Part 11: The Prohibition of Debating and Arguing with the Innovators ― The Foundations of the Sunnah of Imām Ahmad Ibn Hanbal: Benefits from Shaikh An-Najmī.

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The Prohibition of Debating and Arguing with the Innovators

After mentioning that the Muslims are obligated to affirm and believe in the narrations of the Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam), such as those regarding Pre-Decree and seeing Allah in the Hereafter, even if their intellects do not comprehend them, Imām Ahmad bin Hanbal (rahimahullāh) said:

وَإِنَّمَا عَلَيْهِ الْإِيمَان بهَا وَأَن لَا يرد مِنْهَا حرفا وَاحِد وَغَيرهَا من الْأَحَادِيث المأثورات عَن الثِّقَات وَأَن لَا يُخَاصم أحدا وَلَا يناظره وَلَا يتَعَلَّم الْجِدَال فَإِن الْكَلَام فِي الْقدر والرؤية وَالْقُرْآن وَغَيرهَا من السّنَن مَكْرُوه ومنهي عَنهُ لَا يكون صَاحبه وَإِن أصَاب بِكَلَامِهِ السّنة من أهل السّنة حَتَّى يدع الْجِدَال ويؤمن بالآثار

“Upon a person is to have faith in the narrations, and to not reject a single word from them, nor from other Ahādeeth which have been reported by reliable, trustworthy narrators—he is not to argue with anyone, nor dispute and nor should he learn how to argue [in such matters]—for indeed, speculative theological discussions (kalām) concerning the Pre-Decree, Ar-Ru’yah (Seeing Allah in the Hereafter), the Qur’ān and other affairs of the Sunnah is detested and forbidden. The one who engages in speculative theology—even if he reaches the truth with his words—is not from Ahlus-Sunnah until he abandons argumentation and submits in the Āthār (i.e., narrations of the Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) and his Companions) and believes in them.”


Imām Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (rahimahullāh) explains that it is upon a person to believe in the narrations concerning Qadar (Pre-Decree) and the rest of the foundations of the religion and its branches—and not to reject a single word from them. It is forbidden to argue and debate about the Qadar because it is a secret of the secrets that Allah has kept to Himself, and no one knows it truly except for Allah. Therefore, it is not permissible to seek faults in it, or to oppose, criticize or argue over these affairs. In fact, argumentation concerning them will not lead to any fruitful result, rather it is possible that the end result is that the servant will fall into doubts, so it is wājib upon you to abandon debating over the affairs of Qadar.

So, if you were to argue, and enter into discussions with the innovators regarding the foundations of the Religion (i.e., the ʿaqeedah). Perhaps some of that will enter your heart and become doubtful after once being certain. Be aware, be afraid for yourself, and keep away from these types of affairs because it is a slippery slope leading to your destruction.

The Dangers of Listening to and Reading the Speech of Ahlul-Bidʿah:

Over the years we have seen many people falling into disputations and argumentations with Ahlul Bid’ah – and those who read their writings and watch their lectures (on social media), thinking that they will repel their false beliefs – and how many fell into doubts themselves or led others to doubts!

As a rule, the Salaf would prohibit debating about the agreed-upon matters of Religion, that are clearly established in the Book of Allah, the Sunnah and the ijmāʿ such as the Pre-Decree, the Seeing of Allah, the punishment in the grave, love for the Sahābah and their excellence, etc., nor would they engage in speculative discussions concerning the Islamic Creed such as Allah’s Names and Attributes.

This is because the early scholars knew that the hearts of men are weak, and they did not want to open up the hearts to trials by debating with Ahlul-Bidʿah. This is why Imām Ahmad (and the early Salaf) would command that one must not even learn how to debate, as this is the way of Ahlul-Kalām among Ahlul-Bidʿah. What is sufficient for us is to submit and convey what is in the Book, the Sunnah upon the understanding of the Sahābah just as Imām Ahmad stated in this treatise.

So, you should not listen to the doubts of Ahlul-Bidʿah or debate with them because by doing so, you have opposed the Manhaj of the Salaf of this Ummah.

