Imām Ash-Shāfi’i said: “I never debated anyone whom I knew to be established upon innovation.”

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قال الإمام الشافعي رحمه الله: ما ناظرت أحدا علمت أنه مقيم على بدعة
قال البيهقي معلقا على هذا القول
وهذا ﻷن المقيم على البدعة قلما يرجع عن بدعته، وإنما يناظر من يرجو رجوعه إلى الحق إذا بينه له
مناقب الشافعي 1/ 175

Imām Ash-Shāfi’i (d. 204H – rahimahullah) said:

“I never debated anyone whom I knew to be established upon innovation.” 

Al-Bayhaqi commented upon this and said:

“That is because the one who established upon innovation very rarely returns from his bid’ah. Indeed debating is with the one who is hoped will return to the truth when the truth is made clear to him.”

(See Manāqib ash-Shāfi’i 1/175)

NOTE: So when we see young brothers who have learned the rudiments of their religion in short bursts at the hands of innovators such as Abu Ishaq al-Huwaini and others like him, who then debate with established khawārij who declare the rulers and the Scholars to be Kuffār and who have absolutely no intention of coming to the truth, then this debate is forbidden for the following reasons:

  1. The Salaf as a rule forbade debating with ahlul-Bid`ah – exceptions are very rare, far and few between – and only when an overwhelming benefit is seen as was the case with Ibn Abbās and the Khawārij after he knew that may listen and take heed – note that this debate of Ibn Abbās contained no praise or flattery of ahlul-Bid`ah. It was merely an establishment of the proofs upon those who it was hoped for that they would return to the truth (and thousands returned!). Furthermore, he did not take crowds of youth from the Sunnis to witness the debate. He merely narrated afterwards what had occurred which further strengthened ahlus-Sunnah for generations to come against the falsehood of the Khawārij.
  2. The youth today who are ignorant of the usool of the Sunnah and ignorant of the methodology of the Salaf cannot in any way, form or manner be compared to Ibn Abbās, not from near nor far!
  3. The vast majority of these debates are not due to the pursuit of the truth as Al-Bayhaqee stated.
  4. Public debating becomes a circus where each side tries to win the crowd and impress onlookers.
  5. When the Deen is decided upon the basis of the strength of arguing, people will be changing constantly upon that basis, as was stated by the likes of Mālik ibn Anas.
  6. Much of these public debates by youth in the West are only a means of self-promotion. That is why see “movie style” trailers and adverts publicising the teenage “sheikhs” who are about the encounter this Khārijee or that Sufi. These are no more than publicity stunts designed to amass teenage followers and then to lead them astray into the innovations of Ikhwāniyyah and other types of Hizbiyyah – as has occurred before our eyes. And Allah’s aid is sought.
  7. When neither side is seeking the truth but seeking only to humiliate the other and to win the crowd, then this only becomes a form of public entertainment and belittlement of the religion
  8. An impression is created that knowledge is sought and established through public debates.
  9. Those who have not sought knowledge from the correct sources only cause further confusion as they fall into error after error in public in front of the innovators as has occurred and is witnessed – then the innovators ascribe these mighty errors to the people of Sunnah!
  10. The youth are kept busy with these debates instead of seeking beneficial knowledge: Tawheed, Sunnah, Ahkām, etc.

قال الإمام الآجري رحمه الله عن أهل البدعة:
وسكوتك عنهم وهجرتك لما تكلموا به أشد عليهم من مناظرتك لهم، كذا قال من تقدم من السلف الصالح من علماء المسلمين
الشريعة 1/ 196

Imām Al-Ājurri (died 360H – rahimahullāh) stated regarding Ahlul-Bid’ah:

“Your silence towards them and your boycotting of them when they speak is more severe upon them than you debating with them. That is what was said by those who preceded from the Righteous Salaf from the Scholars of the Muslims.”

(See Ash-Sharee`ah, 1/196)

قال القاسم بن عثمان الجوعي رحمه الله:
إذا رأيت الرجل يخاصم فهو يحب الرئاسة
سير أعلام النبلاء  12/79

Al-Qāsim Ibn Uthmān al-Jaw’ī (rahimahullāh):

“If you see a man debating/arguing then he is one who loves leadership.”

(See Siyar A`lām an-Nubalā 12/79)

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