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Harms of Argumentation and Disputation – Mufti Taqi Uthmani

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Following is the translation of an important lecture in Urdu by Mufti Taqi Usmani on the harms of arguments and disputation. Translators were Syed Junaid Hassan and his father, with permission from Abu Turab

In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

Notes: Important translations of words used often in this document:

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Allah – God: one; infinitely: unlimited, independent, not subject to any laws within and beyond human comprehension

Haqq – (~ truth / ~ righteousness), or (~ true / ~ righteous) – depending on the grammatical nature of its use

Prophet Muhammad (PBAuh), refers to: (may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him)

Deen – way of life, value system established in Islam

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Lecture: Bahs wa Mubahisa – Argument and Debate

Lecturer: Mufti Taqi Uthmani

00:00 – The second thing he stated, “Even if Argument & Debate are for/on Haqq, abstain from Argument & Debate.”

00:10 – This (Argument & Debate) is too from among the banalities – (caused by the tongue) one of it’s great banalities.

00:18 – It is one of the great pastimes of the people. Wherever a gathering takes place and a topic arises, Argument & Debate begins. [They argue] on completely useless things, those that neither bring any benefit in this world, nor in the hereafter. On such things, Argument & Debate.

00:36 – And keep in mind that this Argument & Debate, this is such a thing, that it utterly destroys the Baatin (inner being, purity of soul) of the human being.

00:44 – There is a statement attributed to Imam Malik that states (Mufti Taqi Uthmani stated the words of Imam Malik in Arabic, followed by their Urdu Translation), Imam Malik states that, “Argument & Debate destroys the ‘light’ of knowledge.” Meaning (for example) this happens predominantly among scholars, this Argument & Debate, because every scholar thinks he knows more, and due to this, if another [scholar] states something [different] then [the first] is ready to argue. And hours are being spent in it (argument); whether the argument is oral, or as written words / writing, in it time is being spent.

01:18 – Imam Malik (Rahmatullahi-‘alaih) states: [this] Debate destroys the ‘light’ of knowledge. The ‘light’ of knowledge does not remain and is lost. Oh brother, basically, (in simple, plain words), if your opinion is different from another person’s, state your own opinion, “This is my opinion (—).” Listen to what the other person has to say, and if you understand what he has to say, accept it. And if you don’t understand, then say, “I didn’t understand what you said”, and (the two people separate ways on good terms, maintaining that all good is from Allah); what you understand, you follow, and what I understand, I will follow. (Unintelligible). The inherent result of Argument & Debate, when two individuals argue, each individual wishes that he should dominate [the argument]. ‘My argument should remain dominant,’ and he remains concerned in defeating his opponent. He (the arguer) then fails to differentiate the boundaries of Haqq (~ truth) from those of Baatil (~ falsehood). By whatever means, the opponent should be defeated – this idea then takes root.

02:17 – And sometimes Argument & Debate occurs over useless matters. (Unintelligible) – the khalifah (follower/student) of [unintelligible – (someone)] stated that even if I am on Haqq and am stating the complete truth, and the other person is stating that which is wrong, even then do not engage in Argument & Debate. From your personal perspective, whatever you have come to understand, state that. And if you (the other person) come to understand that as well, then accept it, and if you do not understand, then (each individual’s efforts are to his own).

02:45 – This idea extends to such an extent that look, Surah Al-Kaafiroon (the disbelievers – Qur’an, Chapter 109), that you and all of us recite in our prayers, this [Surah / chapter] was revealed for just such a purpose. That the Prophet Muhammad (PBAuh), said that his message of Tawheed (doctrine of Oneness of Allah), was stated completely and thoroughly to the Kuffar of Makkah (the disbelievers of Mecca, Saudi Arabia) and the proofs for it and everything related to it had been explained [to them].

03:15 – Now the circumstances arose for Argument & Debate. (People now argued and debated with the Holy Prophet PBAuh) – and so due to [this event], this Surah (Qur’an – chapter 109) was revealed.

