The Youth Should Have Open Minds & Hearts Regarding Differences of Opinion Among the Scholars

By Shaykh Muhammad bin Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen

The youth who adhere to their Religion and are concerned with the da’wah should have open minds and hearts regarding differences of opinion among the scholars, finding a good excuse for the scholar who supports a view, which in their mind, is wrong. This is an issue of paramount importance, for there are those who search out for and scrutinize the mistakes of others, with the intention of ruining their reputation, and this is from the greatest of mistakes. If backbiting a common man [i.e., one who is neither a scholar nor a student of knowledge] is from the gravest of sins, then backbiting a scholar is graver and more severe. The harm of backbiting a scholar is not limited to his person, but it also extends to the Islamic knowledge he carries with him. If a scholar is lowered in the eyes of the people, what he says is also lowered. So if he speaks the truth and guides others to it, then backbiting him acts as a barrier between the people and the knowledge he has with him. And the danger involved in this occurring is considerable.

It is necessary for the youth to attribute good intentions to scholars when there is disagreement among them. At the same time, there is no harm for the youth to go to a scholar they think made a mistake, and discuss the matter with him, for it may happen that that scholar will be able to show them that he was in the right all along. Often times one imagines that a scholar erred, but after discussing the issue with him, one comes to realize that he was right.

“Everyone from the children of Adam errs frequently, and the best of those who err frequently are those who repent.” [33]

When people begin to rejoice over the mistakes of the scholars, spreading news of those mistakes to the people, discord and disunity will result, and that is not the way of the pious predecessors.

Likewise, in the case of rulers: it is not permissible for us to use their mistakes as a pretext for vilifying them in a general way, and yet remain blind to their good qualities and actions. Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] says in His Book:

“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] and be just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice.” [Al-Ma’idah 5:8]

This means: do not let the hatred you have for a people lead you to being unjust, for justice is compulsory. And it is not permissible for one to take the mistakes of rulers, scholars, or anyone else for that matter, and then spread news of those mistakes to the people, while remaining quiet about their good qualities and deeds. This is not justice.

Always use yourself as a gauge in such matters. If one were to spread news of your bad qualities to the people and hide your good qualities, you would say that he committed a crime against you. If that is your attitude regarding your own self, then you must maintain the same attitude regarding others as well. I already mentioned the solution to this problem: contact the person you think made a mistake and directly discuss the issue with him, and then matters should become clearer [to you or to him] after the discussion.

How often it occurs that one rescinds one of his opinions after discussing it with someone else:

“The example of a believer in relation to another believer is that of a building; parts of it strengthen its other parts.” [34]

And the Prophet [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam] said:

“Whomsoever it pleases to be taken away from the Hellfire and to enter Paradise, then let his death come to him while he believes in Allah and the Last Day. And let him take [or give] to the people that which he loves to come to him.” [35]

This is justice and uprightness

The heart of the caller should be open to those who differ with him, especially when he knows that the other party has good intentions, differing only because of some proof he considers to be stronger. One must be flexible in such matters, not allowing differences of opinion lead to enmity and hatred between brothers, except in the case of a man who is obstinate in his view: the truth becomes clear to him, yet he persists upon his falsehood. Such a person should be warned against; his enmity to the truth became established when the truth became manifestly clear before him, yet he still refused to follow it.

Nevertheless, we must make a distinction here: there are secondary issues that people differ in, and in reality, Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] made such matters in such issues wide and spacious for His slaves; here I am referring to issues that are not from the primary teachings of the Religion; those teachings regarding which the one who opposes is ruled to be a disbeliever. Other than those primary teachings, Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] made matters spacious for His slaves; the Prophet [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam] said:

“When the judge rules after making Ijtihad [using all resources – proofs and sound principles of deduction – available to him in order to arrive at a ruling], and is then correct, then he has two rewards. And if he is mistaken, then he has one reward.” [36]

In any case, whether he is wrong or right, the judge is rewarded, with two rewards if he is right and with one reward if he is wrong.

If you do not want anyone to differ with you, keep in mind that every other person also does not want anyone to differ with him. And Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] clarified the returning point for any disagreement:

“And in whatsoever you differ, the decision is with Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] [He is the ruling Judge].” [Ash-Shura 42:10]

And Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] said:

“[And] if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it back to Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] and His Messenger [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam], if you believe in Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.” [An-Nisa 4:50]

Whenever two parties disagree among themselves, they must defer to these two primary sources – the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of Allaah’s Messenger [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam]. It is categorically forbidden to oppose the speech of Allaah and His Prophet [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam], no matter whose speech it is that one is giving preference to. When the truth becomes clear to you, it is incumbent upon you to “strike the saying of anyone who opposes that truth against the side of a wall,” and you must never look back at that saying, no matter how high the status and knowledge is of the person who said it. Human beings err, but there is not a single error in the speech of Allaah and His Messenger [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam].

