The Etiquettes of Differing

alpenglowIslaam has laid down lofty standards for how the Muslim, who traverses the methodology of the Prophetic Sunnah, should deal with his brother who has differed with him in an issue of Ijtihaad. Indeed, how outstanding is the statement of the merciful gift [i.e. the Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam]:

"Indeed I have been sent to perfect noble manners." [Reported by al-Bukhaaree in al-Adabul-Mufrad (no.273). It was declared to be saheeh by Shaykh al-Albaanee in as-Saheehah (no.45).]

From these etiquettes (Aadaab) are:

1 - To have an open heart in accepting what comes to you by way of clarification of the mistakes that you have made, and to know that this is from the sincere advice which your brother for Allaah's sake is giving to you as a gift. So know that your refusal of the truth and your becoming angry for your own self is actually from pride; may Allaah protect us. Indeed, the most eminently truthful, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said:

"Pride is to reject the truth and to scorn other people." [Reported by Muslim (no.91)]

There are many examples of this noble mannerism that our Pious Predecessors have demonstrated to us; from them is what al-Haafidh Ibn Abdul-Barr said:

"A number of people informed me that Aboo Muhammad Qaasim ibn Asbagh said: 'When I travelled to the east, I stopped of at al-Qayrawaan and I took the hadeeth of Musaddad from Bakr ibn Hammaad. I then proceeded to Baghdad and met the people. When I left, I returned to him [i.e. Bakr] to complete the hadeeth of Musaddad, so one day I read to him the hadeeth of the Prophet, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam: "That a people from Mudar came in stripped woolen shirts (mujtaabee an-nimaar)" He said to me: It is: 'mujtaabee ath-thimaar'. So I said: 'Mujtaabee an-nimaar' is how I read it out to all those I read it to in Andalus and Iraq. So he said to me: 'You have, by entering Iraq, contradicted us and become arrogant against us.' Then he said: 'Stand with us and let us go to that Shaykh - a Shaykh who was in the Masjid - for he has the likes of this knowledge.' So I went with him and we asked him about this, so he replied: 'It is: 'mujtaabee an-nimaar,' just as you said. They used to wear stripped clothing, with pockets at their fronts. And nimaar is the plural of nimrah.' Bakr ibn Hammaad then said whilst holding his nose:

"My nose debases itself to the truth, my nose humbles itself to the truth, [and] he then departed." [Mukhtasar Jaami` Bayaanul-`Ilm wa Fadlihi (p.123); abridged by Shaykh Ahmad ibn `Umar al-Mumasaanee.]

O my brother for the sake of Allaah - may Allaah safeguard you - do you not see this amazing sense of justice. How much are we in need of it today?! However, this is not possible except for those who purify their intentions for Allaah's sake. Indeed here is Imaam Maalik, may Allaah have mercy upon him, saying:

"There is nothing in our time more scarce than justice." [Mukhtasar Jaami` Bayaanu1-`Ilm wa Fadlihi (p.120)]

So what is the case in our present time; a time in which false desires are plentiful? We seek refuge in Allaah from the misguiding trials.

2 - That you should use the finest and most appropriate words when discussing and debating with your brother, for Allaah the Exalted has said:

"And speak good to the people." [Soorah al-Baqarah 2:83]

Abud-Dardaa relates that the Prophet, 'alayhis-salaam, said:

"There is nothing that will be heavier in the Believer's scales, on the Day of judgement, than good character. Indeed Allaah hates the wicked and the ill-mouthed person." [Reported by Aboo Daawood (no. 4799), it was declared to be saheeh by al-haafidh Ibn Hair in Bulooghul-Maraam (no.1523).]

3 - That you should discuss with your brother with that which is better, for that which is even more appropriate. Your guiding principle in this should be the truth and its clarification; it should not be to seek victory for your ego or your soul that invites towards evil. Your character in that which you utter should be one of sincerity (ikhlaas). If however, the affair with your brother reaches the level of speculative argumentation, then give him the greeting of salaam and remind him of the saying of the Messenger, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam:

"I am a guarantor for a house on the outskirts of Paradise for the one who leaves of arguing, even if he is in the right." [Reported by Aboo Daawood (no.4800). It was declared to be hasan by Shaykh al-Albaanee in as-Saheehah (no.273).]

Al-Haafidh Ibn 'Abdul-Barr mentioned that Zakariyyah ibn Yahyaa said:

"I heard al-Asma'ee saying that `Abdullaah ibn Hasan said:

"Argumentation corrupts friendship and unties the strongest of bonds. The least harm it contains is strife, and strife leads to severing relations."

