The Fuqahaa have a unique way of reconciling apparently contradictory texts within the Quran and Sunnah. It’s a very rigorous filtering process to try their best at arriving at the truth. Each of the four schools has their own methodology and there is some overlap in some cases. The following is a brief description that the Hanbali school uses but is not exhaustive. Of course, there are far more details under each case which the student will go into when he/she is ready to dive deeper into Usool al-Fiqh.
For specific examples of each case below from Quran and Sunnah and more details, please refer to my notes on Hanbali Usool.
They categorize contradictory evidence into four types:
- When it is possible to reconcile between the two in a way that they no longer contradict each other. This is obligatory to do so if possible.
- When it is not possible to reconcile between them, then the later period evidence will be considered abrogating the earlier one.
- When it is neither possible to do reconciliation or chronology, then we resort to preference (tarjeeh). This is a vast subdivision studied under Usool where scholars evaluate contradictory evidence and try to figure out which one carries more weight by examining them from different angles.
- If it is not possible to give preference to one over the other after evaluation, then it is obligatory to halt on it. This is extremely rare.
- Same processes as number 1
- In this case, we will specify the general evidence with the specific one.
- When there is an outside evidence which directs us to specify the generality of one with the specification of the other, we will qualify the generality of one with the specification of the other based on an evidence outside of the two contradictory texts.
- When there is no outside evidence which directs us to specify the generality of one with the specification of the other, we will resort to preference.
- When there is neither an outside evidence nor is there ability to give preference to one over the other, then we act on them both in situations where they do not contradict and halt in situations where they do contradict.