Seeking the Truth in Any Discussion

Imam Shafi’i said:

“I have not debated or discussed a matter with someone except that I cared for the truth to appear, whether it was said by me or by my opponent.” [1]

Reflection: This quote should be mandatory to read and apply, before one enters into any kind of discussion about Islam. The scholars of the past would discuss to serve the Deen, while so many people today, discuss to serve their ego. Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali mentions in the same book the quote was taken from, that the reason why there was so much blessing in the discussions of the earlier scholars, was because they were all seeking the truth and were pleased when they found it, even if it came from their opponent. And why should we not be pleased? Would we prefer to keep or pride, and continue on with our erroneous concepts and misunderstandings? Or would we rather know the truth, so we might benefit ourselves and others with it?

In the world today we are so happy to spread our opinions and views, and we hate to see them opposed. I have seen discussions where people would criticize a specific view, and upon realising that this view exists with a specific scholar, would go on to revile that very scholar to keep their pride! How amazing it is that a person would risk exposing himself to divine wrath and the death of his heart, just to be in the right.

How often do we really think, before we unleash our tongue? We cling to every coin like our life depends on it, but when it comes to distributing our opinions and words, our generosity knows no boundaries. This is despite the fact, that every coin given for the sake of Allah only increases our wealth and could earn us Paradise, while every word that exits from our mouth might only increase our ego and be the cause of our downfall! We are but ants in terms of knowledge, compared to the Sahabah and the generations that followed them, and yet silence was their choice on issues where we would have talked until our throats dried up. Even when a question was put directly to them, they would prefer it to be answered by the Companion sitting next to them instead.

Finding the balance: Despite the fact that silence was preferred by the generations before us, we now live in a time where ignorance is widespread, our Deen is under constant attack and many of our young people are being misled. We are facing modernists and extremists who avidly spread their concepts and if we have received any understanding from Allah, it could be necessary to speak up in order to clarify a persons misconceptions, for his sake and for the sake of others who follow the discussion. However, it is necessary that this be done with the correct etiquette and the following points in mind:

  • Are we really sharing our thoughts and opinions, for the sake of Allah?
  • Are we seeking the truth, no matter from which side it might appear?
  • Do we know enough about the subject, to speak about it?
  • Is there any benefit at all, in entering into the discussion?

Even with the above points in mind, it is worth remarking that several scholars of the past would abhor a Muslim to enter into any discussion about the Deen. Especially in light of some of the consequences it might lead to. Imam Malik was asked:

‘A person who has knowledge of the Sunnah, should he argue in order to defend it?’ He replied, ‘No, he should inform the other of the Sunnah, if he accepts, fine, otherwise he should remain silent.’ He would say, ‘Arguing and disputing about knowledge takes away the light of knowledge,’ and ‘Disputing about knowledge hardens the heart and breeds cursing.’ [3]

 

If you ponder these quotes, from one of the greatest Imams of the Sunnah, you will realize that this is indeed what many discussions, especially on social media, have lead to. The light has been removed, the hearts have become hard and cursing has become widespread. If we aren’t careful about how we navigate these matters, our attempt to benefit somebody else, could very well be the cause for our own destruction on the Day of Judgement. May Allah protect us and guide us to what is best.

 

[1] Ibn Rajab, “Al-Farq bayna al-Nasihah wa at-Ta’yir” (English translation: “The Difference Between Advising and Shaming”)

[2] Ibn Rajab, “Al-Farq bayna al-Nasihah wa at-Ta’yir” (English translation: “The Difference Between Advising and Shaming”)

[3] Ibn Rajab, “Fadl ‘ilm al-salaf ‘alaa al-khalaf” (English translation: “The Excellence of Knowledge”)

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