Decisive words from the Salaf: The stance of the Sunnī towards those who are lenient with Ahlul-Bid’ah and harsh with Ahlus-Sunnah | Shaikh Muhammad Hādī’s case study: Ahmad b. Hanbal with Alī b. Al-Madīnī

In these times we see many claimants to Salafiyyah and Sunnah, yet they oppose the principles of Salafiyyah. They enter the ranks of the Salafis and start their efforts against them little-by-little, until they wage a war against them. Ahlul-bid’a and ahlul-ahwā are safe from their tongues – they come cloaked in the garbs of Salafiyyah, and direct their speech against ahlus-Sunnah. The threat lies in the fact that the Salafis and the people of knowledge will never accept the allegations of ahlul-bid’ah when they attack and defame Ahlus-Sunnah, but they may not perceive it when it comes from those who ascribe themselves to Ahlus-Sunnah, or from one who used to be with Ahlus-Sunnah (and then split from them and turned against them) – and so ahlul-bid’ah are are safe and at ease from these mukhadhdhilah (those who betray the people of truth). Indeed, ahlul-bid’ah proclaim, “It is not us who are speaking against you. It is one of your own!”

So is this not more harmful? It is these betrayers who tear apart the ranks of Ahlus-Sunnah because some of them (and more-so the youth) may respect them, they see them to be from the Salafis, they do not see them to be a threat. So the ranks of the Salafis become divided due to such a person until someone stands to refutes him. Look at the example of Imam Ahmad when he boycotted and warned against ‘Ali Ibn Al-Madīnī when ‘Ali Ibn Al-Madīnī became a tool for ahlul-bid’ah against Ahlus-Sunnah.¹ ‘Ali Ibn Al-Madīnī was an Imām of Sunnah and Hadīth. Abu Hātim Ar-Rāzī said: “Ali Ibn Al-Madīnī was a sign amongst the people for his knowledge of hadīth and ‘ilal (spotting obscure defects in the chains of narration). Ahmad Ibn Hanbal would not call him by his name, rather he addressed him as Abul-Hasan due to his respect for him.” (Sharh ‘Ilal at-Tirmidhī of Ibn Rajab, 1/215) However, ‘Ali Ibn Al-Madīnī gave in, surrendered and agreed (verbally) to the saying of the Jahmiyyah when interrogated in the issue of the Qur’ān, even though in his heart he found the saying of Jahmiyyah repugnant, and held to the saying of Ahlus-Sunnah within himself. In fact, Ibn Al-Madīnī would praise Imām Ahmad for his stance. Abu Y’alā Al-Mawsilī said: I heard ‘Ali Ibn Al-Madīnī saying, “Allāh fortified this religion through two men, and there is not a third with them: Abu Bakr As-Siddīq on the Day of Apostasy, and Ahmad Ibn Hanbal on the Day of the Trial.” (Tabaqātul-Hanābilah 1/227) Al-Maymūnī said: I heard ‘Ali Ibn Al-Madīnī saying, “None stood in defense of Islām after Allah’s Messenger (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) like the standing of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal.” So I said to him, “O Abul-Hasan, not even Abu Bakr As-Siddīq?!” He replied, “Not even Abu Bakr As-Siddīq because Abu Bakr had helpers and companions but Ahmad Ibn Hanbal had no helpers and no companions [who stood with him].”  (Tabaqātul-Hanābilah 1/227)

However, when Ali al-Madīnī (rahimahullāh) gave in and surrendered during the time of the trials initiated by ahlul-bid’ah regarding the creation of the Qur’ān, Ibn Al-Madīnī felt compelled to concede to their demands. He fell into this error and conceded to ahlul-bid’ah. Ali al-Madīnī was an imām and a scholar of hadīth, and he was known to praise Imām Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (rahimahullah) and was amazed at the firm stance of Imām Ahmad during the trials. Nevertheless Imām Ahmad boycotted him, and abandoned his narrations. The outrage at the surrender of ‘Ali al-Madīnī was palpable, and that had a severe effect on his standing with Ahlus-Sunnah, Ahlul-Hadīth. Ibn Rajab (rahimahullāh) said: “Ibn Al-Madīnī was interrogated during the trial of the creation of the Qur’an, and he surrendered under duress. Then he drew close to [the Jahmī innovator] Ibn Abī Du’ād so as to attain some worldly gain through him. So he accompanied him and gave him respect. So due to this he fell into some difficult and serious matters. It reached the stage where he started speaking against well-known and distinguished scholars of Hadīth so as to please Ibn Abī Du’ād. So Imām Ahmad abandoned him due to that – and disgust at him grew until he became in the eyes of the people as if he was a heretical apostate. Imām Ahmad abandoned his narrations, as did Ibrāhīm Al-Harbī and others. Yahyā Ibn Ma’īn would say, ‘He is a man in fear, so there is nothing against him.’ If only it was limited to what Ibn Ma’īn has said of excusing him, but his true condition is as we have described.” (Sharh ‘Ilal at-Tirmidhī of Ibn Rajab, 1/216)

