The Position of Ahl-us-Sunnah Regarding the Scholar Who Makes a Mistake: He is Excused, and is not Called a Person of Bid’ah, Nor is He Ostracized
After the Messenger of Allaah (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam), no one is free from mistakes. Therefore, no scholar is free from mistakes. And if a scholar should make a mistake then he should not be scrutinized for it, nor should the mistake be taken as a pretext to disgrace the Shaykh or warn against him. Rather, the rare times that the Shaykh was wrong about something are pardoned due to the many, many times that the Shaykh was right. And if the scholar was from the scholars of the past, then we should benefit from his knowledge while being careful not to follow him in his mistakes. And we should supplicate Allaah on his behalf and ask Allaah to have mercy upon him. However, if the scholar or the student of knowledge is still alive, then his mistake should be corrected by utilizing kindness and gentleness, and with a strong desire to see him freed from the mistake and return to what is correct.
Some of the scholars of the past made mistakes in matters related to aqeedah, but despite those mistakes, the scholars and students of knowledge are unable to dispense of their knowledge. Rather, their books are some of the most important references used by those who are busy seeking knowledge, such as the books of Imaam Al-Bayhaqee, and Imaam An-Nawawee, and Al-Haafidh Ibn Hajar Al-‘Asqalaani.
As for Al-Imaam Ahmed Ibn Husayn, Abu Bakr Al-Bayhaqee, Imaam Adh-Dhahabee said:
“He is Al-Haafidh, Al-‘Allaamah, Ath-Thabt, Al-Faqeeh, Shaykh-ul-Islaam.”
Imaam Adh-Dhahabee also said:
“He was blessed in his knowledge and he wrote many beneficial books.”
Imaam Adh-Dhahabee also said:
“(After traveling in pursuit of knowledge) he remained in his village in order to compile and author books. (One of which) was a ten-volume book entitled As-Sunan Al-Kubraa.  No one else wrote a book similar to it...” Then he mentioned many other books authored by Imaam Al-Bayhaqee.
Next, Imaam Adh-Dhahabee quoted Al-Haafidh ‘Abd-ul-Ghaafir Ibn Ismaa’eel:
“He wrote almost one thousand volumes which were unlike that of anything previously written by anyone. He combined in his writings between knowledge of hadeeth, fiqh, defects of hadeeth, and reconciliation between two apparently contradictory hadeeth.”
Imaam Adh-Dhahabee also said:
“The writings of Imaam Al-Bayhaqee were great and contain many benefits. It is rare that anyone wrote as well as Al-Imaam Abu Bakr. Every scholar should take careful interest in his books, especially As-Sunan Al-Kubraa.” 
As for Al-Imaam Yahya Ibn Sharaf An-Nawawee, Imaam Adh-Dhahabee said in his book entitled Tadhkirat-ul-Huffaadh:
“Al-Imaam, Al-Haafidh, Al-Awhad, Al-Qudwah, Shaykh-ul-Islaam, ‘Alam-ul-Awliyaa…was the author of many beneficial books.”
Imaam Adh-Dhahabee also said:
“Despite striving very hard to examine the desires and tendencies of the soul, and to purify himself of all faults and defects, and to be pious and God fearing, he still managed to be a strong memorizer of hadeeth, and very knowledgeable about the sciences of hadeeth, and their narrators, (enabling him to differentiate between) the authentic and unauthentic, and one of the leading scholars of the (Shaafi’ee) madhhab.” 
Ibn Katheer said in his book entitled Al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah:
“(After the pursuit of knowledge) he concentrated on writing and he authored many books, some of which he completed and some of which he did not. He was able to complete his explanation of Saheeh Muslim, and write Ar-Rowdah, and Al-Minhaj, and Ar-Riyaadh, and Al-Adhkaar, and At-Tibyaan, and Tahreer-ut-Tanbeeh wa Tas’heehihi, and Tah’dheeb-ul-Asmaa wal-Lughaat, and Tabaqaat-ul-Fuqahaa, as well as others. One of the books that he did not complete was Al-Majmoo’ Sharh-ul-Muhadhdhab. He completed up to the Book of Ribaa, and had he finished the book in its entirety there would have been no other book like it. The book was innovative, well written, and very beneficial. He was critical at the appropriate times, and he clarified the fiqh opinions of the (Shaafi’ee) madhhab as well as others. Likewise, he narrated hadeeth with the appropriate attention (to their authenticity), grammar, and definition of strange words, as well as other things that are not found except in this book…I do not know of any fiqh book that is better than this one, even though many things needed to be added to it.” 
