When Confronted with Differing Opinions
Where can we get the correct Islamic responses from, given that we are confronted with various responses and diversity of opinions on every issue that bothers us? The layman is at a loss as to the correct viewpoint.
It is a struggle that you will always have to endure. All scholars base their opinions on their relative education, experiences and opinions. The diversity should be understood as an asset rather than a liability. In my opinion, it would not be desirable for all scholars to present a unanimous opinion; in doing so, one would artificially withold a diverse set of opinions that could potentially cater to the intellectual, moral and spiritual needs of different segments of society. If it were decided that one opinion be presented to the general public as the only opinion in conformity with Islam – no disagreements, no give-or-take – then we would naturally run the risk of discomforting and even repelling many Muslims and non-Muslims who may genuinely disagree with the given fatwa. So instead of allowing room for debate, we will be curtailing thoughtful discourses, and presenting opinions as facts.
Please do not be disappointed by the wide array of opinions you may be confronted with on various issues. They are a blessing in disguise.
The important thing for scholars to ensure is that everytime an opinion is given, it ought to be accompanied with all arguments in support, because it will be on the basis of these arguments that a common, intelligent person will choose the opinion that he/she finds most convincing. If one opinion doesn’t appeal to your intellect, he should be able to look for others.
And the important thing for you to ensure is that you should not deem one opinion as more suitable on the basis of its convenience to yourself. Rather, you should look for arguments that appear to you to be closer to the letter and spirit of Islam, as you sincerely understand it. It is true that people’s interpretations vary; that should again not be treated as a problem; it should be appreciated as a natural result of diversely creative and capable human intellects.
Keep your mind and options open. Always be true to yourself, so if you should need to revise your understanding in the face of more convincing opinions and arguments, do not hesitate. This life is a trial, and our struggles encompass all areas of our functioning – intellectual, spiritual, moral, practical.