Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem
There were some personalities in the history of Islamic scholarship who were so sound and upright in Knowledge such that if the Ummah were to discard them a great chunk of Islamic knowledge would veer off. Among such individuals was Abu al-Khattaab Qataadah bn Di'aamah as-Sadoosee Al-Basree. A student to some Companions of the Messenger of Allaah.
He once visited Saeed bn Musayyib - rahimahullah - in Madeenah, stayed with him for a number of days, and would never write anything down.
Saeed asked him: 'Is it everything you asked me you were able to memorize?'
Qataadah said: 'Yes.'
Then he began to state the questions he asked and the answers Saeed gave to them. He was able to mention a good number of hadeeth.
Overwhelmed by his brilliance, Saeed said:
'I don't think Allaah has created your type (in this our time).' (Tahdheeb Tahdheeb 5/657
Qataadah once said:
'I have never said to a muhaddith: 'repeat your statement to me', whatever I heard with my two ears I memorized it with my heart'. (Tahdheeb Tahdheeb 5/658
Al-Imaam Ahmad said about him:
'You rarely find who could surpass him, as for those like him, perhaps there are.' (Tahdheeb at-Tahdheeb 5/658)
However despite his vast knowledge, he (as some of the scholars in the past did) had a great flaw in an aspect of the Islamic knowledge. He was accused of denying some Allaah's preordainment in His creatures.
Wakee said Saeed bn Abee Aroobah, Hishaam ad-Dastawai and others said, Qataadah said:
كل شيء بقدر إلا المعاصي
'Everything is by Qadar except sins.' (As-Siyar 5/277)
This opposes the Creed of the People of Sunnah.
Allaah decreed everything. Nothing would happen in this world - good or bad - without His Knowledge. To say He was aware of somethings and not aware of some is to say He lacks Absolute Knowledge. This is nothing but Kufr - disbelief.
There is however a maxim with the people of knowledge:
'Not everyone that falls into kufr will have kufr fall into him.'
There are rules, conditions and preventions.
When a Mujtahid - a big scholar of repute, known with piety and Sunnah - makes an independent deduction, and he falls into an error, he is excused but not those who follow him on that error.
Scholars of old and present have excused the like of Qataadah, Ikrimah, Abdurrazaaq as-Sana'anee, Ibn Hazm, An-Nawawee, Ibn Hajar etc, on that fact.
Al-Imaam Alee bn Al-Madeenee said, I said to Yahya bn Saeed: Abdurrahman said:
اترك من كان رأسا في بدعة يدعو إليها
'Shun every head of heresy that calls to it.'
فكيف يصنع بقتادة ، وابن أبي رواد وعمر بن ذر
'Then what will you do about Qataadah, Ibn Abee Rawwad, Amr bn Dharr and others?'
He said further:
إن ترك هذا الضرب ترك ناسا كثيرا.
'If you abandon the likes of these people you would abandon a lot of people.' (Tahdheeb at-Tahdheeb: 5/657)
What Abdurrahman said is the general ruling, all heads of innovations must be abandoned. However there were some people of Sunnah, very upright on Sunnah, in fact they were against innovations themselves but fell into some great innovations they thought were Sunnah. Allaahul Musta'aan.
Al-Imaam Adh-Dhahabi - rahimahullah - explains further:
إن الكبير من أئمة العلم إذا كثر صوابه ، وعلم تحريه للحق ، واتسع علمه ، وظهر ذكاؤه ، وعرف صلاحه وروعه واتباعه ، يغفر له زلله ، ولا نضلله ونطرحه ، وننسى محاسنه . نعم ولا نقتدي به في بدعته وخطئه ، ونرجو له التوبة من ذلك .
'Indeed a big one among the scholars, whose goods acts (in the Sunnah and Da'wah) were so enormous, and whose efforts to follow the truth (in all matters of the Deen) were known, the same time, he was vast in knowledge, his acumen is clear, he is known for his peity, carefulness (from doubtful matters)...such would have his flaws forgiven. Therefore we will not declare him as astray or throw him away such that we would forget his good efforts (in the Sunnah). Yes we would never follow him on his innovations and errors, we hope Taubah for him from that.' (As-Siyar: 5/271)
What Al-Imaam Adh-Dhahabi - rahimahullah - said above is the truth. However it is not a justification for a bid'ah of what some people call muwaazanah today whereby they measure the good acts of a person of bid'ah against his bad acts, then if the good outweigh the bad they will say he is righteous and if otherwise they will say he is not. That principle is destructive for it drags in every person of bid'ah.
The people being talked about here must be known as people of Sunnah but who fell into one error or the other. Then no such person must be follwed on his errors, and those errors must be clarified to the people as at when necessary.
For example when you read any book of Ibn Hajar - rahimahullah - and you come across a ta'weel siffah (distortion of Allaah's Attribute), you must explain it and let people know that errors about him.
Only the haddadis would throw away the likes of Ibn Hajar.
Every era of the Muslims would always have erudite scholars of Sunnah who would not be immune to mistakes whether in jurisprudence, methodology or Aqeedah, no matter how mild. While they would not be followed on those errors, they would the same time not be thrown away.
Lastly, it is some erudite scholars that would exempt such scholars even when some other scholars might not exempt them. It has always been like that in the history of Islam. Most often those scholars (being questioned) are often accepted without any iota of doubt.
Al-Imaam adh-Dhahabi said about Ikrimah Maulaa Ibn Abbaas after quoting things for and against him:
الذين أهدروه كبار والذين احتجوا به كبار والله أعلم بالصواب
'Those who abandoned him were great scholars and those who accepted him were also great scholars. Allaah knows what is more correct.' As-Siyar 5/35
Glaring up here that adh-Dhahabi was undecided about Ikrimah, not Ibn Hajar in Tahdheeb at-Tahdheeb, he said all the allegations against Ikrimah were explainable. Suffice to say that later scholars in the time of Al-Bukharee recorded the hadeeth of Ikrimah in their works. Bukhaaree said there was none among them who did not cite hadeeth of Ikrimah.
Al-Imaam Maalik before them, according to adh-Dhahabi, but rejected Ikrimah - rahimahullah.
Al-Imaam Al-Bukhari almost suffered that fate in his issue with Imaam Muhammad bn Yahya adh-Dhuhlee but Allaah gave him victory.
Qataadah was born 61 Hijrah and died 118 Hijrah in a plague. May Allaah bestow mercy on him and others like him.
Penned by Aboo Aamir, may forgive him and his dead parents.