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Quran and Sunnah

Who are You to Judge?


Bismillah [Written by Amatullah]

952313_gavel1.jpgIn many ayaat of the Qur’an, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala calls the Qur’an a “huda”, a guidance, for the believers. We may think this guidance refers to guidance in religion, but the Qur’an is a guidance for all aspects of our life, however it’s up to us to extract these lessons and implement them. Many Muslims read the Qur’an with the intention of reward, yet we forget that the main purpose of the Qur’an is to guide us, to be our huda. From the richness of the Arabic language, we learn that huda or hidaayah has three meanings:

  • To show one the path
  • To help them ‘walk’ on that path
  • To guide them until they reach their destination.

So this guidance, this Qur’an, contains innumerable lessons for the believers.One that I would like to share is from an incident that happened with the Companions, that we can extract many benefits from for our communities today.

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Allah ta’ala says,

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِذَا ضَرَبْتُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ فَتَبَيَّنُواْ وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ لِمَنْ أَلْقَى إِلَيْكُمُ السَّلاَمَ لَسْتَ مُؤْمِنًا تَبْتَغُونَ عَرَضَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا فَعِندَ اللّهِ مَغَانِمُ كَثِيرَةٌ كَذَلِكَ كُنتُم مِّن قَبْلُ فَمَنَّ اللّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ فَتَبَيَّنُواْ إِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا 

 O you who have believed, when you went forth in the cause of Allah, investigate; and do not say to one who gives you [a greeting of] peace, “you are not a believer,” aspiring for the goods of worldly life; for with Allah are many acquisitions. You [yourselves] were like that before, then Allah conferred His favor upon you, so investigate. Indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted. (Suratul Nisaa: 94) 

Allah is addressing the believers who accepted Islam at the time of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam but did not declare their faith openly so they mixed with the people. Since one could not tell who was a Muslim or not, the way to recognize a believer was by the greetings of Salaam.

There are many Asbaab (reasons for revelation) for this ayah related by the Companions and scholars of tafseer.  One of the main reasons that this verse was revealed after Rasul Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam sent a delegation led by Al-Miqdad ibn Al-Aswad radi Allahu anhu. Imam Ibn Katheer narrates in his famous work of tafseer:

“Ibn `Abbas said, “The Messenger of Allah sent a military expedition under the authority of Al-Miqdad bin Al-Aswad and when they reached the designated area, they found the people had dispersed. However, a man with a lot of wealth did not leave and said, `I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah.’ Yet, Al-Miqdad killed him, and a man said to him, `You killed a man after he proclaimed: “There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah. By Allah I will mention what you did to the Prophet .’ When they went back to the Messenger of Allah, they said, `O Messenger of Allah! Al-Miqdad killed a man who testified that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah.’ He said, Summon Al-Miqdad before me. O Miqdad! Did you kill a man who proclaimed, “There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah” What would you do when you face, “There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah tomorrow” Allah then revealed [this verse]. The Messenger of Allah said to Al-Miqdad, He was a believing man who hid his faith among disbelieving people, and he announced his faith to you, but you killed him, although you used to hide your faith before, in Makkah.” (Narrated in Bukhari, Al-Bazzaar)

Allah ta’ala says in the ayah, do not seek the ” ‘arada عَرَضَ” of this dunya, which literally means: everything that doesn’t have stability and anything that is transient. Allah is reminding us that anything from this dunya will leave us and nothing of it will be everlasting. But when it comes to the hereafter, Allah says with Him are ” many magaanim مَغَانِمُ” which literally means: to obtain good without any difficulty. Notice that this word is plural, while ‘arada is singular.The reason that the sahaabi killed the man was for his riches but Allah is telling the believers that He will provide them with riches. Allah reminds the believers, that before when they were in Makkah, they were also hiding their faith and they should, فَتَبَيَّنُواْ , (notice this word is a command) investigate before they take action.

Now, fast forward to our times…what do we learn from this ayah?

