I can hypothetically bet, and win this bet, that just about every single Muslim that is reading these words would have at least heard, if not directly been warned, that such and such scholar is a deviant, or a Sufi, or an Ash’ari, or a Matouridi, or a Wahhabi, or a Salafi, or a this or a that. In fact, one can almost guarantee that for every well-known scholar that you can find video or audio recordings for, you will inadvertently find people who post up video or audio recordings “warning the Ummah” against him or her. Just to give you an example of two seemingly diametric opposite scholars in their approach, if you were to go on YouTube and search for Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen may God have mercy on his soul, as well as search for Shaykh Yusuf Al Qaradawi may God preserve him, the returned results will include videos that warn against each by citing various so-called “deviant” positions that each holds when it comes to either creed or jurisprudence. These positions were of course judged to be “deviant” by the ignoramus who posted these “warnings”. The problem with this is that these so-called “warnings” will unfortunately have many Muslims take them seriously, and not only have them avoid anything to do with these scholars, but also perpetuate what they heard in these warnings by spreading them, which most of the time are flat out lies anyways. In doing so they end up becoming described as liars on the tongue of the Prophet peace be upon him who said:
كفى بالمرء كذبا أن يحدث بكل ما سمع
It’s enough of a lie for a person to narrate everything they hear
So the question that poses itself is:
What does it mean for the regular Muslim when they’re faced with all these so-called “warnings” about EVERY well-known scholar?
It means that we all have to realize that aside from the Prophets and the angels peace be upon them, NO ONE is infallible. Every single one of the scholars, no matter what status they’ve achieved and knowledge they hold between their two sides, will have their own miscalculations. And these miscalculations do NOT lower their status or diminish their worth by a single iota. If anything, they actually get a divine reward for having exercised their utmost intellectual ability to understand the revelation and to arrive at their conclusions. However, the problem we’re having nowadays, and I suppose it’s always been a problem since it’s a human condition, is that many of us take disagreements very personally, which is a recipe for disaster if you consider it carefully. There are many Muslims that cannot take having another Muslim hold a different position than theirs, even if it’s equally valid, and they deal with that by issuing a slew of ad hominem attacks and labels such as Sufi or Ash’ari or Wahhabi for no other reason that I can think of but their feeling insecure about the positions they hold, which they can’t really defend – Ad hominem attacks are the last refuge of the ignoramus.
It is a fact that the great majority of rulings in Islam that deal with jurisprudence have differences of opinion in them, each having a proof from the Quran and Prophetic Tradition. How can that be the case if the same text is being used? It can because each scholar is applying their own understanding and what they derive from the text is based on their way of reading, as well as their using of different axiomatic principles depending on the school of jurisprudence they follow, which eventually leads to the differences in opinion. This is not a new issue, and it has been around since the time of the companions may God be pleased with them when the Prophet peace be upon him was alive. There are many examples showing when he peace be upon him allowed the companions may God be pleased with them to have a difference in opinion, and he did NOT attempt to stop them. The most commonly cited example is the one where the companions may God be pleased with them were commanded by the Prophet peace be upon him to go and siege the tribe of Bani Quraytha after they broke their treaty with the Muslims. The statement the Prophet peace be upon him made was:
لا يصلين أحدكم العصر إلا في بني قريظة
Let none of you pray Asr except at Bani Quraytha
As it has come in the Tradition, the companions may God be pleased with them had the time for the Asr prayer come in and almost exit before they arrived to their destination. They ended up splitting into two groups; one decided to pray before the time exits citing that the reason the Prophet peace be upon made that statement was to encourage a speedy arrival, while the other group held off from praying because they did not want to disobey the outward Prophetic command. When the opportunity came up later they all brought up this issue with the Prophet peace be upon him to settle the matter, which he did NOT. He remained silent and didn’t rebuke either group, and this was taken by the scholars as a sign of acceptance of both sides.
The sad part here is that I actually heard from someone say that both groups can’t be right at the same time, and that one group was “more” correct, i.e. the ones who held off from praying. The sheer audacity of this individual really surprised me. If the Prophet peace be upon him did NOT rebuke anyone who did pray and in fact accepted both positions, which is a sign of him approving both groups in their understanding and application of his command, why is this ignoramus coming now over 1400 years later and trying to say that one group was wrong?!
Another case where a difference was allowed happened between two companions who did not have access to water at one point. Prayer time entered for them and they decided to make tayamum (dry purification) and prayed. Before the prayer time exited they came upon water, and one of them decided to make the regular purification with water and repeated his prayer, while the other decided to be content with having already completed the prayer using the dry purification. They asked the Prophet peace be upon him regarding this matter and he told the one who did not repeat his prayer that he has achieved the following of the Sunnah, while the one who repeated his prayer to have been rewarded twice. In both cases both companions have been rewarded two rewards; the first was rewarded for the prayer and rewarded for following the Sunnah, the second was rewarded twice for performing the prayer twice. The Prophet peace be upon him accepted both, and yet, if this situation was to be repeated today, hardly anyone would handle it as the Prophet peace be upon him handled it. Apparently someone must be wrong, and each side thinks it’s the other one. How egomaniacal and egotistical have we become?
