The Hadith: 'Difference among my Ummah is a mercy'

Q: There is a Hadith that reads: "Difference among my Ummah (nation based on one creed) is a mercy." Is it an authentic Hadith or not? Most scholars say that difference among the Ummah means difference among Juristic Schools. Most preachers mention this Hadith on pulpits. What is your view on the authenticity of this Hadith and acting upon it? What about the scholars and preachers who mention it? Each one of them follows a different Juristic School and acts upon its views. They say they follow the view of their Juristic school.

A: The saying that is commonly used by people, i.e. (Difference among my Ummah is a mercy), has no origin. That is, it has no Isnad (chain of narrations). So it is not permissible to ascribe this saying to the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him). Perhaps the first to relate it without Isnad was Al-Bayhaqy (may Allah be merciful to him) in (Al-Risalah Al-Ash`ariyyah) as in (Tabiyin Kadhib Al-Muftary) by Ibn `Asakir (may Allah be merciful to him) p.106. Many Hadith scholars held the same view. (Part No. 3; Page No. 212) In his book (Al-Jami` Al-Saghir), Al-Suyuty (may Allah be merciful to him) could not identify a narrator reporting this Hadith with Isnad (a chain of narrations). Al-Munawy albeit writing an extensive commentary on it in (Fayd Al-Qadir vol. 1, p. 209-212), did not mention its origin.Consequently, it is not permissible to ascribe this saying to the Prophet (peace be upon him) nor mention it as religious proof. Anyone who ascribes it to the Prophet (peace be upon him) should be notified of this. The difference among scholars on religious issues should be supported by evidence from the Qur'an and Sunnah (whatever is reported from the Prophet) because in them there is mercy, guidance and light. A mistaken scholar is rewarded once and a correct scholar is rewarded twice.May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.