by Al-Imam al-Ghazali
Debates and disputations
by Al-Imam al-Ghazali (Radhi Allahu Anhu)
Know, O’ Reader, that after the Holy Nabi, the Khulafa Rashideen were the
leaders of the learned in the science of Allah. There were the eyes of
knowledge and were experienced in the legal decisions. They did not take the
help of jurisprudents except in cases where consultation was necessary. They
decided on the strength of Ijtihad and their decisions were recorded in
their lives. After their death, Khulafat went to those who not so
experienced in legal matters and administrative affairs. They were compelled
to seek the aid of jurisprudents. At that time, a band of Tabi’een were
alive and they persisted in following strictly the injunctions of Deen.
Whenever Khalifs called them, they fled. But some learned men used to mix
with the Khalifs ans consequently became humiliated. Therefore there were
differences of opinion and among the learned men and there grew different
mathahib as a result, and in some cases, a sect sprung up. There were
argumentations and disputations over the intricate questions of religion.
They composed also many works on these subjects. This induced the people to
take to controversies and disputations.
There are eight conditions of debates
1. The first condition is that where debate for search of truth is one of
Fardh Kefayah duties, one who has not already fulfilled his part in duties
of Farze Ain should not engage himself in the debates even for searching
2. The second condition is that one should not consider debates more
important than Fardh Kefayah duties.
He commits sin who does other works leaving aside a more important Fardh
Kefaya. He is like a man who does not give water to drink to people who are
thirsty and facing death even though he has got power to do so, because he
remains then busy in giving lessons of cupping. Once the Holy Nabi
(Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) was asked: When will the people give up
enjoining good and forbidding evil? The Holy Nabi (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sal
lam) said: When flattery will grow in good people among you, kingdom will go
to the meanest of you and theology to those who will be corrupt.|
3. The third condition which justifies debate is that the debater should
have ability and give decision on his own responsibility without referring
to the opinion of al-Imam al-A’zam Abu Hanifah or any other Imams. He who
has not the ability of independent interpretation should not express his
opinion but should refer it to an Imam.
4. The fourth condition which justifies debate is that the subject for
decision should be about actual cases that crop up, for example, the
question of inheritance and not about future cases. The Sahabi (Radhi Allahu
Anhum) also held consultations as questions arose or were likely to arise in
order to arrive at truth.
5. The fifth condition is that debate should be held in private in
preference to open meetings in presence of noted people and in grandeur
because privacy is more suitable for clear thinking and to examine what is
right and what is wrong.
6. The sixth condition is that the debater should like truth in the same
spirit as a lost thing is searched for. He should not mind whether the truth
is found by him or by his adversary. When Hazrat Umar (Radhi Allahu Anhu)
was once giving sermon, a woman pointed out to him his mistake to which he
submitted. At another time, Hazrat Ali (Karam Allah wajhu) was asked a
question by a man and he replied. When the man pointed out his mistake, he
7. The seventh condition is that the debater should not prevent his
adversary from giving up one argument in favor or another and one
illustration in favor of another.
8. The eighth condition is that debate should be held with such person fro
whom benefit is derived and who is learned.
>From these eight conditions, you will be able to distinguish those who
debate for the sake of Allah and those who debate for other purposes.
Evils of Debates
The following evils arise out of modern debates.
1. Envy. The Holy Nabi (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said: Envy consumes
good deeds as fire consumes fuels. A debator is never free from envy and
hatred. Envy is a burning fire. One who falls in it gets punishment in the
world. Hazrat Ibn Abbas (Radhi Allah Anhu) said: Acquire ‘Ilm wherever it is
found and don’t obey the shayateen who are prone to disputes.
2. Pride. The Holy Nabi (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said: A Mu’min cannot
have kibr (pride) in him. There is a Hadith-e-Qudsi in which Allah Ta’ala
said: “Grandeur is My cloak and pride is My mantle. I destroy the one who
snatches anything of these two from Me.”
3. Rancour. A debater is seldom free from the evil of rancour.
4. Back-biting which is likened by Allahu Ta’ala to the eating of carrion
5. Declaration of self-purity. Allah says: Don’t attribute purity to
yourself. He knows best who fears Him. (53:33).
6. Spying and prying into secrets of adversary. Allah says Pry not. (49:
7. Nifaaq. A debater expresses his friendship for his adversary outwardly
but he cherishes hatred for him inwardly. The Holy Nabi (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi
wa Sallam) said: When the learned men do not translate their learning into
action, when they profess love for one another with their tongue and nurse
hatred in their hearts, when they sever ties of relationship, Allah sends
Curse upon them, makes their tongues mute and their eyes blind.
8. To turn away from Haqq. The nost hateful thing to a debater is to reject
the truth revealed to his adversary and thus he takes to deception and
deceit. The Holy Nabi (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) prohibited dispute
about useless things. He (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said: If a man gives
up disputation in matters of unlawful things, a garden will be built for him
in Paradise. If a man givesup disputations in matters of Haqq, a house will
be built up for him in the highest Paradise. Allah Ta’ala says: He is more
wrongful than one who devises a lie against Allah and calls the truth a lie
when it comes to him. (29:68) Allah says: Who is more wrongful than he who
lies against Allah and treats the truth when it comes to him as a lie
9. Another fault of debate is show and flattering the people in an effort to
win their favor and to mislead them. Nifaaq (hypocrisy) is the greatest
disease with which a debator is attacked and it is a major sin.
10. Deception. Debators are compelled to deception.
These ten evils are the secret major sins arising out of debates and
disputations. Besides these major offences, there arise many other guilts
out of controversies leading to blows, kicks, boxing, tearing of garments,
The learned men are of three classes. One class comprise those who ruin
themselves and also ruin others. Another class make themselves fortunate and
make others also fortunate. Such learned men call others towards good. The
third class of learned men call ruin to themselves but make others