Ja'far ibn 'Awf said: I heard Mis'ar saying, whilst addressing his son Kidaam:

"I present to you my advice, O Kidaam;
So listen to a father, compassionate to you.
As for joking and argumentation, then leave them;
They are traits I do not approve of for a friend.
Having tried them, I did not found them praiseworthy,
Neither for a close neighbour, nor for a close friend.
[Mukhtasar Jaami` Bayanul-`Ilm wa Fadlihi (p.278)]

The Pious Predecessors have left us splendid examples about the etiquettes of differing; amongst them is:

What al-Bukhaaree (no.5704) and Muslim (no.220) report from Husain ibn 'Abdur-Rahmaan who said:

I was with Sa`eed ibn Jubayr when he said: "Who amongst you saw the shooting stars last night?" I replied: "I did." Then I said: "Not because I was praying at that time, but because I had been stung by a scorpion." He said: "So what did you do?" I replied: "I used an incantation (ruqyaa)." He said: "Why did you do that?" I said: "Because of a hadeeth related to me by ash-Sha`bee." He said: "What did he relate to you?" I replied: "He related from Buraydah ibn al-Husain who said:

"There is no incantation, except for the evil eye or a sting."

Sa'eed said: He has done well in halting at what he has heard [of knowledge]. However Ibn 'Abbaas related to us ... [and he went on to narrate the hadeeth]."

Look at this sublime mannerism from one of those who inherited knowledge from Ibn 'Abbaas, may Allaah be pleased with him. He was not severe, rather he was kind to him because he was acting upon what he had of the evidence.

Then he explained to him what was better, but with a gentle rectification supported by proof.

earthrise2-796487Difference of opinion is one of mankind's natures, "And if your Lord had willed, He could have made mankind one community, but they will not cease to differ. Except whom your Lord has given mercy..." (Surah Hud:118-119) Doubtlessly, differences in opinion occur due to differences in intentions and purposes, differences in the strength of minds and perceptions, and differences in knowledge. Dealing with these differences requires a firm footing in the shariah.

Some du'aat invite to the unity of the rank and file in order to forget conflict, without defining as to whom to unify with and who to be separated from due to misguidance and deviations. On the other hand, there is one who exaggerates about the conditions, to the point that he wants people to agree with him in everything, even in his personal ijtihaad and his own opinions. And if anybody disagrees with him, he turns away from him, takes the attitude of resistance towards him, and becomes careless and disrespectful to him! Justice is accepting the difference in that in which difference is permissible. Like the means of da'wah, secondary matters, those rulings in which scholars of the past differed..., that which is based on the Shari'ah Ijtihaad in understanding of the texts, not simply on desires. As for leniency towards the people of innovation concerning 'Aqeedah, and fundamental deviations under the pretext of unifying the ranks, this is a false procedure that does not relate to reason nor to the shar'.

As for asking people to agree in everything, and not to differ in anything at all, this is impossible and unreal.


If someone comes to debate with you, beware of him. For debating involves argumentation, disputing, seeking to overcome, wrangling and anger. You have been forbidden from all of this. It diverts you both away from the truth. It has not reached us that any of our scholars or people of knowledge argued, debated or disputed. Al-Hasan (al-Basree) said,

"The wise man does not argue or seek to overcome with stratagem rather he propagates his wisdom. If it is accepted he praises Allaah and if it is rejected he praises Allaah." (Reported by Abu Nu`aim ibn Hammaad in his Zawaa'id `alaz-Zuhd libnil Mubaarak (no. 30) and Ibn Battah in Ibaanatul-Kubraa (no. 611). Its isnaad is weak, since it contains an unnamed narrator.)

A man came to al-Hasan (al-Basree) and said, "I wish to debate with you about the Religion." Al-Hasan replied,

"I know my Religion. If you have lost your Religion go out and look for it." (Reported by al-Aajurree in ash-Sharee`ah (p. 57), al-Laalikaa'ee in as-Sunnah (no. 215) and Ibn Battah (no. 586) and it is saheeh.)

The Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) heard some people arguing outside his apartment, one of them saying, 'Did not Allaah say so and so?' and the other saying, 'Did not Allaah say so and so?' So he came out angry and said,

"Is this what I have ordered you, or is this what I was sent with, that you should set one part of the Book of Allaah against some other parts?" (Reported by Ahmad (2/178, 181 and 196), Ibn Maajah (no. 85), `Abdullaah ibn Ahmad in as-Sunnah (no. 86) and al-Baghawee in Sharhus-Sunnah (1/260). Al-Boosayree declared it saheeh in Zawaa'id Ibn Maajah (1/4) as did al-Albaanee in Sharh `Aqeedah at-Tahaawiyyah (p. 218))

So he forbade them from argumentation.

