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It is often asked how is it possible for Mujtahids to give different fatwas when there is no conflict between Allah, his Prophet (pbuh) and Holy Imams (as). They all follow the same God, same Rasool (pbuh)same Imams (as). They read the same Quran and same Hadith. So why do they give different fatwas???

-Some have gone far enough to blame Mujtahids for giving fatwas based on their ”own personal opinions” and not from Quran and Hadith) or based on Qiyas (which is forbid in Shia school).
-Some blame Reasoning (use of Aql) as the cause of fatwa differences. They dont understand the difference b/w the use of Logical Reasoning (al-Aql) and Analogy (qiyas).
-Some have given up Taqlid altogether! or have resorted to self understanding of hadith (without any prior training in Islamic sciences).
-Some have started labeling themselves as ”non-Usuli” and some sympathize themselves with the Akhbari sect (without even knowing that this sect deem Quran corrupted).
-Some have even become Hadith Rejectors, rejecting all hadith and relying in Quran only.


It should be said that most fatwa differences are due to differences in Hadith. But any such differences is hardly ever such as to be contradictory. It is almost impossible to find a case of one Mujtahid saying some action is Wajib and another saying it is Haram.

Let us ponder briefly over the reasons behind fatwa differences.

1- Conflicting Hadith due to different conditions of the questioner.

Imam gave different orders to two different companions.


He told one follower that the meat of a rabbit can be eaten since he lived in an area where not eating rabbit was considered a sign of being Shia and his life could be in danger.
He told the other follower that the meat of rabbit cannot be eaten, since he lived among Shia.

If these commands were given at different times and in front of different set of people naturally they would convey them differently to others. If today these hadith are read by someone he will get confused. Scholars have to dig in to the conditions under which a command was give and understand which to apply today.

2- Difference in understanding the reason behind a command.


Prophet (SAW) was sitting. The funeral of a kafir passed bye. Prophet (SAWW) stood up.
-Some rawayat tell us that Prophet stood up due to the respect of angels accompanying the coffin. So following these rawayat it would be even better to to stand when the funeral of a Momin passes bye.
-Other rawayat tell us that Prophet stood up since it was disrespectful for the coffin of a kaffir to pass above the head of Muslims.

Naturally this reason will reflect in a totally different way of practice.

3- Words have different meanings.

The command was given with one meaning but it was understood with another meaning.


Hazrat Salman e Farsi said to the Prophet (pbuh) that he has read in Torah that ”Waduh” after meals is a cause for blessing. Prophet replied that Waduh before and after meals is a cause for blessing.

Here the word ”Waduh” is meant as washing hands. But some have taken it in the literal sense.

4- Difference in understanding the meaning of a hadith.

Same way as verses of poetry may have different meaning.

There is a verse in urdu:

دم بھر نہ ٹھرے دل مین نہ انکھوں مین ایک پل
اتنے سے قد پہ تم بھی قیامت شریر ھو

”for second you did not stay in the heart, nor in my eyes
Such an small size and you are so naughty!”

Some say poet is talking about an imaginary lover (a short girl)!
While others say its about the tear. When one’s heart is full, tears come out but don’t stay in the eyes for long and start flowing.

Similarly some Fuqha take one meaning of a hadith while others take another.


Masoom said: ”Jummah does not establish if there is no Imam

Some said Imam here means Imam e Masoom . Therefore it is haram to offer Jummah prayers during occultation.
Others said Imam here means Imam e Jammat (the prayer leader). Meaning that Imam (as) wanted to say that Jummah prayers cannot be offered individually, it has to be offered with congregation (jammat).


Prophet (SAWW) said: ”Love of Ali eats away sins like fire eats away dry wood”.

The literal meaning is that if a lover of Imam Ali commits sin, love of Ali (as) would finish the sin.
But some have taken the meaning that if the love of Ali fills someones heart than a Momin will not commit sin. All his sins would finish. He would not even think of sinning.


Hadith: ”Paradise is under Mother’s feet”,

Some say hadith is directed towards children. If they take good care of their mother, make her happy, their rewarded would be paradise.
Other say its for the mother. If she trains them well, she could make them among the people of paradise.

5-Hadith going against each other.


In Furu al-Kafi there is a hadith from Zarar ibn Ain according to which Imam Baqar (as) said: ”Without doubt, Jummah bath is wajib”.

Another hadith from Masoom says: If someone is unable to perform Jummah bath, the Jummah bath will remain due on him. He could postpone it till Saturday.
And another hadith: If you dont have water for Jummah baith, bring it after buying (purchase it).

All these hadith give the impression that Jummah Ghusl (bath) is obligatory.

