Religious Debates

A student of Imâm Râzi once asked an illiterate peasant: ‘What do you have to say about your faith?’
He replied ‘I am a Sunni Muslim’.
The student asked, ‘Do you have any doubts about this creed?’
The man replied: ‘I seek Allâh’s refuge. I am utterly certain that the creed of ahlus sunnah is true; I am sure of it as I believe that the sun is present in the sky at noon’
The student broke down and wept so much that his shirt was soaked with tears and he said: ‘I am still unsure as to which is the most correct creed.’

In olden days, many heresies were put down by the power of the sword. In these days we can do nothing but refute. In fact it is obligatory (farD) to refute heretics. It is in the Hadîth:

When mischief and heresy is widespread, and the scholar doesn’t refute them (demonstrate his learning), then Allâh’s damnation is upon him and the curse of the angels and men. Allâh will neither accept his obligatory nor superoragatory worship.

A heretic met Imâm Sa`yeed ibn Jubayr raDiyAllâhu `anhu. He said ‘Sir, I want to ask you something’. The Imâm said, ‘I do not want to listen anything’. The heretic said, ‘But sir, please listen to just one word’, the Imâm gestured placing his thumb on his little finger and said, ‘I won’t listen to HALF a word’.

When asked about it, he replied: ‘He wanted to simply argue’.

Come to think of it. Our elders (akâbir), the most knowledgeable amongst them were immensely cautious and wary of such matters. Whereas, these days we observe ignorant folk arguing with the Arya Samajis and Wahabis. They do not seem to be concerned, or afraid of anything! (Only) that person who is a master of sciences; one who knows the pitfalls and nuances of argument, and he who has all the force and has all the weaponry with him should venture into refuting heretics. Even then, where is the need for such a man to venture in a forest full of jackals?

Yes, when there is a pressing need, and he (such a scholar) is compelled, he should place his trust in Allâh and weild his weapons.

[Akâbir ki to yeh Hâlat, aur ab ye Hâlat hai ke jâhil se jâhil chuTa paRta hai âryoN se, wahâbiyoN se aur kuch khawf nahiN karta. Jo tamâm funûn ka mâhir ho, tamâm pech jânta ho, poori Tâqat rakhta ho, tamâm hathiyar paas hoN, usko bhi kya zarûr ke khwah makhwâh bheDiyoN ke jungal meiN jaay? HaaN agar zarûrat aa paRey to majbûri hai, Allâh par tawakkul karke un hathiyâroN se kaam le]

Imam Ahmad Rida Khan in his Al-Malfuzat

to paraphrase the Imâm raHimahullâh:

Our elders were wary of argument and refutation. But these days everyone seems to find it easy and plunges in it, without a second thought.

Only such a man who has the mastery of sciences should venture into refuting the heretics. (he who has copious knowledge of fiqh, Hadîth, kalâm, logic, etc.) Not only that, he should also be adept at debate and distinguishing the weak argument from a sound one. He should have all the tools (his books and those of the heretics) with him. Even such a person shouldn’t unnecessarily risk entering a debate unless there is a real need to. In such a case, it is a compulsion for him to refute.”