Q: First, was the definition of Ahl as-Sunna wary towards the Salafis, thus removing earlier scholars such as Abdullah ibn Ahmad, ibn Khuzayma, ibn Taymiyya and his students, Dhahabi, ibn Kathir and ibn Rajab? Although some of them are Shafi’is, they have the Hanbali Athari belief about the Divine Names and Attributes. It would also remove many contemporary scholars. We know full well that many Asha’ris teach their students respect and esteem for all scholars of the Sunna and forbid reviling them.
A: All praise be to Allah. Peace and blessings be upon our Master Muhammad, his family and companions.
The conference did not exclude those you mentioned from the Ahl as-Sunna. What is being spread are mere rumours that were accepted without verification. The Ahl al-Hadith are included among the Asha’ris and Maturidis who both conjoin the two options of tafwid (consigning the knowledge of what is really meant by scriptural expressions to Allah) and ta’wil (figurative interpretation). The way of the Ahl al-Hadith is tafwid. When the conference organisers saw the spread of lies that the conference had removed the Ahl al-Hadith from the Ahl as-Sunna, the Ahl al-Hadith were ascribed to the Asha’ris and Maturidis.
As for ibn Kathir and Dhahabi, they were Asha’ris and not Atharis.
Q: Second, this difference continues from the first century, from the era of Muqatil and the era of the trial of Baghdad (between ibn Abi Qasim and the Hanbalis) to our time. What is the correct method of solving it?
A: The correct method is to accept its existence as a manifestation of acceptable diversity within the framework of the Ahl as-Sunna, and work to reject insularity from any direction.
Asha’ris and Maturidis constitute more than 95% of the scholars of the Sunna. Despite this, there continue to be pulpits that speak about them as being sects countervailing the Ahl as-Sunna!
This is distortion, an overturning of the scales and insularity.
Q: Third, although the Shaykh wanted to speak about this matter in general, the conference was held under the patronage of a controversial ruler. What is the wisdom in dealing with these rulers and what is the proper approach? What are the reasons of those who disapprove of these interactions?
A: There is no one today who is not considered controversial, be it a ruler, scholar, journalist or someone else!
Chechnya is a Muslim republic. The Russian Federation has 28 million Muslims. Therefore, a sane person cannot conceive boycotting educational and awareness activities because of the position of its President.
The critics founded the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) in Britain at a time when it was bombing Iraq. And everyone holds conferences for Muslims in America at a time when the government of the occupying entity strikes the people of Palestine with US Apache helicopters.
Holding a specific conference in a country does not mean approval of its policies.
As for the President of Chechnya, he has saved his people and rebuilt his country after war destroyed it.
Chechnya and the rest of the republics of the Caucasus have witnessed tragedies, partly caused by the presence of the Khawarij of this time; the Takfiris (those who declare other Muslims apostates) who kill people in the name of the Ahl as-Sunna. Therefore, the scholars of these lands decided to invite those they deem close to their disposition to clarify the difference between the Ahl as-Sunnah and the Khawarij Takfiris. And the disposition of the people of the Caucasus is Sunni, Asha’ri, Shafi’i and Sufi.
In Dagestan, 54 of its scholars of the Sunna who were Asha’ri, Shafi’i and Sufi, were killed in the past 15 years. The last of them was killed a few months ago at the door of his mosque as he headed for the Fajr prayer. Before him, the Mufti was killed as he headed for the Friday sermon.
All of these crimes were perpetrated in the name of the Ahl as-Sunna. Therefore, there was need to clarify who the Ahl as-Sunna are.