Islamic Manners during discussions and debates

During Islamic lectures and discussions, sometimes things go out of hand into arguments and abusive speech. This article outlines the proper etiquette one must adhere to in such situations:

If you have trouble understanding some of what has been said in meeting, hold your questions until the speaker has finished. Gently, politely, and with proper introduction, ask for clarification. Do not interrupt a person’s speech. Never raise your voice with the question, or be blunt to draw attention to yourself. This is contrary to the proper manner of listening, and stirs up contempt. However, this is not the rule if the meeting is for studying and learning. In such a case, asking questions and initiating a discussion is desirable if conducted respectfully and tactfully and only after the speaker finishes. Khaleef Al-Ma’mun said: “Discussion entrenches knowledge much more than mere agreement.”

Al-Haitham Bin Adi, a known scholar, historian, and a member of the court of four Caliphs: Abu Ja`far Al-Mansur, Al-Mahdi, Al-Hadi and Al-Rashid, said: “It is an ill manner to overwhelm someone while speaking and to interrupt them before they end their talk.”

If a colleague did not understand an issue and asked a scholar or an elder to explain, you should listen to what is being said. The repeated explanation may give you additional insights to what you already know. Never utter any word belittling your colleague, nor allow your face to betray such an attitude.

When an elder or a scholar speaks, listen attentively. Never busy yourself with a talk or discussion with other colleagues. Do not let your mind wander elsewhere; keep it focused on what is being said.

Never interrupt a speaker. Never rush to answer if you are not very confident of your answer. Never argue about something you do not know. Never argue for the sake of argument. Never show arrogance with your counterparts especially if they hold a different opinion. Do not switch the argument to belittle your opponent’s views. If their misunderstanding becomes evident, do not rebuke or scold them. Be modest and kind.

Muslims Should not dispute over non-Fundamental principles of Islam

“And obey Allâh and His Messenger, and do not dispute (with one another) lest you lose courage and your strength depart, and be patient. Surely, Allâh is with those who are As-Sâbirin (the patient ones, etc.).” [Surah al-Anfaal 8:46]

And if your Lord had so willed, He could surely have made mankind one Ummah [nation or community (following one religion only i.e. Islâm)], but they will not cease to disagree,- Except him on whom your Lord has bestowed His Mercy (the follower of truth – Islâmic Monotheism) and for that did He create them. And the Word of your Lord has been fulfilled (i.e. His Saying): “Surely, I shall fill Hell with jinns and men all together.” [Surah al-Anfaal 11:118, 119]

The Companions only differed when it was inevitable, but they used to hate disputes, and would avoid them whenever possible; as for the muqallideen, even though it is possible in a great many cases to avoid differing, they do not agree nor strive towards unity; in fact, they uphold differing.

The Companions (radi Allaahu ‘anhum), despite their well-known differing in non-fundamental issues, were extremely careful to preserve outward unity, staying well-away from anything which would divide them and split their ranks. For example, there were among them those who approved of saying the basmalah loudly (in prayer) and those who did not; there were those who held that raising the hands (in prayer) was recommended and those who did not; there were those who held that touching a woman nullified ablution, and those who did not; – but despite all that, they would all pray together behind one imaam, and none of them would disdain from praying behind an imaam due to difference of opinion.

Once the Truth is Made Known, The Difference Must Cease

Imaam Muzani, a companion of Imaam Shaafi’i said, “The Companions of the Messenger of Allaah (salallahu alaihi wasallam) indeed differed, and some of them corrected others. Some scrutinised others’ views and found fault with them. If all their views had been correct, they would not have done so. ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (radiallahu anhu) became angry at the dispute between Ubaay ibn Ka’b(radiallahu anhu) and Ibn Mas’ood (radiallahu anhu)about prayer in a single garment. Ubayy (radiallahu anhu) said, ‘Prayer in one garment is good and fine whereas Ibn Mas’ood (radiallahu anhu) said, ‘That is only if one does not have many clothes.’ So ‘Umar (radiallahu anhu) came out in anger, saying, ‘Two men from among the companions of the Messenger of Allaah (salallahu alaihi wasallam), who are looked up to and learnt from, disputing? Ubayy (radiallahu anhu) has spoken the truth and not cared about Ibn Mas’ood (radiallahu anhu). But if I hear anyone disputing about it after this I will do such-and-such to him’.” [Ibn 'Abdul Barr in Jaami' Bayaan al-'Ilm (2/83-4)]

Notice in the above hadith that the Muslim who knew the truth was permissibly angry at those who were wrong. The problem we see in the ummah is when one of us acts incorrectly out of ignorance and becomes very angry, insulting, or causing embarrassment to another muslim when in fact he is wrong all along.

How can we prevent this angry act of ignorance in ourselves? Remember the salat. Think about how you are to correct the Imam if he errors in his salat by saying SubhanAllah (or clapping if female) – you only do so when you are SURE without a doubt that he actually made an error. Could you imagine embarrassing yourself because you weren’t paying attention and thought the Imam had made a mistake in the salat when he clearly had not. Now imagine the embarrassment one should feel when becoming cross, short, stern, rude, blunt, quickly excitable, or challenging, to a Muslim who came with truth and then… moments, days, or years later, this Muslim find out he was wrong and the cause of fitnah!

The Importance of Unity

And hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah’s favour on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth Allah make His Signs clear to you: That ye may be guided. [Surah  Al-Imran 3:103]

The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah – the which We have sent by inspiration to thee – and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: Namely, that ye should remain steadfast in religion, and make no divisions therein: to those who worship other things than Allah, hard is the (way) to which thou callest them. Allah chooses to Himself those whom He pleases, and guides to Himself those who turn (to Him). [Surah Al-Shura 42:13]

And obey Allah and His Messenger. and fall into no disputes, lest ye lose heart and your power depart; and be patient and persevering: For Allah is with those who patiently persevere. [Surah Al-Anfal 8:46]

Even though some people encourage division, one thing that we all have in common and cannot escape, is that we all eventually return to Allah at the time of death, on the Day of Judgement, awaiting Allah’s judgment on our souls!

But (later generations) cut off their affair (of unity), one from another: (yet) will they all return to Us. [Surah Al-Anbiyaa 21:93]

The Prophet (salallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “I have left you upon clear proof, its night is like its day, no one deviates from it except one who is destroyed, and whoever lives long from amongst you will see great controversy. So stick to what you know from my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly-guided caliphs – cling to that with your molar teeth, and stick to obedience even if it is to an Abyssinian slave, since the believer is like a submissive camel, wherever he is led, he follows.” (Hasan – Ahmad, Ibn Majah, Al-Hakim)

 


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