Raise your words

Argumen tetap ada walaupun kebenaran itu jelas


Al-Imam Ibnu Qayyim al-Jauziyyah rahimahullah berkata:

«لا بد لكلِّ نعمة مِن حاسد، ولكلِّ حقٍّ مِن جاحدٍ ومعاند»

“Pasti setiap kenikmatan ada yang mendengkinya, dan setiap kebenaran ada yang menentang dan memusuhinya.”

Dari Miftah Daaris Sa’adah, jilid 1 hlm. 216

How to Disagree Productively and Find Common Ground

Well, it has been a long time since the last time I watched a TedTalk. Just now, stumbled on a awesome one by Julia Dhar on how to disagree productively and find common ground. She said her mission in lives to help us “disagree productively”.

Julia Dhar’s love for arguing led her to join her school’s debate team, during her 1st time, Dhar resorted to launching personal attacks on her opponents rather than discussing the topic at hand. Dhar subsequently took offense when her opponents challenged her arguments, provoking her to cling to ever more extreme viewpoints.

But Dhar eventually perfected the art. She won three World School Debating Championships and made it her mission to teach others how to “disagree productively.

According to Dhar.

The first step in any debate should be to find common ground with your opponent. This “shared reality” is a mutual principle such as human equality, for instance can serve as a basis for discussion.

The formal debate format whereby participants take turns supporting a stance and rebutting (for and against) their opponent’s stance which lends itself well to resolving conflicting viewpoints as it forces participants to engage with their opponents directly, not via computer screens.

Research suggests that hearing the voice of someone making a case for something with which you disagree “humanizes” the argument and makes you more likely to consider that viewpoint and engage, so stay off your keyboard and actually talk to the person whom you’re arguing with.

Moreover, having a structured debate about an important issue will likely generate more interesting ideas than holding weekly team meetings, for example.

A debate, however, will be fruitful only if you can separate your opponent’s identity and affiliations from the factual merits of his or her ideas. In formal debates, each team gets assigned a viewpoint to defend. Hence, there is no basis for launching ad hominem attacks on your opponent. When Dhar helps teams brainstorm new ideas or solve problems, she has participants submit their proposals anonymously. If you don’t know the background or identity of the idea’s originator, you will be more open to considering the idea. Similarly, public debates on policy issues would be much more productive if the political affiliations of the idea’s proponents remained hidden.

“The way that you reach people is by finding common ground. It’s by separating ideas from identity and being genuinely open to persuasion.”

Once you start evaluating the merits of your opponent’s idea, you must remain open to the possibility of changing your mind. Psychologists call the ability to consider all available evidence objectively “intellectual humility.”

It is a much-admired virtue in debate moderators, news anchors and elected officials. Having the ability to see the world from another person’s viewpoint and the humility to change your mind when warranted will make you not only a skilled debater but also a better decision maker.


  • In any debate, try to find common ground with your opponent, which can establish a shared basis of discussion. 
  • When disagreeing with someone, focus exclusively on the merits of your opponent’s argument irrespective of his or her background or political affiliation.  
  • When evaluating your opponent’s idea, remain open to the possibility of changing your mind, a mental attitude psychologists refer to as “intellectual humility.”
  • We usually become attached to our ideas.
  • We need to be humble about our uncertainty.


ad hominem : short for argumentum ad hominem, is a fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided by instead attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself


I continued to look into the middle of the river, and then I saw nails coming up from the sea floor. They positioned themselves onto the boat and held the planks together, without them being banged. I stood in amazement and thought to myself, ‘Oh Allah, how can this happen, planks of wood rising to the surface by itself, and then nails positioning themselves onto the boat without being banged?’ I could not undertsand what was happening before my eyes.’


Long ago in the city of Baghdad, there was a Muslim empire. On one side of the River Tigris were the royal palaces and on the other side was the city. The Muslims were gathered in the Royal Palace when an atheist approached them. He said to them, ‘I don’t believe in God, there cannot be a God, you cannot hear Him or see Him, you’re wasting your time! Bring me your best debater and I will debate this issue with him.’

The best debator at the time was Imam Abu Hanifah Rahimullah. A messenger from amongst the Muslims was sent over the River Tigris to the city, where Abu Hanifah Rahimullah was, in order to tell him about the athiest who was awaiting him. On crossing the River Tigris, the messenger conveyed the message to Abu Hanifah Rahimullah saying, ‘Oh Abu Hanifah, an athiest is waiting for you, to debate you, please come!’ Abu Hanifah Rahimullah told the messeneger that he would be on his way.

The messenger went over the River Tigris once again and to the Royal Palaces, where everyone including the athiest awaited the arrival of Abu Hanifah Rahimullah. It was sunset at the time and one hour had passed, but Abu Hanifah Rahimullah still hadn’t arrived. Another hour had passed, but still there was no sign of him.

