Ruling on accusing some of the Imams of Ahl Al-Sunnah of committing Bid'ah (innovation in Islam)
What is the ruling on accusing a number of the Imams of Ahl Al-Sunnah of being innovators because they made errors in the ‘Aqidah (creed), such as Al-Nawawi, Ibn Hajar, and others?
If a person commits a mistake it should not be accepted, his mistake should be rejected, as Malik (may Allah be merciful to him) said: “There is no one among us whose opinion may be rejected except the occupant of this grave”, meaning the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Every scholar makes mistakes and gets things right, so what he gets right is to be accepted and what he gets wrong is to be ignored. If he is one of those who follow the ‘Aqidah of the Salafiyyah (those following the way of the righteous predecessors), but he makes some mistakes, the mistakes are to be rejected, but this does not place him outside the pale of the ‘Aqidah of the Salafiyyah (those following the way of the righteous predecessors) if he is known to be a follower of the Salaf but made some errors in interpretation of Hadith, or in some words that he spoke.
The mistakes should not be accepted and he should not be followed in this. This applies to all the Imams. If Al-Shafi’i, Abu Hanifah, Malik, Ahmad, Al-Thawri, Al-Awza’i, or any other scholar made a mistake, what they got right should be accepted and what they got wrong should be ignored. Mistakes are anything that goes against Shar’i (Islamic legal) evidence, which is what Allah and His Messenger said. No one will be blamed for anything except a mistake that goes against the evidence. What we must do is follow the truth.
Allah (Exalted be He) says: “What Allâh gave as booty (Fai’) to His Messenger (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) from the people of the townships - it is for Allâh, His Messenger (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم), the kindred (of Messenger Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم), the orphans, Al-Masâkin (the poor), and the wayfarer, in order that it may not become a fortune used by the rich among you. And whatsoever the Messenger (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) gives you, take it; and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it).” [al-Hashr: 7]
Scholars unanimously agreed that any person’s opinion may be taken or left except the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him). What we must do is follow what he brought and accept it, and not reject anything that he brought, based on the Ayah quoted above and other similar Ayahs, and because Allah (Exalted be He) says: “(And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allâh and His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم), if you believe in Allâh and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.” [al-Nisa: 59]