Despite having been such a great and prolific writer he did not live for very long. He was born in the year 631H and died 676H, only living to be 45.
Al-Haafidh Ibn Hajar Al-‘Asqalaani
As for Al-Haafidh Ahmed Ibn ‘Alee Ibn Hajar Al-‘Asqalaani, he is well known for his many books, the most important of which is Fat-hul-Baaree – the explanation of Saheeh Al-Bukhaari- which is an extremely important reference book for the scholars. Other important books authored by him include: Al-Isaabah, and Tah’dheeb-ut-Tah’dheeb, and Taqreeb-ut-Tah’dheeb, and Lisaan-ul-Meezaan, and Ta’jeel-ul-Manfa’ah, and Buloogh-ul-Maraam, as well as others.
Shaykh Muhammad Naasir-ud-Deen Al-Albaanee
From the scholars of our time is As-Shaykh, Al-‘Allaamah, Al-Muhaddith Muhammad Naasir-ud-Deen Al-Albaanee. I do not know of anyone like him in our time who had such a painstaking and meticulous (interest and service to) hadeeth. Nor do I know of anyone else who had such a vast knowledge of hadeeth. However, he was not free from some (opinions in matters of fiqh) that are considered by many to be mistakes. Such as:
- His keen interest in the issue of hijaab, and his opinion that it is not waajib for the woman to cover her face rather it is only mustahabb for her to do so. Even if what he said were true, then it would be a truth better concealed because some women would use it as a pretext to uncover themselves.
- Likewise, the Shaykh’s opinion that is mentioned in Sifatu Salaat An-Nabiyy (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam): “Placing the hands upon the chest after ruku’ is a bid’ah and a going astray.” However this is a mas-alah ikhtilaafiyyah (i.e. there is difference of opinion amongst the scholars about this issue and taking the other opinion doesn’t constitute a bid’ah and a going astray).
- Also, what the Shaykh mentioned in Silsilat-ul-Ahadeeth Ad-Da’eefah that not cutting off from your beard what exceeds the length of your fist is a bid’ah idaafiyyah (i.e. something that has a basis in the Sunnah but is distorted in such a way that it became a bid’ah).
- Also, the Shaykh said that it is haraam for women to wear gold if the item of jewellery forms a complete circle (i.e. such as a ring or a bangle).
Despite the fact that I disagree with the Shaykh’s opinions in these issues, I cannot do without his books and the benefits that they contain, nor can anyone else (i.e. from the students of knowledge or the scholars). 
Imaam Maalik made a wonderful statement when he said:
“Everyone’s opinion’s may be accepted or rejected, except the (the statements of) the one buried over there.” – and then he pointed to the grave of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam).
I will now mention the statements of some of the scholars that both confirm and clarify the fact that the mistakes of a scholar are pardoned due to the many, many times that the Shaykh was right.
Sa’eed Ibn-ul-Musayyib (died 93H)
“There is no scholar, or nobleman, or respected person except that they have some fault. However, anyone whose virtues outnumber his faults, then his faults are swept away by his virtues. Likewise, anyone whose faults outnumber his virtues, then his virtues are swept away by his faults. Someone else said: ‘No scholar is free from mistakes. If he makes a few mistakes and is right most of the time, then he is a scholar. But he who is seldom correct and makes mistakes most of the time, then he is ignorant.’” 
‘Abdullaah Ibn-ul-Mubaarak (died 181H)
‘Abdullaah Ibn-ul-Mubaarak said:
“If the good deeds of a man are greater than his bad deeds, then his bad deeds are not remembered. But if his bad deeds are greater than his good deeds, then his good deeds are not remembered.” 
Al-Imaam Ahmad (died 241H)
Al-Imaam Ahmad said:
“There is no one like Is’haaq (Ibn Raahawayhi) from Khurasaan, even if he differed with us on some things. People will always differ with one another.” 
Abu Haatim Ibn Hibbaan (died 354H)
Abu Haatim Ibn Hibbaan said:
“Abdul-Maalik (Ibn Abee Sulayman) was one of the best people in Koofah (Iraq) and he was one of their strong memorizers (haafidh). However, those who memorize hadeeth and narrate them from memory usually make some mistakes. And it is not right (fair or just) to stop taking the hadeeth of a trustworthy Shaykh whose good character has been affirmed simply because he made some mistakes in his narrations. If we were to do that then we would have left the hadeeth of Az-Zuhree, and Ibn Juraij, and Ath-Thawree, and Shu’bah because they were all strong memorizers (huffaadh) and they all narrated hadeeth from memory. However, they were not perfect to the point that they never made mistakes. Rather, it is better and safer in a situation like this to accept the narration of someone trustworthy and to leave (only) that which has been confirmed as a mistake. As long as he doesn’t make so many mistakes that they outnumber the times when he was correct. If that were the case then his hadeeth should be left.” 
