QUESTION: Whom should we Hanafis follow when there is a conflict of opinion among our Ulama? For example Mufti Taqi Uthmaani says that Islamic banking, digital pictures, etc. are permissible whereas the Mujlisul Ulama refutes this view. So how does a layman make a choice?
Answer (By Mujlisul Ulama):
If two medical doctors or two lawyers give conflicting opinions on the same issues, who will you follow? How will you decide whom to follow? Use the same criterion in the event of conflicting opinions of the Ulama.
In the Qur’aan Majeed, Allah Ta’ala reprimanding the masses (the laymen) of Bani Israaeel, states: “They take their Ulama and their Mashaaikh as gods besides Allaah.” Now why does Allah Ta’ala criticize and reprimand the ordinary people for following the rulings of their learned men when it is incumbent for the laity to follow the rulings and guidance of the Ulama? In reality, the ordinary people who love to follow their nafs, and the easy way, do understand what is Haqq and Baatil. Thus, they quickly follow such rulings which satisfy their nafsaani desires whilst deep down in their hearts they know that they are following baatil. For such miscreants and slaves of the nafs, the Qur’aan Majeed says: “In fact, man has awareness of his nafs even though he puts forth excuses (to justify his haraam, nafsaaniyat and shaitaaniyat).”.
Allah Ta’ala has bestowed to insaan a treasure called Aql (Intelligence) which the Mu’min is required to utilize constructively with ikhlaas (sincerity). Then he will arrive at the correct opinion, and follow what is the Haqq.
The Shariah also emphasizes abstention from doubtful issues. The Deen also instructs us to choose the option in which there is ihtiyaat (caution). Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: “Shun that which plunges you into for that which does not cast you into doubt.” Two glasses of water are placed in front of you, and it is said that one glass contains pure water while the other glass of water contains a few drops of urine or a drop of a lethal poison, but it is not known which glass of water is pure and which one is the contaminated one. In this situation of conflict, which glass will you opt for? If someone, regardless of his elevated status, suggests that you opt for any one of the glasses, or take the one on your left or on your right, etc., will you take the chance? We are certain that you will shun both and opt for caution.
Now when one Aalim says that ‘this meat is haraam carrion’, and the other one says that it is ‘halaal’, why should you dither and be in doubt as to the option you should adopt? In Deeni or spiritual matters, people throw caution aside and blindly follow their bestial nafs presenting the hollow pretext that a certain Aalim says that it is permissible irrespective of the lasting spiritual damage which consumption and participation in the haraam cause.
If one Aalim says that a picture is not a picture, and the other one says that a picture is a picture, then you the layman, is required to use the Aql bestowed to you by Allah Ta’ala so that you do not come under the scope of the above-mentioned Qur’aanic aayat of Divine Reprimand. You are not expected to debase your Aql by enslaving it to your carnal instincts. Your intelligence will be sufficient to convince you that the one who says that a digital picture is not a picture resorts to skulduggery and propagates what his nafs orders him, not what his Aql demands.
Similarly, if one Aalim says that the so-called ‘dividends’ of a so-called ‘Islamic’ bank are riba, and another Aalim says that it is not riba, then even the layman whose brains are not welded to stupidity, will understand that it is in his best Deeni interests and for his Aakhirah to abstain from such a dangerous sin as riba. The principle of Ihtiyaat (Caution) and abstention from doubt should be adopted in every conflict, namely, adopt caution and for practical purposes act on Ihtiyaat and abstain from doubt, and utilize your Aql. You will then be on Rectitude, and there will remain no doubt in you as to what and who is the Haqq.