Do not Refute Them Until you Know What They Meant?

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?


About Rasheed Gonzales
My name is Rasheed Gonzales. I’m a Muslim convert of Filipino descent. Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, I was guided to Islam through one of my younger brothers and a couple of friends, all of whom had converted to Islam sometime before me (may Allah reward them greatly). I am married with four children (and the praise is Allah’s) and also a volunteer for the Qur'an & Sunnah Society of Canada, based in Toronto.

22 Responses to Do not Refute Them Until you Know What They Meant?

  1. Umm says:

    I think the shakh was speaking about statments that show clear falshood but might have different meaning with the speaker. For excample if i say: allah is everywhere. This statement shows clear falshood but the speaker might mean: allah is everywhere with his knowledge. Or he is a kafir, but i meant in taghut. So in this case such statements might confuse the people and lead to corrupt beliefs. Thats why these “indirect” statements are not allowed.

    The best thing to do is to correct the person in privet when he is known to be a salafi and then he might corect himself on this issue. Unfortunaly such fatawa(like this one) can lead some of the extremist to refute every statement the scholars make wich they find falshood becuz of there lack of knowledge and this attitude is known especialy now days. May allah guide us.

  2. Muhammad bin Abdil-Wahhab’s statement is general and encompasses any mistake made, whether it’s an ambiguous statement, like you say, or something that seems to be clear. It encompasses mistakes that fall under heresies and whatever is lesser than that, as well as mistakes that fall under disbelief. It also encompasses Salafi and non-Salafi.

    The fact is, Ibn ‘Abdil-Wahhab states that it is a must for you to seek clarity regarding the issue before doing anything, and only after clarity is achieved, to correct, but not destroy. This is something contrary to these Exaggerationists who “correct” regardless if they understand the situation or not, and destroy, regardless of how much good the one being “refuted” has done for Allah, His book and His religion.

  3. umm says:

    Muhammad bin Abdil-Wahhab’s statement is general and encompasses any mistake made, whether it’s an ambiguous statement, like you say, or something that seems to be clear.

    well i think this is true regarding a person who is known to be upon the way of the salaf. in this case we look at his other works and compare it.

    what i was saying, and i think u might missunderstood it, is that if a person makes a statement which shows “clear” falsehood then it must be corrected becuz most of the people dont know ur intention and they might take this statement in a wrong way and create wrong beliefs. eventually its not only the speaker`s honor that we want to protect but also the truth.

    in such cases it is possible that we can correct without destroying the persons honor. this needs wisdom ofcourse.

    RG’s edit: Formatting of the quote to distinguish it from the sister’s comment.

  4. I don’t think I misunderstood the statement by Muhammad bin Hadi. He’s among the Exaggerationists who blindly follow Rabi bin Hadi al-Madkhali. Their idea of refuting is to attack, defame and destroy those who make what they think are mistakes contrary to their idea of Salafism. A perfect example of this is how Moosaa Richardson is dealing with Yusuf Estes. They make it so that a person who errs is to be abandoned and all the good he’s done for Islam is to be ignored and forgotten. For them, correcting and clarifying a falsehood also means maligning the one who made the error.

  5. Umm says:

    I know. I agree that some are very extreme. It reminded me on the way of the magician who speaks 1 truth and mix it with 100 falshood. Many of the extremist act this way in refuting. Take 1 mistake and when it is spread everywhere they add lies ontop of it. This way they destroy unnoticed.

    We should not be like that with them, or anyone else. If you dont agree with the shaykh then give him the benefit of a doubt and dont explain his speech according to what you see from his folowers.

    If you want to act upon the speech of abdul wahab then use it for the speech of ibn hadi also.


  6. Excuse me? With all due respect, sister, Muhammad Hadi made a statement and I’m comparing it to the statement made by Ibn ‘Abdil-Wahhab. This bit about his speech referring to clear mistakes or not is irrelevant and doesn’t affect the comparison. He states that there’s no requirement to verify the apparent error, that it is to be refuted. Ibn ‘Abdil-Wahhab on the other hand says that the error must be verified first, then corrected.

  7. umm says:

    akhy like the hadith says: actions are by intentions. this hadith proofs ur point that we accuse a person until we know his intention on that statement he made right?

    but its also a proof that its not always the case that we act(refute,reject and actions) UNTIL we know the intention. someone might have a good intention or might be ignorant by doing an action that is haram. do we look at his intention in this case? no ofcourse not. so we dont always care what his intention is when the falsehood is clear in our eyes. so we still reject the actions even if he had good intention and even if he was ignorant.

    this is what ibn hadi is referring to in this fatwa and this principle is known.

  8. No one said anything about good or bad intentions, sister. We’re talking about mistakes and how to deal with them.

  9. umm says:

    yes exactly. look at the statement of ibn hadi:

    “Whosoever has speech that is falsehood, then falsehood must be refuted”

    he said “speech” then he said:

    “but I erred in the expression,” we reply, ‘The praise is for Allaah.

    here he said: “expression”.
    there are so many proofs from the quran and sunnah that the expressions are rebuked even if the intention was different. like the hadith of the man when he said: what allah wills and you will. the prophet rebuked it becuz its shirk in “wording” if its not rebuked it can lead to major shirk. even though his intention was not as what his wording shows.

  10. ibnjulo says:

    It’s a known principle that before a ruling is passed on someone, they should be asked what was intended by their words. This is part of establishing proof on them. I was attending a dars in Egypt and the sheikh mentioned the following statement by Ibul Taymiyaa (I think it was) “when it comes to statements of disbelief (and judgement thereof), a true scholar asks ‘what did you mean’ while an incomplete scholar asks ‘what did you say’. [Someone without knowledge says ‘you have disbelieved’]. The part in parenthesis was added by a modern scholar. According to this, which of the three categories would a sheikh who says “we have not been commanded to investigate into the intended meanings” fall into?

