Imām Abu Muhammad Al-Hasan Ibn `Alī Ibn Khalaf Al-Barbahārī (d. 329H) stated:
“And know that there would not be heresy, nor disbelief, nor doubts, nor innovation, nor misguidance, nor confusion in the religion except due to rhetoric and the people of rhetoric and due to argumentation, debating and disputation and those amazed by themselves. How can a man embark upon debating, disputation and argumentation whilst Allah, the Most High, stated:
مَا يُجَادِلُ فِي آيَاتِ اللَّهِ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا
“No one disputes concerning the signs of Allah except those who disbelieve…”
So upon you is to submit and be pleased and content with the narrations and to withhold [from debating, etc] and be silent.”
Al-`Allāmah Rabee’ Ibn Hādee Al-Madkhalee explained some of these lines as follows:
“…and debating…” meaning: debating upon falsehood. That is because debating or reasoned argumentation with knowledge, proof and evidence and with the etiquette laid down in the Islamic Sharī`ah is from the means of calling to Allah, the Blessed and Most High:
ادْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ ۖ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ
“Invite to the Way of your Lord with wisdom (i.e. upon the Sunnah) and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better.” (An-Nahl: 125)
So if one’s da`wah reaches the point of disputation, and controversial argumentation and so on, then leave him because he has entered the door of disputing. However, if your companion whom you are arguing with seeks the truth; he is not stubborn and rebellious against the truth, he is not haughty and arrogant, and he does not argue upon falsehood – then this is a good opportunity for you. Reason with him in argumentation with proofs and evidences and with the manners legislated. So this is from the means of da`wah – not [the false means like] play-acting and singing nasheeds – because here you are establishing the proofs and evidences throughout the course of this reasoned debate and discussion. Allah stated:
وَلَا تُجَادِلُوا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ إِلَّا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ
“And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best…” (Al-`Ankaboot: 46)
The Christian and the Jew; it is possible that they may aspire to Islam and desire it. Bring to him evidences and proofs – and he may bring to you some doubts, so you respond to him with further proofs and evidences – and he enters into Islam. So there is no harm in this. However if he debates so as to falsify your religion, he becomes haughty, stubborn and rebellious, then no. No not enter into any debate or argumentation with him – this is from the reasons for leaving alone argumentation.
His saying: “And those amazed by themselves. How can a man embark upon debating, disputation and argumentation whilst Allah, the Most High, stated: مَا يُجَادِلُ فِي آيَاتِ اللَّهِ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا “No one disputes concerning the signs of Allah except those who disbelieve…” (Ghāfir: 4) This generalisation requires looking into because Allah has textually legislated reasoned debate upon the truth in two verses that we have already mentioned. And Ibn `Abbās debated the Khawārij – and due to this debate it is stated by Abdur-Razzāq in an authentic report (Al-Musannaf 10/157-160) that 20,000 returned. They were 24,000 and from them 20,000 returned. So he debated them upon knowledge with proofs, and evidences for a people who loved the truth and they desired to embrace it and return to it, so they returned. Then there are those who are stubbornly rebellious, so do not debate them because they want blameworthy debating, and argumentation upon falsehood. So this speech is restricted by that which we have said to you.
Ref: `Awnul-Bāree bi-Bayān mā Tadammanahu Sharhus-Sunnah lil-Imām al-Barbahārī by Shaikh Rabee’ Ibn Hādee al-Madkhalee, 2/520-521.
Now compare these tremendous words from an Imām of the Sunnah in clarification of what is allowed and disallowed of reasoned debate and argumentation. Then compare it to the path of the weak-minded hizbīs who publicly broadcast their videoed debates with the chiefs of bid’ah and the khawārij – speech littered with praise of the innovators – then leaving the paupers from the rabble to decide what is truth and falsehood. They argue upon false usool leading to futile end-results leaving the people confused and bewildered. What is apparent from their mutual flirting with each other is that both the debater and the debated seek nothing but notoriety. Neither concern themselves with establishing the truth; both sides wish only to gather followers. May Allah rub their noses in the dirt for their deceitful practices and pretentious behaviour. The Salafi da’wah and manhaj is free from such foolishness.