If this was to take place in our times at the hands of one who ascribes himself to Salafiyyah – that he surrenders, shows leniency in the affairs of bid’ah and inclines to the those who call to misguidance and makes excuses for them – so if someone stood up to him, and took a firm stance against him, what would the mumayyi’īn who mix with ahlul-bid’ah say? They already say: “Look at the harshness of this student of Salafiyyah?” or, “Look at the harshness of these Salafi scholars?” But in reality, it is these opponents who are harsh against Ahlus-Sunnah when they speak against the Salafis and refute them, whilst they are silent concerning ahlul-bid’ah, and mix with them, praise them, share platforms with them and openly aid them. They attack and revile those who defend the Sunnah and those who stand firm for the Manhaj and the ‘Aqīdah of the Salaf. So such a person is refuted and warned against. Al-Imām Abu Muhammad Ibn Tamīm Al-Hanbalī (rahimahullāh) said describing Imām Ahmad: “He was harsh against ahlul-bid’ah and against the one who drew close to them if he did not abandon them, even if his ‘aqīdah was correct. Imām Ahmad boycotted Ali Al-Madīnī, Yahyā Ibn Ma’īn, Al-Hasan Al-Karabīsī – and this remained the case right up until Yahyā Ibn Ma’īn repented in front of him.” (See Tabaqāt al-Hanābilah of Abu Ya’lā 2/289, Tahrīm an-Nadhr fī Kutubil-Kalām p.60)

Hajjāj Ath-Thaqafī said: I said to Ahmad (rahimahullāh): “Should I write narrations from the one who surrendered during the trial?” He replied, “I do not write anything from them.” (Tabaqāt al-Hanābilah 1/148) Hubaish Ibn Sindī said: It was said to Abu Abdullāh (Ahmad Ibn Hanbal): “Those who surrendered during the trial, should we write narrations from them? It was reported from you that you allowed narrations to be written from Al-Qawārīrī?” So he refuted that claim, and said: “I do not narrate from any of them, so how could I command anyone to write narrations from them?” (Tabaqāt al-Hanābilah 1/146)

Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Hādī (hafidhahullāh) explains that there has come disgusting and hateful speech wherein some people describe the scholars of the Salafi da’wah as being harsh and going overboard. These accusations come from those who refrain from speaking in the face of bid’ah and its people, who are easy-going with the affairs of bid’ah, and are liberal with the callers to innovation or at the least are silent concerning them. They describe the shaikhs of Salafiyyah as being harsh! What is their harshness? I ask them, ‘In which affair are they harsh?’ That is my question? I ask anyone who claims they are harsh. Let them answer. They do not show this boldness except against the truth. It is they who are harsh! They remain silent concerning the Ikhwānī, the Tablīghī, the Ash’arī, the Sūfī, the ‘Aqlānī modernist and he’ll remain silent concerning everyone – he lives with them peacefully because “that is from hikmah (wisdom)” in his view. He conceals this evil conduct behind the screen of hikmah so that the children of the Muslims fall into loss and misguidance. Hikmah in actuality, is to put something in its rightful place. So harshness is correct when the Religion calls for it, and gentleness is correct when the Religion calls for it.

The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wassallam) said, “Allah is Kind and Gentle and He loves gentleness in every affair.” This is not hidden from us – since that is the origin in da’wah. Allah said, “By Mercy from Allah, O Muhammad, you were lenient and gentle with them. And if you had been rude in speech and harsh in heart, they would have scattered from about you. So pardon them and seek forgiveness for them and consult them in matters. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely upon Him.” He (the Most High) commanded the Messenger with this. That is the origin.