  11. Not sure if Ibn Taimiyyah said it, but I’m sure Ibn al-Qayyim said something along those lines in I’lâm al-Muwaqqi’în ‘an Rabb al-‘Âlamîn (vol. 3, pg. 69–as quoted by Abul-Hasan al-Ma’ribi in his treatise al-Qawl al-Mufhim li Man Ankar Maqâlah: Nusahhih wa Lâ Nahdim from his ad-Difa’ ‘an Ahl al-Ittiba’):

    Beware of disregarding the speaker’s goal, intention, and custom, [such that] you commit a crime against him and against the Sharî’ah, and attribute to him what he is free from … for the jurist of the self [asks], “what did you desire?” while the middling jurist [asks], “what did you say?”

  12. Abu Abdullah says:

    Shaykh Muhammad bin Haadee al Madkhalee may Allah preserve him was
    asked about the University of Madeenah:

    So he said:

    “Is everyone in the University of Madeenah salafi? It contains khalfiyyeen (translators note: the people who oppose the manhaj of the salaf from amongst the people of desires and innovators) of all types, I do not say this only now but I have said it before. How many khalfiyyeen are there? All the
    sects of the people of desires are there in it.”

    The reference for this statement is in audio format it can be found on the website

    Also Shaykh Muhammad bin Haadee said in his letter to shaykh Muqbil
    may Allah have mercy upon him” The Madeenah University is not in the
    hands of the salafis”.

    My question: So why do you still work in the University with HIzbis and under their control?

  13. umm says:

    @ abu abdullah
    this was already known in the time of shaykh bin baaz. in his time u already had the raafidah studying there.

    i think there is still allot of benefit in studying in the medina and many great students of knowledge come from there. so u cant compare it with other places where there foundations are based on clear misguidance. u cant compare it with the medina uni.

  14. Sister, I think you misunderstand his intent on posting that quote and asking that question. It’s called double standards. According to the exaggerationists, we shouldn’t and cannot work with partisans and heretics. They should be boycotted and shunned without exception. Yet, here you have one of their supposed reference points working at the Uni as a professor, while admitting that Madinah University is not being controlled by “Salafis”. According to their own principles, Madinah University should be abandoned and boycotted.

  15. umm says:

    yes i understood his point but in the medina there are many or maybe mostly salafis. the medina uni is not known to be a university of bid3a and we all know this. yes i do belief that some of the dawah of ahlul bid3a is spread there but this doesn’t deny the great good and benefit that is found there. i think we should be realistic.

    shaykh ibn hadi is a scholar and he would not say this and same time acting against the principles. i really think he knows well what he is doing. we should not act or think that these scholars are stupid or make such idiotic mistakes.

  16. Sister, what you mention in your first paragraph is irrelevant.

    As for this,

    shaykh ibn hadi is a scholar and he would not say this and same time acting against the principles. i really think he knows well what he is doing. we should not act or think that these scholars are stupid or make such idiotic mistakes.

    Then, I beg to differ. I don’t believe he has any right to be teaching anything at all, let alone Islamic sciences in a world renowned Islamic university. I wouldn’t trust him with teaching my 2 year old alif-ba.

  17. umm says:

    subhanallah you should fear allah. many of the great scholars praised him. did shaykh fawzaan or shaykh muhsin abaad ever made such statements that u make about the shaykh? its your lack of knowledge about the shaykh that lead u to utter such words. khair inshallah

  18. May Allah make us from the Godfearing.

    You should know, sister, that general praise from other scholars, especially in today’s times, means very little in the grand scale of things. A man is known for his fruits: his academic works, his talks and lessons, and the results of those efforts. Muhammad bin Hadi’s contributions in that regard are scant to say the least. I was being polite with what I said about him above; I could have been a lot more frank about what I really think of the man.

    As for whatever perceived lack of knowledge about Ibn Hadi you think I have, I know enough about him to justify what I said above, i.e., that I wouldn’t trust him with teaching my 2 year old alif-ba. The fruits of his labours are proof enough to justify my views–and that’s not even taking into account the things I know about him that I haven’t (and will not) mentioned on here.

  19. Abu Abdullah says:

    I take back what i said about Sheikh Muhammed Haadee.It is not for me to speak about the scholars if we differ. I seek forgiveness from Allah.

  20. I take back what i said about Sheikh Muhammed Haadee.It is not for me to speak about the scholars if we differ. I seek forgiveness from Allah.

    Huh? I’m a bit confused by this “retraction”. What did you say about Muhammad Hadi that requires taking back? You quoted two statements he himself made, then asked a question. Forgive me if I’m missing something here, but what is it exactly that you explicitly said about him?

    Please don’t tell me some exaggerationists came to you and pressured you into feeling guilty for something you didn’t do; inna lillah wa inna ilaih raji’un.

  21. By Allah, with the recent things being conveyed of what Muhammad bin Hadi said regarding the suspect Salafism of those who visit Mecca and do not visit Rabi bin Hadi, I don’t know how anyone in their right mind can take him seriously.

    To Allah we belong and to Him we return. Talk about major facepalm.

  22. ibnjulo says:

    The question should be how was taken serious in the first place. I don’t mean that disrespectfully. It’s just a question people should ask sometimes. How does one know that another in another land is a scholar who should be taken from?

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