The Imāms of the Salaf, the Āthār, the Scholars and their students, innovations and sins… Responding to doubts

The Salaf were the most pious in the abandonment of sins, yet they understood the gravity of innovations. They understood that a sinful person of the Sunnah is a repentant servant of Allah, whereas an innovator is stubborn and unrepentant and believes he has nothing to repent for – he may even call others to his misguidance. It is better to leave a person upon sin whilst he is a Salafi and Sunni than to introduce him to bid’ah and misguidance and claim “we have saved him from his sins.”

Yūnus ibn ‘Ubaid saw his son exiting the house of a person of deviation, so he said: “O my son! From where have you come out?” He replied, “From the company of ‘Amr ibn ‘Ubaid.” So he said: “O my son! It would have been better for me that I had seen you coming out of the house of a shameless woman, than to see you coming out of the house of such a person..” Sharhus-Sunnah (2/233).

Nu’aim bin Hammād (d. 239H) said: “I heard Mu’ādh bin Mu’ādh raising his voice in the Masjid of Basrah. He was saying to Yahyā al-Qattān: Do you not fear Allah?! You narrate from ‘Amr bin ‘Ubaid?!” (Mīzān al-I’tidāl 3/276) Ibn ‘Ulayyah said: “The first person to speak with the bid’ah of al-I’tizāl was Wāsil al-Ghazāl. ‘Amr bin ‘Ubaid joined him in that and became amazed with him – so he married his sister to him. He said to her: I have married you to a man who is worthy of being the Caliph.” (Mīzān al-I’tidāl 3/275)

Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (died 241H) said: “The graves of ahlus-Sunnah from those who were major sinners are a garden [of delight], whilst the graves of ahlul-Bid’ah from those who were the pious ascetics are a pit [of fire]. The open sinners (fussāq) of ahlus-Sunnah are the friends of Allah and the pious ascetics of ahlul-Bid’ah are the enemies of Allah.” Tabaqāt al-Hanābilah, 1/184. One should not be surprised by these words of Imam Ahmad (rahimahullah) since the person of innovation regards his evil to be an act of piety (having no basis in the Religion) for which he does not repent whilst the sinful Sunni knows that his sin is a transgression, so he is sorrowful and repentant and hopes for Allah’s forgiveness.

Muhammad Ibn Yahyā Al-Azdee said: “Indeed we speak with saying Abu Abdillah Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, for indeed he is our Imam and he from the remainder of the believers, and we do not oppose him and we are well-pleased with him as an Imam, and we are free from anyone who opposes him, for indeed none opposes him except a mubtadi’ and makhdhool (i.e. an innovator and a betrayer of the people of Sunnah).”

Ibn Taymiyyah (d.728) said: “Some of them used to say: “We have made the people repent!” I asked them: “From what?” They responded: “From highway robbery and theft and so on.” So I told them: “Their state before you making them repent was better than after you making them repent because before they were sinners who believed what they were doing was forbidden – and they hoped for the Mercy of Allaah, and they would repent to Allaah or at least have the intention to repent! And now through this “tawbah” of yours, you have misguided them and made them into people who commit shirk, exiting the Islamic Sharee’ah, such that they love what Allaah hates and they hate what Allaah loves… And I made clear that these innovations that they and others are upon are worse than sins.” (Majmoo’ al-Fataawa, 20/103)

It is no wonder that we now hear the call of those infected with the disease of Al-Ikhwān Al-Muslimīn coming to the unsuspecting Salafi youth with their ambiguous and doubt-filled speech: “The speech of the Salaf is not a proof, the āthār of the Salaf are not a proof and their speech is not our manhaj, the words of the scholars are not a proof, their speech is not our manhaj, we are not blind-followers, we only take from the Qur’an and Sunnah…” These slogans are intended to snatch the youth away from taking and following the rulings and positions of the great Imāms of the Salaf in matters of belief and manhaj. So these callers to misguidance do not want you to read and accept the positions of the Imāms [such as Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Ibn Taymiyyah, Yunus Ibn ‘Ubaid,  al-Barbahārī] towards ahlul-bid’ah. They will say, “We are not living in the times of the Salaf, we cannot be expected to take such positions and behave like them…” Then why do they ascribe to Salafiyyah at all? If they cannot/will-not apply the manhaj of the Salaf, then where is their Salafiyyah? One of these callers to misguidance and innovation in the US stated: “Islam was never designed to be practiced in the environment we are practising Islam in…” This is from the most ignorant of statements and a complete misrepresentation of Islam!

So today there are those who take an example from Imām Ahmad, and they emulate Imām Ahmad in holding to steadfastness, and they follow his path and methodology – so they are accused of being harsh, severe (mutashaddid), strict, and ghullāt (extremists)! And some of those who ascribe themselves to Salafiyyah accuse those who emulate Imām Ahmad, they cast insults such as, “they think they are incarnations of Ahmad”. No one said to you, “I am Ahmad Ibn Hanbal” or his “incarnation”. Rather they traverse the path of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal. And Yahyā Ibn Ma’een himself said, “We’re not able to be like Ahmad.” So, if you yourself are not able to be like Ahmad, then don’t close the door upon the one who tries to be like him.