But also in Furu al-Kafi there is a hadith again from Zarar ibn Ain according to which Masoom (as) listed Sunnat baths. And Jummah bath is included in that list.

So as you can see according to one hadith from the same Sahabi, ghusal of Jummah is wajib and according to another its sunnat.

Yet another hadith from Shaikh Sadooq (aleh rehama) in Khasal it was asked Maula what is the difference b/w the prayers of men and women. Imam (as) listed many differences. One of them was that for men Ghusl e Jummah is mustahab.

6-Hadith quoted in terms of meaning and not exact words.

Some hadith were quoted in terms of meaning and not their exact words. Since different people understood hadith differently they stated it differently.

7- Many references could result in differences.

It is a common observation that if one message is conveyed through several messengers their could occur differences in the conveyed message.

8-Mistakes in hadith due to human errors or forgetfulness.

Narrators of hadith were human beings.

9-Loss of Hadith books.

We currently have 4 large books of hadith, namely:

– Asool al-Kafi,
– Tahzeeb al-Ahkam anal Masail al-Halal wal Haram,
– Istabsar fi mukhtalf min al akhbar
– Kitab al Faqih lemin la yahjar al faqih

During the time of Shaikh Sadooq (AR) there was a 5th book ”Madinat al-Ilm” comprising of 12 volumes. And was considered the largest book on Ilm al Hadith. This book is no longer available.

Naturally scholars who had this book in front of them gave fatwas. But scholars toady don’t have this book resulting in difference of fatwas.

Similarly Imam as-Sadiq (as) had ordered the writing of 400 books on Principals. Not all of them are available with us today. Therefore scholars who got those hadith have different fatwas than those who don’t.

10-Non-reliable narrators. 

Hadith are graded according to the reliability of narrators. Scholars accept or reject hadith based on their grading and may differ in which hadith to accept and which not. This is a detailed subject and I will not go into details at this point.


11-Fabricated hadith.

People used to fabricate hadith due to their post, belief or affiliation. Others did it to please the Ruler or King of their time.


One person Abdul Karim ibn Abi al Aujah was hanged during the time of Khalifa Mehdi. While being hanged he confessed to fabricating 4000 hadith where he had made halal things haram and haram things halal!

12-Change in the description of things.


Regarding salat there is a hukam that if someone has blood on his body or clothes and if it is less than a dirham its ok to pray with the blood.

But there is difference in the description of the size of dirham.
-Dirham is the size of the cave in palm.
-Dirham is the size of the digit of thumb.
-Dirham is the size of first digt of middle finger.
-Dirham is the size of first digit of index finger.

13- Some hadith were said due to Taqayah.

Some say a particular hadith was said during Taqayah while others say it was not.

14-Hadith with different background.

These rawayat are present in front of the Mujtahid but he has no information on the background.

Above are some of the reasons why it is so difficult for scholars to give fatwa and why they may have different fatwas on the same issue.

It should be observed that the existence of differences in scientific opinions is not to be taken as a sign of a substantial defect in the quest for knowledge and a reason for abandoning it altogether. It is, rather, a sign that knowledge moves in progressive steps towards perfection. Differences of opinions are to be found in all sciences, not just in fiqh. There may, for example, be more than one opinion about the therapy for a particular patient’s disease, and all of these opinions may be superseded later on by the development of new methods of dealing with that disease. Thus these observations can be seen to be relevant not only to differences between the opinions of contemporary scientists but also to historical differences, and all these differences should be regarded as signs of the dynamism within a science and stages to be passed in its route to perfection.

It should be remembered that the Mujtahid formulates his opinions after pushing his research and study as far as he can. That is all that is expected of him, for he is neither inerrant nor an Alim bil-ghayb (knower of the unseen). So, even if the Mujtahid’s fatwa is not actually in agreement with Allah’s real command, neither he will be punished on the Day of Judgment for having issued the fatwa, nor will his Muqallid (follower) for having acted according to it, for both will have done what was commanded of them and what was humanly possible for them to do.

Hadith: ”The mujtahid who succeeds (in identifying the true law) gets two rewards and the one who errs gets one,”

Above hadith aims to encourage Ijtihad as it leads to the development of thought and taps the resources of the intellect. This admirable practice has been in vogue in Shia academies for ages, and throughout the history of Ijtihad, Muj­tahidun welcomed the expression of diverse viewpoints regarding various issues. This is the reason why Shia fiqh has achieved its remarkable development in various fields and preserved the capacity to answer the problems and satisfy the diverse wants of man in every age.

Lastly, please note that the examples given in this post are for the sake of understanding only. Please dont start fighting on these examples. Also I have translated myself and it his not easy to convey everything properly (since there could be mistakes in translation).

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