It greatly saddens me to hear that some people who are considered to be serious in their pursuit of the truth, are divided, with each one of them taking on a different title or descriptive quality. In reality, this is a serious mistake, for Allaah’s Religion is one, and the Ummah [Nation] of Islam is one. Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] says:

“And verily! This, your religions is one religion, and I am your Lord, so keep your duty to me.” [Al-Mu’minun 23:52]

And Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] said to His Prophet, Muhammad [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam]:

“Verily, those who divide their religion and break up into sects, you [O Muhammad [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam]] have no concern in them in the least. Their affair is only with Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala], Who then will tell them what they used to do.” [Al-An’am 6:159]

And Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala] said:

“He [Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala]] has ordained for you the same religion which He ordained for Nuh, and that which We inspired in you [O Muhammad [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam]], and that which We ordained for Ibrahim, Musa and ‘Isa saying you should establish religion and make no divisions in it [religion] [i.e. various sects in religion].” [Ash-Shura 42:13]

Because this is the guidance of Allaah [subhaanahu wa ta’aala], we must follow and implement it. We must gather and discuss issues in order to improve and rectify our situation, and not in order to accuse another or exact retribution from one another. Whenever one debates an issue with another person, intending to achieve victory for his view and to belittle the view of his opponent, without intending betterment, then for the most part, he will leave the debate in a way that does not please Allaah and His Messenger [sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam].

In matters of discord, we must truly become one Nation. I am not saying that no one makes mistakes; people are sometimes right and sometimes wrong in their views. But what we are discussing here is how to rectify and mend what is wrong. I am not helping to change a person’s incorrect view by backbiting and slandering him. The way to help him is to meet him and to discuss the situation with him, and if he stubbornly persists in his falsehood, I then have the right, or rather the duty, to clarify his mistake and to warn people against it. And by following this methodology, we can help improve matters.

As for division or the forming of factions, this is something that pleases no one save the enmeies of Islam and of Muslims.


[33] Related by Ahmad in his Musnad [3/198]; by Al-Darimi [2727] in the chapter, “About Repentance.” Al-Tirmidhi related it [2499] in chapter 49, Ibn Majah [4251] related it in the chapter, “About the Mention of Repentance.” In Sahih al-Jami’ [4/171], Al-Albani related that it is hasan. In Sharh al-Sunnah [5/92], Al-Arna’ut said, “Its chain is hasan,” from the hadeeth of Anas [radee Allaahu ‘anhu]

[34] A portion of a hadeeth related by Al-Bukhari [6026] in the chapter, “The Believers Cooperating with one Another.” Muslim [2585] related in the chapter, “The Mutual Mercy, Compassion, and Help of the Believers,” from the hadeeth of Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari [radee Allaahu ‘anhu]

[35] A portion of a hadeeth related by Muslim [1844] in the chapter, “It is Compulsory to be Faithful to One’s Pledge to the Khalifah…” from the hadeeth of ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr ibn Al-‘As [radee Allaahu ‘anhu]

[36] Related by Al-Bukhari [7352] in the chapter, “The Reward of a judge when he makes Ijtihad…” And Muslim related it [1716] in the chapter, “Clarification of the Judge’s Reward when he Makes Ijtihad…” from the hadeeth of ‘Amr ibn Al-‘As [radee Allaahu ‘anhu]

Source: The Islamic Awakening, Pgs. 67-71, by Shaykh Muhammad bin Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen [d.1421H], Translated by Faisal ibn Muhammad, Published by Al-Hidaayah Publishing & Distribution

Review of International Open University’s (IOU) BAIS Program

After five years of studying, reviewing, memorizing, and stressing out, I am proud to say that I finally graduated from International Open University’s Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Studies (BAIS) program. It was quite a journey and I’ve learned so much. In this post, I want to give a review of my experience with the university for those who may be thinking of joining an online based Islamic university but haven’t really made up their minds yet.

I have divided my review into three sections.


I got what I wanted out of the program:

  1. Solid understanding of the fundamentals of the religion
  2. A deeper understanding and connection with the religion
  3. Enough basic Arabic down to be able to figure out the Qur’an and read basic Arabic texts
  4. Increase in taqwa

The program is not designed to produce scholars but just very well informed Muslims and beginner to intermediate level students of knowledge. The program gives you tools to be able to research religious concepts and figure things out for yourself but not at an advanced level.

