AUTHOR: Shaikh Rabee’ bin Haadee Al-Madkhalee
SOURCE: His book “Manhaj Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah fee Naqd ar-Rijaal wal Kutub wat-Tawaa’if” (pg. 33-43 of 3rd Edition)
PRODUCED BY: Al-Ibaanah.com
These are guidelines, which define those whom we are required to respect and honor from among mankind, such that it is not permissible to harm their honor. And they define those whom it is permissible to speak about and criticize, rather, whom it is obligatory to criticize at the time of necessity and benefit, without having to mention their good qualities.
· Those whom we are obligated to honor
First: The Messengers and Prophets, may Allaah’s peace and blessings be upon all of them
Allaah has related to us their stories, showing their striving and perseverance, while He has repudiated those who denied and opposed them. And He commanded the Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) as well as his ummah to follow their example.
Second: The Companions, may Allaah be pleased with them
There is nothing that the Muslim ummah should feel towards them except love and respect. Allaah has praised them highly in His Book. And He spoke about their high rank, their efforts and the sacrifices they made with their wealth and their lives in the Cause of Allaah.
Similarly, the Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) praised them highly, both on an individual and a group level. This is such that the scholars of Islaam devoted special and close attention to their merits and qualities, writing many books concerning their virtues and special characteristics.
Furthermore, the Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) forbade us from insulting them, saying: “Do not revile my Companions. For I swear by the One in whose hand my soul is in, if one of you were to give in charity the likes of mount Uhud in gold, it would not equal a mudd (handful using 2 hands) of one of them nor even half of it.” 
Ahl-us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah are well aware of their position and status, and so they guard it with the strictest form of guarding. And they forbid others from speaking vainly about what occurred of dispute between ‘Alee (radyAllaahu ‘anhu) and Mu’awiyah (radyAllaahu ‘anhu) and those who supported them from the rest of the Companions. Rather, they assert for them the reward that is given to the mujtahids. And they ruled that all those who spoke about them – or even about one of them – were upon deviance, misguidance and heresy.
Third: Those who followed them in goodness
This includes those who reached the (time of the) Companions of Allaah’s Messenger (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and were guided by their guidance, such as the seven scholars of Fiqh of Madeenah and those who followed their way in the rest of the towns. Then after them, are the scholars of Hadeeth, Fiqh and Tafseer – those who strove upon the way of the righteous Companions and Successors. And it includes those who followed their methodology with regard to Creed, holding tightly onto the Book and the Sunnah, avoiding innovations, vain desires and its adherents, and defending the truth and its adherents, up until this day of ours and after it, until Allaah’s promise comes about.
They are the ones whom the Messenger of Allaah (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was referring to when he said: “There will not cease to be a group from my ummah, triumphant upon the truth. Those who abandon them will not be able to harm them nor will those who oppose them, until the order (promise) of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, comes.”
They are better known as Ahl-ul-hadeeth, as has been agreed upon by the Imaams of Islaam and the scholars of guidance. And no one opposes them in regard to what they have agreed on except those from the people of vain desires, ignorance and misguidance.
Imaam Ahmad, Al-Haakim and Ibn Al-Qayyim have indeed accused those who criticize them of being heretics. And those who spoke vilely about them (the scholars) have been repudiated severely by Ibn Qutaybah, Ar-Raamaharzamee, Al-Khateeb (Al-Baghdaadee) and others.
And there is no doubt that no one speaks against them except for those whom Allaah has led astray and blinded. So if one of these (scholars) errs in an issue from the issues in which Ijtihaad is allowed, it must be clarified but not in the manner of condemning.
Shaikh-ul-Islaam Ibn Taimiyyah (rahimahullaah) said with regard to these (scholars):
“So whoever is known to have (the ability to perform) the allowable Ijtihaad, then it is not permissible for him to be mentioned in a manner of condemnation or blame, because Allaah has forgiven him of his error. Instead, it is an obligation due to what he possesses of Eemaan and Taqwaa to show loyalty and love to him, and to fulfill what Allaah has mandated from his rights, such as praising him, making du’aa (supplication) for him, and so on.” 
