One of the Muslim scholars in Medina, where I live, said that Imam Ibn Hajar and Imam Nawawi were innovators. He presented some evidence from Fath ul Baari to justify his view and gave an example on that with the Sharh of Imam Ibn Hajar for the purpose of (seeking) the face of Allah and His Mercy. What do you think?
The Ahlus us Sunnah wal Jama’ah are just in the matters of judgment on others. They do not raise the people above what they deserve nor do they diminish their worth. And it is part of justice to clarify the mistakes of the people of knowledge and favor, to explain them to people and to forbid against them. Similarly, it is from justice to warn from their mistakes. This is done so that one may not be misled by their prestige, whereby, following them in what they erred in. And the Ahlus us Sunnah do not slack from ruling against the one who deliberately goes against the sunnah as an astray innovator.
And it is found in our times the one who discredits the imams, Ibn Hajar and Nawawi, by ruling them to be astray innovators! And some of them reached the point of stupidity by saying that it is necessary to burn their books Fath ul Baari and Sharh Muslim!
This does not mean that these two imams did not err in issues of Shariah, particularly in the subject of Allah’s Attributes, but our scholars criticized it, clarified it and responded to them with mercy. And they praised them in what they deserve, made supplication (dua) for them and advised in benefiting from their books. And this is the justice by which the Ahlus us Sunnah wal Jama’ah are known which is contradictory to the one who accuses these two imams of heresy, being astray and says to burn their books, and it is also contradictory to the one who derives from their speech as if it were revealed law by making what they believe to be the absolute truth without any doubt in it. So, we will mention what is available from the speech of our scholars for the Muslim making his judgment dependent on justice, knowledge and ruling these two imams with fairness.
The standing committee for issuing fatwas was asked:
What is our stance regarding the scholars who interpreted the Attributes of Allah, such as, Ibn Hajar, Nawawi, Ibn Jawzi and other than them? Do we consider them from the imams of Ahlus us Sunnah wal Jama’ah or what? Do we say that they were mistaken in their interpretation or do we say they were astray in that?
Our stance on Abu Bakr Al-Baqlaani, Al-Bayhaqi, Abu Faraj bin Al-Jawzi, Abu Zakariyyah Nawawi, Ibn Hajar and those like them who interpreted some of the Attributes of Allah or made tafweedh in their original meaning is that they are from the senior scholars of the Muslims from whose knowledge Allah benefited the ummah, so, may Allah have vast mercy on them and reward them on our behalf the best of rewards. And they were from Ahlus us Sunnah in what they agreed in with the companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and the imams of the salaf from the first three generations to which the Prophet (pbuh) bore witness to with good. And they erred in what they interpreted of the Attributes from the texts and contradicted through it the salaf of the ummah and the imams of the sunnah, may Allah be pleased with them, whether they interpreted the Attributes of Essence, Action or other than that.
-Shaykh Abdul Azeez ibn Baaz. Shaykh Abdu ur Razzaq Afifi. Shaykh Abdullah bin Qauud.
Fatwas of the Standing Committee (3/241)
Shaykh Muhammad bin Saalih Al-Uthyameen, may Allah have Mercy on him, was asked:
With regards to those scholars who made some mistakes in aqeedah, such as the issue of Allah’s Names and Attributes and other than it, we pass by their names in the university during class, so what is the ruling on asking Allah’s Mercy for them?
Shaykh: Like who?
Questioner: Like Zamkhashri, Zarkhashi and other than them
Shyakh: Zarkhashi in what?