Ibn `Umar used to hate disputation as did Maalik ibn Anas and those greater and lesser than him right up to this day.

The Sayings of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, is greater than the sayings of His creation. Allaah, the Most High says:

"None dispute in the Aayaat (signs, proofs) of Allaah except those who disbelieve." [Soorah Ghaafir (40):4]

A man asked `Umar ibn al-Khattaab:

What is: "Those (angels) who gently take out (the souls of the believers)?" [Soorah an-Naazi`aat (79):2]

He said,

"If your head were shaved, I would have beheaded you." [Shaving his head was the sign of the Khawaarij. The man who asked `Umar was called Sabeegh. His story is well-known and authentic. It is reported by ad-Daarimee (1/51), Ibn Waddah in al-Bida`h (p.56), al-Aajurree in ash-Sharee`ah (p. 73), al-Laalikaa'ee in as-Sunnah (pp. 634-636) and Ibn Battan (1/414-415)

The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said, "The Believer does not dispute and I will not intercede on the Day of Resurrection for those who dispute, so leave arguing for its lack of good." [This hadeeth is very weak, as declared by al-Haithumee in Majma` uz-Zawaa'id (1/156, 725). Reported by at-Tabaraanee in al-Kabeer (8/178-179) and al-Aajurree in ash-Sharee`ah (pp. 55-56)].

It was related that a man said to Haatim al Asam: “You are a non-Arab who cannot speak fluently, but no one has debated you except that you silenced him, so how do you defeat your opponents?”

He said:

“With three:

1.    I am pleased when my opponent is correct,
2.    I am sad when he is incorrect,
3.    And I preserve my tongue from saying anything that offends him."

Al Imaam Ahmad stated: “What a wise man he is.”

Al Khateeb al Baghdaadee stated:

“A person’s intention should be to clarify the truth when debating, not to defeat his opponent.”

Al Imaam ash Shaafi’ee said:

“I did not debate anyone while hoping that he would err.”

He also said:

“I never spoke to anyone except that I hoped that he would be granted success and supported. I never spoke to anyone except that I didn’t mind whether Allaah clarified the truth upon my tongue or his.”

Al Hafidh ibn Rajab comments:

“This indicates that he did not have any intention except the clarification of the truth, even if it were from the person who is debating and contradicting him. Whoever is of this state would not dislike it when his opinions are refuted and when his contradiction to the Sunnah is clarified, not while alive or after his death. This is also what we think of the other Imaams of Islaam, those who defended Islaam and supported it whether they were from the Salaf or those who came after them. They also never used to dislike those who contradicted them as long as they were following evidence, even though the evidence was not strong enough for them to follow or leave their own evidence for.”


The Difference between Advising and Degrading by Ibn Rajab al Hanbalee.

Al Faqee wal Mutafaqih by al Khateeb al Baghdaadee.

penThe Salaf-us-Saalih (the Pious Predecessors) hated that a person should put himself forward to give religious verdicts (fataawaa) and to crave them, and to hasten to it, and to do it in excess.

Ibn Lahee`ah reports from`Ubaydullaah ibn Abee Ja`far in mursal form from the Prophet (saw) that he said,

"He who is boldest from you in giving religious verdicts, will be the boldest in proceeding to the Fire"

[It is reported by ad-Daarimee 1/57 and its chain of narration is weak since it is mursal (i.e. there is a missing link or links between the last narrator and the Prophet (saw)].

`Alqamah said, "They used to say,

'The boldest of you in giving religious verdicts is the one having the least knowledge.'"

Al-Baraa' said,

"I met a hundred and twenty of the Ansaar from the Companions of Allaah's Messenger (saw) and when one of them was asked about a matter there was not a single man amongst them except that he wished that his brother would suffice him (by answering)."

[This saying is reported by ad-Daarimee (1/53) and Ibn `Abdul-Barr in Jaami` (2/163).However it is the saying of `Abdur-Rahmaan ibn Abee Laylaa and not the saying of al-Baraa`, and its chain of narration is saheeh.

As for the saying of al-Baraa`, then it is,

"I saw three hundred of the people of Badr, there was not a single one of them except that he loved that someone else should take his place in answering."

It is reported by Ibnul-Mubaarak in az-Zuhd (no. 58), ibn Sa`d (6/11) and others and its isnaad contains Aboo Ishaaq as-Sabee`ee who is acceptable (sadooq) except that he was mudallis and reports it without stating that he heard it directly.]

