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Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Ethical Debate/ Refute Encouraged In Islam

In a fruitful debate we discover facts. And by debating we identify our weaknesses. By debating also, we strive to be humble and accept that knowledge of Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala is Subhan'Allah wide and great, beyond our understanding and comprehension. Once the questions on debating/refute in Islam has crossed our mind, it is our duty or rather responsibilities to find out, to discover proven facts (mentioned in Qur'an and Hadiths and supported by both) before claiming that it is not encouraged by putting our own fatwas in the matter.

The objective of debate, according to Al-Thahabi: "A debate is only justified to unveil truth, so that the more knowledgeable should impart knowledge to the less knowledgeable, and to stimulate a weaker intellect."[10]

 'A'isha radi Allahu anha reported Allah's Messenger sallallahu alaihi wassalam, as saying: The most despicable amongst persons in the eye of Allah is one who tries to fall into dispute with others (for nothing but only to display his knowledge and power of argumentation)-Sahih Muslim 2668 In-book reference  : Book 47, Hadith 6. From this Hadith, it is understood that, silence should be the paramount choice when we are debating with an ignorant. However, should we be in silence when we know the facts and we ignore it? The part of spreading dakwah is to speak the truth so as to not let people left misguided. [6]

But what if we don’t know what to debate on?

That’s when we stay quiet. Even the Companions of Rasulullah sallallahu alaihi wassalam would humbly say,"No, I don't know" rather than giving their opinions on Deen, which is one topic that they highly regarded and understood that they might not have a learned knowledge of (Al-Baihaqi). This is in fact, one of the noble characteristics of learned ulama'. By saying “I don’t know” is also consider as half of knowledge. 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ood radiAllahu anhu said, "Whoever has some knowledge then let him speak and whoever does not have knowledge with him, then let him say "Allah knows best" because Allah said to His Prophet: "Say, I do not ask you for any reward for this and I am not one to invent and add extra things". This was the manner of the pious predecessors, the Salafus-Saalih: the Companions, the Taabi'een and those who followed them upon their good until the Day of Resurrection. [1], [5]. When a person have asked you a question to be clarified, answer them to the best of your knowledge rather than putting them down.

Some claimed that debating is not encouraged in Islam. Imagine if we do not debate? When facts being falsified, and we do know for a fact that it is wrong, do we just keep quiet about it? We need to debate that they are wrong by presenting the rightful information before we intend to spread the truth. Are we saving on our ego by discouraging debate? Imagine a class where the teacher does not allow even for a Q&A session? 

Iblis's egotism was clear when he said that he was better than Adam alaihisalaam. Hasan al-Basri Rehhmatullah Alaih has said, "Iblis was the first one to deduce a conclusion through reasoning." Muhammad bin Sirin Rehhmatullah Alaih has said,"Iblis was the first one to reason and the sun and the moon were not worshipped except through reasoning."[7]

From Surah An-Nahl (16:125-126) stated that,"Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided.And if you punish [an enemy, O believers], punish with an equivalent of that with which you were harmed. But if you are patient - it is better for those who are patient." [8]

From the verses, Islam encourage us to debate/ refute with those of unclear understanding of what is the proven facts. Islam prohibited debating on the words of Allah ( Astaghfirullah!) as it has already mention in many verses of Qur'an, and to start with Surah Al-Baqarah (2:256), "There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing." Meaning that, words of Allah are the truth and so debating is for those who do not believe in His words. 'Abdullah b. 'Umar radiAllahu anhu reported:"I went to Allah's Messenger, sallallahu alaihi wassalam in the morning and he heard the voice of two persons who had an argumentation with each other about a verse. Allah's Messenger sallallahu alaihi wassalam came to us (and) the (signs) of anger could be seen on his face. He said: Verily, the (peoples) before you were ruined because of their disputation in the Book." - Sahih Muslim 2666 In-book reference  : Book 47, Hadith 2.[6],[8]

Do the Prophets ever debate?

