Imam Al-Ghazali's Ihya Ulum-id-din
The Book of Knowledge, Book 1 Section iv page 52
Translated by Maulana Fazlul Karim,
published by the Taj Co., Delhi, 1986.
Book Ref: 11d Price:
Harms of the science of polemics and evils of
debates and disputations
"Know, O dear readers, that after the Prophet (, the rightly-guided
caliphs were the leaders of the learned in the science of God. They were the
eyes of knowledge and were experienced in 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, the Caliphate went to those who were not so experienced
in legal matters and administrative affairs. They were compelled to seek the aid
of jurisprudents. At that time, a band of Tabeyin (successors of the companions)
were alive and they persisted in following strictly the injunctions of religion.
Whenever the Caliphs called them, they fled. But some learned men used to mix
with the Caliphs and consequently became humiliated. Therefore there were
differences of opinions among the learned men and there grew different Mazhabs
or sects as a result. 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 debate
(1) The first condition is that where debate is
for search of truth is one of farze kefayah duties. one who has not already
fulfilled his part in duities of farze Ain n), should not engage himself in the
debates, even for searching truth.
(2) The second condition is that one should not consider debates more important
than Fard Kifayah duties. He commits sin who does other works, leaving aside a
more important Farze Kifayah duty. 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 the
power to do so, because he remains busy in giving lessons of cupping. Once the
Prophet was asked: "When will the people give up enjoining good and
forbidding evil?" He said: "When flattery will grow in good people
among you, kingdom will go to the meanest of you, and theology to those who will
(3) The third condition which justifies debate is that the debater should have
the ability and give decision on one's own responsibility. Without referring to
the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifah or any other Imams. He who has not the ability
of independent interpretation should not express his opinion but should refer to
(4) The fourth conditions 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 companions also held consultations
as questions arose or were likely to arise in order to arrive at truth.
(5) The fifth condition 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 seeking a lost cherished object. He should not mind whether the truth is
found by oneself, or by him or his adversary. When Hazrat Omar was once giving
sermon, a woman pointed out to him his mistake, to which he submitted. At
another time Hazrat Ali was asked a question by a man, to which he replied. When
the man pointed out his mistake, hei admitted it.
(7) The seventh condition is that the debater should not prevent one's adversary
from giving up one argument in favour of another and one illustration in favour
(8) The eighth condition is that the debate should be held with such a person,
from 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 God , and those who debate for
Note: We have kept this excerpt as close as possible to the
books, however we could have unknowingly made some error.