I was very impressed by their consistency with sticking to the schedule and having full staff of teachers as well as teacher’s assistants (TAs). The assistants themselves are also highly qualified. Many of them are either graduates of an Islamic university or currently enrolled in a Masters program.

Everything is online based so it does require lots of discipline. I have heard of students dropping out because they do not have the discipline to do self-paced courses in a timely manner. One student who dropped out told me that he needs to be in the same classroom as the teacher and be able to interact, otherwise, he cannot remain attentive. Studying online successfully also means not being busy by opening other screens while the lecture is playing. You have to be focused.

In aqeeda, the university follows Athari (أثري) creed and in fiqh it is mainly Hanbali influenced. Dr. Bilal Phillips only teaches the aqeedah courses, first two semesters of Arabic, and the evolution of fiqh course, which discusses how the four schools of thought in jurisprudence came to be.

If you are looking to have a deeper connection with your faith and want an affordable program that will solidify fundamentals of the religion for you and give you the tools to be able to figure things out at a basic to intermediate level, then this is the course for you.

Next, I will discuss some pros and cons in the program insha’Allah:


Complete Syllabus – I was very impressed the way they had already planned out the curriculum for each class and as to what to expect throughout the course on a weekly basis. It felt much like a professional university and made it easy for me to mentally prepare and know what to expect. They’ve already marked out which pages to read in the assigned text and which lectures to listen to each week. They give you the syllabus immediately after you are enrolled. I have taken classes in some online universities where every week is a surprise as to what you will learn.

Video Lectures Pre-Recorded – All of the lectures are pre-recorded and you have the option to either watch it in video format or download as mp3. For some of the easier classes, I would often download the assigned lecture as mp3 and take it with me to listen to it in the car, gym, or even at work at times as background noise.

Live Sessions w/ TAs – This is a very helpful feature. Ever week you have a chance to attend a live session with a Teacher’s Assistant (TA) who can answer any of your questions or clarify lessons. He/she usually starts off by going over the weekly lesson and then afterwards takes questions. They used to require live attendance with the TA and it used to be about 5% of your final grade but I’m not sure if that is still the case. Additionally, they record all live sessions every week so you can view them later on if you miss it.

The TAs are not just fellow students but also qualified. Some of them are in masters programs at universities like Medina.

Books in PDFs – For me this was very helpful because I could download them on to my digital devices and read the weekly assignment while on the metro or on the go.

Courses are Thorough – The courses are very informative and detailed and you get a lot out of it on a fundamental level. It’s very well planned and starts off with basics and delves into more and more advanced topics.

Assignments (Reading and Essays) – Every week you are assigned a pre-recorded lecture and reading assignment from the text. You are also required to write one essay per class on a given topic. This essay requirement especially is very helpful because you learn writing and research skills. It also helps you delve deeper into the topic and be creative by sharing your own input and is a good indication whether you’ve understood the topic or not. The essays are graded by TAs and are about 10% of your final grade.

You are also required to take a research assignment course during your senior semester. The requirement is to write a 30 page paper on a given topic. So you get to further your research skills and delve deeper into the topic and learn how to formulate your arguments using evidences.

Quizzes – The lessons are called modules. Each course can have anywhere from 20-32 modules or lessons. After every module, there is a five question multiple choice quiz for which you are not allowed to use your notes or books. The questions are drawn out of the lecture as well as reading assignments. This helps you measure your comprehension and make sure that you pay attention and not skip anything. The quizzes are graded and about 10-15% of your final grade. So if a course has 30 modules, this means you will have 30 quizzes.

In addition, there is also a 50-question multiple choice midterm and final exam. The midterm is about 30% of the final grade and the final is about 40%.

Price – One of the visions of IOU is to provide free Islamic education but obviously they have to cover their administrative costs. When I first began studying, it used to be $50/semester for U.S. students. Yes, you read that right. $50 per semester not per credit or class. They would allow you to take up to 9 courses with $50. That’s a great deal. But because they have grown a lot over the years, their administrative costs have gone up. During my last semester, I was paying close to $300 per semester. That’s still a great deal.

Another great thing they do is that they charge people based on which country they reside in. So if they live in a first world rich country, they charge more but if they live in a poor third world country, they charge less.

Access to Jstor – Jstor is a digital library of academic journals, primary sources, books and articles. Access to it is provided by universities and libraries around the world. It is used by students and researchers all over the world! They have some free material available to read as well, however, a far greater amount of reading material which is necessary for serious research into topics is only available via a university or a library. So being a student at IOU gives you access to Jstor for free (technically it’s covered under your semester fees)! I have used Jstor to do research for some of the essays at IOU because not sufficient resources were available online or my local library. In addition, you get to have access to tons of research in other topics not related to religion.


