Notes on Advising and Condemning
In The Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy
These are a few very important reminders to our brothers on the affair of advising, condemning and debating, taken from two works of our Salaf- As- Saleh. The first book is entitled: “The Character of the Scholars”, by Imam Al Ajuree (died 360h). The second is entitled: “The Difference Between Advising and Condemning”, by Al Hafith Ibn Rajab Al Hanbali (died 795h) -may Allah have mercy on them both.
It is not for anyone to think that this speech has a hidden meaning or intention. The purpose is merely to remind one another, and to refer the readers back to the full translation of the second work. We hope and pray the reminder benefits the believer.
Muhammed bin Al Husayn (Imam Al Ajuree) said on page 39: (Arabic text)
It was (known) with the people of wisdom that most debates cause a change between the hearts of brothers, create division after unity, and hostility after affability.
Reported on the authority of Abee Umamah, the Messenger –sallallaahu alayhi wa salem- said: People did not deviate after guidance except that they are given to debate and argumentation. (Recorded by At Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ahmed, and others. Declared to be hasan by Sheikh Muqbil in Saheeh al Musnad #470)
He (Imam Al Ajuree) continued to say:
If it is said: What should one do in a matter that is unclear? (How does one debate an issue?)
It is said to him: If this is the case, and the individual wants to derive knowledge that is unclear to him (through debating), it is upon him to approach a scholar that is known for seeking the pleasure of Allah through his knowledge. He is known for sound knowledge, understanding, and intellect. The individual (then) discusses with him the matter in a manner of discussion performed by a person seeking the truth. He informs him (the person he is debating) that my debate with you is one of seeking the truth, and not the debate of a person wishing to defeat. Thereafter, the individual compels himself to be just in his debate. This is because, it is obligatory upon him to love for his opponent to be correct, and (to) dislike for him to be incorrect, just as one would love for himself.
(translators note: The author is referring to the hadeeth: “No one truly believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself”. Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim).
He also informs his challenger: If your intention in debating me, is for me to err, and you to you to be correct, and I have a similar intention, then (know) that this is something forbidden upon us, because this is a characteristic (from us) that does not please Allah. Rather, it is incumbent upon us to repent from this.
If it is said: Then how do we debate?
(Then) it is replied: By advising.
If it is said: How does one advise?
I say to him: “Being that the matter between us is that I hold (an issue) to be permissible, and you say (that the same issue) is impermissible, thus our ruling in this debate is that we (both) speak concerning the matter, the speech of one seeking harmony. My intent is that the truth is manifested to me upon your tongue, in order that I may follow your statement, or that the truth is manifested to you upon my tongue, and consequently, you will follow my statement, based on and in accordance to the Book, the Sunnah, and the consensus of the scholars. If this is our (true) intention, I hope the outcome of this discourse commendable, that we are guided to the truth, and that the shaytaan does not obstruct our matter.
Al Hafith Ibn Rajab mentioned in his very beneficial work, “The Difference between Advising and Condemning”, pg.7 (Arabic print):
These are some summarized/comprehensive notes concerning the difference between advising and condemning. Indeed they are counterparts due to the fact that both of them involve mentioning about people what they dislike being mentioned. However, the distinction between the two (advice/condemning) may be misunderstood by many. Verily Allah is The One that grants correctness.
Know that mentioning about a person that which he dislikes being mentioned is
forbidden, if the purpose of doing so is to merely dispraise him and make his faults and defects apparent. But, if there is a beneficial good (in mentioning his faults) for the general masses of Muslims – especially for some of them – and the purpose of mentioning the person’s faults and defects brings about that benefit, then in this case it is not considered forbidden, but rather recommended.
He mentioned on pg. 8:
Because of this, we find in their (scholars) authored books in several fields of knowledge –such as Tafseer, explanation of Prophetic traditions (Hadeeth), Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh), differences of the scholars, and other than that, (we find) their books filled with debates and refutations of weaker statements of the salaf and the latter day scholars, such as the Sahabah, the Taabiyeen, and those that followed them.