Most of those who make these cutting remarks against the people who take to the path of Ahmad intend by that belittlement, insult and attack upon them. And this is due to the fact those who follow the path of Ahmad criticise the opposers of the manhaj of Imam Ahmad and the firm stances of Imām Ahmad. So when they criticise them for opposing the methodology of Imam Ahmad, they retort and insult, “Look these incarnations of Ahmad. They think they are Ahmad.” One even said, “They wish the people to all follow the way of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and I am not able, and it is not possible for me.” We say to him, “That’s wrong, rather we wish more than that for them! We want that they follow the path of Muhammad (ﷺ), because that was the path traversed by Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (rahimahullāh).” Ahmad is an Imām and we say this without reservation. How is it possible for those who claim to follow the Sunnah, consider themselves to be upon the truth and guidance, and to be upon the guided path to then attack with these insults. No doubt, the one who utters these words about those who aim to emulate Imām Ahmad in his steadfastness upon the Religion is either an ignorant who just repeats everything he hears without understanding or a person with evil intents.

These opposers of the stances of the Salaf towards ahlul-bid’ah often downplay the Salafi Manhaj, and in recent times have renewed their campaign to misguide the Salafi youth. They say: “worry about your sins, worry about your economic situation, look at your communities, Kitab at-Tawhid will not solve the ills of our communities… etc”

Alhamdulillah, Salafiyyah is a comprehensive da’wah that deals with the beliefs of the people, the methodology they are obligated to follow, their financial dealings, sins, purification of the souls, it deals with all spheres of one’s life and every aspect of society. However, these callers to the misguided Ikhwāni manhaj (who claim to be upon Salafiyyah) have come along and inverted the principles of the Da’wah – so in their eyes Salafis must stop placing so much importance upon Tahweed and the books of Tawheed “because they cannot deal will the ills of our communities…” and Salafis must stop looking towards the scholars of Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, quote: “know for sure yā akhī this person, this scholar does not care about you or your country, it’s the haqq, say whatever you want, with no sugar, it’s raw… he does not stay up at night if you have problems in your urban community… he doesn’t care about what’s going on in New York City, so why you so concerned, caught up and obsessed with what goes on in Jordan or Egypt or Saudi or Yemen… he is not missing his morning tea and breakfast because of the major social ills in New York, know that for sure… he does not miss his coffee and dates because of single-parent homes and crack babies, this is a reality…” So this innovated, misguided, hizbī call is a call:

1) To detach the Salafi youth from the Manhaj of the Salaf, their Āthār and their stances,

2) To detach the Salafi youth from their scholars past and present,

3) To return their affairs to these foolish minded, masākīn (paupers in knowledge) so they “may give them fatawa, thus lead themselves astray and others astray”.

4) To belittle Tawheed and the ‘Aqeedah and the books of the Salaf, to deliberately diminish/downplay their vital and eminent role in rectifying societies and the world.

5) To open the door for the Salafi youth to take from and mix with ahlul-bid’ah, embrace their ideas and doctrines whilst still thinking they are upon Salafiyyah.

These same ignorant pretenders speak ill of the students of the great scholars of the era (and those who are praised by them), whilst through gritted teeth make excuses as to why these scholars are mistaken in their decades of support of these students of knowledge and du’aat.

A narration was reported with a sound chain of narration by Ibn Bannā in his Radd ‘alal-Mubtadi’ah and by Ibnul-Jawzee (d. 597) in his Manāqib Imām Ahmad that Abdul-Wahhāb Al-Warrāq (d. 251) stated: “If you see a person speaking against the companions of Imām Ahmad then suspect him, for he is a person of evil, and he is not a person of Sunnah.” And that was the era of the people philosophical rhetoric, and some of them would say deceptively: “Ahmad is a righteous man but he has been put to trial and deceived by some of his students.” So what do they intend by the companions of Ahmad? They intend in reality Ahmad himself. That is because the one who takes from Imām Ahmad and follows the path of Ahmad, then he is upon the Sunnah, inshā’Allah.

Such a person wishes to criticise the methodology and the stance of Imam Ahmad, but they are not able to attack Ahmad so they attack those who follow his way and take to his methodology, so as to take people away from desiring to be like Ahmad, “If you see a person speaking against the companions of Imam Ahmad then suspect him, for he is a person of evil, he is not a person of Sunnah.” The person of Sunnah is happy they are strong, and well-known and widespread because that means that the Sunnah is manifest. The Sunnah does not gain strength or become manifest, or become well known except by way those who carry it.

يحمل هذا العلم من كل خلف عدوله ينفون عنه تحريف الغالين وانتحال المبطلين وتأويل الجاهلين

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said:

“This knowledge will be carried by the trustworthy ones of every generation. They remove from it the distortions of those who go beyond bounds, the lies of the falsifiers, and the false interpretations of the ignorant.” [Al-Bayhaqee, 10/209; Al-Albānee declared it saheeh in his notes on Mishkāt Al-Masābeeh, no. 348]

And they are the Scholars. Wal-hamdulillāhi Rabbil-‘Ālamīn.

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