Those among the Children of Israel who disbelieved were cursed by the tongue of Dawood (David) and Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary). That was because they disobeyed (Allah and the Messengers) and were ever transgressing beyond bounds. They used not to forbid one another from Al–Munkar (wrong, evildoing, sins, polytheism, disbelief) which they committed. Vile indeed was what they used to do. [Surah Al-Ma’idah, 5:78]
Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq narrates,
I heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) say, “When people see something objectionable and do not change it, Allah will soon include them all in His punishment. (Al-Tirmidhi)
Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said
If you see a munkar (un-islamic act), you change it with your hand; and if you cannot do that, then change it with your mouth (speak out against it); and if you cannot do [even] that, then forbid it in your heart — and that is the least of belief. (Muslim)
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) in a Hadith Qudsi tells us,
Let not any one of you belittle himself. They said: O Messenger of Allah, how can any one of us belittle himself? He said: He finds a matter concerning Allah about which he should say something, and he does not say [it], so Allah (mighty and sublime be He) says to him on the Day of Resurrection: What prevented you from saying something about such-and-such and such-and-such? He says: [It was] out of fear of people. Then He says: Rather it is I whom you should more properly fear. (Sunan Ibn Majah, weak isnâd)
Can WE judge?
We have numerous examples throughout our history of giving nasîha and judging people based on their actions. Many of the collectors of Hadith like Imam Bukhari used to judge the reliability of the person narrating the hadith by their outward actions and not by “What’s in the heart, Allah knows.”
‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab said,
Verily, in the time of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) the people would be judged by revelation, but the revelation has ended. Now we judge you according to your outward deeds. Whoever shows us good, we will trust him and favor him and it is not for us to judge his inner secrets, for Allah will hold him accountable for those. Whoever shows us evil, then we will not trust him or believe in him even if he claims his intention is good. [Sahîh al-Bukhari]
Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar said,
When we noticed that a man was not present at Fajr and ‘Ishâ’ prayer, we would think badly of him. (graded sahîh) (Bukhari and Muslim)
How to Judge?
Allah tells us in the Quran,
But no, by your Lord, they will not [truly] believe until they make you, [O Muhammad], judge concerning that over which they dispute among themselves and then find within themselves no discomfort from what you have judged and submit in [full, willing] submission. [Surah Al-Nisa’, 4:42]
Indeed, We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth so you may judge between the people by that which Allah has shown you. And do not be for the deceitful an advocate. [Surah Al-Nisa’, 4:79]
And judge between them by what Allah has revealed, and do not follow their inclinations and beware of them, lest they tempt you away from some of what Allah has revealed to you. And if they turn away – then know that Allah only intends to afflict them with some of their [own] sins. And indeed, many among the people are defiantly disobedient. [Surah Al-Mâ’idah, 5:49]
All this goes to show that the criterion by which we are supposed to judge among ourselves is what Allah has revealed and the teachings of His Prophet (ﷺ). We don’t let personal bias or hidden grudges take precedence over our advice and actions in enjoining good and forbidding evil. Yes there are also those who just question and judge unnecessarily without any intention of helping, but rather just to show themselves as superior, or its like. Positive/Constructive criticism, you people! Care for the one you are advising —just as if they were your own brother or sister.
Some say that they have good intentions, yet their actions are quite contrary to what they say. Don’t accept that the ends justify the means. No, good intentions —when joined with reprehensible actions— are deficient, insufficient. It doesn’t work —simply saying something— we have to walk the talk.
True, proper intentions are the first requisite for pleasing Allah, and we know that He will judge our deeds starting from our intentions. But among our brethren we judge by deeds while allowing them the possibility that we have misread them . However, their improper deeds warrant our nisîha, our gentle counsel to them.
Here’s what we MUST DO:
- Make as many excuses as possible for the sake of your brother/sister by giving them the benefit of the doubt. Understand the scenario of the action and the situation of the doer whilst he was committing that action.
- Practice extreme patience.
As my grandmother says, “People who start practicing the Dîn anew are generally very strict and go to extremes. They forget that they themselves were once sinners and at the edge of the cliff. Had not Allah saved them, where would they be? How would they feel if they themselves were so harshly reprimanded?”
- Keep a calm tone, that doesn’t sound accusatory —and with a smile on the face.
- Take them aside and make it clear that you do this only out of love and care for the person.
- Speak to their parents or someone close to them whom they trust or whom they at least respect enough to take advice from.
- Advise privately first but if the person keeps committing the sin and inviting people to it in public, then such people deserve to be spoken to more openly and warned against. Exhaust yourself in advising privately and having husn al-dhan (good thoughts and excuses) first before even thinking of going to the next step.
Here’s what we MUST NOT DO:
- We DON’T tell them, “YOU are going to HELL!”
Hey, did Allah tell you His judgement?
We don’t single out people marking them for Hell or Heaven. THAT is solely up to Allah. What we say in advice is that these actions, or continuing them without repentance, set them up for Hell.
- We DON’T shame or call people out in public for their sins unless a host of criteria are met. For all we know, the person didn’t know that what they were doing is wrong or were just plain ignorant that they even committed that wrong.
- We DON’T become accusatory and take the ‘holier than thou’ route because then that would be of no help other than just putting the person into defensive mode. And then all your well intended nasîha would fall on deaf ears. Humility needs to be learnt and with it the adab of giving nasîha, or even how to differ over something might be what is called for.
The speech most hateful to Allah is when one man says to another man, ‘Fear Allah!’ and he replies, ‘Worry about your own self!” (Shu’ab al-Iman 601)
So admonish/remind them that maybe the reminder will be of benefit. And as for him who fears Allah, he will be reminded; but as for the wretched one, he will turn away. [Surah Al-A’la, 87:9-11]