Is there a Hadith saying difference of opinion in my Ummah is Mercy?


ⓘ Supported by Al Medina 313.

Quran

Hadith

Islamic Text

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the Name of Allah Most Merciful Most Kind

Short Answer

No, there is no authentic Hadith saying, difference of opinion in my Ummah is Mercy. Leading Imams of Hadith have said this wording is baseless. However, the meaning is correct. And it is established by many other proofs.

Explanation
اخْتِلَافُ أُمَّتِي رَحْمَةٌ

Difference of opinion in my Ummah is mercy.

Take care with Hadith

The above narration is not a Hadith. Unfortunately, it is frequently quoted as a prophetic Hadith. It is often quoted by religious teachers and scholars. They say, the Prophet ﷺ said: Difference of opinion in my Ummah is a mercy. Explicitly attributing it to our beloved Prophet ﷺ. Subsequently the less educated Muslims become confused when they are informed that this is not a Prophetic Hadith.

When the less educated Muslims are told not to quote the statement, ‘difference of opinion in my Ummah’ as a prophetic Hadith, they object. They say we heard it from a Shaykh. Sadly, they do not know that many people who are teaching the Deen are not diligent regarding Hadith. They do not research sufficiently before narrating Hadith.

Had such religious lecturers researched they would have seen that major Imams of Hadith have said that the narration is baseless (La Asla Lahu). A baseless narration cannot be attributed to our beloved Prophet ﷺ. Thus it is wrong for anyone to say , the Prophet ﷺ said: Difference of opinion in my Ummah is Mercy. However, if they say it without attributing it to the Prophet ﷺ then it is acceptable. Since the meaning is sound.

Imams of Hadith
اخْتِلَافُ أُمَّتِي رَحْمَةٌ: زَعَمَ كَثِيرٌ مِنَ الْأَئِمَّةِ أَنَّهُ لَا أَصْلَ لَهُ لَكِنْ ذَكَرَهُ الْخَطَّابِيُّ فِي غَرِيبِ الْحَدِيثِ. (الأسرار المرفوعة في الأخبار الموضوعة)

Difference of opinion in my Ummah is mercy. Many Imams believed that it has no basis. However, Imam al-Khattabi mentioned it in strange narrations. (Imam Ali al-Qari, al-Mowdo’aat al-Kubrah).

In the Nass above, Imam Ali al-Qari confirms that many Imams of Hadith considered the narration saying: Difference of opinion in my Ummah is mercy, to be baseless. He did raise the possibility of it having a source. However, that would require evidence. Namely, an authentic Hadith collection with a complete chain. Unfortunately, that was not provided. Therefore, the ruling of it being baseless will be upheld unless someone can provide decisive proof to the contrary.

Stronger version
ذكره الْبَيْهَقِيّ فِي رسَالَته الأشعرية تَعْلِيقا وأسنده فِي الْمدْخل من حَدِيث ابْن عَبَّاس بِلَفْظ «اخْتِلَاف أَصْحَابِي لكم رَحْمَة» وَإِسْنَاده ضَعِيف. (المغني عن حمل الأسفار في الأسفار)

(Imam) al-Bayhaqi mentioned it in his commentary on al-Ashariyah as a footnote. He attributed it to Ibn Abbas in the Madkhal, with the wording: Difference of opinion amongst my companions is a mercy for you. And its chain of narration is weak. (Imam Zayn al-Deen al-Iraqi, Takhreej al-Ihyaa).

In the Nass (Text) above, Imam al-Iraqi mentions a stronger version of the Hadith. In it the Prophet ﷺ does not say: Difference of opinion in my Ummah is Mercy. Rather he ﷺ says: Difference of opinion amongst my companions is a mercy for you. This narration is upheld. Although it is a weak narration, it is speculatively attributable to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. Whereas this is prohibited with a baseless narration.

This stronger narration can be found in Imam al-Bayhaqi’s work ‘al-Madkhal.’ Narration number (152). Although this is a weak narration, it is permitted to narrate. As opposed to a narration which is baseless. Such a narration cannot be attributed to the blessed Prophet. Doing so is extremely sinful.

وَمَنْ كَذَبَ عَلَيَّ مُتَعَمِّدًا، فَلْيَتَبَوَّأْ مَقْعَدَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ

The Prophet ﷺ said, ‘Whoever deliberately lies against me, must take his seat in the fire.’ (Sahih al-Bukhari, 3461).

Conclusion

The narration saying: difference of opinion in my Ummah is Mercy, is baseless. Therefore, it is not permitted to narrate it. The fact that many people who teach the Deen narrate it does not make it acceptable. They must be asked to reference and authenticate it thoroughly. Unfortunately, they will not be able to do so.

Having said that, the meaning is sound. Difference of opinion in the Ummah is a great blessing. It makes the Deen easier. Since people have more options. However, it is only a blessing if the difference of opinion is sound. Muslims must study so that they can differentiate between an acceptable difference of opinion and that which is rejected.

And Allah Most High Knows Best.

Answered by Shaykh Noorud-deen Rashid (04.04.24)