In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Imaam Barbahaaree [rahimahullaah] said: “Know that leaving the correct path occurs in two ways. Firstly: that a man strays from the correct path intending nothing but good, so his error is not to be followed since it leads to destruction. Secondly, a man who deliberately opposes the truth and acts contrary to the Pious ones who came before him, he is astray, leading others astray, a rebellious devil within the Ummah. It is a duty upon those who know of him to warn the people against him and to explain his condition to them so that no one falls into his innovation and is destroyed”.
Shaikh Saaleh Al-Fawzaan [may Allaah preserve him] commented on the above statement of Imaam Barbahaaree [rahimahullaah] saying: After the Sheikh [i.e. Imaam Barbahaaree (rahimahullaah)] described the correct path in his previous statement-the correct path that is obligated on the Muslim to follow in his Aqeedah and Religion- he then mentioned that the one who leaves the correct path is one of two men:
The First Man: Is the one who leaves the [correct path] without the intention [to do so], rather he intended good but followed other than the path of good. Striving [alone] is not sufficient, and even if the person has a righteous intention and a good aim, then that has to be upon the correct path. Therefore, this [person] is considered mistaken and whoever agrees with him upon that and follows with him upon error will be destroyed; because this is a path of destruction even though the [person] did not intend leaving [the correct path]; rather his quest was [to reach something] good. This is the state of many of those who initiate newly invented affairs -from themselves – in the knowledge of Aqeedah. This affair is not permissible and they should not adhere to it. The person [upon this path] is not upon correctness.
Allah [The Mighty and Majestic] said:
وَأَنَّ هَٰذَا صِرَاطِي مُسْتَقِيمًا فَاتَّبِعُوهُ ۖ وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا السُّبُلَ فَتَفَرَّقَ بِكُمْ عَنْ سَبِيلِهِ
And verily, this is my Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His Path. [6:153]
So we reject any path that exits us from the Straight Path even if the one who [calls] to it aims for good and has a good intention. We do not follow him upon that whilst he continues upon his error, eventually leading to destruction; because whoever abandons the correct path in his journey and takes a path of ruin will be destroyed.
As For The Second Person: It is the one who intends to leave [the correct path]. He knows the truth and that what he embarks upon is falsehood, but he intends to leave the truth with the intention of misguiding the people. So the intention of the first [person] is to bring about benefit for the people, but he did not follow the correct path. The second [person] intended to misguide the people and to turn them away from the correct path. So this one [i.e. the one who intends misguidance for the people] is a devil, because the devils take the people away from the Straight Path. [Allaah informed us that] Iblees said: [لَأَقْعُدَنَّ لَهُمْ صِرَاطَكَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ -Surely I will sit in wait against them (human beings) on Your Straight Path]. [7:16] So he intends to turn them away from it [i.e. the straight path] and [direct them] towards the deviated paths. The Prophet [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] gave us an example when he drew a straight line and drew other lines on its sides, he then said about the straight line: ‘This is the path of Allaah’ and he said about the other lines, ‘These are the other paths, and on each path is a devil calling to it.’ This is a clear example that is in agreement to that which the Shaikh [i.e. Imaam Barbahaaree (rahimahullaah)] has mentioned here. So the one who takes the people away from the Straight Path [and direct them] to the innovated paths of the innovators is not one who intends good for them; rather he intends destruction for them. He is a devil, be it that he is a devil from amongst the Jinn or the People. It is obligated on us to be more careful of this [second ] than the first one [i.e. the person who intends good but was mistaken]; because this one [i.e. the intentionally deviated one] intends to misguide the people.
And regarding the statement of Imaam Barbahaaree: “He is astray, leading others astray, a rebellious devil”, Shaikh Saaleh Al-Fawzaan commented on the above statement, saying: He is misguided and misguiding others. He is a rebellious devil, a rebel intending to turn the people from the Straight Path.
And regarding the statement of Imaam Barbahaaree: ”It is a duty upon those who know of him to warn the people against him and to explain his condition to them so that no one falls into his innovation and is destroyed.’ Shaikh Saaleh Al-Fawzaan commented on the above statement, saying: It is not permissible to keep quiet about this one who leaves the truth intentionally; rather it is obligatory to unveil his affair and uncover his vileness until the people are warned about him. And it is not to be said that the people are free to hold views, freedom of speech and respecting the views of others, as say present with regards to [having] respect for the views of others. The affair is not about views; [rather] the affair is about Ittibaa [i.e. following the authentic proofs narrated from the Messenger accompanied with the understanding of the Salaf]. Allah has outlined a clear path for us and He told us to adhere to it, when He [Glorified be He] stated: [وَأَنَّ هَٰذَا صِرَاطِي مُسْتَقِيمًا فَاتَّبِعُوهُ] ‘And verily, this is my Straight Path, so follow it’ [6:153]
So any person comes to us and wants us to leave this straight path, then firstly we reject his statement. Secondly, we clarify and warn the people against him and we do not keep quiet about him; because if we keep quiet about him, the people will be deceived by him, especially if he is an eloquent person, [with] good speech, [skillful] writing and is educated; for indeed the people will be deceived by him and will say, ”this one is competent, this one is from the thinkers,” as is taking place today.
So, the affair is very dangerous and regarding this is a reason to refute the one in opposition, as opposed to what those ones say: [that] ”Abandon the refutations, leave the people, everyone has his own views and have respect for him.” By way of this [having] respect for the views and freedom of speech the Ummah will be destroyed. The Salaf did not keep quiet about the likes of these people; rather they exposed and refuted them due to their knowledge of their danger upon Ummah. We do not keep quiet about their evil; rather that which Allaah has revealed must be clarified. And unless [we do that], we will be from those who conceal the truth-those whom Allah spoke of (saying): [إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْتُمُونَ مَا أَنْزَلْنَا مِنَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَالْهُدَىٰ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا بَيَّنَّاهُ لِلنَّاسِ فِي الْكِتَابِ ۙ أُولَٰئِكَ يَلْعَنُهُمُ اللَّهُ وَيَلْعَنُهُمُ اللَّاعِنُونَ-Verily, those who conceal the clear proofs, evidences and the guidance, which We have sent down, after We have made it clear for the people in the Book, they are the ones cursed by Allaah and cursed by the cursers.'[2:159] And the affair is not limited to the innovator, rather it is extended to the one who keeps quiet about him, for indeed rebuke and punishment is extended to him; because it is obligatory to clarify and made clear for the people…..up until the Sheikh said: So our intention is to clarify the truth. Our intention is not to [merely] disparage the people or to speak about the people. The intent is to clarify the truth and this is a trust entrusted upon the Scholars. It is not permissible to keep quiet about these people.
Source: An Excerpt from It-haaful Qaaree Bitta’liqaat Alaa Sharhis Sunnah Lil Imaam Barbahaaree, Vol 1, page: 110-115. slightly paraphrased