Adhering to Good Manners in Dealing with Opponents

Adhering to Good Manners in Dealing with Opponents
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Author: Yaasir ‘Abdut-Tawwaab

Praise be to Allah, and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon the Messenger of Allah.

A fair caller to Allah must adhere to good manners while dealing with the opponents and patiently accept their criticism which could very well be unfair. Even if those opponents have disobeyed Allah, The Almighty, in dealing with him, this should in no way be a justification for returning their misdeed with its like. The fairness of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him made him quite patient even with those who accused him of disbelief (Kufr), considered him as an innovator in the religion, and as a Faasiq (a dissolute person). He aptly said: "I patiently tolerate those who oppose me, and even when they transgress the limits of Allah with me by accusing me of disbelief, dissoluteness, fabricating lies against the religion, or fanaticism of the time of ignorance, still I do not transgress the limits of Allah with them. Rather, I control my words and actions, weigh them with the balance of justice, and commit them to the Book which Allah revealed and made a source of guidance to the people and a judge over that in which they differed. Allah, The Exalted, Says (what means): {Mankind was [of] one religion [before their deviation]; then Allah sent the prophets as bringers of good tidings and warners and sent down with them the Scripture in truth to judge between the people concerning that in which they differed.} [Quran 2:213] Allah also Says (what means): {And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger} [Quran 4:59] He further Says (what means): {We have already sent Our messengers with clear evidences and sent down with them the Scripture and the balance that the people may maintain [their affairs] in justice.} [Quran 57:25] This is because the optimal way you recompense someone who disobeyed Allah, The Exalted, concerning your rights is to obey Allah concerning their rights. Allah, The Exalted, Says (what means): {Indeed, Allah is with those who fear Him and those who are doers of good.} [Quran 16:128]." [End of quote]

The Good Manners that Should Be Adopted in Dealing with the Opponents:

1-    A Muslim should refrain from defaming them or offending them in any way whatsoever, especially if doing this might drag him into saying about them what he has no knowledge of or accusing them of what they are not guilty of. In fact, it is a trait of the believers that they raise themselves above fishing in muddy water and pursuing opportunities to offend the opponents.

Here we get a lesson from women. Although it is common in the world of women that they might mix news, repeat rumors, backbite their female opponents and accuse their honor, yet this lofty example reveals to us the refined nature of the Muslim woman as illustrated by the attitude of Zaynab bint Jahsh, may Allah be pleased with her, towards the ordeal of ‘Aa’ishah, The Mother of the Believers, the chaste whom Allah, The Exalted, declared her innocence of what she had been accused of. It was an ordeal for all the Muslims. Here is ‘Aa’ishah, the pure and chaste, being accused regarding the most precious thing she cherished, her honor, though she was the daughter of As-Siddeeq, and was brought up in that pure honorable nest. They discredited her faithfulness, though she was dearly loved and pampered by that big heart (the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention )). They discredited her faith, when she was that Muslim woman who was raised within the haven of Islam ever since the first day she came to life, and later when she was the wife of the Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ). She was accused regarding her honor, while she was innocent and wary of nothing and expecting nothing of that which was going on. She, however, found nothing to prove her innocence except her hope that Allah would defend her. She was waiting for the Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) to have a vision declaring her innocence of what she was accused of. But, for a wisdom that Allah willed, the revelation was delayed for a full month while she was suffering such agony. Before the Quran was revealed to declare her innocence, the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) had asked the people about her. Among those whom he asked was his wife, Zaynab bint Jahsh, may Allah be pleased with her. So, what was her reply? ‘Aa’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said: "The Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) asked Zaynab bint Jahsh, about me. He said: 'O Zaynab! What have you known or seen (about her)?' She said: 'O Messenger of Allah! I guard my hearing and eyesight. By Allah! I knew nothing but good about her.'" ‘Aa’ishah added: "She was the one whose rank was close to mine from among the wives of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) so Allah protected her by (her) prudence." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] 

Such are the believers when they are overwhelmed by jealousy or differences, they are pure-hearted people who seek excuses for each other and distance themselves from ill speech and evil assumptions. They are aware of the size of trouble that an improper word can cause, and that is why it is said: "The believer’s tongue is behind his heart; were it to utter a word, it would pass first through his heart, and if the heart disapproves it, he refrains from saying it, and if the heart approves it, he says it. Unlike the hypocrite, who goes around with evil and likes offense."

This is the behavior that Allah, The Exalted has underlined as He threatens those who accuse people of what they are not guilty of; He Says (what means): {But whoever earns an offense or a sin and then blames it on an innocent [person] has taken upon himself a slander and manifest sin.} [Quran 4:112]

The same was said by the noble Messenger  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) as authentically reported in the following Hadeeth: "Three are the signs of a hypocrite: when he speaks, he lies; when he makes a promise, he breaks it; and when he is entrusted, he betrays the trust." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] In another Hadeeth, he says: "Four traits, whoever possesses them is a hypocrite, and whoever possesses some of them has an element of hypocrisy until he leaves it: the one who, when he is entrusted, betrays the trust; when he speaks, he lies; when he promises, he breaks his promise; and when he disputes, he transgresses.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] The last trait means that when he gets into a dispute with others, he accuses them of that which they are not guilty of.