However, there are many verses and ahādīth that show harshness is correct in it’s proper place and time. So if someone comes forth to uphold falsehood, and he persists in aiding falsehood, or he supports falsehood and it’s people, then sternness is correct in that situation. The Prophet (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) said about the Qadariyyah, “If they fall sick, do not visit them, and when they die, do not attend their funerals.” He said about those who innovate into the Religion or aid the innovators, “The curse of Allah, the curse of the angels and of all mankind is upon the innovator and the one who accommodates him.” Allah’s Messenger (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) said about the Khawārij, “They will recite the Qur’ān but it will not go beyond their throats, they will exit the Religion like an arrow passes through its target.” He said, “If they arise and I am amongst you, I will slaughter them with the slaughtering of ‘Aad.” And the saying of Ibn ‘Umar regarding the Qadariyyah, “Inform them that I free myself from them and they are free from me.” Abu Hurairah (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) said that Allāh’s Messenger (صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ) said: “There will appear people at the end of my Ummah people who will narrate to you things that neither you or your forefathers have heard, so beware of them, and keep away from them.” Allāh, the Most High, stated:

وَإِذَا رَأَيْتَ الَّذِينَ يَخُوضُونَ فِي آيَاتِنَا فَأَعْرِضْ عَنْهُمْ

(Al-An’ām: 68) Imām at-Tabarī (rahimahullāh) said in his Tafsīr (5/330): “This verse is a clear proof showing the forbiddance of sitting with the people of falsehood (Ahlul-Bātil) of every persuasion regardless of whether it be the innovators (mubtadi’ah) or the open sinners, whilst they continue to speak with their falsehood.” Ibn ‘Abbās (radiyallāhu ‘anhumā) said: “Do not sit with the people of desires (Ahlul-Ahwā) for their gatherings are the cause of sickness in the hearts.”

So this mumayyi’ wishes to accommodate ahlul-bid’ah, he does not want to be angry with the falsifiers of the truth – and the result of that is the misguidance of the youth of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamā’ah, those who may take his behaviour as an example to follow. So if this person of falsehood comes forth then what is our response? It is to call him, advise him, and explain to him the truth and then if he refuses? Then Allah stated (in answer): “O Prophet, strive against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and overpower them.” Ahlus-Sunnah use this verse regarding the overpowering of the hypocrites to also apply to ahlul-bid’ah and the people of desires, because they have the traits of the hypocrites.

Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Hādī makes the point that the danger that is posed by ahlul-bid’ah against the people of Islam is greater than the danger posed by the open unbelievers. These are principles established with the great scholars of the Sunnah. And the dangers posed to ahlus-Sunnah by those mumayyi’īn (those who mix and are easy going with ahlul-bid’ah) is more severe than the open and manifest ahlul-bid’ah.  So whoever wishes to become angry at this, then let him become angry. We know ahlul-bid’ah and we warn against them by Allah’s permission. As for the one who makes excuses for them and makes allowances for them then this one is a danger to ahlus-Sunnah. Shaikh Muhammad stated “I say: Between you and me are the books of Sunnah that are established with authenticity, and if you find me opposing even a single word from what is found in them, bring it to me. I will narrate to you something from those narrations in this matter though the mumayyi’ūn today who are easy going with bid’ah and the innovators, do not like that the likes of this be narrated. The following is taken from volume one of the voluminous work of Al-Lālikā’ī (rahimahullāh) where he makes mention of the ‘Aqīdah (the creed) of the Rāziyain, Abu Hātim and Abu Zur’ah. Then he moves on to state what is found in the ‘Aqīdah of Abu Hātim (rahimahullāh), so he writes, “The warning of Ahlul-Hadīth was-Sunnah from Al-Karābīsī.” This Karābīsī was a major well known jurist and scholar. Then he wrote his book in Tadlīs (the concealing of deficiency in a chain of narration to give the impression that the isnād is sound) he mentioned the names of Mudallisīn (those who hide deficiencies in the chains of narration). The book was presented to Imām Ahmad, and it contained errors, so Imām Ahmad spoke against it. So when it was said to Al-Karābīsī that the book reached Imam Ahmad and he spoke against it, and he requested from you to retract your errors. Al-Karābīsī refused.” Though beforehand he had said: “Take it to Abu Abdillāh (Ahmad Ibn Hanbal) for he is a righteous man who has been guided to good.” So the book was presented to Imam Ahmad and he refuted it and warned against Al-Karābīsī and warned from sitting with him.

Abu Hātim makes clear his warning against Al-Karābīsī and warning from whoever defends him such as Dāwūd Ibn ‘Ali Al-Asbahānī, who is the imām of the Dhāhiriyyah (the literalist madhdhab) and had a great standing with the scholars. Dāwūd Ibn ‘Ali came to Imam Ahmad and Imam Ahmad refused to host him or to meet him. Abu Hātim spoke against Dāwūd Ibn ‘Ali with very severe speech because of his defense of Al-Karābīsī. And likewise when Al-Karābīsī heard the speech of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, he because haughty and started to criticise Ahmad.

Dāwūd Ibn ‘Ali defended Al-Karābīsī and made excuses for him. Ahmad turned him away and did not host him or agree to meet him. Abu Hātim warned against him, and many of the scholars of the era spoke against him. So what station do these people today hold as compared to those of the past?

