DEALING WITH INNOVATORS
People of bid’ah are not to be excommunicated
The proof that the Companions did not declare the Khawarij kafir (disbelievers) is that they offered ṣalah behind them. ‘Abdullah bin Umar and other companions, for example, offered ṣalah behind Najdah al-Ḥaruri. They discussed with them various issues, gave them their opinions on religious matters put to them, and addressed them as a Muslim addresses another Muslim.
Abdulllah bin Abbas, for example, would answer the questions which Najdah al-Ḥaruri sent to him. Imam Bukhari has recorded the hadith which Najdah has related. Similarly, Nafi’ bin al-Azraq answered many of his questions, and used to argue with him on different issues quoting from the Qur’an just as he did with any other Muslim.
This was the practice of Muslims throughout the ages; they did not consider them apostates like those against whom Abu Bakr declared war.
They did this even though the Prophet had commanded to fight them, as is reported in authentic ahadith. The hadith that they are the worst people under the sky to be killed and that the men whom they kill are the best men, which Abu Umamah has reported and At-Tirmidhi has recorded, only means that they are more harmful to the Muslims than others. And it is true that they have done greater harm to the Muslims than the Jews and the Christians. They were Zealous to kill any Muslim who did not agree with them, since they believed that it was quite lawful for them to take his life and property or kill his children, for he was a kafir in their view. They considered it to be an act of devotion, as they were immersed in ignorance and heresy.
But in spite of that the Companions or their righteous Successors did not declare them kafir or apostate (murtad), nor did they cause them any wrong in word or deed. They feared God with regard to them and were never unfair to them.
This was their practice with all the other exponents of bida’h, the Shi’ah, the Mutazilah, and others.
Hence, if anyone declare kafir any of the seventy-two sects, he goes against the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the Consensus of the Companions and their righteous Successors.
It may also be noted that the hadith which speaks of seventy-two sects does not occur in the Sahihayn. Ibn Ḥazm and others consider it to be a weak hadith, others rate it as hasan, still others like Ḥakim rate it as ṣahih, though the compilers of the Sunan collections mention more than one channel through which it has been transmitted.
Furthermore, the words of the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam), “’seventy-two of them will go to Hell and only one will be saved.” – are not stronger than many words of God such as –“Those who unjustly eat up the property of the orphans eat up a fire into their own bodies, they will soon be entering a blazing Fire” (4:10); or, “If any do that in rancor and injustice soon shall We cast them into the Fire, and easy it is for God” (4:30). There are many such verses that threaten with Fire those who commit evil deeds, but they do not do so with regard to any particular person, for it is possible that he may repent or that his good deeds may outweigh his evil deeds, or that God may wash out his sin by subjecting him to one or another tribulation.
Ṣalah may be offered behind a proponent of bid’ah when no one else is available
One of the principles of the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah is that they offer the Friday prayer, the `Eid prayers, and the regular daily prayers, and never suspend them as do the proponent of bid’ah like the Rawafiḍ and others. If the conduct of the imam is not known or his bid’ah or wickedness is no open, the Friday prayer and all daily prayers in assembly may be offered behind him. All the four imams of the Muslims as well as others are agreed on this point. None of them has ever said that ṣalah is not valid except behind an imam whose private life is known. In fact, Muslims have been praying behind persons whose lives have not been known.
However , if ṣalah is offered behind a person who is known to be guilty of bid’ah or an open sin (fajir) while an alternative imam is available, many scholars say that the ṣalah of those who pray behind him will still be valid. This is the view of Ash-Shafi’ and Abu Ḥanifah, and this is also one of the two views ascribed to Malik and Ahmad.
However, when there is no other alternative available and prayer has to be offered behind a heretic or a sinner (fajir), as, for example when you do not get anyone other than a heretic or a sinner to lead the Friday prayer, and there is no other place where it is conducted, then you must offer the Friday prayer behind that heretic or sinner. This is the view of the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jamaa’h in general. Abu Ḥanifah, Ahmad bin Ḥanbal and all other imams of the Ahl as-Sunnah are agreed on this.
