Part 6: Abandoning Argumentation and Debating in Matters of Belief and Manhaj―and a Clarification of the Meaning of the Sunnah, and Refuting the Qurānites who Deny the Hadīth: Foundations of the Sunnah of Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal (Expl. of Shaikh Ahmad An-Najmī)

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All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all creation; may Allah extol the mention of our noble Prophet Muhammad in the highest company of Angels, bless him and give him peace and security―and his family, his Companions and all those who follow him correctly until the establishment of the Hour.

Benefits from ʿAllāmah Ahmad an-Najmi with additional notes by Abu Khadeejah ʿAbdul-Wāhid.

To Abandon Argumentation with Ahlul-Bidʿah and in Matters of Creed.

The Imām of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamā’ah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d.241H) stated:

وترك المراء والجدال والخصومات في الدين

“To abandon argumentation, quarrelling and disputation in the religion…”


Those who say ‘I will not follow you in your religion unless you argue with such and such a group or person and overpower them’, we respond to them: From the foundations of our religion is to abandon argumentation and quarrelling. This is because the foundations of the Deen and the ʿAqeedah are matters not open to dispute. They are not from the subsidiary branches of the religion where there is some doubt about which position is correct, rather these are affairs that are firmly established. The proof for this point is the saying of Allah the Most High:

وَلَا تَكُونُوا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُوا شِيَعًا ۖ  

“And do not be from the polytheists. Those who split up their religion and became sects.” (Surah ar-Rum 30:31-32)

Another proof is His saying, the Most High:

مَا يُجَادِلُ فِي آيَاتِ اللَّهِ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا

“None dispute in the āyāt (verses) of Allah except those who disbelieve.” (Surah Ghāfir 40:4)

Likewise the statement of Allah the Most High:

مَا ضَرَبُوهُ لَكَ إِلَّا جَدَلًا ۚ بَلْ هُمْ قَوْمٌ خَصِمُونَ

“They quoted not the above example except for argument. Nay! But they are a quarrelsome people.” (Surah Zukhruf 43:58)

Our Religion, our ʿAqeedah, and our love for the Sahābah are not open to disputation. Most people who wish to argue with you about the Creed do not seek the Truth. If they are truly seeking the Truth they can ask questions, attend the duroos, read these books of ʿAqeedah or even visit the Salafi websites, and read the articles: all of which explain the correct stance on the issues of ‘Aqeedah such as the Istiwā (Ascending) of Allah, not rebelling against the rulers, punishment in the grave, loving all the Companions, abandoning Ahlul-Bidʿah, etc. The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “There are not a people who go astray after being guided except because they took to argumentation.” (Hasan, reported by Imām Ahmad in his Musnad, Imām at-Tirmidhi in his Kitāb Tafsir al-Qur’ān, Ibn Mājah in the chapter of abandoning argumentation). He (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) also said: “The most hated of men in the sight of Allah are those most vehement in quarrelling.” (Collected by Bukhāri and Muslim).

‘Umar bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz (the righteous Ummayyid Khaleefah, d. 101H) said: “Whoever establishes his religion on the basis of the strength of debating and argumentation will constantly be changing (his beliefs).” This narration was collected by ad-Dārimi in his Al-Muqaddimah, al-Aajurri in ash-Shareeʿah in the chapter of ‘The censoring of argumentation and disputation in the religion’, al-Lālikā’ī in Sharh Usool Iʿtiqād Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamā’ah; Ibn ʿAbdil Barr in Jāmiʿ al-ʿIlm in the chapter, ‘That which is hated concerning argumentation, disputation and quarrelling,’ and it is Saheeh according to the conditions of Bukhāri and Muslim.

The Famous Statement of al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 110H)

Abu Saʿeed Hasan al-Basri (d.110H rahimahullāh) was the great Imām and scholar from the Tābiʿeen. He was raised in the city of Madinah and memorised the Qur’ān during the khilāfah of ʿUthmān (radiyallāhu ʿanhu). As a young man, he would sit in his Friday sermons, and he was an ocean of knowledge. He (rahimahullah) said to the one who wanted to debate with him “As for me, I know my religion well, and if you have lost your religion, then go away and look for it.” This was reported by al-Aajurri in ash-Shareeʿah under the chapter, ’The rebuke of argumentation and disputation in the religion’; also reported by al-Lālakā’ī.

These narrations are a rebuke of those who open up their religion for debate, and they clearly show that the Salaf would warn the Muslims against entering into argumentation and disputation. A person should merely convey the knowledge that he has and call to Allah in the best way in order to repel doubts. Allah the Most High stated:

ادْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ ۖ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ ۚ

“Call to the Way of your Lord with Wisdom (i.e., the Sunnah), good admonition, and argue with them in a way that is best.” (Surah an-Nahl 16:125)

This is achieved with the Book of Allah, the Sunnah, the sayings of the Sahabah and the early scholars in order to guide people to the Truth and repel any doubts ― not to boast your debating skills and eloquence, nor with philosophy, kalām (theological rhetoric) and dubious scientific theories ― so, debating correctly with evidence from the Book and Sunnah with the one who willing to listen is allowed.

The Sunnah of the Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam)

Imām Ahmad continued to the next point in Usool us-Sunnah (The Foundations of the Sunnah) saying:

والسنة عندنا آثار رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم, والسنة تفسر القرآن وهي دلائل القرآن

“The Sunnah with us are the narrations (Āthār) of Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam), and the Sunnah explains the Qur’ān, and it is a guide to the Qur’ān.”

This is our ʿAqeedah, and it is the foundation of our Deen. The intent behind Āthār is that which has been narrated from the Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) from his statements, his actions, and from his tacit approvals (his not objecting to something done in his presence). Imām al-Bukhāri (rahimahullāh) mentions in his Saheeh that this tacit approval is only for the Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam), i.e., There is no one whose silence denotes approval except for the silence of the Messenger of Allah (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam), and also the silence of the virgin when she is asked as to whether she agrees to marry so and so.

Imām Ahmad’s statement, “And the Sunnah explains the Qur’ān and it is a guide to the Qur’ān”, then the evidence for this is the statement of Allah the Most High:

وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

“And we have revealed to you the Dhikr (i.e., the Qur’ān), that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought.” (Surah an-Nahl 16:44)

This verse is a proof that Allah revealed to the Prophet  (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) the Reminder so that he may explain it to the people. We also have the āyah in Surah al-Jumuʿah:

هُوَ الَّذِي بَعَثَ فِي الْأُمِّيِّينَ رَسُولًا مِّنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ

“He it is Who sent among the unlettered ones a Messenger from among themselves, reciting to them His verses, purifying them, and teaching them the Book and Wisdom (the Sunnah). (Surah Jumu’ah 62:2) Another proof is the saying of the Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam): “Indeed I was given the Book and that which is like it along with it (i.e., the Sunnah).” This narration is saheeh, reported by Imām Ahmad in his Musnad and Abu Dawood in his Sunan.

So the Qur’ān and the Sunnah both were revealed to the Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam). Just as Jibreel (ʿalaihis-salām) would descend upon him with the Qur’ān, he would also descend upon him with the Sunnah. Allah (the Most High) commanded His Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) to explain to the people that which had been revealed to them in the Qur’ān. So, for example, the prayer was obligated in the Qur’ān in a general sense, and the Sunnah explained the details of that such as the number of prayers in a day, their precise times, which prayers are obligatory and which ones are optional, the prerequisite of the wudū, covering the ʿawrah, removing impurities, establishing the intention, and so on. Likewise with Zakah, Fasting, Hajj, etc. Therefore the Sunnah explains the Qur’ān and is a guide to it.

The Sunnah and its Relationship to the Qur’ān

The relationship between the Sunnah and the Qur’ān is of three categories:

  1. As-Sunnah al-Mu’akkadah: that which re-affirms and agrees with that which is in the Qur’ān from every aspect, such as the obligation of the Prayer, Zakah, Hajj, hijāb, etc. All of these are obligated in the Qur’ān and also in the Sunnah.
  2. As-Sunnah al-Mufassarah: that which explains the Qur’ān (and this is the point that Imām Ahmad is making). This is where the Sunnah explains in detail that which is general in the Qur’ān. Imām ash-Shāfi’i mentioned this in detail in his Risālah explaining that which Allah has legislated in His Book, then He explained its method in the Sunnah of His Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam), such as the number of Prayers in the day, their times, the Zakah (and its rulings), wudoo, and so on. These are all mentioned in the Qur’ān, but their specific details are to be found in the Sunnah.
  3. As-Sunnah al-Istiqlāliyah: that which is independent, and nothing of it has been mentioned specifically in the Qur’ān, or it is an increase of that which is in the Qur’ān. Examples of this would be the inheritance of the grandmother, using the siwāk, growing the beard, the prohibition of shaving parts of the head while leaving others, the niqāb, raising the lower garment above the ankles for men, etc.