Nothing is perfect. Everything has some flaws that need to be worked on or improved. Following are what I consider some of the weak points in the IOU program.

Arabic Program – I did not take the reading course which was very basic since I could already read Arabic script so I cannot comment on that. If you are in the same situation, you can have it waived from your requirement and skip over it. As for the rest of the program, then I really enjoyed the first two semesters. They were phenomenal. I learned a lot on basic sentence structure and grammar! The second semester was amazing because the teacher only spoke Arabic and covered the entire text of the Al-Arabiya Bayna Yadayk volume 1. My basic comprehension was skyrocketing. I loved it.

After that semester, the program kind of falls apart, at least for me. For some reason, they don’t continue with the Bayna Yadayk books and instead delve right into Medina books 2 & 3 and the teacher is different too. I did not enjoy it very much. Also, I am not a fan of the Medina books. They’re not engaging as the Bayna Yadayk books and are mainly grammar focused. The whole lessons in the Medina books are structured around the teacher and student relationship, so it is very restrictive and can get boring after a while. Sure, I learned a few things but I had to do a lot of self-study, because the teacher wasn’t very engaging and just kind of gave monotone lectures. I was very disappointed by it all. It would have been a lot better to continue with the Bayna Yadayk books in Arabic or even in English with a gradual dominance of Arabic only.

The last 2-3 semesters of Arabic focus on Balagha (Arabic rhetoric) and is done mainly in English with reading of Arabic texts focusing on the Balagha of the Qur’an. This was fine as it gives you a different way of looking at the linguistic beauty of the Qur’an and helps you practice reading Arabic texts. However, if done properly, this would only be done in Arabic. You cannot learn or appreciate Balagha properly in English.

Cannot Interact Directly w/ the Professor – Unfortunately, you cannot interact with the lecturer at all. In many cases, the lectures were recorded maybe over a year or two ago so the professor probably has moved on to some other project. Your only way of removing some confusion over the lesson is to e-mail the TA or attend the weekly live session.

Customer Service – It’s kind of difficult to get in touch with the staff if you need something done related to cancellations, profile update, or other administrative functions. The main way to get in touch is via e-mail (I’ve never looked into or tried calling) and sometimes they can take up to a week or two to get back to you. Other times, you have to follow up to get a response. This can get frustrating especially if you urgently need something done. After I finished my courses, it took me many months to get my degree certificate. I kept getting passed around (and with me constantly requesting an update) until finally someone in Gambia responded and sent me the certificate.

Some Professors Just Read Things – I had at least one or two professors that just read directly from the text and didn’t add any value to the lesson. They literally read word for word. After a few modules, I just stopped listening to them and went directly to the text and just read it myself. I’m not going to waste time listening to something I can just do myself in less time.

Final Exam Locations – The university requires that you take your final exam at a registered exam location. They send them the password to the final exam. You cannot take the final exam except at a registered institution. This might be a mosque, Muslim community center, etc. If you don’t have one in your area, you can contact the university and make some other arrangement. You can also reach out to your local mosque or Muslim community center and ask them to register with IOU as a registered exam location.

I find this to be a con because though I understand they want to be professional about it, it just doesn’t make sense why this is required for an online university. It’s kind of frustrating because sometimes you contact a place that is listed on the IOU student portal as a registered location, but they don’t get back to you. You’re kind of left hanging. It can get stressful if the final exam is close and the places you have contacted still haven’t returned your messages or worse, they don’t show up on the day of the scheduled exam. Remember, these pre-registered exam locations are not paid by IOU, the process is entirely voluntary. So they are under no obligation to keep their word or get back to you. Some of them may charge the student some small fees to take the exam at their location so I assume they would be a bit more punctual and professional about it.


I don’t regret studying at IOU and overall really enjoyed it. As I stated earlier, it fulfilled what I was looking for and wanted out of it. I would do it again because it did give me insight into my faith that I didn’t have before. I have more confidence in my faith because of it and I certainly enjoy my faith more. Having the ability to understand Qur’an and basic Arabic texts alone is a remarkable achievement for an online Islamic university program. So before enrolling in any type of online university program, you need to ask yourself, what are your goals? What do you want to achieve out of the university? What are your expectations?

I’d love to hear your thoughts as well. Is there an online Islamic studies program that you really liked or hated? If so, why or why not? Let us know in the comments below!