2-   One must not bind him to what he did not bind himself to. Fairness entails that you do not attribute to him what he did not say or commit him to what he did not commit himself to. You should clear his words of any ambiguity, understand them in the way he meant them, and it would be good if you interpret them in the best way possible. Our guiding light in this regard is the Hadeeth narrated on the authority of Usaamah ibn Zayd, may Allah be pleased with him, who said: “The Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) sent us to Al-Huraqaat (one of the families of the tribe) of Juhaynah. We reached these people in the morning and defeated them. I chased one of their men and when I attacked him, he said: ‘La ilaaha illa Allah’ (there is no God but Allah), but I stabbed him with my spear, killing him. I felt uneasy for having done that, so I told the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) about it and he said to me: 'He said there is no God but Allah and you killed him?!' I said: 'O Messenger of Allah! He said so out of fear of the weapon.' He said: 'Did you split open his heart to know whether he said it sincerely or not?' The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) kept on repeating this to me until I wished I had embraced Islam only on that day." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

It is an aspect of fairness that we refrain from harboring bad assumptions about others without clear proof; we should rather avoid this even in cases of uncertainty until the situation becomes evident and clear. It is narrated that a man asked the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) about giving testimony. So he  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said to him: "Do you see the sun?" The man said: "Yes." The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: "Bear testimony to whatever is as clear as the sun; otherwise, do not." [Al-Haakim and Al-Bayhaqi, and it is classified as inauthentic by Ibn Hajar and others. Ibn Hazm said that its chain of narration is inauthentic but its meaning is correct]

Ibn Al-Qayyim  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said: "Every followers of a creed choose the best words to express its principles and try to present it in the most appealing way, while doing the opposite with the thoughts and beliefs of their opponents. An insightful person is the one who can discern what is hidden beneath such words and know whether it is true or false, so you should never be deceived by words." [End of quote]

A poet expressed this idea saying: "You say: 'this is the gift of bees' in praise of honey, or if you will you say that it is the vomit of wasps! In both cases of praise and dispraise you gave a valid description, yet the truth may be blemished by the misuse of words."

 

So, if you need to detect the truthfulness or falsehood of a meaning, you have to rid it of the wrap of words enclosing it, and set your heart to be neither in a state of inclination nor aversion, then give the words due consideration with a fair eye. Do not be like the one who gives full consideration and attention to the words of his companions and those whom he trusts then casts a careless glimpse over the words of those who disagree with him. Verily, the eye of enmity sees pros as cons, and the eye of admiration sees cons as pros. None is saved from this except one whom Allah has willed to honor and chose him for accepting the truth. A poet expressed this meaning in the following verse:

The eye of content is blind to every flaw, whereas, the eye of discontent spotlights the faults.

 

Another poet said:

They looked with the eye of enmity, had it been that of content they would have liked what they condemned.

 

For this reason, the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) used to say the following in his supplications: "Allahumma inni as’aluka ath-thabaata fil-amri, wal-‘azeemata ‘ala ar-rushdi, wa as’aluka shukra ni‘matika, wa as’aluka husna ‘ibaadatika, wa as’aluka qalban saleeman, wa as’aluka lisaanan saadiqan, wa as’aluka min khayri ma ta‘lamu, wa a‘oothu bika min sharri ma ta‘lamu, wa astaghfiruka lima ta‘lamu, innaka anta ‘allaamu-l-ghuyoob (O Allah, I ask you for steadfastness in this matter (Islam), and I ask You for the resolve to adhere to the path of guidance, and I ask You for gratitude for Your blessings, and I ask You that I worship You well, and I ask You for a sound heart, and I ask You for a truthful tongue, and I ask You for the good of what You know, and I seek refuge with You from the evil of what You know, and I ask You for forgiveness for what You know; verily, You are the Knower of the Unseen)." [Ahmad, An-Nasaa’i and Ibn Hibbaan, Al-Albaani: authentic]

3-   Another aspect of adopting good manners with an opponent is fairness in reporting misconceptions from those who raise them and refuting them. To explain, if a Muslim needs to report a misconception that has been widely circulated, he should do this without overlooking any of its aspects. Adhering to honesty in reporting a misconception is essential for achieving fairness. He should know that truth is accompanied by light, and that he has to search for the truth and exert himself in defending it and fulfill his duty in refuting the misconceptions raised about it. In case one fears that he might fail to do this duty properly, he should entrust it to another so that he should not commit wrong acts unknowingly.

The noble Quran abounds in brilliant examples of rebutting the opponents after reporting their malicious allegations. Allah, The Exalted, Says (what means): {And they say, "Never will the Fire touch us, except for a few days." Say, "Have you taken a covenant with Allah? For Allah will never break His covenant. Or do you say about Allah that which you do not know?"} [Quran 2:80]

{They say, " Allah has taken a son." Exalted is He! Rather, to Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and the earth. All are devoutly obedient to Him.} [Quran 2:116]

{Those who remained behind rejoiced in their staying [at home] after [the departure of] the Messenger of Allah and disliked to strive with their wealth and their lives in the cause of Allah and said, 'Do not go forth in the heat." Say, "The fire of Hell is more intensive in heat" - if they would but understand.} [Quran: 9:81]

{As for [the people of] ‘Aad, they were arrogant upon the earth without right and said, "Who is greater than us in strength?" Did they not consider that Allah who created them was greater than them in strength? But they were rejecting Our signs.} [Quran: 41:15]

Honest reporting of malicious allegations then rebutting them with the overpowering answer is an efficient technique to block all arguments with full politeness and fairness. So, shall we try to be pure believers in both words and deeds?!

I ask Allah, The Almighty, to guide us all to achieve this. Amen!

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