Question to Al-Allaamah Ubaid Al-Jaabiri (may Allaah preserve him):

If I heard the statement of a scholar in a cassette or read it in a book concerning some person that he is indeed an innovator, but I did not see the evidence, is it then binding upon me to be cautious of this person and be satisfied that he is indeed an innovator, or do I wait until I find evidence for that?

Answer:

All praise is due to Allaah the Lord of the Aalameen and may Allaah send His Salutations of peace and blessings upon our prophet Muhammad, his family and companions. To proceed: I say: Indeed Ahlus Sunnah do not pass judgement of Bidah (i.e. declare one to be from ahlul bidah) against anyone unless they are fully acquainted with him and completely examine what he is upon and know his methodology perfectly, in general and in detail. And from this point (in our discussion), this affair leads us to two standpoints:

The first standpoint: It is about the one against whom a scholar or scholars have passed a judgement that he is an innovator, whilst other scholars from Ahlus Sunnah like them do not differ (about this judgement). Beware, I say: Others from Ahlus Sunnah do not differ with them; so we accept their criticism against him (i.e. the one declared a man of bidah). We accept their speech and are cautious about him.  So as long as a Sunni Scholar passed judgement against him and he was criticised by a Sunni scholar, whilst the rest of Ahlus Sunnah amongst the contemporaries of this scholar–his brothers and sons amongst the scholars–did not raise (an opposition), then his  speech must be accepted.  That is because this Sunni Scholar who criticised a man did not do so except based on an affair that is clear to him and established upon proof.  This is something related to the religion of Allaah–the one who criticises or commends knows that he is responsible for what he says and for the ruling or judgement he gives. He knows that he is held accountable by Allaah (The Most High) even before the people question him.

The Second Standpoint: If this person who has been criticized by a scholar or scholars and they passed a judgement against him with what drops his status, and it became obligatory to be cautious of him; but then they are opposed by others who judged him to be trustworthy and that he is upon the Sunnah, or gave other judgements in opposition to the judgements of those other (scholars) who criticized him; then in this case, as long as these (scholars) and those (scholars) are upon the Sunnah and all of them are trustworthy and people of integrity in our view, we should look to the evidence. This is why they (i.e. the scholars) say: “The one who knows is a proof against the one who does not know.”

A criticizer who stated about such and such person that he is an innovator and a deviant, whilst producing evidence from the books of the criticized person or from his cassette tapes, or from the transmissions of the reliable narrators about him, then this obligates on us to accept his speech and abandon the (speech) of those who gave commendations in opposition to the one who criticized.  That is because those who criticized him presented evidences that are hidden from the others due some reasons, or due to the fact that the one who commended did not read or hear (anything or something negative) about the criticized; rather he based his commendation upon what he knew about him previously and that he was upon the Sunnah. Therefore, this criticized person against whom evidence is established is truly declared unreliable and the proof is with the one who established the evidence.  And it is incumbent upon the one who seeks the truth to follow the evidence and he does not seek to take a path to the right or the left, or saying: “I abstain of my own accord.” That is because we have not been obligated with this from the Salaf.  Indeed, it is a prescribed obligation to accept the speech of the one who established the evidence.  And the Sunni Scholar who opposed those who criticized (based on clear proofs) is excused and his status and honour are maintained in our eyes. We recognize what –by the will of Allaah–he possesses of virtue and exalted status.

A scholar from Ahlus Sunnah is only a human. He can be distracted and forgetful, and he can be deceived by evil people; or he used to consider a man to be trustworthy–who has now been declared untrustworthy–and he deceives him. The witnesses to this affair are many because many of those whose status has been dropped– due to being declared unreliable based on evidence–are in reality people who wage war against the Sunnah and its people.  So they come along with copies of their books and read it to the distinguished scholars–those considered to be people of leadership and virtue in the religion- whilst the affair of this trickster and plotter is hidden from that noble scholar, which had he known of it the status of this person would have dropped in his eyes. So this scholar gives praise based on what he heard. And if the book (of this trickster) is printed, it is disseminated and transmitted by his supporters and they spread a good reputation about him. Thus there are those who argue saying, “such and such praised him-Al-Albaanee (rahimahullaah), or Ibn Baaz (rahimahullaah), or Ibn Al-Uthaymeen (rahimahullaah) praised this book. However these scholars are excused; rather this trickster was hidden from that scholar.

So, what remains? We establish the evidence against this ‘deceiver, trickster, intrigant and plotter’ from his books.  We establish the manifest clarifications against him from his books and we say to the one who argues with us, “Take it, this is his speech.” Therefore, it is obligatory on you to be fair and to be free from that wild and zealous attachment, and the desires that blinds a person. It is obligatory upon you that your search should be for the truth.

Slightly Paraphrased and Abridged: See Link: www.sahab.net/home/?p=329