03:24 – (Mufti Taqi Uthmani recited verses 1-2, and 4-5 of Chapter 109) meaning (approximately) – ‘O Disbelievers, listen! That which you worship, I will not worship it, and you don’t worship Him that I worship, and what is it (Mufti Taqi Uthmani recited the 6th and last verse of Chapter 109) – to you is your Deen, and to me is my Deen. Meaning that I (Prophet Muhammad) don’t desire to Argue & Debate with you (disbelievers of Makkah). The proofs of Haqq, I (Prophet Muhammad) have made clear, told to you, have had you hear them, and have had you understand them. If you (Disbelievers of Makkah) choose to accept it (The Prophet’s message of Tawheed), then so be it, (for your benefit and your guidance). Additional, useless Argument & Debate is neither your right nor my right, (Mufti Taqi Uthmani again recited the 6th and last verse of Chapter 109) thus – To you is your Deen, and to me is my Deen. Even regarding those in a state of Kufr (disbelief) of Islam, Allah has stated that just tell them this (last verse of Chapter 109).

04:22 – And I (Mufti Taqi Uthmani) say that I don’t quarrel nor do I participate in Argument & Debate. When regarding [even the] disbelievers of Islam, such a statement has been made (last verse of chapter 109), then regarding other matters the system of Argument & Debate remains alive among us, May Allah protect us, this is just a way of damaging the Baatin (inner being, purity of soul).

04:42 – If something needs to be said, then (do it in such a way) and say it in a way such as desiring to seek the truth. With the genuine desire to seek knowledge, speak to the other person, state your own position [on a matter], listen to the other person’s position, if you understand it, accept it, if you don’t understand it, then leave it be, that’s it. Don’t argue.

05:00 – People [keep sending] to me, I don’t know, morning and evening, telephone [messages], letters, and (emails), that, “Sahab, I get into an argument with so and so person, and [he] delivers a certain proof. What reply (rebuttal) should I present in [return]”. So you [all] tell me, if such a system [of argument and rebuttal] remains in place, that the other person delivers a proof, then you ask me for a rebuttal and present it to him, then he (states another proof [or reply to your rebuttal of his proof]), then you ask me again [and so on and so forth]. What (kind of a system is this)? The straight of it is that Argument & Debate, just don’t do it at all. What you know to be Haqq, state it once, and if the other person accepts, (unintelligible) or doesn’t accept, [idiom – to you is whatever you know and understand]. What (each) has come to understand, that is what they should accept. There is no need to move past this point [to additional argumentation].

05:44 – Take the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBAuh), that, “You are truthful, you are on Haqq, even then, don’t participate in Argument & Debate.” This became a veritable talent [avoiding argumentation] of his; an incredible talent. [He participated] in intellectual debate [with a scholar] and [had the talent to] give the other person (leeway). This skill [of reserved argumentation] began to be known as [a veritable] talent [in its own right].

06:11 – (Mufti Taqi Uthmani mentioned the names of some of his teachers at Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband who have since passed on, may Allah increase their ranks in the Aakhirah), so at the time, Hadhrat (one of his teachers) had a great passion, regarding the deviant sects / [groups], in intellectual debates with them. And for a period of time, he kept up his system of intellectual debates with them. And when he used to go [to debate with them] he used to really defeat them [in their arguments]. Allah had blessed him with the gift of eloquent speech. But after some time, Hadhrat stated himself, “After that [period of debating], my heart turned away from this [debating], it turned away so much, that now, in no way am I prepared to participate in intellectual debates with anyone. [This is] due to the fact that whenever I used to debate, I would feel a [spiritual] darkness in my heart. Debating would cause a [spiritual] darkness in my heart.”

06:58 – So, due to this, (unintelligible) (Hadhrat himself) did not [debate anymore] to whatever degree was possible, and in addition he used to turn others away from [debating] as well; that there is no benefit in this (intellectual debating). Yes, once or twice, when the need arose, and the issue of clarification of Haqq [was at stake], so that was a different matter altogether, but making this [debating] a matter of course is not appropriate. [And when] its not appropriate for scholars, then why would it be alright for the average person [who is not an Islamic scholar]? Debating on matters of Deen, this is all useless talk.

07:27 – Akbar Ilahbadi (may Allah have mercy on him), who is a famous Urdu poet, he stated a great poem, regarding this Argument & Debate, he states, “Religious argumentation, I have never done – religious argumentation I never did, nor a useless mind did I possess.” This religious argumentation, this should be done by he who has a useless mind. So, “religious argumentation I never did, nor a useless mind did I possess.” So, each person should adhere to this idea. Yes, if there is some matter that you do not understand, then you can ask someone you know. If you are not understanding something, then you can find out from him, taking the position of a student of Haqq, but don’t delve into Argument & Debate.

