Shaykh Ahmad An-Najjar said, “…We experience from some people [some Salafis] who have incorrect views [on how to deal with Salafis who err] from one angle and do not ascertain the definitive factors [as to what makes a person an innovator and when does a Salafi become an innovator] from another angle.
The lack of a sound view in [this matter, is] not understanding an error or a mistake, or not understanding the description [in the Quran, Sunnah or ijmah (consensus) of the Salaf] which defines rulings [upon individuals as being innovators or a person of sunnah who erred].
Not understanding the definitive grounds regarding the rule [on when and how an individual becomes an innovator] occurs from those who apply the description [of being an innovator to others], without being certain of the conditions [needed to declare an individual an innovator] and the preventative factors which need to be removed [before applying the description – innovator – upon any individual] .
Due to the lack of grasping these two issue, you find that there are some [Salafis] who go to excess with those [Salafis] who err and follow them in their errors [i.e. insult them and call for them to be boycotted because of this error and they refute them and not just their errors and they treat them as if they are innovators] when the error is one which opposes the ijmah of the Salaf and opposes the text.
You also find those [some Salafis] who go to excess and defame the one who errs although the error is one in which there can be differing in the matter, or wherein there is a preventative factor [preventing this person from being destroyed by others due to his error] – in both cases this type of behaviour is censured.
The correct way:
That we know when an issue is actually an error. When a textual description [from the Quran, Sunnah or ijmah of the Salaf] can define this ruling. [Only] then do we know what is the accurate way to deal with one who falls into this error.
How we can ascertain this defining factor?
As for when an issue is indeed an error, which opposes a principle from the principles of Ahlu Sunnah, then…generally – whoever leaves what has been instructed [in the Quran, Sunnah] or does that which has been prohibited [by the Quran, Sunnah or ijmah of the Salaf], has fallen into an error.
As for how we are to deal with this error, then the answer is that we refer back to his foundation [in aqeedah and manhaj].
If his foundation [in aqeedah and manhaj] is correct and in accordance with the madhab of the Salaf then his respect and honour should be maintained and we only mention him with goodness. We warn from his mistakes and we do not follow him in those mistakes.
When the error is from a scholar from Ahlu Sunnah then this is based on his ijtihad (i.e. striving to reach the truth in a particular matter which is unclear) as he has feared Allah according to his ability and as a result is excused for his ijtihad.
Also, he has performed what he has been instructed to do from ijtihad and it is not binding on him to always be correct, this is just a view of a group of Ahlu Bidah, that every mujtahid (the person who performs ijtihad) is always correct.
It should also be known that: there is no necessary binding link between dealing with him [the one who errors] and his error.
Treating the person with good does not equate with “following him in his mistake”, likewise refuting his mistake does not equate with “treating him as a person of innovation”.
Not all who commit that which necessitates tabdi (declaring them to be an innovator) are to be deemed as innovators. This acknowledgement is in harmony with the spirit of the Sharee’ah (Islamic Law), as the Sharee’ah has come to bring unity upon the truth, justice and mercy. All of this is achieved with this acknowledgement.
As for if the person’s foundation [in aqeedah and manhaj] oppose that of the madhhab of the Salaf, then he should be dealt with based on his original basis in accordance with the benefits and harms [of boycotting him, refuting harshly or softly, advising him privately and not just publicly refuting him etc], and the required rules.
If it is said, “Why have you differentiated between the one who has a sound foundation [in aqeedah and manhaj] and the one who has a corrupt foundation [in aqeedah and manhaj]?
The response is, “Because the one who has a sound foundstion [in aqeedah and manhaj] has ascertained sound ijtihad contrary to the one who has a corrupt foundation [in aqeedah and manhaj].
Lastly the way to avoid the incorrect methods in dealing with these matters, is for a person to have sound foundations [in aqeedah and manhaj] and refer back to the textual knowledge so that they have a sound outlook on the issue. Then after that they will we know how to understand the rulings around [when and how an individual becomes an innovator] and be able to place the descriptions [of being an innovator] upon specific individuals [correctly and not upon Salafis who err], while safeguarding the conditions [which must be present to declare an individual an innovator] and safeguarding the factors that prevent [an individual from becoming an innovator].”
Ref: brixtonmasjid.co.uk (with some rewording by ahlusunnahwaljamaah.com for easier understanding)
Posted by Abdul Kareem Ibn Ozzie