  • Remember your Makkan period. Many of us, back in our “jaahiliyyah” days,  had a time in our life where we might not have prayed, or wore hijaab/niqaab or had a beard. Yet, how come we act snooty to a brother or sister who is struggling with their faith, and we look down upon them, as if we were born saints? How come we treat others who may not wear niqaab, or who may not wear a thobe with disdain, like we are better than them? Many of us had a point in our lives where we were embarrassed to say that we were Muslim, and we hid our faith, just as the Companions did in Makkah. Allah azza wa jal is reminding us in this verse, YOU were like that before and that He is Khabeer (All-Aware) of what we are thinking and that He is Khabeer (All-Aware) of what we are doing. If you treat your fellow Muslim differently because of their appearance, Allah Knows. If you snicker behind their back, Allah Knows. We were like that before brothers and sisters, until Allah “manna, conferred His favor” upon us–the favor of guidance, of baseerah (insight), of learning, of love for the Qur’an, of taqwa–we were in that same situation. He is the One who favored us, we did not will guidance for ourselves, so do not claim purity. Remember that.
  • We cannot base our actions on opinions or appearances. Remind yourself of the prostitute who entered Jannah because of the small deed of giving water to the thirsty dog, and the story of the pious monk Barseesah who ended his life in prostration to Shaytan. Looks can be deceiving, so know that only Allah is All-Aware of what is in the chests of mankind, and we do not have the right to say who is a good Muslim or a bad one. The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “I have not been ordered (by Allah) to search the hearts of the people or cut open their bellies.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim) In another incident when Usama ibn Zayd radi Allahu anhuma killed a man though he had confessed that there is no deity worthy of being worshiped but Allah, claiming that the man had said so out of fear of weapon, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him observed: “Did you tear his heart in order to find out whether it had professed that or not?” (Reported by Muslim)
  • We should not act without confirming and investigating. Allah commands us to do “bayyan” (to verify, clarify, investigate) in this ayah–we must find out both sides of the story, and confirm it before we act. Think through the times where we held a negative opinion about someone based on a little of what we saw of them. Did we go further and confirm with them or were we quick in judging them?
  • Taqwa is not in the length of your beard, or in the layers of cloth you wear. The prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Taqwa is here,” and he pointed to his chest. (Reported by Muslim) Remember that the best in the sight of Allah is the one who fears Allah and is conscious of Him.
  • Allah is The Judge, so know your role Verily, your Lord knows better, who (among men) has gone astray from His Path, and He knows better those who are guided. (Surah Qalam:7)

If we as an Ummah followed the simple command in this ayah, and surely Allah knows best, our situation may have been different. If we, ourselves, now implement this ayah  into our lives, inshaAllah our community will be different. Be the change you want to be! The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said that ALL of the children of Aadam make mistakes! Who are we to take them to account? Who are you to judge?

And Allah ta’ala knows best, O Turner of Hearts, make our hearts firm upon your deen, unite our hearts, beautify our hearts with taqwa and emaan and bless us with husn ath-thann (good thoughts) about our brothers and sisters. Ameen

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Amatullah is a student of the Qur'an and its language. She completed the 2007 Ta'leem program at Al-Huda Institute in Canada and studied Qur'an, Tajwid (science of recitation) and Arabic in Cairo. Through her writings, she hopes to share the practical guidance taught to us by Allah and His Messenger and how to make spirituality an active part of our lives. She has a Bachelors in Social Work and will be completing the Masters program in 2014 inshaAllah. Her experience includes working with immigrant seniors, refugee settlement and accessibility for people with disabilities.



  1. Joyhamza

    December 27, 2008 at 12:37 PM

    MashaAllah,what a beautiful article. May Allah bless sister Amatullah

  2. muslimflavor

    December 27, 2008 at 2:17 PM

    wow that article was so beautiful mashaAllah. Too often we forget where we came from. This is a timely reminder. jak.

  3. aarij

    December 27, 2008 at 3:32 PM

    Even though the ayah was revealed in a specific context, I’m thinking that this portion, “يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِذَا ضَرَبْتُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ فَتَبَيَّنُواْ وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ لِمَنْ أَلْقَى إِلَيْكُمُ السَّلاَمَ لَسْتَ مُؤْمِنًا” can also apply to our brothers who are quick to throw people “off the manhaj”.

    Very nice article, ma sha Allah.

    A related point of benefit is that Usama b Zaid – who the Prophet loved so dearly that he treated him like his grandson – committed a similar act out of youthful exuberance and vigor (I forgot when). When the Prophet heard of this, he immediately reprimanded him severely. Very amazing because:

    1. He loved Usama so much, yet did not hesitate to reprimand him. Justice.
    2. That loving someone should not stop a person from pointing out their mistakes.
    3. Reprimanding someone does not mean that you love them any less.

    Allahumma salli wa sallim ala Nabiyina Muhammad.