Questioner: In the subject of Allah’s Names and Attributes
So he answered:
In any case, there are people who belong to a particular group whose slogan is innovation, such as, the Mu’tazilah and from among them is Zamkhashri. He was a Mu’tazili and described those who affirm the Attributes of Allah as Hashawiyyah1, anthropomorphic and astray. For this reason, it is an obligation on the one who reads his book Al-Kashaaf, a work of Quranic exegeses (tafseer), to be warned from his speech in the sections dealing with Attributes of Allah. But wherever he mentions Arabic rhetoric and linguistic rhetorical semantics, then it is good. And utilizing his book for this purpose is very useful. However, it is dangerous for a person who does not know anything about Allah’s Names and Attributes. But there are well-recognized scholars who have goodness and they do not belong to a specific group from the people of innovation, however, in their speech is something from the speech of people of innovation. For example, Ibn Hajar and Nawawi, may Allah have mercy on them both. Some foolish people slandered these two in a total unrestricted sense in every aspect, so much so, that it was told to me that some of the people say, “It is an obligation to burn Fath ul Baari because Ibn Hajar was an Ash’ari.” And this is not correct, because I do not know today of anyone other than these two individual men that surpassed others for sake of Islam in the subject of hadiths of the Messenger. And the proof for you that Allah (swt) with His Might and Power – though I am not certain such is the case- accepted it is that: Whatever was written by these two men was accepted by the people, students of knowledge and even the masses. So now the book Riyadh Saliheen is read in every gathering and mosque. The people benefit from it greatly. I hope Allah makes for me a book like this book. Everyone is benefiting with it in his house and his mosque, therefore, how can someone say about these two that they are astray innovators, that it is not permissible to seek mercy for them nor read from their books or that it is obligatory to burn Fath ul Baari and Sharh Saheeh Muslim?! Glory be to Allah! And who can undertake for the sake of Islam and the Muslims as these two men have done except that Allah Wills, so, I say: May Allah forgive Nawawi, Ibn Hajar Al-‘Asqalaani and whosoever resembles their situation from whom Allah benefited Islam and the Muslims. Say Ameen to that. End quote.
Liqaatul ul Baab Al-Maftooh (43/Question 9)
Shaykh Salih bin Fawzaan Al-Fawzaan was asked:
There appeared between the students of knowledge a difference regarding the definition of the ‘innovator.’ Some of them said, “He is the one who said or did an innovative action even when the evidence was not established against him.” And from them were some who said that the evidence must be established against him. And from them were those who differentiated between the Mujtahid scholar and those whose principles were rooted in contradiction to the methodology of Ahlus us Sunnah wal Jama’ah. It was apparent from some of their sayings that they labeled Ibn Hajar and Nawawi as innovators and lacked in seeking mercy for them?
Firstly, the beginner students of knowledge and those other than them from the general public should not be busying themselves with labeling people as innovators and sinners. Because that is a dangers task and they do not have the knowledge and expertise for it. Also, this causes enmity and hatred between them. Hence, it is obligatory on them to busy themselves in seeking knowledge and refrain their tongues from that which is of no benefit, rather, it is harmful for them and others.
Secondly, innovation is something that is introduced into the religion and is not from it in accordance to the saying of the Prophet (pbuh), “Whoever introduces something into this matter of ours (i.e. Islam) that is not from it, will have it rejected” (Bukhari). If someone does a contradictory action (to the Sunnah) out of ignorance, then he is to be excused for his ignorance and is not ruled to be an innovator even though his action is still considered an innovation.
Thirdly, whoever had with him ijtihaadi mistakes in interpretation, such as, Ibn Hajar and Nawawi, and what occurred from these two in interpretation of some of Allah’s Attributes, then such a person is not to be ruled as an innovator. Rather, it is to be said, “This is where they had an error.” He hopes for them forgiveness due to what they left behind of great service for the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). And they were both great imams. They were trustworthy and reliable with the people of knowledge. End quote.
Al-Muntaqa min fatawaa Al-Fawzaan (2/211-212)
And Shaykh Muhammad Naasir ur Deen Al-Albaani, may Allah have Mercy on him, said:
For example, Nawawi, Ibn Hajar Al-‘Asqalaani and their types. It is unjust to say about them that they are from the people of innovation. I know that they are from the Ash’aris but they did not intend opposition to the Book and the Sunnah. They were only deluded and thought whatever they inherited from the Ash’ari creed which is two things:
Firstly, that Imam Al-Ash’ari said that. However, he did not say that except in the earlier part of his life because he later changed his position.
Secondly, that Imam Al-Ash’ari’s mistakes were correct. However, they were not correct.
End quote from Man huwa al-kaafiru wa man huwa al-mubtadi’ (Cassette #666)
So, may Allah have Mercy on the two imams: Imam Nawawi and Ibn Hajar and forgive them their mistakes.
1Al-Hashawiyyah is a word that the innovators like Al-Mu’tazilah and others say to mean the companions, may Allah be pleased with them, and the generation who came after them of Ahlus-Sunnah Wal-Jamaa’h. They mean by this term the common people who do not understand the meanings of the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam. It is said that the first person to utter this word was ‘Amr Ibn ‘Ubayd who said: “‘Abdullaah Ibn ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, was one of the Hashawiyyah.” So look at this impudence from this innovator about this great and honourable companion, may Allah be pleased with him! (Source: Islamweb.net).