None of the people of knowledge abandoned this clarification, nor did they claim the refutation and clarification to be dispraise, criticism, or defamation of the one whose statement was being refuted, except if the person being refuted was one to have grave mistakes in his speech and evil manners in his expressions. In this case his grave mistakes and evil manners would be refuted apart from the original refutation and opposition of him. This (refutation) is done so with legislated, sound proofs. The reason for this is that the scholars of the religion are all in agreement with presenting and making apparent the truth that Allah sent His Messenger –sallAllahu alayhi wa salem- with, and so that the religion can be solely for Allah alone, and in order for His word to be the uppermost.
All of them (scholars) are in agreement that completely encompassing knowledge without neglecting any portion of it, is a level that none of them have reached, nor did any one from the early scholars, nor the latter scholars claim to have reached such a level (of knowledge). Because of this, the Imams of the Salaf – those whose knowledge and merits are agreed upon – used to accept the truth from whomever informed them of it, even if this person was young. They would (also) advise their companions and followers to accept the truth, even if it was presented in another person’s statement. (another school of thought, or the likes).
He said on pg.9:
Some famous ones from amongst them (scholars of the Salaf) would add after mentioning their opinion: This is my opinion, if anyone comes with a better opinion, we will accept it from him.
Imam Ash Shaafe’ee would be extreme in doing this. He would strongly advise his followers to follow the truth and accept the Sunnah (even if) it appeared in opposition to their opinions. (He advised them to) throw their opinions on the wall (forsake their opinions and accept the stronger one). He would mention about his (own) books: “Without a doubt you will find in them (his books) what contradicts the Quran and the Sunnah, for verily Allah – The Most High- said: ‘If it (The Quran) was from other than Allah, you would find in it much contradiction’”
Further down, on the same page he (Ibn Rajab) said:
This is a proof that he did not have any other intention except to present the truth, even if it was on the tongue of someone else debating him or opposing him.
Whoever has a similar condition does not mind his statements being rejected and his contradictions to the Sunnah being corrected, whether during his lifetime, or after his death.
This was the way of other scholars (other than Ash Shaafe’ee) of Islam, those who defended and protected it, from amongst the Salaf and those who followed. They did not hate the opposition of those that opposed them based on proofs presented to them, even if those presented proofs were not strong enough for them to leave their original proofs, and replace them with the opposing proofs.
Due to this, Imam Ahmed used to mention Ishaq bin Rahuwayh and praise/commend him and say: “Even though we disagree in certain matters, verily it is the nature of people to constantly disagree”
He (Ibn Rajab) later mentioned on pg. 10:
Imam Ahmed approved of what was mentioned to him from the statement of Haatim Al Asam, when it was said to Haatim: “You are a non-Arab and you do not speak eloquently, but you do not debate anyone except that you defeat him. How do you accomplish this?” Haatim replied: “By way of three elements:
1. I am pleased when my opponent is correct
2. I am saddened when he is incorrect
3. I preserve my tongue from mentioning about him that which he dislikes” (or similar to this statement).
Imam Ahmed commented on this statement saying: “How wise is this man!”
Subsequently, refuting the weak statements and clarifying the mistakes in those opinions that oppose the truth based on legislated evidences, is not what was disliked by those scholars (the likes of Ash Shaafe’ee, Imam Ahmed, etc.). Rather, they loved this and they praised the individual who performed it, and commended him.
So (this form of refutation) is not in any way considered backbiting. Suppose there is someone that detests his mistakes that are in opposition to the truth being exposed, in this case, no concern is given to his dislike, because verily the dislike of presenting and making apparent the truth- if it is in opposition to the statement of a specific man- is not from the praise worthy characteristics. In fact, it is obligatory for the Muslim to love the appearance of the truth and that the Muslims become aware of it, whether the truth is in agreement to one’s opinion or in opposition to it.
This is from sincerity to Allah, His book, His Messenger – sallAllahu alayhi wa salem-, His religion, the rulers of the Muslims, and the common people. This is the religion itself, as the Messenger has informed (in a hadeeth).
We strongly advise the reader to read the full work (The Difference between…). It is filled with tremendous benefit on the subject of advising and condemning.
The full translated text (The Difference between…) can be found on www. al-ibaanah.com under e-books.
To the best of my knowledge, the first work has yet to be translated. We encourage our brothers working in translation to race toward righteous deeds by making that work available to the English speaking communities.
May Allah give us all tawfeeq in following what is pleasing to Him.
Mustafa George DeBerry.
Ruwais, United Arab Emirates