Bismillahi Al-Rahmani Al-Rahim

An Example of Imam Ahmad's Respect of Differing Opinions

Imam Ibn Qudama mentions a story that Al-Hussein bin Bashar asked Imam Ahmad something about divorce. When Imam Ahmad saw that the answer was difficult, he asked Al-Hussein if he knew of a certain group of scholars. Al-Hussein answered yes, and asked if he went to them would they give the opposite ruling? Imam Ahmad replied that they would.
This story is mentioned in Ibn Qudamna's Raudhat Al-Nathir, his abridgement and "Hanbali-ized" version of Imam Al-Ghazali's Al-Mustasfa in usual al-fiqh. Some books of Hanbali fiqh include a passage stating that a person asked for fatwa can send the one asking to another scholar if he knows that the other scholar's opinion is more agreeable to the person asking--even if he considers his own opinion superior.

I remember reading this in a section covering whether or not a khula` (where a woman obtains a divorce from her husband by offering compensation) is considered a divorce or not, and whether it will void any statements that husband has made where he makes divorce conditional on certain circumstances. The Hanbali mathab is quite strict here: khul` is annulment not a divorce, and it does nothing to void a divorce that is dependant on conditions. Other mathabs, like the Shafi`i, take a much easier approach to this. So in this particular issue where public interest is quite possibly to be found in another mathab, Hanbalis continue the respect and open mindedness that Imam Ahmad had for differing opinions.

While all of the schools do acknowledge the validity of following one of the others, it is quite refreshing to see it actually applied in a mathab's works of fiqh.

May Allah be pleased with the inheritors of the Prophet (Allah bless him and his family and his companions and his followers and give them peace).