· Those whom it is permissible to criticize, disparage and warn the people against their harm:
First: The People of Innovation
It is permissible – rather obligatory – to speak about the people of innovation and warn against them and their fabrications, whether individually or as groups and whether they are absent or present. They include those among the Khawaarij, the Rawaafid, the Jahmiyyah, the Murji’ah, the Karaamiyyah and the people of Rhetoric – those whose knowledge of Kalaam (rhetoric) has brought them to corrupted and deviant beliefs, such as the rejection of all or some of Allaah’s Attributes. 
So it is an obligation to warn against these types of people, their books and their misguided ways. And how great in number they are!
Likewise, the same applies to those who follow their methodology from the sects [and groups] of our time, such as those who separate themselves away from the people of Tawheed and Sunnah, oppose them and remain far away from their aspects of the methodology. In fact, they wage war against these aspects of the methodology and chase others away from it and its adherents (i.e. the scholars). The likes of these individuals are followed by those who support and defend them. And these followers of theirs mention their good qualities and praise them for it, praising their personalities and leaders. And they have preferred their (innovated) methodologies over the methodology of the people of Tawheed, the Sunnah and the Jamaa’ah!
Second: Reporters of Hadeeth and Witnesses, if they are deemed Unreliable
It is permissible to criticize these people according to the consensus of the Muslims. Rather, it is an obligation. This has been mentioned and related by An-Nawawee and Ibn Taimiyyah, may Allaah have mercy on both of them.
1. So if the scholars of the science of al-Jarh wat-Ta’deel all agree upon criticizing a narrator, accusing him of lying or making gross mistakes. Or they say: “His hadeeth are to be rejected”, “He has baseless (weak) hadeeth” or what resembles that, then it is permitted for everyone doing research or quoting to quote or report that. And it is not required of him – in the least – to mention that person’s good qualities, not to mention doing research on all of his good qualities and then mentioning them!
2. As for the narrators of which there is differing as to whether or not they are reliable or unreliable, or the narrators who were innovators, then:
The First Type: To list the mention of that narrator’s criticism first and accept it without considering the sayings of those who declared him reliable would be abandoning something from the Religion and from what has been established on the leader of the Messengers (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). And this is a great injustice and a negligence of something that is part of the Religion, which we are obligated to preserve. And it is a trust that falls on the neck of the scholars (i.e. it is their duty). So in this case, for the benefit of the Religion and for preserving it, and for the sake of giving a general benefit to the Muslims, we must seek to verify the reality of the matter. And we must weigh between the sayings of the scholars of Jarh wa-Ta’deel, taking that which is more established, whether it is from the criticism (jarh) or the approval (ta’deel).
All of this is for the purpose of bringing about this beneficial good, not because it is an obligation to make a balance for the condition of that individual who has been declared unreliable (between his good and bad qualities)! So if it is established that he is in fact unreliable after having done the research, it is permitted to relate his unreliability without mentioning this balancing (between those who criticized him and those who approved of him). And no scholar said that (mentioning) this (balancing) was obligatory.
As for the innovator, then if we are in the position of warning against the innovations, then we warn against him, mentioning his innovation only. And it is not an obligation on us to mention any of his good qualities. And if we are in the subject of narrating reports, then it is an obligation to mention his trustworthiness and honesty, if he was in fact trustworthy and honest, for the purpose of benefiting, attaining and preserving the narration. Not for any other purpose, such as the obligation of making a balance (muwaazanah) between his good and bad qualities, as some people claim! So it is not required on us to mention his generosity or his knowledge or his courage or his efforts and good manners, as well as all those other things that have no relation to the subject of narrating.
There were some among the Salaf who would reject the reports of the people of innovation and those who were accused (of weakness, lying).
Ibn ‘Abbaas (radyAllaahu ‘anhu) said: “There was once a time in which when a man would say: ‘Allaah’s Messenger (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said…’ our eyes would hasten to him and our ears would open wide (to listen) to him. But when the difficulties and disgrace befell the people, we did not take from the people except, for that which we knew.” 