In a narration there occurs the addition,

" this one would refer it to another, and he would refer it to someone else until it would eventually return to the first one."

From Ibn Mas`ood, (ra), who said,

"The one who gives a religious verdict to the people about everything that he is asked is indeed insane."

[Reported by Ibn `Abdul-Barr (2/164-165), al-Khateeb in al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih (2/197-198) and Aboo Khaithamah in al-`Ilm (no. 10) and its chain of narration is saheeh.]

`Umar ibn `Abdul-`Azeez was asked about a question and replied,

"I am not one who is bold about giving religious verdicts."

He also wrote to one of his governors,

"By Allaah! I am not one who craves after giving religious verdicts, as long as I can find a way to avoid it."

Ibn Yameenah said,

"This affair is not for those who love that the people should have need of them, rather this affair is only for those who love that someone can be found to take their place."

It is also reported from him that he said,

"The most knowledgeable of people concerning religious verdicts is the one who is most often silent, and the most ignorant of people about them is the one who speaks the most with regard to them."

[Reported by al-Khateeb in al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih (2/166) and its isnaad is weak.]

Sufyaan ath-Thawree said,

"We reached the scholars and they used to hate answering questions and giving religious verdicts until they could find no way out except to give a verdict, but if they were relieved of having to do so then that was more beloved to them."

Imaam Ahmad said,

"He who puts himself forward to give religious verdicts has put himself forward to something very serious, unless he is forced through necessity."

It was said to him,

"Then which is better: for him to speak or to remain silent?"

He said,

"It is more beloved to us that he should withhold."

It was said,

"But if there is a necessity?" So he started saying,

"Necessity! Necessity!"

And he said,

"It is safer for him to withhold."

So those who give religious verdicts should realise that they are transmitting Allaah's orders and prohibitions and that he will be made to stand to account and be questioned about it.

Ar-Rabee` ibn Khaitham said,

"O giver of religious verdicts! Look and see how you are giving verdicts."

`Amr ibn Deenaar said to Qataadah when he sat to give religious verdicts,

"Do you realise the affair that you have fallen into? You have come between Allaah and His worshippers and say, 'This is correct and this is not correct.'" [Reported by al-Khateeb in al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih (2/168)]

From Ibnul-Munkadir who said,

"The scholar enters between Allaah and His creation, so let him look and see how he enters between them." [Reported with variations in wording by ad-Daarimee (1/53), and al-Khateeb in al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih (2/168) and its isnaad is saheeh.]

When Ibn Seereen was asked about anything pertaining to the permissible and forbidden his colour would change and he would alter so that he would not seem to be the same person. [Reported by ibn Sa`d (7/195), al-Khateeb in al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih (2/167) and its isnaad is saheeh].

When an-Nakhaa`ee was asked about something then hatred would be seen upon his face and he would say,

"Could you not find someone else to ask other than me?"

He also said,

"I spoke and if I had found any way out I would not have spoken, and indeed a time when I am the scholar of Koofah is an evil time." [Reported in meaning by Aboo Khaithamah in al-`Ilm (no. 131).]

It is related that Ibn `Umar, (ra), said,

"You ask us for religious verdicts in such a manner that it is as if we are people who are not going to be questioned about the verdicts that we give you." [Reported by al-Fasawee (1/490) and al-Khateeb in al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih (2/168) and its isnaad is weak.]

Also from Muhammad ibn Waasi` who said,

"The first of those who will be called to account are the scholars."

It is reported about Maalik, (ra), that when he was asked about a matter it was as if he were standing between the Paradise and the Hell-Fire. [Reported by al-Khateeb in al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih (2/167) and its isnaad is weak.]

One of the scholars also said to a person who used to give religious verdicts,

"When you are asked about a matter then do not let your concern be to release and find a way out for the questioner, but rather to release and save your own self."

[The one who said this was `Umar ibn Khaldah az-Zurqee and he was speaking to Rabee`ah ibn Abee `Abdir-Rahmaan. This narration is reported with very close wordings by al-Fasawee (1/556-557), Aboo Nu`aym in al-Hilyah (3/260-261) and al-Khateeb in al-Faqeeh wal-Mutafaqqih (2/169) and its isnaad is saheeh.]

Another said,

"If you are asked about a matter then consider - if you find a way out of it then speak, otherwise remain silent."

The sayings of the Salaf about this are too many to quote and gather.

If they were like this, then what about us???