Disputation (Debating) in Fiqh
Disputation, according to Imam Ghazali, is only valid if the following conditions are met:
- Disputation is a communal obligation (fard kifaya); before one may practice it he must have already fulfilled the individual obligations (fard `ayn).
- The purpose of disputation is to seek the truth; and it is justified only when there is not a more important community obligation that should be performed.
- Disputation is justified only in the case of a mujtahid, capable of arriving at his own legal opinion and who is not bound by the opinions of any school of law.
- Disputation is justified only in cases that are likely to be of actual occurrence.
- Disputation should be held privately, rather than in public assemblies in the presence of notables and men of power and influence.
- In disputation the aim should be to seek the truth regardless of which of the two adversaries finds it.
- Disputation should be free of certain restrictive rules of dialectic, such as preventing the adversaries shifting from one argument to another.
- A disputant should dispute with an opponent from whose knowledge he expects to benefit, one who occupies himself with legitimate religious knowledge.
After presenting his eight conditions Imam Ghazali states that there are others of minor importance, “but in these eight conditions there is that which will show you the difference between those who dispute for the sake of Allah, and those who do so for an ulterior motive.”