Shaykh-ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (died 728H)
Shaykh-ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah said:
“One should also know that the groups that associate themselves with and follow the opinions of certain leaders and (what they say about) principles of the Deen, are of various levels (or types). Some of them have contradicted the Sunnah as regards (very important and) major principles of the Deen. Whereas others have only contradicted the Sunnah as regards (less important and) more subtle principles of the Deen.”
“And whoever (from these groups) has refuted another group that was further away from the Sunnah, then he is praised for refuting falsehood, and for what he said that was from the truth. However he may have gone overboard in his refutation by arguing against something that was true and saying something that was false. Perhaps refuting a major bid’ah with another bid’ah that is lesser, and refuting falsehood with another untruth that is lesser in magnitude. This is the state of the majority of Ahl-ul-Kalaam who are associated with the Sunnah and the Jamaa’ah. However, if they did not make their bid’ah an opinion that they used in order to break up the unity of the Muslims - allying themselves (with those who agree with them) and opposing as enemies (those who do not) - then (their erroneous refutation) was a type of mistake that Allaah, Glorified is He the Most High, will forgive the Believers for.”
“Many of the early Muslims and their scholars fell into something similar to this (when) some of them had opinions that were derived from ijtihaad, which contradicted something that is firmly established in the Qur'aan and Sunnah. However, (the early Muslims and their scholars) differed from those who ally themselves with anyone who agrees with them in matters of opinion and ijtihaad, while opposing as enemies anyone who does not, and thereby breaking up the unity of the Muslims. And (they also differed from those who) render as disbelievers and sinners those who do not agree with them, while not doing the same to those who agree with them. (And they differed from those who) make it permissible to fight against those who did not agree with them, while not doing the same to those who agree with them. Those (who do that) are from the people of division and conflict.” 
Shaykh-ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah also said:
“Many of the scholars of the early Muslims, and those who came after them, who were Mujtahideen (i.e. capable of deducing legal rulings from the texts of the Qur'aan and the Sunnah after thorough research) said and did things that were a bid’ah! However they did not know that it was a bid’ah (for a number of reasons such as):
- Unauthentic ahadeeth that they thought were authentic.
- Or because they understood something from a verse from the Qur'aan that was not the intended meaning of the verse.
- Or because of an opinion that they held about a certain issue, and the texts (from the Sunnah) about this issue had not reached him.
However, if someone fears his Lord as much as he can, then this verse applies to him:
Al-Imaam Adh-Dhahabee (died 748H)
Al-Imaam Adh-Dhahabee said:
“If the major scholar is right most of the time, and his meticulous concern for the truth, and the vastness of his knowledge, and his intelligence are all well known; as is his righteousness and piety, and his adherence (to the Sunnah), then his mistakes are forgiven. And we do not say that he is astray and throw him away, forgetting all of the good that he has done! That’s right! However, (at the same time) we do not follow him in his bid’ah or his mistake, and we hope that he will repent.” 
Al-Imaam Adh-Dhahabee also said:
“If we rendered the scholars as people of bid’ah and ostracized them every time they made a mistake while deducing a legal ruling about some issue after thorough research (i.e. every time they made ijtihaad), then the likes of Ibn Nasr and Ibn Mandah would not have been safe from us, nor would any scholar - even those greater than them. It is Allaah Who guides His creation to the truth, and He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy. And we seek refuge with Allaah from (following our) desires and from being harsh hearted and rude.” 
Al-Imaam Adh-Dhahabee also said:
“If every (scholar) who made a mistake while deducing a legal ruling after thorough research (ijtihaad) were to be destroyed by us (making all of his efforts in vain) and rendered from the people of bid’ah – despite the soundness of his faith, and his intention to follow the truth, then only a few of the scholars would have been safe from us. May Allaah have Mercy upon them all, with His Benevolence and Generosity.” 
