Imaam al-Barbahārī On Being Seen With An Innovator
Explanation by ash-Shaikh al-‘Allāmah Sālih al-Fawzān
Imām al-Barbahārī (rahimahullaah, died 329H) said in his Sharhus-Sunnah (2/233):
“Yoonus ibn `Ubaid (rahimahullaah) saw his son exiting the house of a person of deviation, so he said: “O my son! From where have you exited?” He replied, “From the company of `Amr ibn Ubaid (the innovator).” So he said: “O my son! If I had seen you coming out of the house of a shameless and lewd person it would have been more beloved to me than to see you coming out of the house of such a person. And that you meet Allaah, O my son, as a fornicator, an open sinner, a thief, and a treacherous person is more beloved to me than that you meet Allaah whilst upon the saying of the People of Deviation.” Do you not see that Yoonus ibn `Ubaid knew that a shameless and lewd person would not deviate his son away from his Religion – and that a person of innovation would misguide him till he causes him to disbelieve.”
Shaikh Saalih al-Fawzaan said in explanation (slightly abridged translation):
He saw his son coming out of the house of `Amr ibn `Ubaid who was the shaikh of the Mu’tazilah . And the intent here is that Yoonus ibn `Ubaid is saying (to his son): You should not sit with the people of innovation. If you had come out of the house of a person of Sunnah, but one who is a sinner, that is better than that you should sit with a person of innovation. This is what Yoonus ibn `Ubaid was warning his son concerning because he sat with `Amr ibn `Ubaid who was the head of the Mu`tazilah. So his sitting with a Muslim, a person of Sunnah, even if he has deficiencies in his Religion, then that is easier and better and less harmful than sitting with an innovator, and even more severe is learning from an innovator. So do not learn and study from the people of Ahwaa (those who follow their desires in religion) and the people of innovation. Rather learn from ahlus-Sunnah, from the Scholars of ahlus-Sunnah, from the Scholars who are upon the correct `Aqeedah (belief), just as Muhammad ibn Seereen (rahimahullaah, died 110H) said:
“Indeed this knowledge is Religion, so look to see from whom you take your Religion.”
And if it is the case that just by merely sitting with them, there is immense danger, then how much worse is it to learn from the innovators?!
So he is saying to his son: that were you to die as a sinner, committing a major sin, lesser than Shirk (polytheism), and thus you hope in the Mercy of Allaah, as Allaah said:
“Indeed Allaah does not forgive that you associate partners with Him in worship, but He forgives lesser than that to whoever He pleases.” [an-Nisaa: 48]
So even if the one who commits a sin is punished in the Hellfire, his final abode will be Paradise, and he will not remain eternally in Hell. As for the person of innovation, then his innovation may lead him to disbelief and thus become eternally a dweller of the Hellfire, because he innovated into the religion that which is not from it. As for the sinner, then he does not say that his sin is Religion (i.e. he does not ascribe his sin to Islaam). So therefore, that you die upon sin, even if it be a major sin lesser than Shirk is lesser in harm than dying upon bid’ah (innovation). And this speech is very clear and apparent.
As for his saying: “Do you not see that Yoonus ibn `Ubaid knew that a shameless and lewd person would not deviate his son away from his Religion – and that a person of innovation would misguide him till he causes him to disbelieve.”
And this is the wisdom behind why one must not sit with an innovator. That one sits with a person of Sunnah, even if he is deficient in his Religion and his Eemaan is better – for indeed the harm that he will receive from sitting with an innovator is more severe than the harm he will receive by sitting with a person of Sunnah who is sinful. This is because the person of bid`ah will call you to innovations and to opposing the Book and the Sunnah. As for the sinner (from ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa`ah), he will not warn you against the Book and Sunnah, nor warn you from following Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu ‘alaihi wassallam) ever! So there is a difference between what the innovator directs you to and what the sinner directs you to. The most a sinner will do is beautify for you sinful acts, and as for him warning you from the Sunnah, then he will not do that.
He will not warn you against the Sunnah, rather (even the sinner) respects the Sunnah and venerates the Sunnah, contrary to the innovator who does not honour the Sunnah (even if he claims to).
 Their founder was Wāsil bin ‘Atā. He used to be student of the great scholar, a successor (tābi’ee) of the Companions (radi Allaahu ‘anhum), Imām al-Hasan al-Basree (died 110AH). They regard the intellect to be decisive over the Revelation from Allāh, so if the Revelation opposes their intellect, then they give reason and intellect precedence over the Religious texts. They negate the Attributes of Allāh (the Most High) and deny the meanings of His Names. They hold that a sinful Muslim is neither a believer or an unbeliever and that in the Hereafter, he will be eternally in the Hellfire. They have many other misguided beliefs such as denial of the questioning and trial of the deceased in his grave. They thrive right up until our time – those who have all or some of these characteristics are considered to be upon the way of the Mu’tazilah.