What is the wisdom behind the differences among madhhabs? Since fards are the same, why are they different among madhhabs?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Madhhabs have different views related to fards. For instance, all madhhabs unanimously agree that wudu is fard. However, the issue of what things are fard while making wudu is controversial. That is, it is essential in all madhhabs that wudu is fard. However, there are differences in details. Similarly, it is fard to perform prayers in all madhhabs. However, there are some differences about what things are fard while performing prayers. 

Madhhab imams disagreed about the way the Islamic issues were applied, not in the issues themselves, based on justifiable reasons according to them. For instance, all imams agree unanimously that it is fard to wipe the head while making wudu but they disagreed about the style and amount of wiping.  

In the order of our Lord, who rendered wudu fard for us, “wipe your heads”, the phrase “bi ruusikum” is used. In Arabic, which is the richest language, the preposition 'bi' is sometimes used “to embellish” the word, sometimes to mean “some” and sometimes to mean to “abut”, to “adjoin“. The madhhab imams understood the preposition 'bi' before the word “ruusikum” differently and different practices occurred. The preposition 'bi' here can have all of the three meanings mentioned above.  

Therefore, Imam Malik said, “While wiping the head, all of it should be wiped. This is because the preposition “bi” here is used for embellishing the word. It does not have a meaning on its own.

Imam Abu Hanifa said, “That ‘bi’ means ‘some’. Thus, it is sufficient if some part of the head is wiped.

Imam Shafii said, “That ‘bi’ means ‘to abut on’. It is acceptable if only the hand abuts on the head and touches a few hairs.

In that case, it becomes clear that each madhhab imam is on the true path and that the decrees in details that seem to be disagreements are not an issue of disagreement. Thus, the claims of those who have bad intentions will turn out to be baseless... (Ahmed Şahin, Hayat ve Biz, 235)

By the way, despite taking the same law into consideration, some courts give decrees that are opposite to each other related to the same issue due to the differences of understanding. Nobody says, “Why is this so?” Criticizing madhhabs due to differences is not compatible with good intentions and the reality.

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