Originally Posted by Ramlah
Here is what I've learned after having engaged in these kinds of debates for a long time.
1) Prioritize - Not everything needs to be argued over. There are things that are valid differences and we need to learn to be tolerant of them. Secondly, there is a principal called "li-kulli maqam maqal"
i.e. 'For every place, there is a proper speech
'. Therefore, I learned that I need to figure out firstly whether the issue that I'm assuming is worth arguing over - is it really worth it? Is it something that entails more benefit or more harm? Argumentation in the religion is generally despised. Ofcourse there are debates that are generally very important such as regarding the Names and Attributes of Allaah where the proper Sunni aqaaid need to be shown etc but when looking at priorities, it is something that doesn't need to be argued over when there are greater deviances such as rejection of hadeeth, the secularists, the progressives, and many problems that are more serious such as the Muslim youth falling into zina, drinking and other vices.
2) If the issue is of serious matters like Tawheed/Shirk and the individual has this belief built into him for the past 15 years - then one debate will not change him. We need to realize that these people are not scholars - scholars would accept the truth even if they're corrected by their students because they have that level of maturity. We also need to remember that what took years to build, will not be unbuilt in a day or even months. The hearts of people don't work that way. Bringing daleel (no matter how cool it looks when your popping out a hadeeth or an ayah) will not do much in changing the heart of the other person until his heart is at the stage where it can accept it. This is why the first verses to be revlealed from the Qur'an were about Allaah, death, the Aakhirah, Jannah, Naar and the Day of Judgment - to first soften the people's hearts and increase them in their imaan. This is why Allaah twice despised alcohol in the Qur'an before forbidding it. It is from His Wisdom that He didn't reveal the ahkaam of the Qur'an first - no one would have accepted it. Therefore, when dealing with serious matters such as a person that believes you can make dua' to other than Allaah - one needs to be wise and not push themselves into debates. Once you do that the human mind automatically will not care what you say - it will want to defend what it believes because this long ingrained belief is being attacked. Isn't this the main reason of kufr amongst the non-muslims? They don't want to change from the religion of their forefathers and they don't want to accept that their forefathers were upon error.
3) In debates, often the intention becomes to 'establish the proof' against the other person. I.e. - Let me show him these hadeeth, these verses, and if he doesn't believe then I've done my part. This was not the way of the Prophets. They were genuinly scared for their people and wished with all their hearts that the people would be guided - why do you think Prophet Nuh patiently did dawah for 900 years? Why did our beloved Messenger (salalahu alayhi wa sallam) not order the angel of the Mountains to destroy Ta'if when they stoned him and drove him out? Because the Messenger (salalahu alayhi wa sallam) wanted the people to be guided - it's ok if not this generation of people, then perhaps their children will worship Allaah alone. The worst thing that happened to the pure sunni dawah was this extremism is establishing the proof and labeling people as innovators and abandoning the people. Beware of falling into this.
4) Alternatives. Offer alternatives to what the person is doing. I remember a lesson I learnt from the life Imaam Shah Waliullah Dehlavi. He had to deal with extreme innovators from certain sects who had invented a lot of new (and creative) ways to worship Allaah and also to those in the graves. This Imaam did not go up to them and start arguing with them. He did not come back from his journey of seeking Ilm and close his father's school and shout 'Bid'ah, Bid'ah - all of you are doing Bid'ah'. He knew they had fallen into it, but he also knew that the way to change them was not to criticize them to their face. He used wisdom in the way he dealt with them because he understood that these people do in fact love Allaah and His Messenger (salalahu alayhi wa sallam), they do want to worship Allaah - they don't have insincere intentions or evil plots to innovate. So what did he do? He gave them alternatives. So when he came upon their innovated dhikr - he said 'You want to do dhikr? No problem, here is al-Adhkaar by Imaam Nawawi which will show you how the authentic adhkaar', 'You want to learn how to be ascetic and deal with the people? Here is al Adab al Mufrad of Imaam Bukhari.' He gave them a practical clear route that they can take without feeling that their own personal beliefs were being attacked and this way he brought about grassroots change. And guess what? Imaam Shah Waliullah succeded in changing the people.
Lastly, I have this quote from Imaam Suhaib Webb from an answer he gave on his website. I think the advice he gave is golden and is very important for any daee' to keep in mind. He said: "However, keep in mind that you must instruct the people with kindness and mercy. Don’t take this answer and shove it in their faces. Be kind, gentle and patient.
And Allaah knows best.