contradict one another? When is it acceptable for Muslims to differ over religious matters? What did the Messenger mean when he said, The differences of my Ummah are a source of mercy?
Using examples from the Messenger of Allah , his Companions, and their Followers, The Differences of the Imams answers these puzzling questions in a thorough and concise manner. In a clear and lucid style, the author illustrates the various ways in which different narrations seem to contradict one another and how the Companions and the Imams of jurisprudence have reconciled these apparent differences. This work is an excellent resource for anyone seeking to better understand some of the deeper issues of hadith and jurisprudence: how these two disciplines come together to form the basis of Islamic law [Shari’a], why it is necessary to follow a school of Islamic law, and what the basic principles of hadith scholarship are.
The original title “The Differences of the Imams” was published in April 2004 by White Thread Press. About a year later in 2005, a condensed version of only 77 pages was published by Ahmad Printing Corp. or Darul Ishaat publisher in Karachi, Pakistan, and with a slightly different spelling of “Imams” as “Imaams” in its title: “The Differences of the Imaams” by the same author and translator (and distributed by Darul-Uloom Al-Madania at 182 Sobieski St. in Buffalo, NY; but no ISBN!). While the 2004 edition (which I have not read) apparently contained extensive footnotes of the citations listed in that work, the abridged 2005 edition does not (which leaves a reader frustrated in trying to learn the source or citation for the quotes provided in the paperback). What I really liked about this booklet was that it listed at least 10 “reasons for the contradictions of narrations” and 8 reasons “for the differences of opinion” in fiqh analysis. Amazingly, the author provides an even-handed analysis as to why there seems to be so many contradictions between the various ahaadith on similar subjects. Essentially, most of the hadith were not compiled into collections until 225 years after the death of the Muslim prophet Mohammad. But the discrepancies arose by various people hearing or seeing what Mohammad had to say or act. This book details at least 10 reasons for these conflicts (so read this book). Essentially, people at the same prayer session with Mohammad heard different sayings (hadith) or saw different prayer practices, and while each observer may have been correct with his observation, because they were seen at different times or their memories may not have recalled the same expressions, “differences” of exactness were recorded, but all could be valid depending upon which fiqh school a Muslim is obligated to follow. Also, the validity of some hadith depends upon the “chain of narrators” of the hadith. A hadith may have been passed down between 4 or 7 different individuals before it was recorded by Bukhari or Malik or one of the other compilers. The truthfulness or validity of any hadith can be challenged based upon how sober or senile a transmitter/narrator may have been — all of which adds more “differences” of opinion. The author does not stipulate which school is “better” than the others; he wants to review WHY differences occur. Differences are recorded for different acts of prayer, sex, washing, etc. When I first read the bed while in bed late at night, I found it boring and constantly fell asleep quickly. But reading it while standing up during my lunch hour, I realized how informative this book really is; lots of good critical analysis. The author questions why differences of opinion occurred, but does not question Islam itself. Some chapter titles: reasons for the differences of propositions and traditions; reasons for the contradictions of narrations; contradictory ahaadith; two categories of laws; caution in textual narrations; reasons for the differences of opinion; basis of rejection and preference; assessment of a narrator; principles of the jurists; the multi-faceted methods of inferring; and the approach of the Hanafi school of thought.