In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Bestower of Mercy.
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of all creation, and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his Companions.
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Clarifying truth from falsehood, and criticising those who deserve criticism is from the religion and constitutes sincere advice to the ummah ― and this responsibility is carried by the Scholars and their steadfast students. Muhammad Ibn Bandār al-Jurjānī said to Imām Ahmad ibn Hanbal (rahimahullāh), “It is hard upon me to say: ‘So-and-so is such-and-such and so-and-so is such-and-such’. So Imām Ahmad replied, ‘If you remain silent and I remain silent, how will the ignorant person know what is correct and from what is false?’“1Majmū al-Fatāwā 28/231, Sharh ʿilal al-Tirmidhī 1/350.
When Imām Ahmad was asked about Husayn al-Karabīsī, he responded, “He is a mubtadiʿ (innovator).” On another occasion, he (rahimahullāh) said, “Beware of Husayn al-Karabīsī. Do not talk to him, and do not talk to the one who talks to him.” ― he said it four of five times.2See Tārīkh Baghdād 8/65.
Indeed the Salaf would hold that that the speech of the people of knowledge in refutation of ahlul-bidʿah is better than optional fasting, prayer and iʿtikāf. It was said to Imām Ahmad (rahimahullāh), “A man prays, fasts and makes iʿtikāf ― is he more beloved to you or the one who refutes ahlul-bidʿah?” He replied, “If he fasts, prays and makes iʿtikāf, then that is for himself. But when he refutes ahlul-bidʿah, that is for [all] the Muslims ― that is better.”3Majmū al-Fatāwā 28/231.
Imām Ahmad (rahimahullāh) would not praise Husayn al-Karabīsī after his affair became clear, he said about him, “He’s an innovator.” He warned against him and from sitting with him. Likewise, he warned severely from the gatherings of al-Hārith al-Muhāsibī. Abu Zurʿah al-Rāzī (rahimahullāh) was asked about al-Hārith al-Muhāsabī and his books, so he replied, “Stay away from these books, these are books of innovation and misguidance ― rather cling to the narrations (āthār).” And this is even though al-Karabīsī and al-Muhāsibī were known for possessing immense knowledge, and they had written refutations against ahlul-bidʿah. However, al-Karabīsī fell when he started saying that the recitation of the Qur’ān is created; and al-Muhāsibī fell due to entering into something from theological speculation (al-kalām) ― he refuted ahlul-kalām with kalām, and not using the Sunnah, and this was the main issue due to which Imām Ahmad refuted him and warned against him.4See al-Tahdhīb 2/117, Tārīkh Baghdād 8/215-216, Al-Siyar 13/110, 12/79.
And the Manhaj of the Salaf when criticising the opposer, betrayer (of ahlus-Sunnah) and innovator was that they would not mention his good qualities. Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) refuted the Khawārij when he spoke about Dhul-Khuwaisirah, “There will come forth from his progeny people who will recite the Qur’ān but it will not go beyond their throats ― they will exit from the religion just as the arrow passes through its target. They will kill the people of Islam and leave alone the people of idolatry. If I am alive when they appear, I will slaughter them with the slaughtering of ʿĀd.”5Al-Bukhārī, no 3166. In a narration he said, “You will consider your prayer insignificant compared to their prayer, and your fasting insignificant compared to their fasting.”6Al-Bukhārī, no. 3414. In another narration, he said, “Wherever you come across them, kill them.”7Al-Bukhārī, no. 3415. Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam) did not mention these traits of the Khawārij except as a warning against them ― that they will go beyond the Sahābah in their worship. So this was not a praise of them, rather it was to warn the people that they are not to be deceived by their acts of excessive worship.