08:18 – Hadhrat (a respectful formality referring to one of the teachers – of Mufti Taqi Uthmani himself, or of the past) states regarding this, regarding a Hadith (in this case, a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (PBAuh), that we find out from this [hadith] that from Argument & Debate, (spiritual) darkness comes into being, because the incompleteness of Emaan (strength of conviction in Tawheed) is (spiritual) tyranny, and this is exactly why you will see the people of Tareeqat (the Islamic science of spiritual enlightenment), emphatically detest Argument & Debate. The people of Tareeqat, meaning, those who follow the path of self-perfection, friends of Allah, they emphatically detest Argument & Debate.

Translator’s note: In the following account, the names of the scholars that Mufti Taqui Uthmani referred to could not be clearly heard, so the two scholars of interest have been labeled #1 and #2.

08:54 – There was a time, when regarding a certain matter, I had to write a book. There was an elder (scholar #1, ~ mentor to Mufti Taqi Uthmani, may Allah increase his ranks in [Heaven]). There was a student of that elder, and he too was an incredible scholar. So he himself said to me once, that in the (unintelligible – Mufti Taqi Uthmani referred to a certain piece of jurisprudence that had been written by the peer (scholar #2) of one of Mufti Taqi Uthmani’s elders (scholar #1)), regarding certain companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBAuh), there was some slighting (derogatory) remarks, so he (scholar #1 – elder to Mufti Taqi Uthmani) told me to write (a reply) on the topic. So I wrote it. I wrote it and then from the other side, there was a response (rebuttal). On the response, I wrote once more (a second reply). So this happened twice (reply followed by rebuttal); that once I wrote, then he replied, and so I replied once more. So when Hadhrat (scholar #1), may Allah have mercy on him, read my second reply, he wrote a note to me that (unintelligible) is still safe. And in it he stated that he had read my dissertations (in the replies), and after reading it, was happy, and made du’as (for Mufti Taqi Uthmani), “may Allah accept your efforts,” and following that, he also wrote, “Now, bury this morbid (penchant of yours for) argumentation.” “And now, bury this morbid (penchant of yours for) argumentation.”

10:19 – That now, you have wrote your last piece (in the court of Argument & Debate), and that whatever Haqq needed to be made clear, has been done. But now, lets say a reply (another reply to Mufti Taqi Uthmani’s last response) still comes, that now don’t write in reply. Due to the fact that the doors of Argument & Debate will open, and so, take this morbid (penchant) for argumentation, and bury it. So the friends of Allah vehemently despise this (Argument & Debate), because there is never any benefit. Have you ever seen anyone accept the Haqq (presented to him) in intellectual debate, in Argument & Debate. Other than a waste of time, it is nothing else. This is why (unintelligible) and the Prophet of Allah (PBAuh) has stated, “it is the sign of a mu’min (believer) that he does not delve into this (Argument & Debate).”

Translator’s Disclaimer:
To whom it may concern, this document is an English translation of a lecture in Urdu given by Scholar Mufti Taqi Uthmani of Karachi, Pakistan. I, Syed Junaid Hassan, do hereby claim that I have attempted to translate his words to the best of my knowledge and abilities and any misconception or confusion in the following document is due to my own mistakes and not those of the lecturer. Let it be known that much of the power of metaphor and esoteric concepts cannot be translated from Urdu into English, but I have made a concerted effort to transmit this information.

This document is not intended for distribution except with permission from Abu Turab, to whom I agreed to translate this lecture into English. Under no circumstances is this document to be altered except through permission by me, Syed Junaid Hassan, the translator. This is to prevent multiple versions and meanings of the same statements.