The Companions used to offer prayers behind those whose sins they were aware of. For example, Abdullah bin Mas’ud and other Companions prayed behind al-Walid bin Uqbah bin Abi Mu’iṭ, who used to drink, and who once while leading the Fajr prayer prayed four rak’at, for which Uthman bin Affan punished him with lashes. Abdullah bin Umar and other Companions prayed behind Ḥajjaj bin Yusuf; similarly, many Companions and Successors prayed behind Ibn Abi Ubayd, who was charged with blasphemous views (ilhad) and of preaching them.
No Muslim should be excommunicated on grounds of any sin or mistake in controversial issues which he commits.
Allah said, “The Messenger believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believes in God, His angels, His books and His messengers. (They say): ‘We make no discrimination between one and another of His messengers.’ They say: ‘We hear and We obey. Your forgiveness, Lord (we seek), and to You is the end of our journey.’ ” (2 : 285).
A hadith in the Ṣahih collections says that in response to this prayer God forgives the mistakes of the faithful.
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) commanded fighting the Khawarij as they were renegades. Amir Al-Mu’minin Ali (may Allah be pleased with him), one of the four rightly-guided caliphs, fought against them, and all the a’immah of the religion from among the Companions, the Successors and those that followed them were agreed upon fighting them, even then neither Ali bin Abi Ṭalib nor Sa’d bin Abi Waqqaṣ nor any other Companion declared them kafir. They waged war against them, but they treated them as Muslims.
Ali did not start war against them until they had shed the blood of Muslims and plundered their properties. He fought them only to save the Muslims from their atrocities and not because they were Kafir. These were the people whom the Scripture and the consensus have declared wrong and mistaken, and whom God and His Messenger (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) have commanded to fight. Even then they were not pronounced kafir. How then can those be pronounce kafir who could not see the truth on issues in which people more learned than they went wrong! How would anyone of these groups be justified in calling the others kafir, or killing them or confiscating their property, even if they were guilty of a real bid’ah! How could it be when those who pronounce others to be kafir are also committing bid’ah, which is even worse than the bid’ah of others! The fact is that all of them are equally ignorant of the truth in the matters they debate.
The fundamental principle is that the life, property and honor of a Muslim are inviolable and cannot be taken by anyone except by the leave of God and His Messenger (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam).
In his farewell address on the occasion of hajj the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “’Your blood, your property, your honor, everything is sacred just as this day of yours, this city of yours and this month of yours are scared.” (Bukhari)
He (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) pronounced, “The whole of a Muslim is inviolable for another Muslim: his blood, his property, and his honor.” (Tirmidhi)
He (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) declared, “Whoever prays like us, faces our qiblah and eats of the animals we slaughter, is a Muslim and is under the protection of God and His Messenger.” (Bukhari)
He (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) warned, “When two Muslims take out swords against each other, both the killer and the killed go to Hell.” People asked him (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam), “This is true of the killer, but why of the one who is killed, Messenger of God (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) ?” He (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “He was trying to kill his companion.” (Bukhari)
He (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) also issued these warnings- “After me don’t turn kafir, one killing the other” (Bukhari)
and, “When one Muslim calls a brother Muslim kafir,, one of the two is kafir.” (Bukhari)
All these ahadith have been recorded in (hadith) collections.
But when a Muslim fights a Muslim or calls him kafir in the light of his interpretation of a text, he will not kafir.
We know that when Umar bin al-Khaṭṭab said with regard to Ḥaṭib bin Al-Balta’ah, “O Messenger of God (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam), let me kill this hypocrite.” The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, ‘”He participated in the battle of Badr. You don’t know if God has looked at the people of Badr and said – ‘Do whatever you like; I have forgiven you.’ ” (Bukhari)
This hadith has been mentioned in both Ṣahih collections.
It has also been reported in them that Usayd bin Khudayr said to Sa’d bin Ubadah, “You are a hypocrite, you are defending hypocrites!” Then there was a quarrel between them and the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) had to intervene and make peace between them.
All of them had participated in the battle of Badr, but one called the other a hypocrite. However, the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) pronounced neither one nor the other kafir; on the contrary, he (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) gave both of them the glad tidings of Paradise.