  4. mulismah

    December 28, 2008 at 2:01 AM

    im sorry im ju st curious. 230 dead and 750 injured in Gaza. their should be outrage.. what if it was on of us.. it breaks my heart and its really hurting for them.. childrennn dying ,, children seeing their friends die.. can you plz make a page on them.. and israel wont stop with their strikes. ..

  5. Amad

    December 28, 2008 at 2:48 AM

    As I mentioned in the other post, somethings in the work ia.

  6. umm_sakeenah

    December 30, 2008 at 12:43 AM


    Jazaki Allahu Khaire Sr. Amatullah. Although you’ve just started writing for MM, I’m already hooked on your articles and the beautiful style in which you write them masha Allah.

    I have been struggling with this issue of judging others for a while. And I always remind myself of my own jahilliyyah days where I was doing the wrong things with the wrong crowd of people and I stop to thank Allah for guiding me. But the thing that bothers me and which I just cannot shake is when practicing Muslims do things that you would not expect them to do. Yes we are all sinners and no one’s perfect….but there are times where you just cannot help but TO judge others because you feel they should know better or because you have seen them as role models in the community or as people of knowledge.

    For example: You see a sister wearing hijaab and abaaya for the longest time, see her giving halaqas at the Masjid and then later, at some party, you see her all decked out with the most revealing outfit, tons of makeup and mixing with men!! Yes I’ve seen this and I don’t know how I cannot NOT judge her and I find it even more difficult to make excuses for her when she’s the one telling US what to do and not to do!! It’s really disturbing.

    So that’s what I’m struggling with…..practicing Muslims and how to deal with their actions/behaviors when they are the ones who we look up to and learn from. Any suggestions Sister Amatullah? I need help!!

    And Allah knows best.

    • unperfect-muslimah

      May 21, 2015 at 2:57 AM

      Simply you shouldn’t judge because you are not Allah! She has her weak points with the religion as loads of us have… I’ve seen those who pray, fast, dress modestly, but keeps gossiping and creating trouble between other two people.

      It’s like in that hadith about the prostitute and the dog and the muslim lady with the cat.

      Judging a person won’t change her. The fear of Allah will. If the human race was perfect, we would be next to Allah like angels and not as humans.

      Mind your mistakes. Allah is the judge. If you don’t accept someone’s behavior, you don’t have to like the person. Just make duaa for him/her.

  7. Ayesha Fatima

    December 30, 2008 at 9:51 AM

    Asak wr wb sister,

    I read many of ur articles and I really learned a lot from them.This is an excellent article.Don`t judge anyone ..Leave Judging to Allahswt.Mashaallah..May Allah swt help us not to go astray after he guided us!!

  8. Nusaybah

    December 30, 2008 at 12:27 PM

    Jazakallahu khayran for another superb article.
    Whenever I feel as if I’m judging a person, I remind myself of all my flaws that I need to work on.

  9. Umm_Luqmaan

    January 9, 2009 at 11:06 PM

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    Jazak AllahuKhair for the wonderful article. It’s so true; the minute we become more “religious” and more involved in Islamic activities, we begin to look down on those that do not “meet our standards.” Although we were there not too long ago.

    I also have the same questions as Umm_Sakeenah, though. What of an instance of that sort? How do you even begin to deal with someone like that?

  10. Amatullah

    January 10, 2009 at 1:45 AM

    wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu Umm Sakeenah and Umm Luqmaan,

    Allahu ta’ala a’lam to your questions sisters, I do not think I am fit to answer them…

    I can say that the article above was meant generally. I’ve been to Islamic institutions where sisters were judged on their level of righteousness based on the fact that they wore niqaab or not, and at other institutions, if you did wear niqaab, you were treated like a “shaykha”. I guess it’s in human nature to judge based on looks, but we must be careful not to fall into either category: belittling someone based on looks or making them big based on looks. Indeed Allah is Most Knowing.

    And jazaakum Allahu khayran everyone for the comments, Alhamdulillah.

  11. Pingback: Hijab: Muslim-American Perspectives « Maghrebi Minds

  12. Noor

    August 17, 2014 at 8:40 AM

    Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh.
    Masha’Allah, amazing article, baraka Allahu fik(i) for sharing this.
    I stumbled upon it when researching for my own article – which I’m writing right now, talking about this aswell.
    May more people follow and spread the love and message!
    May Allah reward you abundantly!


  13. Fatima

    May 30, 2017 at 1:37 PM

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    Jazak Allah for this beautiful article. May the Almighty reward you for your good deeds Insha Allah. Ramadaan Mubarak to all

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