The Shaykhs have made it known that in truth it is not permissible to condemn others except for one who has encompassed the whole of the Law. The benefit of their disclosure in this, is their precaution against making a general condemnation, contenting themselves with what is made explicit in the Book, the Sunna, and the Consensus of the Community regarding the licit and the unlawful.
I say - and success with Allah Who guides one to the straight path through His Munificence - [al-Sha`rani] said in Lawaqih al-Anwar al-Qudsiyya fi al-`Uhud al-Muhammadiyya:
The general covenant was taken from us by Allah's Messenger that we should not dispute in one of the sciences of the Law except with the intention of supporting the Religion and on the conditions of sincerity and full consciousness (hudur) of Allah Almighty and Exalted. These [intention and conditions] must be based on unveiling (kashf), not conjecture, self-display, heedlessness, or presumption; and with the texts of the authorities before his eyes.
One who undertakes such work must have a teacher imbued with the sciences of the Law who has looked into the totality of the proofs of the Schools that are practiced and studied, trained in the path of the [Sufi] Folk in the degrees of sincerity.
As for one who puts this covenant into practice without a teacher, then he is in the majority of cases displaying himself.
Al-Tabarani narrated that the Prophet said: "Islam consists in three hundred and thirteen roads (shari`a). There is not one upon which one meets Allah Almighty and Exalted except he enters Paradise through it."1
Therefore no-one must respond to one who is disputing with him except he first looks into one of those paths and ascertains that his opponent's words fit none of them. For the Lawgiver did not mention this except to close up the avenues to disputation based on ignorance for the purport of strengthening the Religion - which contention in fact debases and weakens....
1A fair narration from Ibn `Abbas by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (12:237) with a chain containing `Ubayd Allah ibn Zuhr who is weak according to al-Haythami in Majma` al-Zawa'id (1:36), but al-Dhahabi in Mizan al-I`tidal (3:7) said: "I say: The masters of the Sunan have used his narrations, as well as Ahmad in his Musnad. Al-Nasa'i thought well of him and did not include him in his Du`afa' but said: `There is no harm in him.'"
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