Listening to Ahlul-Bid’ah and Debating with them―Imām Ahmad bin Hanbal (explanation of Shaikh ‘Ubayd Al-Jābiri)

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Sitting with Ahlul-Bid’ah

Allāh, the Most High, stated:

وَإِذَا رَأَيْتَ الَّذِينَ يَخُوضُونَ فِي آيَاتِنَا فَأَعْرِضْ عَنْهُمْ

“And when you see those who engage in a false conversation about Our Verses by mocking at them, stay away from them…” (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.”

Is debating and arguing with Ahlul-Bid’ah permissible?

The following is taken from At-Taqrīr Al-Ahmad Bi-Sharh Usūl As-Sunnah Lil Imām Ahmad of Al-ʿAllāmah Shaikh ʿUbaid Al-Jābirī (may Allah preserve him).

The Imām of Ahlus-Sunnah, Abū ʿAbdillāh Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Hanbal (rahimahullāh) said in his essential work, The Foundations of the Sunnah:

“[The foundations of the Sunnah with us are] to abandon controversies, and sitting with the People of Desires — and to abandon quarrelling, argumentation, and controversy in the religion.”

Ash-Shaikh Al-ʿAllāmah ʿUbaid Ibn ʿAbdillāh Al-Jābirī (may Allah preserve him) said in his explanation:

Controversy, engaging in controversy, or argumentation all have the same meaning here — and this argumentation is of two types:

The first of them is the clarification of the truth with evidence: “This is the Sunnah, and this is the evidence — this is innovation, and this is the evidence” — this is praiseworthy and this is what the Salaf would engage in in their debates with the Muʿtazilah, or the Ashāʿirah, or the Jahmiyyah before them, or the Khawārij and others.

The second [type consists of] the conversations wherein each competitor wants to make his partner bow to his opinion, and this is what the People of Sunnah would disapprove of, and what the Salaf would disapprove of. They would criticise it, they would abhor it, and they would severely rebuke those who engaged in it, and it was not the custom of the Salaf to sit with the People of Desires in order to converse with them: “You listen to me, and I’ll listen to you.” Rather, if someone came to them who they knew to be from the People of Desires, they would leave him and abandon the gathering until he left. And whoever sought guidance, and sought the truth — then they would clarify to him the truth with its proofs, and if he had a doubt they would expose it with the evidence, and for this reason, the Shaikh (Ahmad Ibn Hanbal) emphasised the abandonment of sitting with the People of Desires and abandonment of quarrelling and controversy in the religion.

And due to this, one of the Salaf said: “Whomsoever exposes his religion to debating will fluctuate much [in his creed].”

And from that which has been passed down regarding them, is the speech of Al-Fārūq ʿUmar bin Al-Khattāb (radiyallāhu ‘anhu):

“Beware of the people of opinions, the enemies of the Sunnah — I present to them the ahādīth of Allāh’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) to memorise, and they respond with opinion and they were misguided and they misguide others.”

And from that which has been reported of the Salaf warning from engaging in controversy with the People of Desires, and debating them and arguing with them, is what Ibn Battah Al-ʿUkbarī reported in Al-Ibānah Al-Kubrā from Ayyūb As-Sakhtiyānī (d. 131H) — who said:

“Abū Qilābah said to me: ‘Oh Ayyūb! Memorise from me four affairs: do not speak regarding the Qur’ān with your own opinion, and beware of [delving into the affair of] Allāh’s Pre-Decree, and if the Companions of Muhammad (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) are mentioned then withhold―and do not lend your ear to the People of Desires for them to do with as they wish.’”

And that which corroborates this is the text of Allāh’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) — which is in the introduction to Sahīh Muslim, and Sharh As-Sunnah of Imām Al-Baghawī, from Abū Hurairah (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) — from the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) who said:

“There will appear at the end of my Ummah people who will narrate to you things that neither you nor your forefathers have heard, so beware of them, and keep away from them.”

And in Sahīh Al-Bukhārī, from ʿĀ’ishah (radiyallāhu ‘anhā): “The Messenger of Allāh (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) recited this verse:

هُوَ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُّحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ ۖ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ ابْتِغَاءَ الْفِتْنَةِ وَابْتِغَاءَ تَأْوِيلِه

‘It is He who revealed unto you (Oh Muhammad) the Book. From it are verses that are completely clear and these are the foundations of the Book, and from it are the ambiguous verses. As for those in whose hearts resides deviation, then they follow that which is not clear from it — seeking tribulation and seeking their hidden meanings.’

He said: ‘If you see those who follow that which is not clear from it (the Qur’ān), then these are those whom Allāh has named, so beware of them.’

I classify sitting [with the People of Desires] to be part of this, and by this, it should be clear to you that the origin is to boycott (hajar) the innovators who call to their innovation, who emphasise their innovations and spread them amongst the people. The origin is abandonment of them and warning from them — unless [if by doing so] a greater evil or corruption (mafsadah) will result.

Translated by Abdullāh Abdul-Wāhid Alam — 15 July 2020

Abandonment of Ahlul-Bid’ah and Ahwā was the Manhaj of the Salaf

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).

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