Etiquette of debate
Fatwa No: 321223

Question

Shaykh, assalaamu alaykum. What is the meaning of 'debate'? How should a person debate on Islamic issues with other brothers? What are the relevant rules?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

The Arabic word for debate is Munaatharah, which is derived from the word natheer (meaning counterpart) or nathar (meaning a point of view or insight), as stated by Al-Jurjaani  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him in his book At-Taʻreefaat.

As for the idiomatic definition, Ash-Shinqeeti  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him defines it in his book 'Aadaab Al-Bahth wa Al-Munaatharah (The Etiquette of Research and Debate)' as follows, “A debate is a discussion between two or more parties with opposing views, each is trying to prove that his view is correct and refute the view of his opponent; while both desire to reveal the truth. In other words, they both look into the matter to reach knowledge or a most likely opinion in order to reveal the truth.

As for the rules and etiquette governing debates, the most important of them are to be sincere to Allah and that the objective of the debate is to show the truth and then to adhere to the etiquette of debate, which Ash-Shinqeeti  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him mentioned in his book mentioned above. He said:

Chapter: The etiquette that should be observed by the two debaters:

1. The debaters should avoid lengthy speech that has no benefit as well as brevity that makes the purpose of their statements incomprehensible.

2. The debaters should avoid using terms that are uncommon or too general.

3. The discussion should be restricted to the topic of the debate, and they should avoid diverting to irrelevant topics.

4. The debaters should not ridicule or mock one another.

5. Each of the debaters should hold the intention of finding the truth, even if it is on the tongue of his opponent.

6. The debater should not hasten to comment on the argument of his opponent except after understanding it.

7. The debater should wait for his opponent to finish presenting his argument and should not interrupt him.

8. One should avoid debating with an adversary who is immensely charismatic so that he would not be dazzled by his presence and thus be distracted from presenting his argument as due.

9. The debater should not belittle or look down on his adversary because this drives him to be less serious and diligent in presenting his argument, and consequently, enables his weak adversary to overcome him.” [Aadaab Al-Bahth wa Al-Munaatharah]

We recommend reviewing the book in reference as it is a distinguished book on this topic, but the reader needs to be familiar with the science of logic.

Allah knows best.

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