Bismillahi Al-Rahmani Al-Rahim
Why Knowledge Is Essential For
It should be more obvious than the sun itself that knowledge is essential
for criticism. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be understood by
everyone who wishes to get involved with criticizing earlier scholars,
especially dead scholars who have little chance of defending themselves.
What's really ironic is when the critic associates himself with a
particular mathhab, and then ignores everything that doesn't agree with
his hawa (whim, caprice). This is especially sick when the
criticism concerns a sensitive topic and is sure to cause disunity in the
To make matters even worse, the people who take on the task of responding
to the criticism all too often assume that the critic speaks for the
mathhab he associates himself with, and end up attacking the mathhab
along with the critic. In assuming this about the mathhab, they end up
neglecting to see what it actually has to say about the issue and so they
never find out that their greatest tool in silencing the fool is to
expose his scholastic infidelity. And May Allah grace us all with
self-control and wisdom, and make us among those with keen
With this said, I will provide a few examples and show, bi ithnillah,
just how easy it is to quell some cases of disunity.
Example #1 -- Taxonomy Of Bid`ah
One major source of disunity is how we talk about new matters, and
the carelessness some people have in seeing everything new as a
blameworthy innovation when the school they affiliate themselves with
acknowledges the category of praiseworthy sunnahs.
The majority of classical scholars look at new things and qualify them
with one of five qualifiers: obligatory (bid`ah wajibah /
dururah), good (bid`ah masnunah / hasanah), permissible
(bid`ah mubahah), disliked (bid`ah makruha), and unlawful
(bid`ah madhmumah / bid`a sayi'ah).
Another group of scholars, including part of Ahl Al-Hadith, classify new
things into two categories: a good sunna (sunna hasana) and a
blameworthy innovation (bid`ah sayi'ah).
The first system takes an approach resembling usul, while the second
takes is terminology straight from hadith. The first system is finer,
while the second is less so.
Now the problem comes up when followers of each system fail to realize
and acknowledge the different taxonomies, and end up fighting about
things while it is impossible to get anywhere without first unifying the
terminology and taxonomy. In addition, sometimes the adherents on a
particular taxonomy do not realize its full extent, and end up
classifying everything as a bid`ah and failing to realize that other
essential category of sunnah hasanah.
Arguing over which taxonomy is better misses the whole point, and it just
leads to more disunity and enmity. Where's that respect for scholarly
differences? Where's love for your brother and sister? Where's desire for
unity? Or better yet: where is your nafs not to be found?
Just remember: when the only tool you own is a hammer, every problem in
the world starts looking like nails.
And Allah knows best.
Example #2 -- Slippery Sufic Phrases
Another example pivots around phrases like "I see Allah in
everything" and "I see Allah, and I don't see anything in
existence except for Allah".
According to a group of people who claim to be associated with the
Hanbalis and the Salaf, these phrases constitute shirk, namely
associating Allah with His creation or the concept known as unity of
being (wahdat al-wujud).
But a quick flip through a book usul al-fiqh in the Hanbali mathab shows
that there is nothing wrong with these phrases, since they fall under the
topic of majaz, a concept intrinsic to the Arabic language. Both of these
phrases have an explanation that fully conforms to Arabic style.
As for the first phrase, it goes back to Allah Most High being the cause
for everything to exist, and so it means: "I see everything, and I
used it to point me to Allah." (The technical term for this is
al-tajawaz bi-l-`ullah `ala `an al-ma`lul. See Ghayat
Al-Saul, p110, or any other basic book of usul.)
As for the second phrase, it goes back seeing Allah's influence which
point the observer back to Allah. (The technical term for this is
al-tajawaz bi-l-muathir `an al-athr. Ibid., p111.)
So really, the person who claims to be affiliated with the Salaf and the
Hanbalis should learn the basics of usul al-fiqh before voicing any
criticism on the issue. Of course, if the critic denies majaz itself,
that's a whole different issue.
And Allah knows best.
Example #3 -- Denying Tasawwuf
Another example is the claim that Salafis and Wahhabis outright
One problem here is that what they reject is calling the discipline
"tasawwuf" instead of "tazkiyyah" or
"ihsan" like the Salaf did. But this really is a silly issue
for anyone to allow disunity over.
Another problem with this claim is that there are things in tasawwuf that
no Muslim rejects. No one rejects what the Prophet (Allah bless him and
give him peace), the Companions, their students, and the students of
their students (Allah be well pleased with them) did and talked about,
and no one rejects the basic content of scholars like Al-Hasn Al-Basri,
Sufyan Al-Thauri, Al-Harawi, Junayd, Ibn Al-Jawzi, and Sheikh `Abd
When it comes to the Wahhabis and Salafis, you can get many of them to
add that they respect the founders of the tariqas, but they reject the
way the followers of the tariqas have become. But you won't find them
outright rejecting the tasawwuf of the Salaf.
To perpetuate the claim that Salafis and Wahhabis universally reject
tasawwuf is dishonest.
We all agree on is that tasawwuf of the Salaf, and this is the only thing
we can hold all people to. Why is it that we shout out for respecting
scholarly differences when we are the minority, yet when we get the upper
hand we suddenly forget this principle?
And Allah knows best.