It was narrated that 'Amr bin Dinar radiAllahu anhu heard Tawus say: "I heard Abu Hurairah radiAllahu anhu narrating that the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wassalam said: 'Adam and Musa alaihisalam debated, and Musa said to him: "O Adam, you are our father but have deprived us and caused us to be expelled from Paradise because of your sin." Adam said to him: "O Musa, Allah chose you to speak with His own Hand. Are you blaming me for something which Allah decreed for me forty years before He created me?" Thus Adam won the argument with Musa.'" (Sahih Sunan Ibn Majah - Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 80)[6]

Subhan'Allah... Even Jannah and Jahannum debated. Abu Hurairah radiAllahu anhu narrated that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wassalam) said:"Paradise and the Fire debated. Paradise said: “The weak and the poor shall enter me,' and the Fire said: 'The tyrants and the proud shall enter me.” So He said to the Fire: “You are My Punishment, I take vengeance through you from whom I will,” and He said to Paradise: “You are My Mercy I show mercy through you to whom I will.'” (Hasan)- Jami` at-Tirmidhi,Vol. 4, Book 12, Hadith 2561. [6]

When it is best to debate?

Of course and it is best when we are knowledgeable about the topics. Shaykh Kamal ad-Din Ibn az-Zamlakani, who debated with Ibn Taymiyyah rehhmatullah alaih on more than one occasion, said: "Whenever he was questioned on a particular field of knowledge, the one who witnessed and heard (the answer) concluded that he had no knowledge of any other field and that no one possessed such as his knowledge. The jurists of all groups, whenever they sat with him, they would benefit from him regarding their own schools of thought in areas they previously were unaware of. It is not known that he debated anyone whereby the discussion carne to a standstill or that whenever he spoke on about a particular field of knowledge - whether it be related to the sciences of the Shari'ah or else - that he would not then excel the specialists of that field and those who are affiliated to it." [3]

When not to debate?  

Abu Hurairah radiAllahu anhu narrated: "The Messenger of Allah sallallahu alaihi wassalam came out to us while we were discussing about Al-Qadar. He became angry such that his face became red, as if a pomegranate was bursting through his cheeks. He said: 'Is this what I ordered you to do?' - or: 'Is this what I have been sent to you with? The people before you were only ruined when they differed about this matter. I order you [I order you] to not debate about it.". (Daif))- At-Tadmidhi,Vol. 4, Book 6, Hadith 2133.[6] 

We have to keep in mind that, the intention to debate is to uncover the truth so as to not misguide the people around us. It is best in our intention to not boast about our knowledge, but to humbly show or share with people what is right and what is not.

Allah knows best, and I may be wrong.

p/s: this note was prepared on a sole attempt to impart knowledge alone. Kindly share for your benefits and others In Shaa Allah.


  1. Disappearance of Knowledge and Appearance of Ignorance – A Sign of the Hour. Accessed on 21st November 2013. 
  2. Hadis 34 – Merubah Kemungkaran, Mufias, 3rd Dec, 2012,
  3. Ibn Taymiyyah Accessed on 21st November 2013. 
  4. Islam Is A Peaceful Religion, Oxford Union, Mehdi Hasan, Accessed on 21st November 2013. 
  5. Signs of Qiyamah, Cinta Ilmu-Disappearance of Knowledge and Appearance of Ignorance – A Sign of the Hour, Ustaz Badli Shah, TVAlHijrah Malaysia, Aired on 20th November 2013, 6.00pm. 
  7. Stories of the Prophets, Appendix including Life of Muhammad, The Last of the Prophets, Ibn Kathir, pp. 34, ISBN:81-7101-558-1, 2011 Edition, Idara Impex, New Delhi. 
  9. on the post,” The ethics of debate in Islam must be revived. Allah Knows Best. A Politician Doesn't. An Advocate Doesn't. A Scholar Doesn't.” Accessed on 21st November 2013. 
  10. The Principles and Etiquettes of Debate in Islām, Saleh Abdullah Bin Humaid(Imam of the Holy Mosque of Makkah), Accessed on 21st November 2013. 

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