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On the Pitfalls of Refutation

By Dr. Shadee Elmasry

Refutation is a key component of our deen. The first half of the shahada is a refutation of false gods. We can never do away with heresiology, or the refutation of false beliefs.

As with all things, there are pitfalls in this field as well.

The first paints refutation as hate and intolerance. But they don't actually live that way on other subjects. People get heated about unhealthy food, mistreatment of women, racism, etc. And they should. So it's odd that on deeni matters they suddenly frame it as hate and intolerance.

Then there's the other extreme of excess, its pitfalls being:

1 - Only seeing people's flaws and exposing them without a second thought.

2 - Actively scanning people for their doctrinal slip-ups.

3 - Conflating disagreed upon matters with absolutes.

4 - Treating Muslims with harshness, whereas the Quran only allows harshness for open and avowed enemies of faith and obligates gentleness towards Muslims.

5 - Not taking into account people's good track-records. Someone with a good past has earned some leeway and leniency in how we talk to them, not in giving misguided errors a pass.

6 - Sowing discord in the community by creating "for" and "against" groups.

The root cause is an imbalance. By dealing with children, elders, the general population of common Muslims, when you teach a youth class and interact with non-Muslims, one's attitude develops and weeds out extremes. Spiritual teaching is key too.

I fear for people who fall into this extreme because what goes around comes around, and the moment they slip up once, the wolves they raised will be the first to eat them alive.


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