Al-Imaam Adh-Dhahabee also said:
“We love the Sunnah and the people of the Sunnah. And we love the scholar because of his adherence (to the Sunnah) and because of his virtues and praiseworthy characteristics. However, we do not love any bid’ah that he came with as a result of an erroneous interpretation (of a text from the Qur'aan or the Sunnah). And the most important thing to take into account is the great number of (his) good deeds.” 
Al-Imaam Ibn-ul-Qayyim (died 751H)
Al-Imaam Ibn-ul-Qayyim said:
“(It is important to) know the virtues of the scholars of Islaam and their various levels and abilities and the rights due to them. (It is also important to know) that their knowledge and their virtues and their sincerity to Allaah and His Messenger does not obligate us to accept everything that they say, or to accept mistakes in their fataawa about issues that the texts (from the Qur'aan and Sunnah) about the issue had not reached them, so they said what they thought was correct based on what they knew, however the truth was something different. (If that happened) it is not obligatory to throw away everything that they have ever said, nor is it obligatory to defame them or diminish them. There are two unjust extremes (i.e. accepting everything that the Shaykh says or rejecting everything that he has ever said because of a mistake) and the correct path is between them. We do not shun (him because of his mistake) nor do we regard him as infallible...Whoever has some knowledge of religion and worldly affairs knows with certainty that an honorable and respected man (i.e. a scholar who is a mujtahid or capable of deducing legal rulings from the texts of the Qur'aan and the Sunnah after thorough research) who has done good things for Islaam is likely to have made some mistakes. However, these mistakes are not only excused for him but he is actually rewarded for his (ijtihaad) thorough research! Therefore it is not permissible to scrutinize him for this, nor is it permissible to destroy the respect and high position that he had in the hearts of the people.” 
Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali (died 795H)
Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali said:
“Allaah has refused to make any book perfect except His Book (i.e. the Qur'aan)! And the just and righteous man is the one who pardons the few mistakes that someone may make due to the many, many times that the he was right.” 
 As-Sunan Al-Kubraa has been published in ten large volumes.
 Sayr-ul-A’laam An-Nubalaa (Vol. 18, pg. 173).
 Tadhkirat-ul-Huffaadh (Vol. 4, page 259).
 Al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah (Vol. 17, page 540).
 Let this statement, as well as the many, many other statements made by the distinguished author serve as proof that Shaykh ‘Abd-ul-Muhsin (hafidhahullaah) is not making ta’n (speaking badly about) Shaykh Al-Albanee (rahimahullaah).
 Jaami’u Bayaan-il-‘Ilm wa Fadlihi (Vol. 2, page 48).
 Sayr-ul-A’laam An-Nubalaa (Vol. 8, pg. 352).
 Sayr-ul-A’laam An-Nubalaa (Vol. 11, pg. 371).
 Kitaab-uth-Thiqaat (Vol. 7, page 97-98).
 Majmoo’ Fataawa (Vol. 3, page 348-349).
 The hadeeth in its entirety reads:
Ibn ‘Abbas said:
“When this verse was revealed: ‘Whether you disclose what is in your own selves or conceal it, Allaah will call you to account for it.’ [Soorah Al-Baqarah: 284] there entered into their hearts something that had never entered into them before. The Messenger of Allaah (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) (observed this and) said: ‘Say: We have heard and obeyed and submitted ourselves.’ He (the narrator of the hadeeth) said: ‘Allaah put faith in their hearts and then revealed the verse: ‘Allaah does not burden a person beyond his scope. He gets reward for that (good) which he has earned, and he is punished for that evil which he has earned. “Our Lord! Punish us not if we forget or fall into error.” [Soorah Al-Baqarah: 286]. He (Allaah) said: ‘I have done so.’ ‘Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden like that which You did lay on on those before us (Jews and Christians).’ He (Allaah) said: ‘I have done so.’ ‘Pardon us and grant us Forgiveness. Have mercy on us. You are our Maula (Patron, Supporter and Protector)’ He (Allaah) said: ‘I have done so.’” [Saheeh Muslim (Eng. Trans. Vol. 1, Pg. 74)]
 Majmoo’ Fataawa (Vol. 19, page 191-192).
 Sayr-ul-A’laam An-Nubalaa (Vol. 5, pg. 271).
 Sayr-ul-A’laam An-Nubalaa (Vol. 14, pg. 39-40).
 Sayr-ul-A’laam An-Nubalaa (Vol. 14, pg. 376).
 Sayr-ul-A’laam An-Nubalaa (Vol. 20, pg. 46).
 I’laam-ul-Muwaqqi’een (Vol. 3, pg. 295).
 Al-Qawaaid (Page 3).