So those who seek to be easy-going and accommodating regarding the affair of the innovators and the misguided deviants, then it is imperative that they are warned against. Their danger upon Ahlus-Sunnah and the Salafis is more severe than the harm of the manifest and open ahlul-bid’ah. One must hold fast to the authentic Sunnah of the Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wassallam) and follow the straight, clear and steadfast path which Allah’s Messenger left us upon – and the path his Companions (radiyallāhu ‘anhum), and the Tābi’ūn, and then those who followed them precisely such from the Imāms of Hadīth (radiyallāhu ‘anhum): Az-Zuhrī, the two Sufyāns, Mālik, and their likes, Hasan, Ibn Sīrīn, Ayūb, Ibn Asbāt, the two Hammād’s, Wakī’, Ibrāhīm, ‘Alqamah, Ahmad, Al-Bukhārī, Muslim, Abu Dāwūd, At-Tirmidhī, Ibn Mājah and others similar to them – for it was these men that preserved and guarded the Sunnah, and through them Allah preserved and guarded the narrations of the Companions (radiyallāhu ‘anhum).

So who is there today of the calibre of ‘Ali Al-Madīnī or Dāwūd Ibn ‘Ali, such that those opposers see him worthy of being defended? Alongside the great and immense knowledge of ‘Ali Al-Madīnī (rahimahullāh), Imam Ahmad still refuted him, and boycotted him due to his nearness to an innovator and his criticism of the scholars of Sunnah. Imām Ahmad, Abu Hatim and other great scholars kept away from and warned against ‘Ali Al-Madīnī and Dawud Ibn ‘Ali, due to the latter’s praise of Al-Karābīsī. So where are these masakīn ignoramuses today who think they are permitted to defend those known for innovation, misguidance and deviation, and they expect us, ahlus-Sunnah and the Salafis to remain silent whilst they harbour and defend ahlul-Bid’ah. Indeed: “Their danger upon Ahlus-Sunnah and the Salafis is more severe that the harm of the manifest and open ahlul-bid’ah,” as Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Hādī stated.  

The Salaf As-Sālih were in no doubts concerning their position towards ahlul-bid’ah. Thābit b. ‘Ajlān (rahimahullāh) said: “I met Anas bin Mālik, Sa’īd bin al-Musayyib (d.94H), Al-Hasan Al-Basrī (d. 110H), Sa’īd bin Jubair (d. 95H), Ibrāhīm An-Nakha’ī (d. 96H), ‘Atā bin Abī Rabāh (d. 114H), Tawūs bin Kaysān (d. 106), Mujāhid (d. 104H), Abdullāh bin Abī Mulaikah (d. 117H), Az-Zuhrī bin Shihāb (d. 124H), Mak-hūl Ash-Shāmī (d. 112H), Al-Qāsim Abu Abdir-Rahmān, ‘Atā Al-Khurasānī (d. 135H), Thābit Al-Bunānī (d. 120H), Al-Hakam bin ‘Utaibah, Ayyūb As-Sakhtiyānī (d. 131H), Hammād, Muhammad bin Sīrīn (d. 110H), Abu ‘Āmir and he had met Abu Bakr As-Siddīq (radiyallāhu ‘anhu), Yazīd ar-Riqāshī (d.119H) and Sulaymān bin Mūsā. All of them commanded me to stick to the Jamā’ah and all of them forbade me from the people of misguided desires (ahlul-Ahwā).

So the manhaj of Ahlus-Sunnah in its origin forbids from sitting with, accommodating and mixing with ahlul-bid’ah, and sharing platforms with them. Even worse is praising them and aiding them whilst opposing ahlus-Sunnah and their scholars. Allegiance to the truth necessitates allegiance to its people – to aid them and support them. Abu ‘Uthmān Ismā’īl as-Sābūnī (rahimahullāh d.449H) said: “One of the distinguishing signs of Ahlus-Sunnah is their love of the Imāms of the Sunnah, its Scholars, its helpers and its allies – and likewise their hatred for the imāms of bid’ah, those who invite to the Hellfire.” 

When these fundamentals and principles of Salafiyyah are violated and opposed by those who give honour to the innovators, and praise them – yet simultaneously they find fault with Ahlus-Sunnah, their scholars and their books, then Ahlus-Sunnah cannot remain silent in the face of this falsehood and treachery.

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¹ This article is based on two audio recordings by our Shaikh, the Scholar, Dr. Muhammad Ibn Hādī (hafidhahullāh) 1438AH, Madīnah, KSA – with additions, further elucidation and references from myself. I hope to upload those audios here at some stage, inshā’Allāh.

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