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How to Deal with Debates and Argumentation?

Debates and dialectics fall under the five rulings and are prohibited if silencing one’s opponent is what is intended. The reason for this is that it engenders destructive matters that have been prohibited such as contempt, envy, vanity and love of position in the hearts of men.

Indeed some scholars of penetrating insight have even reckoned recurring disputation to be among the venal sins.

The Prophet said about argumentation:

People never go astray after they had guidance except it’s replaced with argumentation.

That’s actually a quality of people that are astray, they start arguing about everything and they can’t agree on anything… and that’s why if there’s disagreement about something, you shouldn’t get into arguments about it.

So, when we have differences of opinion, you can clarify what your position is but don’t attack people who take another position. For example: “Do we celebrate the Prophet’s birthday or not?”…

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These are issues of difference, and you can present your position that’s fine. Say: “Look! The salaf didn’t practice it, here’s why we shouldn’t practice it, but we recognize there’s a difference here…” And show the two arguments right, and then leave people alone.

But to go and try to stop people from practicing things that are disagreed on that leads to sectarianism, it leads to division, it leads to hatred, and it splits in Ummah. Allah says:

This Ummah is one Ummah and I’m your Lord.

Don’t forget who’s your Lord.

How to Deal with Debates and Argumentation? - About Islam

Shakespeare said:

“It is idolatry to make the service greater than the God.”

The Prophet was very generous with people about even when they broke the rules. He was very generous to the man who slept with his wife during Ramadan; just look at that hadith how he dealt with him, or the people that were new in Islam, he just told them:

 Say bismillah and eat the meat.

Aisha said:

“Why are you telling them that?”

Because what you put in your mouth is so important. He said:

They’re new Muslims. Leave them alone.

This is wisdom.

But people want somebody becomes Muslim to be like the companions the next day, even though they’re not like the companions!

But this is what they expect. No. Let them come in with all their faults and blemishes.

Imam Malik said:

“Argumentation has nothing to do with our religion.”

A man came to Imam Malik once and said:

“I want to argue with you.”

Imam Malik said: “So if you beat me.”

He said: “You follow me.”

He said: “And if I beat you.”

He said: “I follow you.”

He said: “What if a third person comes and he beats both of us?”

He said: “Then we follow him.”

He said: “You’re going to be on a new religion every day. See you later!”

People discover: “Oh I found this new hadith!” You’re not going to discover anything new. You might find something out, but the Maliki school knew about it, the Hanafi school knew about it, the Shafi’i school knew about it. They all knew about it. They’ve been debating this stuff for centuries. It’s very dangerous all of this argumentation.

But sometimes you have to argue. Noah argued with his people; he complained that he was always arguing with them, he was trying to save them.

So argument can be allowed too, even they say that for students it’s good to debate but they have to know the rules of debating because it sharpens their minds.

Imam Shafi’i said that he never got into a debate except he didn’t care who won.

He said:

“I don’t care whether I won the debate or the one I was debating with won.”

For him what was important was the truth manifested. That’s somebody who doesn’t have ego invested in the debate.

Watch the full talk here.