Nowadays, we are dealing with a dangerous misconception that has begun circulating among the salafis, they say: “Every time we grow to trust a known Salafi sheikh that is recommended by the scholars due to our trust in his knowledge not because we are attached to his person he is suddenly warned from and ostracized. And we don’t know what the reasons are in order to protect ourselves from his mistakes. Every time we fill our personal libraries in our homes with the works of these sheikhs we go and remove everything from them once again.”
How do we respond this misconception [or doubt] that has the potential to become like an infectious disease that could destroy the salafis and allow the shaytan to win over them? And what is your advice to your salafi children [i.e your students]?
This reality that has been described by the questioner is actually present, and I feel it. And perhaps from the matters that will bring about the results that are desired by the questioner and add clarity to this issue is to mention what follows:
First: Salafiyyah and the affiliation to it doesn’t mean that a salafi will not make any mistakes, regardless of whether he is a beginner student of knowledge or a major scholar. The Messenger - sallah Allahu alayhi wa sallam - says: “All the children of Adam are frequent wrongdoers, and the best of the wrongdoers are the frequent repenters.”
Second: Not every mistake leads us to treat the person who committed it as though they were an innovator. And this is an extremely important issue, and a distinguishing characteristic that differentiates the salafis from those who have extremism in this area such as the Haddadiyyah. From the issues that they [i.e the Haddadiyyah] are and criticized for, and are disapproved of because, is their one size fits all approach in how to handle the mistakes of others, regardless of whether the person that committed this mistake is a salafi or a person of innovation and desires. They will treat them identically. But in reality, a person of the sunnah should be given sincere advice, and should be guided, and we assume that he will accept the truth and return to it and this [approach] is not a marker of weakness nor is it cowardice but rather this is a form of courage for the sake of the truth that a Muslim worships his lord by. Indeed, the truth has more of a right to be followed.
Third: Salafiyyah doesn’t mean that the salafis will not differ in matters of knowledge that are based upon scholarly opinions. This is something that can be seen when we contemplate the affairs and dealings of the companions. The fact that a salafi will follow the book of Allah and the sunnah in accordance with the understanding of the pious predecessors doesn’t mean that no differing will occur between the salafis. And we have the example of the four imams who are considered from the foremost followers of the pious predecessors, yet they differed in matters of knowledge that are based upon scholarly opinions as is commonly known.
Fourth: Salafiyyah doesn’t mean that a salafi will not be afflicted with some disease of the heart [i.e a hidden flaw of character] such as seeking fame, or nitpicking on his brothers’ flaws. The reality is that Muslims are the mirror of their brother Muslim, thus he should be advised and shown the correct way, and Allah’s aid is sought.
Fifth: It is not from the methodology of the pious predecessors to enforce upon others that they must follow a particular statement of any one man besides the Messenger of Allah - salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Especially so in matters that are based upon scholarly opinion.
Sixth: It might so happen that a salafi scholar could issue a statement of criticism against another salafi scholar, and perhaps speak some stern words due to a deficiency he has seen. But that doesn’t mean that he has discarded him [i.e neither he nor his knowledge should be abandoned or ostracized]. Our position regarding the likes of these affairs is to have good thoughts about this scholar who spoke out, and as such we assume and believe that he only spoke to due to a scholarly conclusion that he has reached and as such he is between one of two [consequences] either being rewarded twice if his conclusion is correct, or once if it is mistaken.
The seventh: If an individual that has become known for his trustworthiness and his uprightness is criticized then such criticism should not be accepted unless it is specific [i.e clear] and valid criticism and accompanied by an explanation of the reasons for the issuance of such criticism. As such he is not to be treated like an individual who already has a bad reputation nor will to be treated like an unknown individual.
The eighth: Thinking good of your brother takes precedence, as such you will should not think ill of your brother [or his actions or statements] so long as there’s an alternative [and good] explanation for his stance [actions, statements, etc…]
The ninth: We do not over glorify individuals. And the questioner - may Allah reward him - made note of this point in his statement: “Not because we are attached to his person.”
The tenth: Not every individual that gets criticized should be ostracized, nor should every criticism be treated as a detraction from the person being criticized.
The eleventh: It is not from Salafiyyah to be incessant on obtaining recommendations from the scholars and to chase after such. A Muslim is recommended [and raised] by his knowledge and his actions before everything else. The land [that you are from or in] doesn’t raise anyone [in rank], and a man’s lineage will not raise anyone [in rank], and an individual busying himself with criticising others will not raise anyone [in rank] either.
The twelfth: It is not from Salafiyyah to rejoice at discovering the flaws of others, and the issuance of statements of criticism against them, and to hasten in the propagation and spreading of such without necessity. It is upon a student of knowledge to avoid dabbling in these affairs and to leave them in the hands of the people of knowledge in order to avoid becoming the source of and a fueler of turmoil “fitnah” and tumult. Rather, it is upon him to put out the fires of fitnah by abandoning and ignoring it, by being patient and thinking well [of his brothers] and by leaving the affair in the hands of the people of knowledge. And Allah is the one who grants success.