Difference between praised and dispraised debating
Fatwa No: 327343

Question

Dear Shaykh, Assalaamu alaykum. Someone posted a controversial issue about religion on his website. My friend asked for a clarification about the article, but he refused to respond to it, quoting the following hadiths: “The most despicable men in the eye of Allaah are those who like to fall into debate.” (Muslim) “I guarantee a house in Paradise for those who avoid debate even though they are on the right side.” (Abu Daawood). My question is: How do we compromise the above hadiths with Allaah's sayings in Surahs An-Nahl (125) and Al-Ankabut (46). May Allaah reward you. Wassalaam.

Answer

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

Debating is of two types:

A – debating to show the truth and refute falsehood when it is hoped that this will benefit and it is not feared that this would not lead to unfavorable consequences; this is the praiseworthy debate.

B – debating using falsehood or without knowledge or when it is not beneficial or its harm is greater than its benefit; this is the blameworthy debate.

Faydh Al-Qadeer reads, “There is Targheeb (encouraging by mentioning Allaah’s rewards) for avoiding arguing; Abu Daawood reported from Abu Umaamah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him who narrated that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said, “I guarantee a house in the surroundings of Paradise for a man who avoids arguing even if he were right (upon the truth),” and "The most hateful of people to Allaah is the fierce disputer.” [as reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

It is for this reason that Daawood said to his son, “O son! Beware of arguing, as its benefit is small and it provokes hostility between the brothers.

Also, someone said: “I do not know anything that takes away the religion, undermines nobility, spoils pleasure, and preoccupies the heart more than quarreling. If it was said that quarreling is necessary in order to restore rights, then the answer is in what Al-Ghazaali said, 'The confirmed blame applies to arguing using falsehood or without knowledge...' Some knowledgeable people said, 'If you see a man who fiercely quarrels, shows off, and is proud of his opinion, then be certain that he is completely a loser.'

Also, Maw'ithat ul-Mu'mineen min Ihyaa’ Uloom ad-Deen reads:

Arguing to show off is every objection to the views of others by showing a deficiency in their statements, either in wording or in meaning or in regard to the intention of the speaker. Abandoning such arguing is done by abandoning objection. Any words that you hear, if it is the truth, then believe in it, and if it is falsehood or a lie and it is not related to matters of religion, then you should keep silent about it. If there is a controversy about a religious issue, then one should keep silent about it or ask in order to benefit of the answer, and not with the intention of being stubborn about it or in order to irritate the speaker or challenge him.

As regards the mere intention to refute the views of others, defeat them, and belittle them by disparaging their words and saying that their words are inappropriate and ignorant, then this is the forbidden arguing regarding which the person is not safe from its sin except by keeping silent, as the motivation for this is only to disdain by showing one’s superiority in knowledge and prestige and attacking others by showing their inferiority. These are indeed two devastating qualities; and arguing mostly involves abuse, stirring anger, and provoking the opponent to support his view by whatever truth or falsehood possible and slandering the speaker with everything he can imagine, and then hostility starts between the two sides. The cure is to break the arrogance, which is the motive for showing one’s superiority, and the wish to be invincible, which is the incentive for disparaging others.

Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said:

Debating is of two kinds:

Type I: Debating for the sake of arguing only: when a person argues with the foolish and challenges the scholars claiming to have knowledge and trying to convince people that his opinion is the correct one; such arguing is dispraised.

Type II: Debating in order to prove the truth, even if it is against him; this is recommended and ordained. The sign that indicates sincere debating is that if the truth is shown to the person, he is convinced and he announces that he withdraws his opinion (in order to act upon the truth) … in brief, if the purpose of debating is to prove the truth and refute falsehood, then it is an act of goodness, and getting accustomed to it and learning it is goodness, especially at our time and age, because arguing and showing off are widespread to such an extent that we find that something is confirmed and apparent in the Quran and the Sunnah and a person raises (fabricates) problematic issues about it.

To conclude, if debating is done with the intention of showing the truth and refuting falsehood and the debater follows the best manner in doing so by using wisdom and kind words, and his debate is for that which is good, and the benefit of debating outweighs its disadvantage, and he does not fear arrogance and the like of it, then his debating is praiseworthy. As for debating for no benefit, or when the person intends to show his superiority and to be the winner, or if he debates with harshness and roughness and not in compliance with what is ordered in this regard, or if he fears that the disadvantage outweighs the benefit, then it is dispraised debating. Thus, the confusion is removed and the texts are reconciled.

Allaah knows best.

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