And when al-Karābīsī came with the saying, “My recitation of the Qur’ān is created”, Imām Ahmad dropped him, and refuted him. ʿAbdullāh ibn Imām Ahmad (rahimahullāh) stated in his work, Al-Sunnah (1/165), “I heard my father saying, ‘Whoever said, ‘My recitation of the Qur’ān is created,’ then this is a wicked and false saying ― it is the saying of the Jahmiyyah.’ So I said to him, ‘Husayn al-Karabīsī says this.’ So he said, ‘He has lied ― may Allāh expose him ― he is a filthy individual.’“
Imām Ahmad spoke against al-Hārith al-Muhāsibī with even more harsh words. ʿAlī ibn Abī Khālid said, “I said to Imām Ahmad, ‘This old man who is with us is my neighbour. I have warned him against this man (i.e., al-Muhāsibī) but he wishes to hear your speech concerning him, meaning Hārith al-Qasīr al-Muhāsibī. You saw me with him many years ago, so you said to me, ‘Do not sit with him, do not speak with him.’ And I have not spoken to him since then till now ― but this old man sits with him, so what do you say regarding him?’ I saw that Imām Ahmad turned red, his veins and eyes swelled with anger ― I had never seen him like that before. Then he shook out of that and said, ‘Allāh will deal with him and He has already dealt with him. No one knows him (al-Muhāsibī) except one who is acquainted with him and is aware of him. Stay away from him, stay away from him, stay away from him! No one knows him except one who is acquainted with him and is aware of him. Al-Maghāzilī sat with him, Yaʿqūb sat with him, and so-and-so sat with him ― and he led them all to the belief of Jahm, so they were destroyed due to him.’ So, the old man said to him, ‘O Abu ʿAbdillāh! But he narrates hadīth, he is pious and humble, showing humility, and so on.’ Abu ʿAbdillāh (Ahmad) became angry and said, ‘Do not be deceived by his humility, piety and gentleness. Do not be deceived by the fact that he lowers his head, for verily he is an evil man. No one knows him except for the one who is acquainted with him ― do not speak to him, he does not deserve respect. So anyone who narrates a hadīth of Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ʿalaihi wasallam), even if he is an innovator, you will sit with him? No, he does not deserve any respect, nor are the eyes blind regarding what he does.’“8Ṭabaqāt al-Hanābilah, 1/233.
So, what will the opposers say about Imām Ahmad’s stance against al-Karābīsī and al-Muhāsibī? He did not mention a single good word concerning them alongside the fact that they were known for possessing immense knowledge.9See Tārīkh Baghdād, 8/64, Al-Siyar, 12/79.
May Allāh have mercy on Imām Ahmad ― were he present in our times, he would be accused of harshness, intolerance and not respecting the people of knowledge who have ‘errors’ (even if these errors are in the manhaj and creed). The hizbiyyūn would not tolerate him because Ahmad would not praise and accommodate ahlul-bidʿah and ahlul-ahwā, instead he would refute them and warn against them― just as the hizbiyyūn (people of partisanship) in this age cannot tolerate the likes of Shaikh Rabīʿ, Shaikh Muqbil, Shaikh Muhammad Amān al-Jāmiʿ, Shaikh Ahmad al-Najmī, Shaikh Zayd al-Madkhalī, etc., because they have refuted and warned against the opposers, innovators and betrayers without flattery of them or praise.
Rāfiʿ ibn Ashras (rahimahullāh) stated, “From the punishment upon the wicked innovator is that his good qualities are not to be mentioned.”10Sharh ʿIlal al-Tirmidhī, 1/353.
And all praise is due to Allah, Lord of all creation, and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his Companions.11See al-Ajwibah al-Mufīdah ʿan As’ilat al-Manāhij al-Jadīdah (Questions to Shaikh Sālih al-Fawzān), pp. 30-31, 50-52.
- 1Majmū al-Fatāwā 28/231, Sharh ʿilal al-Tirmidhī 1/350.
- 2See Tārīkh Baghdād 8/65.
- 3Majmū al-Fatāwā 28/231
- 4See al-Tahdhīb 2/117, Tārīkh Baghdād 8/215-216, Al-Siyar 13/110, 12/79.
- 5Al-Bukhārī, no 3166.
- 6Al-Bukhārī, no. 3414.
- 7Al-Bukhārī, no. 3415.
- 8Ṭabaqāt al-Hanābilah, 1/233.
- 9See Tārīkh Baghdād, 8/64, Al-Siyar, 12/79.
- 10Sharh ʿIlal al-Tirmidhī, 1/353.
- 11See al-Ajwibah al-Mufīdah ʿan As’ilat al-Manāhij al-Jadīdah (Questions to Shaikh Sālih al-Fawzān), pp. 30-31, 50-52.