These three types of Sunnah are considered Revelation. It is not permissible for people to say that they will only take what is in the Qur’ān, and to ignore the āhadeeth because that would entail they would have no Prayer; all the details of the prayer are found in the Sunnah. In fact, those who say they will only take what is in the Qur’ān they end up with no religion. And it is due to this that those who reject the Sunnah are considered to be unbelievers.

Quranites (Qur’āniyyūn) believe that the Quran is the sole reference point Islamic Law and guidance, and they deny the authority of sources outside of the Qur’ān, rejecting the ahādīth and Sunnah.

The Obligation of Following the Sunnah

We do not say as some of Ahlul Bid’ah say: “Unless there is some indication of a particular command or worship in the Qur’ān, then we will not accept it.” We fear heresy (zandaqah) for such people, because Allah the Most High has commanded us to follow the Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) absolutely and unconditionally:

وَمَن يُشَاقِقِ الرَّسُولَ مِن بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُ الْهُدَىٰ وَيَتَّبِعْ غَيْرَ سَبِيلِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ نُوَلِّهِ مَا تَوَلَّىٰ وَنُصْلِهِ جَهَنَّمَ ۖ وَسَاءَتْ مَصِيرًا

“And whoever contradicts the Messenger after the right path has been shown clearly to him, and follows another than the path of the believers (sahābah), We shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in hell, and what an evil destination.” (Surah an-Nisā 4:115)

In this āyah, Allah (the Most High) does not refer to Himself, rather He singled out the Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) ― that whoever opposes his command has been threatened with Hellfire. All of this establishes for us the importance of following the Sunnah, in all of its categories. Allah also stated in the Qur’ān:

قُلْ أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَالرَّسُولَ ۖ فَإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْكَافِرِينَ

“Say. ‘Obey Allah and the Messenger’ but if they turn away, then Allah does not love the disbelievers.” (Surah Aal-’Imrān 3:32)

He the Most High also says:

فَلْيَحْذَرِ الَّذِينَ يُخَالِفُونَ عَنْ أَمْرِهِ أَن تُصِيبَهُمْ فِتْنَةٌ أَوْ يُصِيبَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

“And let those who oppose the Messenger’s commandment beware, lest some fitnah should befall them or a painful torment be inflicted on them.” (Surah an-Nur 24:63)

Imām Ahmad explained that the fitnah (trial) mentioned in the above āyah is the trial of polytheism. Those who disobey the Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) are sinful and under the threat of Allah’s punishment to the extent of their disobedience but they are still within the fold of Islām. However, if they outrightly reject obedience to the Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam), then they are outside the fold of Islām, as they are denying the Qur’ān. Allah the Most High said:

فَإِن تَنَازَعْتُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ فَرُدُّوهُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَالرَّسُولِ إِن كُنتُمْ تُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ ۚ

“If you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger if you believe in Allah and the Last Day.” (Surah an-Nisā 4:59) He, the Most High, also says in the same surah:

مَّن يُطِعِ الرَّسُولَ فَقَدْ أَطَاعَ اللَّهَ ۖ

“He who obeys the Messenger has indeed obeyed Allah.” (Surah an-Nisā 4:80). He, the Most High says in Surah al-Ahzāb:

لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا

“Indeed in the Messenger of Allah you have a good example to follow for him who hopes for the meeting with Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much.” (Surah al-Ahzāb 33:21)

Ibn Katheer (rahimahullāh), the great Imām and Mufassir of the Qur’ān said that this āyah is a great principle in establishing the law of following the Prophet (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) in his statements, actions and all affairs. We also have the statement of the Messenger of Allah (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) in the Sunan of Ibn Mājah, and also in at-Tirmidhi in his Jāmiʿ, where he said: “Indeed that which the Messenger makes forbidden is the same as that which Allah has made forbidden.”

Therefore, the Sunnah must be followed and it explains the Qur’ān. And none rejects the Sunnah except a person harbouring disbelief in that which Allah has revealed.

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 2023.

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