Do not Refute Them Until you Know What They Meant?
July 9, 2013 22 Comments
I woke up this morning and found an email in my inbox from the SPubs mailing list titled, “NEW ARTICLE: Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Haadee al-Madkhalee Disproves the False Principle: Do not Refute Them Until you Know What They Meant”. It contained the following quote, which I assume is part of a longer article (I didn’t click on the link provided to check):
So we have not been commanded to investigate into the intended meanings. Whosoever has speech that is falsehood, then falsehood must be refuted. And if he is ignorant and he says, “I meant such and such, but I erred in the expression,” we reply, ‘The praise is for Allaah. Therefore, you have corrected yourself. So it is not permissible for anyone, from this point onwards, to follow you in that falsehood now that you are aware of it.’ So now you – O critic – have benefited the people firstly and him (i.e. the speaker of falsehood) secondly.
It reminded me of one of the last quotes I translated for that piece by al-Ma’ribi that I was working on and have had on hold for what seems like forever. This quote was something said by one of the great imams of the People of the Sunnah, one of the “founding fathers” of what many Salafis consider the bastion of Monotheism in the Muslim world: Saudi Arabia, none other than Muhammad bin ‘Abdil-Wahhab of Najd. In a letter he wrote to ‘Abdillah bin ‘Isa and Ibn ‘Abdil-Wahhab that was collected in the book, ad-Durar as-Saniyyah, the great imam writes (emphasis mine),
… and when the issue is not intelligible to you, the rebuke of someone who issued a [legal] verdict or acted [accordingly] is not lawful for you until his error becomes intelligible to you. Rather, the obligatory [action] is silence and hesitation. Then if you verify the error, clarify it and do not relinquish all of the merits on account of an issue—or a hundred, or two hundred, I erred in, for surely, I do not claim infallibility.
Or in other words, if you do not understand what was said or done by someone, first seek to understand it clearly. Until you do, keep quiet and don’t say anything. Verify that it was an error and then clarify the mistake without disregarding the merits of the person who made it, i.e., correct him but do not destroy him. It’s also worth noting that Ibn ‘Abdil-Wahhab switches from third person at the beginning of his statement to first person at the end.
So now, my question is: who would you rather follow?