Our Stance Towards the Differences Amongst the Scholars
by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih Al-Uthaymeen
'The gazelles have gathered in great numbers around Khirash to the extent that Khirash no longer knows which to hunt.' 
I say therefore, our stance towards this differing, and I mean the differing between the scholars who are well trusted for their knowledge and religion, not those who have been classified as being upon knowledge but are not in fact from the people of knowledge. As we do not regard the likes of such as scholars, nor do we hold that their statements are to be known and recorded like the statements of the people of knowledge.
But who we mean, are the scholars who are well known for their sincere advise to the ummah, for their Islaam and knowledge; our stance towards them is from two angles.
The answer to this question can be known in part by what has preceded of the causes for differing and also by the other many causes not mentioned, which the student of knowledge will come across and come to realize even if he is not very knowledgeable.
The second: What is our stance towards following them? Whom do we follow from amongst these scholars? Does one follows a particular Imaam and never leave his saying? Even if the correct opinion is with another scholar, as is the norm with the blind followers of the madhhabs. Or does one follow the opinion which he believes is the most accurate, even if it is against the opinions of the madhhab which he attributes himself to?
The correct answer is the second, as it is compulsory upon the one who is aware of the evidence to follow it, even if it goes against whomsoever of the scholars, so long as it does not go against a consensus of the ummah.
Whoever believers that it is obligatory to follow the sayings of someone other than the Messenger of Allaah, acting by what he orders and refraining from what the prohibits, at all times and places, has indeed affirmed for this person qualities unique and solely for the bearer of the Message, because no one's statement can posses this unequivocal right except that of the Messenger of Allaah's. Everyone's opinions is either accepted or rejected, except that of the Messenger of Allaah.
But the issue still remains unresolved, because we still question: "Who has the capability to extract the rulings from the texts?" Here, lies a problem, because everyone is now stating: "I am capable of that!" This, in reality, is not correct nor befitting. Indeed, in terms of the objective and basis, it is a good thing for one's guiding principle to be the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of the Messenger; but to open the door for anyone who can mention the evidence, even if he does not understand its meaning or implication, and to say: "You are a mujtahid, say what you desire"; this will cause the ruin of the Sharee'ah, people and society.
In this respect, people are placed in one of three categories: (i) The scholar whom Allaah has given the knowledge and understanding. (ii) The student of knowledge who has some knowledge, but has not yet reached the level of the scholar. (iii) The layman who does not know anything.
"...those amongst them who have the ability to extract it's ruling who have understood it directly from them..." 
The person in his category is from those who are able to extract rulings, who know the intended meaning behind the Speech of Allaah and His Messenger.
As for the second, who Allah has given knowledge but has not yet reached the level of the first. Then there is no harm on him to act by the general evidences, their apparent meanings and by that which he becomes aware of . However, he must be very careful in this and he should never fall short in asking those more knowledgeable than him from amongst the people of knowledge. As he can fall into error and his knowledge may not embody a particular evidence which makes specific what seems to be a general text, or which restricts what seems to be an unrestricted text, or which abrogates a text that he regards to be valid.
As for the third, he is the one who does not have any knowledge; it is compulsory upon him to ask the people of knowledge as Allaah says,
"...so ask the people of the scriptures if you do not know." 
and in another verse He says,
"...so ask the people of the scriptures if you do not know, of the clear signs and books..." 
So his duty is to ask, but who does he ask? In the land are many scholars and everyone says 'So and so is a scholar' or it is said about everyone: 'He is a scholar'. So, who does he ask?
Do we say: "It is obligatory on this person to search and investigate in order to find the one closest to the correct opinion, so that he asks him and acts by his ruling." or do we say: "He is to ask anyone whom he believes to be from the people of knowledge, since, the scholar who is less knowledgeable may arrive to the correct decision in a specific issue and the scholar who is better and more knowledgeable than the former may not" - the scholars differed on this:
A group of the scholars are of the opinion that it is compulsory for the layman to ask the one whom he believes to be the most competent in this knowledge from amongst the scholars in his country; because, just as the person who is sick, looks for the most competent person in the field of medicine, then the same applies here, as knowledge is the remedy for the hearts. Accordingly, you must choose the most competent i knowledge as there is no difference.