And Ibn Sireen said: “The people never used to ask about the isnaad (chain of narration). But when the fitnah (afflictions) occurred, they began to say: ‘Name your men to us.’ So the Ahl-us-Sunnah would be looked upon and their hadeeth would be accepted. And the people of innovation would be looked upon and their hadeeth would not be accepted.” 
The words of Ibn ‘Abbaas and Ibn Sireen indicate that this was the general view of the Salaf at the time, during the days of the last of the Companions and their Successors (Taabi’een) after them.
Perhaps this existed in them due to their awareness of being in no need of the narrations of innovators. So they took this firm and solid stance against them. But when those who came after them were obliged to take the reports of the truthful ones among the innovators, they accepted it from them, only under certain conditions and stipulations, which consisted of taking the sound from it, while rejecting the crooked and corrupt aspects from it.
Imaam Abu Ishaaq Ibraaheem Ibn Ya’qoob Al-Jawzjaanee (rahimahullaah) said: “Among them was he who deviated from the truth, yet still possessed an honest tongue. And his hadeeth would be widespread amongst the people since he was forsaken for his innovation but trusted with his narration. So concerning these individuals, I see no other alternative but to take from their hadeeth that which is (already) known, so long as his innovation does not become strengthened because of that.” 
· Third: Those whom it is permissible to backbite:
An-Nawawee (rahimahullaah) said: “Chapter: What is permissible from backbiting:
Know that backbiting is permissible for a legitimate and legislated reason, of which the allowance for doing it (the backbiting) would not be possible without it. And they are six reasons:
Second: Seeking help for changing an evil and returning a sinner to what is correct.
Third: When seeking a legal ruling
Fourth: Warning and advising the Muslims against an evil. This is in several perspectives, one of which is: Criticizing those who have been declared unreliable in narration and testimony. This is permissible according to the unanimous agreement of the Muslims. Rather it becomes obligatory for necessity’s sake…”
This is up to the point where he said:
“One last case is when one sees a student frequenting an innovator or a deviant, seeking to attain knowledge from him, and he fear that the student may be affected by that. Then it is upon him to advise him of the condition of that innovator, providing that his intention only be for the sake of advising…” 
His complete words will be mentioned later in its due place.
I say: So you see that he did not make it a condition for one to mention the good qualities of the person who is being warned against. And he did not say that it was an obligation to make a balance (between good and bad qualities) as those people make it an obligation, holding that if one abandons doing this balancing then it goes against the trust and it shuns equity and justice!
Shaikh-ul-Islaam Ibn Taimiyyah (rahimahullaah) said: “Someone once said to Ahmad Ibn Hanbal: ‘It is becoming difficult upon me to say, This person is such and such, and that person is such and such (i.e. criticizing them).’ So he (Ahmad) said: ‘If you were to remain silent and I were to remain silent, then when will the ignorant person know the authentic from the weak?’
And since advising is obligatory with regard to (bringing) beneficial good in the Religion, specific and general:
Such as is the case when reporters of Hadeeth have made mistakes or lied, as Yahyaa Ibn Sa’eed said: “I asked Maalik, Ath-Thawree, Laith Ibn Sa’ad – I think – and Al-Awzaa’ee about a man that was accused with regard to hadeeth, so they all said: ‘Convey (expose) his affair.’”
And such as is the case when the leaders of innovation from those who voiced sayings contrary to the Qur’aan and the Sunnah and who performed worship contrary to that of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah.
Then indeed, clarifying their condition and warning the ummah against them is an obligation based on the unanimous agreement of the Muslims. This is such that it was once said to Ahmad Ibn Hanbal: “Is a man that fasts, prays and makes ‘Itikaaf more beloved to you or one that speaks out against the people of innovation?” So he (rahimahullaah) said: “If he fasts, prays and performs ‘Itikaaf then that is only for himself, but if he speaks out against the innovators then indeed this is for all of the Muslims. And this is better.”
Shaikh-ul-Islaam, Ibn Taimiyyah, said:
“So he has explained that the benefit of (doing) this is general for all of the Muslims with regard to their Religion. And it is from the types of Jihaad that is done in the Way of Allaah. This is since cleansing Allaah’s way, His Religion, methodologies and legislation, and repelling the transgression of these individuals and having enmity against them is a collective obligation (fard kifaayah), according to the consensus of the Muslims.
And if it were not for those whom Allaah placed to repel the harm of these individuals, the Religion would have indeed been corrupted. And the corruption experienced from these individuals is greater than the corruption experienced from being conquered by the enemies (of Islaam) during war.
For indeed, when these (enemies) conquered (the Muslim lands), they did not corrupt the hearts (of the Muslims) and what they contained from Religion, except for what came afterward. But as for these individuals, then they corrupt the hearts from the very start.” 
And he has lengthier words on this subject, which will be mentioned later.
So this is the true methodology of the Salaf, not just a claim. And it is that methodology, which was followed by Ibn Taimiyyah and others from the sincere and honest Mujaahideen. And no criticism of a critic ever rebuked them, because they did this for the sake of Allaah.
So where is it that making this kind of balancing (between good and bad qualities) must be a condition?!
And where is the obligation for mentioning a person’s good qualities (when criticizing him), which we hear so often repeated unjustly in defense of those callers to misguidance?!
Rather you have seen that Ibn Taimiyyah held that it was an obligation to refute the people of vain desires. And that it was from the different types of Jihaad in the Way of Allaah, since it is a way of cleansing His Religion, methodologies and legislation.
Sayings of the Imaams concerning the People of Innovation and (Hadeeth) Narrators:
Furthermore, the scholars of Islaam have indeed spoken out against the people of innovation and the (weak) reporters. And they did not indicate in the least towards the obligation of making it a condition to create this type of balancing (between good and bad qualities). They authored books on the subject of al-Jarh wat-Ta’deel and books in support of the Sunnah and in refutation of the people of innovation and in criticizing them. And they wrote books on the defects (of hadeeth) and books on the fabricated ahaadeeth. They did not make it an obligation to make this type of balancing (Muwaazanah) at all. In fact, they even wrote books specifically with just Jarh (discrediting of reporters) in them, and limiting them to mentioning only those (narrators) that were declared unreliable or those who were spoken about with criticism. So they did not place this principle (ofMuwaazanah) as a condition at all.
Thus Imaam Al-Bukhaaree – who was who he was with regard to possessing authority, religious characteristics, good manners and piety – wrote two books on weak narrators and he named them “Al-Kabeer” and “As-Sagheer“.
And An-Nasaa’ee wrote a book about the weak and rejected narrators called ad-Du’afaa wal-Matrookeen.
Al-‘Aqeelee wrote a book on weak narrators, which is known as ad-Du’afaa.
Ibn ‘Adiyy authored a book, al-Kaamil, about those who were criticized.
Ibn Hibbaan wrote a book specifically about those who were declared unreliable called al-Majrooheen.
Ad-Daaraqutnee and Ibn Ma’een have numerous books in which they answer questions concerning weak narrators and rejected reporters.
Al-Haakim wrote a book called ad-Du’afaa (Weak Narrators), which is a chapter from his (bigger book) al-Madkhal.
Abu Nu’aim and Ibn Al-Jawzee wrote on this subject also.
Adh-Dhahabee wrote three books on those who were declared unreliable and those who were criticized, which are al-Meezaan, al-Mughnee and Deewaan ad-Du’afaa.
Al-Haafidh Ibn Hajr authored Lisaan al-Meezaan.
And likewise, the books on al-Jarh wat-Ta’deel are filled with the discrediting of those who were declared unreliable (majrooheen), especially the books of Imaam Yahyaa Ibn Ma’een. So they did not make it a condition that this Muwaaznah (mentioning good and bad qualities) must be employed.
Indeed, this methodology, which makes this Muwaaznah a condition, is indeed from that which results in: The discrediting returning back to the (past) scholars of Islaam, and their falling into the web of being accused with injustice and treachery (i.e. since they did not mention the good deeds of those whom they criticized). We seek Allaah’s refuge from a methodology that produces such kinds of consequences.
Here, it is appropriate to mention some examples of the criticism of the Imaams (scholars) on some people, in which they just mentioned the criticism without showing any consideration to what they had from good qualities.
Imaam Ahmad, may Allaah have mercy on him:
1. Al-Marwadhee (rahimahullaah) said: “Abu ‘Abdillaah (Ahmad Ibn Hanbal) once mentioned Haarith al-Muhaasibee and said: ‘Haarith is the source of all this affliction – meaning the innovations of the views of Jahm. There is no calamity except for Haarith.'” 
2. Habeeb Ibn Abee Hilaal: Ahmad said of him: “He is rejected.” 
3. Habeeb Ibn Jahdar: Ahmad declared him a liar. 
4. Al-Hasan Ibn Dhakwaan: Ahmad said of him: “His ahaadeeth are forged” and in one report, he said: “He is of no significance.”
5. Khaalid Ibn Yazeed Ibn ‘Abd-ir-Rahmaan Al-Hamdaanee: Ahmad said: “He is nothing.” 
Imaam Al-Bukhaaree, may Allaah have mercy on him:
1. He said: “Jisr bin Farqad: Yahyaa Ibn ad-Darees and others reported about him that: ‘He is of no significance.'” 
2. Khaalid bin Iyaas al-Qurshee al-‘Adawee al-Madanee: “He is nothing.” 
3. Dawood Ibn al-Muhbir: “His hadeeth are rejected.” 
4. Dawood Ibn ‘Ataa Abu Sulaimaan al-Madanee: “His hadeeth are rejected. Ahmad said: ‘I saw him and he was nothing.'” 
Imaam An-Nasaa’ee, may Allaah have mercy on him:
1. Ibraaheem Ibn ‘Uthmaan Abu Shyibah: “His hadeeth are rejected and he was from Koofah.” 
2. Ibraaheem Ibn Al-Hakam Ibn Abaan: “His hadeeth are rejected. He was from ‘Adan.” 
3. Ibraaheem Ibn Khatheem: “His hadeeth are rejected. He was from Baghdaad.” 
4. Ibraaheem Ibn Yazeed Al-Khoozee: “His hadeeth are rejected. He was from ‘Adan.” 
5. Asha’ath Ibn Sa’eed as-Samaan: “He is nothing.” 
 Reported by Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim from the narration of Abu Sa’eed
 Majmoo’ al-Fataawaa (28/234)
 Shaikh-ul-Islaam (Ibn Taimiyyah) has stated that there is a unanimous agreement amongst the Muslims on this.
 Likewise, the Sufis, except for the one who ascribes himself to them, yet he in his reality and his methodology is not part of them. These include those whom the Imaams of Islaam have testified as tot heir virtue, uprightness and perseverance on the Qur’aan and Sunnah.
 The Muqaddimah (Introduction) of Saheeh Muslim (1/13-15)
 The Muqaddimah (Introduction) of Saheeh Muslim (1/13-15)
 Ahwaal ar-Rijaal (pg. 538)
 Riyaadh as-Saaliheen (pg. 489) with the verification of Al-Albaanee
 Majmoo’ ar-Rasaa’il (5/110)
 Bahr-ud-Dam (pg. 99)
 Bahr-ud-Dam(pg. 105)
 Bahr-ud-Dam (pg. 109)
 Bahr-ud-Dam (pg. 114)
 Bahr-ud-Dam (pg. 114)
 Ad-Du’afaa as-Sagheer (pg. 418) with the verification of At-Tanaawee
 Ad-Du’afaa as-Sagheer (pg. 18)
 Ad-Du’afaa as-Sagheer (pg. 87)
 Ad-Du’afaa wal-Matrookeen (pg. 42)
 Ad-Du’afaa wal-Matrookeen (pg. 56)