We also have in the two Ṣahih collections that Usamah bin Zayd killed a man after he had confessed that there was no god except Allah. When the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) came to know of it he (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) was shocked. He (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) asked, “Usamah, did you kill him after he has said ‘There is no god except Allah?’ ”, and he (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) repeated the words again and again, till Usamah cried out ‘I wish I had embraced Islam only today.’ (Bukhari)
But in spite of that the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) did not prescribe vengeance, or order any ransom, or any expiation, because Usamah only erred in his judgment. He killed him because he thought he had made the confession only to save himself from his sword.
The Elders fought each other at the battles of the Camel, Ṣiffin and other occasions. They all were Muslims and men of faith, as Allah has said,
“If two parties from among the Believers fall into a quarrel, make peace between them. But if one of them transgresses beyond bound against the other, fight against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of God. If it complies make peace between them with justice and be fair, for God loves those who are fair (and just).” (Surah al-Hujurat, 49 : 9).
Thus God has made it very clear that in spite of the fact that they fought each other and wronged each other, they were Muslims brothers. He has further asked them to restore peace and amity between themselves and to live together with justice. This is why the Elders made peace among themselves and helped each other even if they had fought among themselves earlier. They did not treat each other like enemies as they did the infidels. They accepted the testimony of one for another, learned knowledge from one another married among themselves, inherited from one another, and treated one another as Muslims even though they had fought and cursed each other earlier.
In the Ṣahih collections we have a hadith that the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) prayed to his (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) Lord not to destroy his (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) Ummah through a widespread famine, and Allah granted that; then he (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) prayed to Him not to place over them an enemy from another people, and He granted that, too; but when he (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) prayed to Him not to punish them at the hands of their own men, He did not grant that. (Muslim)
Thus we know that Allah will not put over them enemies from other nations to suppress them, but they will themselves be killing and suppressing each other.
The two ṣahih collections have also the hadith that at the revelation of the words – “Say, ‘He has power to send calamities on you from above,’ ”, as well as the words – “from under your feet,”
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) sought protection in Allah. But at the last part of the verse, “or to cover you with confusion in party strife, giving you a taste of mutual vengeance, each from the other” (6:65), the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “These two are lighter (punishments).” (Bukhari)
This is true in spite of the fact that God has commanded maintaining unity and solidarity and has forbidden indulgence in innovations and schisms., He has said,
“Those who divide their religion and break up into sects, you have no part in them in the least” (Surah al-An’am, 6 : 159),
And the Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “You must stick to the community (jama’ah) for Allah’s hand is on the community.”(Tirmidhi)
“Satan is close to one, but away from two.” (Tirmidhi)
“Satan is to a single person as a wolf is to lambs, and you see that the wolf readily pounces on solitary lamb removed from the flock.” (Abu Dawud)
So whenever a Muslim passes through a city of the Muslims he should offer with them all the daily prayers, as well as the congregational prayer on Fridays, meet them like friends, not like enemies even if he finds some of them mistaken. If possible he should show them the right path and call them to truth. If they do not listen to him he will not be held responsible, for Allah charges a soul only with what he can do. Let him put on them, if he can, the best among them to lead their prayers, and let him check the spread of bid’ah and shameful practices among them. But if that is no possible let him offer ṣalah behind one who is more learned in the Qur’an and the Sunnah and more obedient to God and His Messenger (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam).
The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) said, “From among the people the one should lead the ṣalah who knows the Book of God most; if they are equal in it, then the one who knows the Sunnah most; if they are equal in it, too, then the one who has migrated first; and if they are equal in that also, then the one who is older than others.” (Bukhari)
However, if one thinks that one would do a better service if one shunned those who are committing bid’ah or evil one may do so. The Prophet (Sallallahu a’laihi wa sallam) dissociated himself from those three men who stayed behind (at the time of the campaign of Tabuk) till God turned to them with His mercy.
However, if someone else is made Imam of whom one does not approve, and if one does not expect greater good by abstaining from the Friday prayer or the daily prayers in assembly one will only be doing something rash and silly if one abstains, and will be countering one bid’ah through another bid’ah.
By: Shaykul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, From the book : Expounds on Islam; this book is a compilation of some of his writings)