8 Rules of Debates and Arguments

>> Saturday, August 23, 2008

This is the second article dealing with the etiquette of debates. It deals with the rules of debates and the guidelines we should follow if we decide to debate. Many times we find ourselves arguing and not following these guidelines because we don't even know these rules. If we knew these rules and the prerequisite of debating, we would not even debate in the first place.

In the Words of Imam Ghazzali

Harms of the science of polemics and evils of debates and disputations

Know, 0 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 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, 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 Tabeyins (successors of 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 opinion 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 debates

The first condition is that where debate for search of truth is one of Farze 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 truth.

The second condition is that one should not consider debates more important than Farze Kefayah duties. He commits sin who does other works leaving aside a more important Farze Kefayah duty. He is like a man who does not give water to drink to people who are thirsty and facing death even though he n has got power to do so, because he remains then busy in giving lessons of cupping. Once the Prophet was asked: When will the people give up enjoining good and forbidding evil? The Prophet 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.

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 Imam Abu Hanifa 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.

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 companions also held consultations as questions arose or were 14 likely to arise in order to arrive at truth.

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.

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 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 and he replied. When the man pointed out his mistake, he admitted it.

The seventh condition is that the debater should not prevent his adversary from giving up one argument in favour of another and one illustration in favour of another.

The eighth condition is that debate should be held with such 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 other purposes.


rahimshakur.blogspot.com August 23, 2008 at 7:55 PM  

alhamdulillah. far to often we forget that the purpose of debate is to pursue knowledge and determine the truth. its not about winning or losing. further, like all acts of life, Islam provides us a viable means of communication - as you have so effectively pointed out.