as salaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah,
Alhamdulillah I think it's great that we can all agree on this important underlying point, that as long as a person is following a credible and qualified scholar when it comes to an issue, we should not do inkaar [refutation] of what that person is doing. When it comes to matters in which there is difference of opinion, our understanding should be that yes, though there technically may be one 'true' and 'correct' opinion from among the rulings of the scholars, more than one may be valid and acceptable to Allah
according to different means/ways of ijtihaad [derivation of rulings]. This is why there is a hadith that states that a mujtahid, even if he is incorrect, who sincerely exerted himself to try to find the correct ruling will be rewarded (not punished!), while the mujtahid who had come to the right answer would be rewarded two-fold.
Also we know that from among the scholars there are those who are strict/conservative/'harsh' in particular issues, while others are considered more leniant and flexible. This was even the case among the sahaba who would give fatwa, some were known for being 'hard', while others more leniant. I was listening to a CD set in which some fatwa questions were asked of Sh. Bin Bayyah, who I feel really defines the word 'shaykh', may Allah preserve and increase him, and he was asked about the issue of a man who made a statement of divorce to his wife three times in one sitting. (This is a contentious issue, in which the majority of the scholars of the four traditional madhabs say would lead to an irrevocable divorce due to Umar (ra) making it such, while there is an opinion of Ibn Taymiyya and others which state that it actually only causes one and therefore the couple may be reconciled). Sh. Bin Bayyah said that from his knowledge and understanding he believes that it does lead to an irrevocable divorce, however due to the pervasiveness of divorce in these times and the importance of preserving and developing healthy families, he would tell the questioner that it may be better for them to go to a scholar of the other opinion, and to take the fatwa from them. I really found this approach a beautiful reflection of how our system of rulings should work; there is a framework, and yes there is authority but within that is flexibility and leniancy to derive and cultivate goodness and benefit and diminish harm and difficulty from people's lives.
I know a shaykh who works at Dar al-Ifta, the official institution that gives fatawa in Egypt under the guidance of Sh. Ali Jumaa, and he told us an interesting story. There was a sister who came into Dar al-Ifta and explained that she had married someone via the internet only to find out that he had deceived her, and was completely the opposite of his claims, completely irreligious, of a different age, lifestyle etc, then he had claimed, while she was a religious woman of a religious family, and she was seeking a faskh [dissolution] of the marriage. The shaykh brought her to one of the muftis there who basically gave her a very hard ruling, telling her that there is absolutely no means for dissolution, even under these circumstances, and she should just be patient with her circumstances. When the shaykh later discussed these occurences with one of the other, more senior muftis there, he told him 'Why did you bring her to that mufti? He is known for being strict/literal in his rulings, while such and such mufti would have considered the other factors involved more and may have come to a different ruling." Here is another example of more than one opinion being open to the layperson seeking a ruling.
My point for those who feel qualified to give rulings is that this mutual respect and understanding should always be present, and one should never have ta'assub [stubborn loyalty I suppose you could translate it as] to one view to such an extent that another scholar's opinions is undermined. Perhaps they are looking at something you overlooked or they are closer to the truth than you are. Also having kindness and humbleness with people is really key. There is a hadith which states, "Guidance, graceful manners and deliberation [when speaking] are one part of twenty-five parts of prophethood.”. there is also a mawquf text which states, "Know that having a good method of guiding people in the last days is better than some acts of ibadah [devotional worship]."
For those seeing rulings, one thing that is important to keep in mind is that though it is acceptable for you to follow any legitimate scholar's opinion, one must be introspective and really consider why one opinion is more appealing than another. Are you always seeking out the easiest opinion, or the one that you 'like', as opposed to the one that seems to come from the most qualified/knowledgable person, or the one that seems most in accordance to what you already known and understand of Islam? Especially when other people's rights are involved, are you 'fatwa shopping' so that your rights are preserved while not really considering others? These are important personal questions one must ask themselves, so that one can return to Allah (swt) saying truthfuly, 'I sincerely wanted to follow Your deen and do what You love and what You deemed beautiful, fair and just.'
May Allah make us people of introspection, of carefully weighed words, people who sincerely strive to follow this deen and help others follow it, and give us kindness, humbleness and a loving way with the people, similar to that of our teacher RasulAllah
, so that others are drawn to Islam, love it and find comfort and beauty in it, and prevent us and grant us refuge from being people of knowledge absent of temperance, kindness, and humility.
May He make us people who recognize the truth and love the truth and give us the strength to follow it. Ameen.
Allah knows best,
(who is on the 31st day of her 40 day pepsi fast, but
's for all the rest of y'all anyway