the preceding introduction was written ten years ago, during which time it has become apparent to us that our words have had a positive effect on muslim youth in guiding them towards the obligation in matters of their deen and worship to return to the pure sources of islaam: the book and the sunnah. among them, there was an increase in the ranks of of those who practised the sunnah and devoted themselves to it, - praise be to allaah - such that they became conspicuous for it. however, i still found among some of them a steadfastness in failing to practise the sunnah: not due to any doubt about its obligation after reading the qur'aanic verses and narrations from the imaams about going back to the sunnah, but because of some objections and misconceptions which they had heard from some muqallid shaikhs. therefore, i decided to mention these incorrect notions and refute them, so that perhaps ths would encourage more people to practise the sunnah and thus be among the saved sect, allaah willing.
some of them say, "there is no doubt that it is obligatory to return to the guidance of our prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) in the matters of our deen, especially in the recommended acts of worship such as prayer, where there is no room for opinion or ijtihaad, due to their immutable nature. however, we hardly hear any of the muqallid shaikhs propounding this; in fact, we find them upholding difference of opinion, which they regard as flexibility for the ummah. their proof for this is the hadeeth which they repeatedly quote in such circumstances, when refuting the helpers of the sunnah, 'the difference of opinion (ikhtilaaf) among my ummah is a mercy (rahmah)'. it seems to us that this hadeeth contradicts the principles to which you invite and based on which you have compiled this book and others. so, what do you say about this hadeeth ?"
answer: the answer is from two angles:
a) firstly: this hadeeth is not authentic; in fact, it is false and without foundation. 'allaamah subki said, "i have not come across an authentic or weak or fabricated chain of narration for it", i.e. no chain of narrators exists for this "hadeeth"!
it has also been related with the wordings: "... the difference of opinion among my companions is a mercy for you" and "my companions are like the stars, so whichever of them you follow, you will be guided." both of these are not authentic: the former is very feeble; the latter is fabricated.
b) secondly: this hadeeth contradicts the glorious qur'aan, for the aayaat forbidding division in the deen and enjoining unity are too well-known to need reminding. however, there is no harm in giving some of them by way of example: allaah says,
"... and do not fall into disputes, lest you lose heart and your power depart"1;
"and do not be among those join deities with allaah, those who split up their deen and become sects - each party rejoicing with what it has !"2;
"but they will not cease to differ, except those on whom your lord bestows his mercy"3.
therefore, if those on whom your lord has mercy do not differ, and the people of falsehood differ, how can it make sense that differing is a mercy?!
hence, it is established that this hadeeth is not authentic, neither in the chain of narration, nor in meaning; therefore, it is clear and obvious that it cannot be used to justify resistance towards acting on the book and the sunnah, which is what our imaams have commanded us anyway.