The Muslims started to become tense and worried about his late arrival. They did not want the atheist to think that they were too scared to debate him, yet they did not want to take up the challenge themselves as Abu Hanifah Rahimullah was the best of Debaters from among the Muslims. Another hour passed, and suddenly the atheist started laughing and said, ‘ Your best debater is too scared! He knows he’s wrong, he is too frightened to come and debate with me. I guarantee he will not turn up today.’

The Muslims increased in apprehension and eventually it had passed midnight, and the athiest had a smile on his face. The clock ticked on, and finally Abu Hanifah Rahimullah had arrived. The Muslims inquired about his lateness and remarked, ‘Oh Abu Hanifah, a messenger sent for you hours ago, and you arrive now, explain your lateness to us.’

Abu Hanifah Rahimullah apologises for his lateness and begins to explain, while the atheist listens to his story.

‘Once the messenger delivered the message to me, I began to make my way to the River Tigris, and on reaching the river bank I realised there was no boat, in order to cross the river. It was getting dark, and I looked around, there was no boat anywhere nor was there a navigator or a sailor in order for me to cross the river to get to the Royal Palaces. I continued to look around for a boat, as I did not want the athiest to think I was running away and did not want to debate with him.

I was standing on the river bank looking for a navigator or a boat when something caught my attention in the middle of the river. I looked forward, and to my amazement I saw planks of wood rising to the surface from the sea bed. I was shocked, amazed, I couldn’t believe what I saw seeing. Ready made planks of wood were rising up to the surface and joining together. They were all the same width and length, I was astounded at what I saw.

I continued to look into the middle of the river, and then I saw nails coming up from the sea floor. They positioned themselves onto the boat and held the planks together, without them being banged. I stood in amazement and thought to myself, ‘Oh Allah, how can this happen, planks of wood rising to the surface by itself, and then nails positioning themselves onto the boat without being banged?’ I could not understand what was happening before my eyes.’

The athiest meanwhile was listening with a smile on his face. Abu Hanifah Rahimullah continued, ‘I was still standing on the river bank watching these planks of wood join together with nails. I could see water seeping through the gaps in the wood, and suddenly I saw a sealant appear from the river and it began sealing the gaps without someone having poured it, again I thought, ‘Ya Allah, how is this possible, how can sealant appear and seal the gaps without someone having poured it, and nails appear without someone having banged them.’ I looked closer and I could see a boat forming before my eyes, I stood in amazement and was filled with shock. All of a sudden a sail appeared and I thought to myself, ‘How is this happening, a boat has appeared before my eyes by itself, planks of wood, nails, sealant and now a sail, but how can I use this boat in order to cross the river to the Royal Palaces?’ I stood staring in wonderment and suddenly the boat began to move. It came towards me against the current.

It stood floating beside me while I was on the river bank, as if telling me to embark onto it. I went on the boat and yet again it began to move. There was no navigator or sailor on the boat, and the boat began to travel towards the direction of the royal palaces, without anyone having programmed it as to where to go. I could not understand what was happening, and how this boat had formed and was taking me to my destination against the flow of water. The boat eventually reached the other side of the River Tigris and I disembarked. I turned around and the boat had disappeared, and that is why I am late.’

At this moment, the atheist burst out laughing and remarked, ‘Oh Abu Hanifah, I heard that you were the best debater from among the Muslims, I heard that you were the wisest, the most knowledgeable from among your people. From seeing you today, I can say that you show none of these qualities. You speak of a boat appearing from nowhere, without someone having built it. Nails positioning themselves without someone having banged them, sealant being poured without someone having poured it, and the boat taking you to your destination without a navigator against the tide, your taking childish, your talking ridiculous, I swear I do not believe a word of it!’

Abu Hanifah Rahimullah turned to the atheist and replied, ‘You don’t believe a word of it? You don’t believe that nails can appear by themselves? You don’t believe sealant can be poured by itself? You don’t believe that a boat can move without a navigator, hence you don’t believe that a boat can appear without a boat maker?’

The athiest remarked defiantly, ‘Yes I dont believe a word of it!’

Abu Hanifah Rahimullah replied, ‘If you cannot believe that a boat came into being without a boat maker, then this is only a boat, how can you believe that the whole world, the universe, the stars, the oceans, and the planets came into being without a creator?

The atheist astonished at his reply got up and fled. Transcribed from a lecture delivered by Shaykh Ahmad Ali.

That’s is how a point shall be made, and arguments can be won. Such a beautiful story.

Further reading on Winning Arguments

Sowing Doubt

Industries hiring scientists to sow public doubt is not a new strategy.

For example. . .

The tobacco industry did it, beginning in the 1950s. It raised doubts to delay regulatory action against cigarettes. This strategy worked for decades.

Chemical companies directed a smear campaign against Rachel Carson and her book Silent Spring, which first brought public attention to the hazards of unregulated chemicals. Chemical companies and industry-funded front groups opposed regulation despite overwhelming evidence that their chlorofluorocarbons were creating a hole in the protective ozone layer necessary to the Earth’s atmosphere.

