بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم

Here is some foundational adab when discussing an academic issue of knowledge online (or otherwise). May Allah (عز وجل) make it beneficial:

Situation 1: You have studied the related topic in question via a teacher or text and you do not know the level of knowledge of the other individual. As the discussion progresses, you will likely be in 1 of 4 footings:

  • You know your proof/argument is weaker than the other and you humble yourself and admit your mistake or lack of knowledge. This is the required humility of the student of knowledge.
  • You know your proof/argument is weaker than the other but you continue to argue or debate: this is arrogance and from the diseases of the heart. Fear the punishment of the hellfire.
  • You know your proof/argument is stronger than the other, and he/she humbles themselves and accepts. Respect and love this person, bring them up not down, encourage them to learn and make dua for them. Usually this person is already a student of knowledge or someone who loves knowledge and its people or knows their rank. Most everyday Muslims will fall into this category.
  • You know your proof/argument is stronger than the other, but they continue to argue and debate. Here you have to be wise:
    1. Did the individual understand what I was saying? Did I understand their argument properly?
    2. Did I make a mistake in presenting my case or understanding the issue myself?
    3. You know the person is acting out of arrogance in the heart (knowing this comes with experience in dealing with people):
      1. Provide proof of authority, knowledge or experience to humble them. This more often works effectively with people you know or your own students. Online it often has a negative effect. And yes being strategically stern for a reason in select moments can be beneficial and is not bad character, as there are a few instances in the Sirah of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) of this. Those who have experience in dealing with people know, those who don’t, don’t.
      2. If (1) is not possible: Once you have presented your argument, leave the conversation. You can’t help this person, make dua for their guidance.
    4. You know the person is acting out of compound ignorance (knowing this comes from haven’t studied the topic a lot and from experience in dealing with people).
      1. The person is still open to learning. Offer to teach them or take them to a teacher who has time.
      2. The person is not open to learning but wants to continue in his ideas: (1) and (2) apply from (4).

Situation 2: You have not studied the related topic in question via a teacher or text or you know to a relatively high degree of probability that the level of knowledge of the other individual is greater than yours. Here, be very cautious so as not to speak without knowledge or fall into arrogance. You may take a few courses of action:

  • Humble yourself and admit your ignorance. Especially online, as it is often difficult to convey vast or complex topics articulately on social media without having to write an essay or a research article so it’s easy to misunderstand a student of knowledge or scholar’s intent comprehensively.
  • Save your Eman from any suspicion, hatred or jealousy of the other and make dua for them and yourself if you find your heart suffering from these ills.
  • You are very unsure about the accuracy of what they are saying. Do not engage them, but instead ask a knowledgeable academic or teacher about the issue and ask them to explain it to you. If you are able and qualified, refer to academic sources of knowledge.
  • Abstain from engaging except to ask clarifying questions and learn. This is the best option if possible.

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