In addition, due to the quality of the sound recording, some statements could not be clearly understood and one may listen to the recording and speculate as to the actual words. The translation for such statements is thus RED in color. Likewise, any words in parenthesis with a ‘~’ before them describe an approximate translation of words in Urdu (and Arabic) that have meanings beyond their ‘~’ – bound translations. Finally, the translation has been done as close to the literal Urdu syntax as possible to maintain a close resemblance to the lecturer’s words. This is necessary because idioms and metaphors in one language, even when translated contextually into another, often carry a different meaning than intended. However, to add flow to the translation so it has a logical structure, bracketed [—] words and brief parenthetical words/phrases (—) have been added.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Farhan

    July 7, 2009 at 10:12 PM

    Is debate different when you’re debating against something unanimously declared as Kufr? For example, a group of people who believe in another prophet, yet claim to be the true Muslims.

  2. Swarth Moor

    July 8, 2009 at 10:31 AM

    Farhan,

    We all need to know that debating does not “create guidance.” Allah is the One Who creates guidance. And debating can put a shadow over one’s heart, because it leads very often to a lot of negative emotions (which is why i think the author said not to debate–and he was probably talking about certain people not debating certain issues). Nonetheless, there is deep need for Muslims to intellectually equip themselves, so they can DEFEND THE DEEN. This is all part of ordering the good and forbidding the evil. There has been a trend in the past couple years that is encouraging Muslims to leave out refuting deviant ideologies–when the proponents of those ideas claim to be Muslims. This is a great disservice and evil being perpetrated by, for instance, some of the popular quasi-traditionalists.

    The Muslim communities are RIFE with kufri misconceptions–whether they be from the pseduo-sufis, the anthropomorphists, the apologists, the modernists, ad nauseum. I just returned from ISNA a few days ago. A trip to the most of the book sellers in the bazaar would have demonstrated the level of misguidance, confusion, and kufr that is circulating thru the Muslim communities. It is simply not fair to discourage Muslims from understanding who’s who and what’s what–and then standing up and discrediting these various deviant factions. If the Muslims are not trained to identify and discredit deviation, it will only encourage the deviation to spread, and it will make it even harder for people to see the Truth.

    With Allah is the success.

    swarthmoor.wordpress.com

    • ARaqeedah

      February 23, 2013 at 9:29 PM

      Wa-‘alaikum Assalam Warahmatullaah,

      Nice post Swarth Moor. Really beneficial.

  3. Ameera Khan

    July 8, 2009 at 2:26 PM

    I have seen and still do see the enormous damage that comes from useless argumentation in Deen. In one of my parent’s side of the family, there are a considerable number of elders who, when sitting in a gathering, will discuss isolated topics in Deen to bits. They argue over it, decry this commandment or the other and ask for proof of such established Ibadah as Salah (A’oodhobillah!).

    All this is based on almost nil knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah, as well as the compilation of the Sunnah, rather each person presents his own philosophies on the Quran and the Prophet (pbuh). In the end, they just switch the topic as if they had been discussing a football match.

    It would not come as a surprise that none of them offers Salah, albeit on rare occassions like Eid, and hardly any appraoch the Quran, that too with the view that their own intellect is enough to understand the Deen from the Quran, without approaching any scholar or source of Sunnah.

    These are the scenes I witnessed and still sometimes do. Initially, as a neice, I tried to stay around and show them how silly their arguments were in the light of the Quran and Sunnah. Of course, I didn’t tell them they were being silly but I did try to make a few points but I was outnumbered, very often, four or five to one. What is the result? They “win” on the face of it and walk away all gleeful that they’ve successfully refuted some arguments from the “religious right”. It’s all terribly saddening.

    The bottom line is: DON’T get involved in arguments where you can sense the person is just inciting you for passtime and to make fun of Deen, without any real intention to learn anything. I learned this after years and I still find it hard to resist joining in something. However, recently, one elder said to me, “I have something to ask of you.” Knowing it would be something to do with the Deen, I said I’d try to answer. He asked me, “You know Isa (as) could breathe life into figures of animals. Tell me, what about the p*gs that came to be in this way, where are they now? And are they Halal for us?” Very seriously, thinking it was some great topic he’d stumbled upon, he said, “We must ponder in this, you know…”

    Can you imagine that line of thought? I approached my Quran teacher at Al Huda and she reaffirmed that one must walk away from all such discussions for the very intention that they are begun, is not a good one.

    ‘Hope this comment added to your knowledge InshAllah!

  4. Pingback: Harms of Argumentation and Disputation « The Muslim Voice

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