What Is the Ruling on Becoming a Debater?
Answered by Mawlana Ilyas Patel
Shaykh, I wish to become a great debater and real scholar of Islam because I want to give the best da‘wa to disbelievers and cure the doubts of my brothers and sisters for the sake of Allah. And I wish to protect my brothers and sisters from being deceived and misled by disbelievers for the sake of Allah.
Can you advise me on this endeavor?
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
I hope you are well, amin.
I commend your intention to become a scholar of Islam (‘alim), and if Allah facilitates, it opens up the doors of clarifying the truth through your tongue, so you can support and guide others to navigate them to the truth and beauty of Islam.
The Ruling of Learned Disputation
According to some scholars, when the intention behind debate and disputation is to embarrass one’s opponents, it is unlawful or even unbelief. If a person learns learned disputation intending to reveal the truth, it is permissible or even recommended. [Nahlawi, al-Durar al-Mubaha]
Allah Most High says, “Invite all to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and kind advice, and only debate with them in the best manner. Surely your Lord alone knows best who has strayed from His Way and who is rightly guided.” [Quran, 16:125]
In another verse, He says: “Do not argue with the People of the Book unless gracefully, except with those of them who act wrongfully.” [Quran, 29:46]
I advise you to seek advice from a reliable, learned scholar who will guide you in the path of seeking knowledge and to always keep in mind one’s intention whilst seeking it.
The following Hadiths discuss seeking knowledge to argue with others and prove one’s point:
1) Ka‘b ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him) said:
“Whoever seeks knowledge in order to compete with the ‘ulama (scholars), or to debate with the foolish, or to draw people’s attention, Allah will put him into Jahannam.” [Tirmidhi]
2) Jabir (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Prophet (Allah bless him and give him) said: “Do not seek knowledge to be boastful over the ‘ulama, nor to debate the foolish nor [to choose the best seat/stand out in a gathering]. Whomsoever does this, then the Fire, the Fire [i.e. He is deserving of Jahannam].” [Ibn Maja; Sahih Ibn Hibban]
Abu Nu‘aym reported, that Imam al-Shafi‘i (may Allah have mercy on him) said, “I never debated anyone but that I would love for him to be guided, directed, helped, and for him to be under the care of Allah and His protection. And I never debated with anyone but that I did not mind whether Allah clarified the truth on my tongue or his tongue.” [Abu Nu‘aym al-Isfahani, Hilyat al-Awliya’]
Why not start your journey of seeking sound knowledge by taking one of the courses on SeekersGuidance and see where it will lead you, insha Allah?
Through this link, you can access the Islamic Studies Curriculum.
I pray this helps in your question.
[Mawlana] Ilyas Patel
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani