Just as the harm and confusion spread can be of various levels, the people who err themselves are of different backgrounds and levels.
Let us understand something that may help us appreciate how the scholars and students deal with these kinds of issues…
A student of knowledge graduates and moves into a position to give daʿwah. He speaks with errors and blunders commonly, behaves poorly with the people, and proves to be a poor role model. He draws the spotlight to himself and demonizes those who correct his errors, claiming oppression and holding to his right to defend his honor. The daʿwah he gives revolves heavily around defending and promoting himself, all in the name of clarifying the truth…
Although this kind of person may have some benefit for the daʿwah, the harms he brings the image of Islām clearly outweigh those benefits.
A student of knowledge known for 10+ years of consistent study under well-known scholars (whether in universities or elsewhere), and just as many years of teaching and helping new Muslims understand the basics of Islām. Teaching and counseling individuals for hours at a time, for years and years. Known for guiding the common people to the well-known and respected senior scholars.
He then errs in a fitnah, attacks some of Ahl al-Sunnah, sides with people causing confusion, etc. in a way that harms the image of the daʿwah. He becomes confused on some issues and hastily accepts reports from dishonest people spreading lies and distortions, and thus, he takes stances against his brothers who are similar to him in their years of efforts in the daʿwah and known to the scholars for such efforts.
Are the Two Equal?
While the first one has not given us anything or built anything respectable, the second one has a history of real contributions that must be recognized. It doesn’t mean he is allowed to say whatever he wants, and there will be no recompense. But the scholars and their students exercise restraint in attempting to bring about rectification in this kind of person. They realize that he has a background of productive and helpful activity, that there is real substance to him, behind the current errors. Basically, his benefit outweighs his harm, so they take special care and show more patience with him in times of fitnah. He deserves that while the other one has not given us anything in the first place to deserve any special consideration and additional patience.
So let us not understand that our scholars have “double standards” when dealing with people, as people have claimed when comparing Shaykh Bakr Abū Zayd (an established scholar with a lot of beneficial work) and Abū al-Ḥasan al-Maʿribī, a fitnah and trial for the Muslims, not known for any significant contributions to any of the Islamic sciences. Some people without thinking of these points have declared in ignorance, “This is double standards, because one is a Saudi and the other is not.” Such people should reflect over their speech about academic criticism from the scholars and realize they are way out of their league to speak out, and absolutely misinformed about scholarly principles in academic criticism!
Furthermore, I hope that on a smaller scale, lesser students and daʿwah organizations in the West could remember to show restraint and patience when dealing with the errors of someone with a history of apparently sincere hard work and consistent efforts vs. someone who begins and ends as a fitnah for the Muslims and their daʿwah.
I do not say this because I feel that it is not being practiced. On the contrary, I see this being practiced by many of our brothers in the daʿwah often. I just thought that sharing insight into this matter with everyone might be of benefit, and it might kill some of the unwarranted suspicions that the Shayṭān loves to spread.
And Allāh knows best.
Source: Should they be treated equally?
Written by: Mūsá Richardson