What I’ve mentioned above are only a couple of examples of many that are available in the tradition, which show that having a difference in opinion is part of this religion, and has been from the very start. But all of what I have mentioned addresses the matter only when it comes to jurisprudence. Sadly though, it doesn’t just stop at rejecting the difference in opinion and calling one opinion weak or not. There are also some Muslims that won’t stop at calling the other opinion weak, but go further to say that it’s an innovation. And of course every innovation is a misguidance, and every misguidance will lead to the Hell Fire. Here is a question though:
Am I the only one to notice that usually when someone points out an innovation, they’re merely pointing it out as such because they just never came across it? By that I mean, is it just because you don’t know the narration from the Prophet peace be upon him supporting a particular practice, it makes that practice an innovation? If you haven’t learned it, does that mean it doesn’t exist?
I ask this because I find it odd when some Muslims, who in reality haven’t encompassed even 5% of the knowledge available in the Tradition from scholars beginning from 1400 years ago, describe a scholar that spent 70 years of his life dedicated to studying the Islamic Sciences as an innovator. Someone who claims to be defending the Tradition and the Sunnah, yet has hardly spent much time learning it in the big picture and has hardly produced anything if at all to add to the literature about it, is describing not just one, but many scholars who have spent their entire lives as innovators. They’re Sufis or Ash’aris or Wahhabis, depending on the brand they like to use as a label. The audacity is jaw-dropping.
But there is more, because it doesn’t just stop at the differences in jurisprudence. It extends to branches of creed. You know, Islamic creed is in reality a very simple one that anyone, child or adult, can easily comprehend; there is no God except the One True God, and Muhammad is His Final Messenger. When it was during the time of the companions, none of them ever had to discuss anything else to be a Muslim and accepted as such. Nowadays, the ludicrous nature of the discourse of some Muslims will leave one scratching their head. It’s not enough to say la ilaha illa Allah Muhammad rasool Allah anymore. Now you have to be probed about what you believe when it comes to the branches, not the essence, of Islamic creed. This way, you can be categorized and labeled as a Sufi, or an Ash’ari, or a Matouridi, or a Wahhabi, or a whatever. The odd part about this, if someone is trying to categorize you under one of these labels, chances are they don’t really know what they’re talking about. To give an example of this, take the label “Ash’ari”. If someone asks whether a particular individual is an Ash’ari, all one has to do is inquire about what they mean by that label, because Imam Abu Musa Al Ash’ari went through 3 phases in his life when it comes to his theological understanding. So if the label is used, one has to identify which phase they’re referring to; the first, second, or third and final phase? Furthermore, what’s the point of the question anyways? How is that going to benefit the person asking? I fail to see how probing about such detail will get the questioner closer in their relationship with God. Especially since they’re asking so they can issue a judgment, which in essence is arrogating them to a level that is only befit for God Himself. What about the title of Wahhabi? How about Sufi?
Even when it came to branches of creed in Islam, the companions had differed. When it came to the Mi’raj (ascension) of the Prophet peace upon him, both Aisha and Ibn Abbas may God be pleased with them had a difference in opinion about whether the Prophet peace be upon him saw God or not; Ibn Abbas said yes he did, while Aisha said no he didn’t and Ibn Abbas is mistaken. Despite this, neither one called the other by a label such as innovator or heretic.
God says in the Quran on the tongue of the Prophet Abraham peace be upon him:
هو الذي سماكم المسلمين من قبل
He’s the one who has called you Muslims from before
Typically, the Muslims who claim that they’re the true followers of the Quran and Sunnah, the ones who want to be in the saved sect, the strangers as the Prophet peace be upon him described, are the ones who hardly apply Quranic ethics and principles. They seek to divide and label every Muslim they disagree with so they can issue their judgment. Shaykh so and so is a Sufi Ash’ari so watch out. Shaykh so and so is an innovator so be careful. All scholars coming from this university are such and such. What kind of condition must someone’s heart be in for them to have such a negative opinion of so many Muslims? What kind of Islamic education did they receive for them to throw around labels, which are really meant as insults, on so many scholars? God says in the Quran:
ولا تنابزوا بالالقاب
And do not call each other names
But here we are, 1400 years later, calling each other names and categorizing one another so we can issue our unwarranted judgments, all in the name of defending the truth. Yet in reality, those Muslims that engage in such a practice, are not applying Quranic principles and ethics to their lives, and are going against the teachings of the Prophet peace be upon him. In reality, it’s all a big massive ego trip to try and get everyone to do things their way. Sadly, many are blind to this fact and falsely believe that they’re on the right path. Deluded and have misunderstood and definitely not applied Islamic teachings. They concern themselves with external appearances and completely neglect Islamic codes and ethics of conduct. No wonder we’re in the state we’re in nowadays, which will not change no matter how many revolutions we have and how many dictators we kill, because the real dictator that needs to be killed is the ego within ourselves, as God says in the Quran:
لا يغير الله ما بقوم حتى يغيروا ما بأنفسهم
God does not change the state of a people until they change what’s within themselves