The US government put an effective protocol in place under President Ronald Reagan. Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush all supported sensible regulation to protect the environment.

In the 1990s, Frederick Seitz ran the George C. Marshall Institute (GMI) – which industry had originally founded to defend Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. Seitz was a former president of the National Academy of Sciences, and when GMI sowed the seeds of doubt about climate change, other equally well-credentialed scientists joined with him.

According to Robert Proctor’s book Golden Holocaust: How Cigarette Makers Engineered a Global Health Catastrophe, these scientists acted out of allegiance to their fundamental view of the free market. Seitz and other climate-denying scientists published a letter with a petition and a dubious report that they meant to look as though it had appeared in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Science publicly disputed GMI’s efforts. Newsweek called it a “central cog in the denial machine.”

Marc Morano started his career working for broadcaster Rush Limbaugh, and achieved fame by attacking Senator John Kerry’s military service. He’s made a hefty profit since by engaging in such “swift-boat” efforts to damage climate scientists’ reputations. Morano ran a smear campaign against well-regarded scientist James Hansen, formerly head of the NASA Goddard Institute, after Hansen publicly declared in 1988 that climate change portended grave threats. Morano questioned Hansen’s mental health, as if his calls to action reflected insanity. Morano and other deniers attack the “process of science itself,” and hamper truthful, transparent public discourse.

Allah’s Messenger (SAW), revealed to us that, in the End Times, some people acknowledged as scholars will actually be two-faced impostors, posing as someone whom wishes well for the general public, but secretly only in for personal gain.:

Wolves will give readings in the End Times. Let those who come to see those times seek shelter from their evil in Allah. They will be very corrupt people. Hypocrisy will prevail, and nobody will be ashamed of it and its manifestations.

(Tirmidhi, Nawadir al-‘usul)

How those who denied global warming make their arguments?

So, despite the overwhelming evidence pointing to the global warming issues caused by human greed, there’s always some faction who would point to the contrary.

Industry resists reining in CO2 emissions because that would require regulating fossil fuels. Climate deniers often don’t base their arguments on science but rather based their arguments are political.

Industry scientists come up with studies refuting climate change. Action stalls while other scientists debunk the studies which serves it function as a part of the argument, or at least as a distraction to keep us away from the main issue.

For example, a study by climate change-denying scientists John Christy and Roy Spencer disputed the scientific consensus on rising CO2 concentrations. Advocates of political inaction used this study for 10 years until other scientists proved that it is full of errors, but by the time the said study have been proved, the damaged has increased by 10 years of inaction and ignorance.

Climate change-denying scientists will certainly cherry-pick certain start-and-end dates to obscure the understanding that, over a number of decades, CO2 levels have risen.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the arguments.

The CO2 problem

Some critics say the effects of warming are “self-correcting.” They predict the good effects will offset the bad. But the aggregate of positive feedback compounds the CO2 problem. Double the amount of CO2 raises global temperature 1 Deg Celsius, but also produces more water vapor, which traps more heat and raises temperatures even more, melting ice, which tends to reflect sunlight. As ice melts, the uncovered ground or thinner ice absorbs more heat and waters rise.

While others might claim climate change is really “a net good” for humans and the Earth. They say agricultural yields will increase since plants thrive on CO2. But studies show that the devastation of agricultural lands in tropical climes due to extreme weather outweighs any posited advantages. Everything in nature is already are perfectly balance, and if we were to change something, nature would do something to try to balance the scale, the point is, is the balancing action would be in our favor? It is as Allah mentioned in Al-Hijr (The Rocky Tract)  (15 verse 19)

( وَالأَرْضَ مَدَدْنَاهَا وَأَلْقَيْنَا فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ وَأَنبَتْنَا فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ مَّوْزُونٍ (15:19)

“And the earth -We have spread it out wide, and placed on it mountains firm, and caused [life] of every kind to grow on it in a balanced manner,  “

Those who cry “it’s too late or too expensive” claim regulation is unfair to developing countries. Pope Francis publicly refuted the idea of “energy poverty,” the notion that reducing fossil fuel is a more serious threat to the poor than lack of fresh water or food. He advocates cheap renewable energy, like solar, for populations in developing nations. As for expense, Fox News reported a World Bank study predicting that climate change will push many people into poverty.

Give up our Excuses

Because a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

We might find that instead of doing things we want to do, we look for reasons why we shouldn’t try them. Such as ‘analysis paralysis’. 

What we need to consider

Ask ourselves if we are sure that these perceptions about ourselves and our capabilities are valid.

Examine why we think we can’t do something.

Then, replace those reasons with arguments that will help us focused on why we can actually achieve a goal.

Next, work on your goals every day to make your current position one step closer to your objectives.

Don’t agonize so much about the exact steps to take. As Nike famous slogan, “Just Do It”.

Remember, concentrate on your destination and the importance of getting there. (p.s. your ‘Why’ must be strong enough”)

The rest, leave to God and life to take care of itself.

Because a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.