There are those who are able to read and rebut the doubts of Ahlul-Bidʿah such as Imām Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Shaikhul-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah, the Mujaddid Muhammad Ibn ʿAbdul-Wahhāb, and in these times, Al-Albāni, Ibn ʿUthaimeen, Rabeeʿ bin Hādi, Muqbil Al-Wādiʿee and others (even from the strong students of knowledge). These scholars and students have the knowledge and ability to read and refute the false doubts of Ahlul Bid’ah, and then convey this to the general people. It is not upon every person to listen to and read the doubts of Ahlul-Bidʿah and debate them—and especially not in public with gathered audiences, recorded and broadcast! That is a calamity of this age!

Do not be secure in yourselves thinking that you are protected and that your īmān is strong enough to deflect the doubts. Reflect over the Hadeeth of the Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) when he said, “If one of you hears that the Dajjāl has appeared, do not approach him, for indeed a man will go to him believing himself to be strong in īmān, and he will not return except as his follower.” And that is concerning the Dajjāl that every Muslim knows of—yet even after knowing his clear signs, Muslims will be deceived by him and follow him! Then what about the daʿwah of those innovators who conceal themselves among the ranks of the Muslims, and their misguidance is shrouded due to them quoting from the Book and Hadeeth?!

Arguing and Debating are against the Manhaj of the Salaf:

It is a calamity upon the daʿwah that something which was forbidden by the Salaf, i.e., arguing about the ʿaqeedah, and public debating, has now become a form of entertainment and ‘attracting people to Islam’ in our times! Debates that are recorded and broadcast as videos on social media platforms.

We have even seen some of Ahlul-Bidʿah even run online courses on how to debate! This is something that the Salaf would flee from. The way of the early scholars was that they would clarify the mistakes, innovations and doubts of the innovators for the people who wanted the truth, they would answer their questions, and they would act upon the statement of Allah (the Most High):

ادْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ ۖ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ ۚ

“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching, and debate with them in a way that is best.” (Surah an-Nahl 16:125)

There occurs in the Hadeeth reported by Imām al-Bukhāri that Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) came out to his companions whilst they were arguing over the Qur’ān. When he saw that, he became angry, until he became red in the face and he said to them, ‘Is this what you were commanded with?!’ Warning them and informing them of his displeasure. It is not permissible to argue over things that are established in the Book of Allah and in the Sunnah, rather the methodology of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamāʿah is to leave off argumentation, disputation and debating.

Shaikh Rabeeʿ Ibn Hādi (may Allah reward him) stated in his explanation:

“Whoever says that the Sunnah (i.e., the truth) cannot be reached except by debating is wrong. However, the prohibition is not absolute. Allah permitted us to ‘debate in a way that is best’. So, if the conditions of debate are fulfilled and the one being debated sincerely wants the truth, without displaying arrogance, haughtiness, and stubbornness—you should clarify [matters] for him in the way that is best. However, if he inclines towards anger, conflict, pride, and conceitedness, turn away from him! Some of the Khawārij came to Shaikh Ibn Bāz (may Allah’s mercy be upon him) to debate with him but he would not debate with them—and some Rāfiḍah came to debate with him, but he refused. In finishing this point, Imām Ahmad Ibn Hanbal said, Until he abandons argumentation, and submits to the Āthār and believes in them’—this is what is obligatory—that you believe in the Āthār (Prophetic narrations), you narrate them to the people, explain them and clarify them, if they find them difficult to understand. If you find anyone debating in a good manner and desiring to benefit, then explain the affair to him. If he has a doubt, clarify the doubt with gentleness, with wisdom, good preaching and admonition. However, if he wants an argument, dispute, and wrangling, then do not debate him—because he doesn’t want the Truth, and you will not reach any [positive] result with him.”

والحمد لله رب العالمين وصلى الله على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه أجمعين.

سبحانك اللهم وبحمدك أشهد أن لا إله إلا أنت، أستغفرك وأتوب إليك

Abu Khadeejah Abdul-Wāhid.
Copyright 2024.

This article was transcribed by Umm Maryam (may Allah reward her) from the classes of Abu Khadeejah ( Please share it with others.

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