Other scholars hold the view that it is not compulsory because the one who is the most knowledgeable may not be so in every single issue and this opinion is supported by the fact that at the time of the Companions people would ask one who was less knowledgeable than others who were also present.
Finally, I sincerely advise, myself first, and my Muslim brothers, especially the students of knowledge not to make haste and be quick when a new issue befalls a person until he verifies the situation, gains knowledge and then speaks, so that he does not speak about Allaah without knowledge.
As, the person who gives judgments is an emissary between the people and Allaah; he conveys the Sharee'ah of Allaah as has been reported from the Messenger of Allaah: "The scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets."  and the Prophet has also said: "The judges are three: (only) one of the judges being in paradise and he is the one who knew the truth and judged according to it." 
Also of importance, when a new issue befalls you, draw your heart towards Allaah and feel in need of Him so that he causes you to understand and imparts knowledge to you; especially in grave and important matters, where many people remain in ignorance.
Some of my teachers mentioned to me that it is befitting for the person who has been questioned on an issue, to seek forgiveness from Allaah even more; deducing that from Allaah's statement:
"Surely, We have revealed to you the Book in truth that you may judge between by that which Allaah has shown you, so do not be a pleader for the treacherous. And seek the forgiveness of Allaah, certainly, Allaah is ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." 
As increase in seeking forgiveness necessitates the wiping away of the repercussions of sins, which is one of the causes of forgetting knowledge and becoming ignorant, as Allaah says,
"So, because of their breach of their covenant, We cursed them and made their hearts grow hard. They change the words from their proper places and forgot a good part of the message that was sent to them." 
Imaam ash-Shaafi'ee once said:
"I complained to Wakee'  about my poor memory. So he advised me to abandon disobedience. and he said, 'know that knowledge is light. And the light of Allaah is not bestowed upon a disobedient.'
So it is certainly possible that seeking forgiveness causes Allaah to give a person enlightenment.
I ask Allaah to grant me success, make me upright, that He keeps us firm with the Firm Word (Shahaadah) in this life and the Hereafter; and that He does not cause our hearts to deviate after having guided us and to grant us from His self, mercy; Indeed, He is the Benevolent.
All praise is for Allaah alone, and may He praise, send peace and blessings upon our Prophet Muhammad and his Companions.
 An Arabic proverb applied to a person overcome by too many affairs, each one of equal priority and thus, he is unsure which to begin with and which to defer. The origin of this proverb traces back to a hunter of gazelles known as Khirash. On one particular day, they gathered around him in great numbers whereby he became confused on how to confront the situation and which gazelle to hunt; upon that he uttered these words portraying the situation. It's relevance here is due to the presence of a number of opinions on one single issue causing confusion for the layman in need of a judgment.
 Shaykh Ibraheem ar-Ruhaylee, a lecturer at the Islamic University in Madeenah, states the following words when referring to the ten causes of differences mentioned by Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah: "Within these causes is found an excellent and agreeable explanation for the mistakes committed by the scholars as a result of their ijtihaad. It is also a way of seeking excuses for them in such a manner by which, we hope that Allaah rewards Shaykhul-Islaam with the highest reward.
"If only the person, who comes across a statement of a scholar which is found to be in opposition to the texts (of the Sharee'ah), was to subject it to these ten causes which Shaykhul-Islaam mentions, then he would surely find and pinpoint one of these causes as a reason for the scholar's opposition. In turn, we would deliver ourselves from the vilification and bad suspicion of the scholars which so many people in our time have fallen into." [taken from Mawqif Ahlus-Sunnah wal Jamaa'ah min Ahlil Ahwaa wal Bida' by Shaykh Ibraheem ar-Ruhaylee (1/70) published by Maktabah al-Ghurabaa al-Athariyyah, Madeenah, Saudi Arabia.]
The application of these words is of crucial importance in helping to nurture and cultivate the Muslims, the youth especially, towards a balanced and middle path. Since, as history has repeatedly shown, swn evern the value and respect for scholars disappear from the hearts and minds of the people, then they are no longer lead by knowledge, wisdom and experience, but rather, by immaturity, rashness and enthusiasm based on ignorance.
 Soorah an-Nisaa' (4):83