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Moving Forward: The End of Deconstructive Criticism

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By RE

Part I | Part II

Let us make a second pledge, that we will no longer criticize the efforts of others (as long as that effort is halal).

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This pledge is the natural progression to the pledge of not complaining;  for the very fact that a person is actually trying to make an effort towards a solution — even if not the most efficient effort — deserves our commendation and praise. I urge that whenever we see or hear of our brothers or sisters doing good deeds, we only do one or more of the following:

  1. Join in
  2. Offer support
  3. If necessary, give sincere and private advice
  4. Move aside

One of the worst traits that Muslim activists possess is our narcissistic love of ourselves and our methods; the mentality that “our way” is the only “right way”, that “our organization” is better than “your organization”, that we “should not do that” until we “first perfect this”, or that we should leave something entirely because we wonder “what is the point?”  Each of these points does nothing to move us forward. So how can we stop ourselves from giving non-constructive criticism?

The First Golden Rule: We Are Judged By Our Efforts, Not By the Outcome

Allah says in the Holy Qu’ran:

“So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it” (Al-Zalzalah:7)

Remember that no sincere effort goes unrewarded. A person may spend a lifetime hoping to achieve something that will never end up blossoming; yet that would not be a wasted time or life, as long as the efforts were done with sincerity for the sake of Allah.  In our society of instant gratification, a person’s efforts may sometimes seem fruitless, only to be later redeemed by future generations.

Every person’s individual attempt at changing society works for the benefit of all others.

The Second Golden Rule: Allah Has Made Easy Our Individual Good Deeds

Imam Malik  — one of the great scholars of our past — excelled in his character and conduct. He used to eat well, dress in the finest clothes and wear the best fragrances when narrating the hadith of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and carry himself with dignity in his circles of society. One day, Imam Malik received a letter from a person who excelled in his asceticism advising him to spend more of his time performing acts of worship and being ascetic.   Imam Malik replied to the letter with a great pearl of wisdom,  saying:

Verily Allah has divided the acts of deeds among people as He divided rizq or wealth among them. Some are given talents in knowledge and how to spread it while others are given talents in jihad, fasting and so on. So what he (Imam Malik) was given is no less than what Ibn al-Juwairiyah was given and he hoped that both of them are on the right track and do the things that please Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Further, Abu Dharr,raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), reported that some of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, [saw], said to him:

“O Messenger of Allah, the rich have taken away all the rewards. They observe the prayer as we do, and they keep the fasts as we do, and they give sadaqah (charity) from their surplus riches.” Upon this he (the Prophet) said: “Has Allah not prescribed for you (a course) by following which you can also do sadaqah? Verily in every tasbih (i.e. saying Subhanallah) there is a sadaqah, every takbir (i.e. saying Allahu Akbar) is a sadaqah, every tahmid (i.e. saying Alhamdulillah) is a sadaqah, every tahlil (i.e. saying Lailaha illallah) is a sadaqah, enjoining of good is a sadaqah, forbidding of evil is a sadaqah, and having sexual intercourse with your wife is a sadaqah. They (the Companions) said: “O Messenger of Allah, is there reward for him who satisfies his sexual passion among us?” He said: “Tell me, if he were to devote it to something forbidden, would it not be a sin on his part? Similarly, if he were to devote it to something lawful, he should have a reward.”(Muslim)


The Final Golden Rule: Criticism Is Very Easy.

Self-Explanatory — really.

A Rude Awakening

What really awoke me up was an incident which happened several years ago.  Someone asked me about a close friend saying:  “So you are more religious, right?”

I froze for a second, then replied back:

“And who is to decide who is more religious? Yes, I may seem to have a more traditional portrait of religiosity (giving halaqas, having a beard, etc.), but he does things for the sake of Allah that I don’t do. He goes to protests to fight for my rights and speak out against injustice, he makes huge efforts in dawah and takes the message out to the public rather than waiting for the people to come, and he commits so much time to masajid trying to improve on their infrastructure and processes.”

I remember thinking to myself that I am introverted at times — shying away from street dawah , political action, and organizations — yet I truly appreciated having a friend in the community who was the total opposite of me, in filling all those gaps which I left behind. From then on, I realized the value of different approaches and promised myself not to criticize others for these different approaches, even if I may disagree or be unable to do so myself. Rather, I would like to work with them when I am able or interested, providing support and sincere advise when I am not, and at the very least just step aside without opening my mouth.

The Final Thought: Imagine a Society Without Synergy

Many anthropologists theorize that when a tribal society moves from a nomadic to an agricultural way of life, the doors of civilization open.  A more stable and increased economy ensues, and those who once spent the majority of their time outside the community on hunting and gathering trips now had the means to stay in the community and take on other roles. Certain members of the society take on the roles/work that provide the basic necessities of life, other tribesman were free to develop professional skills such as making weapons, forging, construction, leather-making, etc. With this seed of diversification comes the ability to turn into a true civilization.

Salah Al-din’s mentor and predecessor,  Nur Al-Din Al-Zenki  — well, at least the actor that played him in the Syrian mini series — said it best when one of his generals mocked the ascetics staying their homes while they had just returned from battles in the cause of Allah. He said:

” Do not mock them! For by Allah, they support us in our battle with their prayers while we sleep soundly in the middle of the night”

What a beautiful statement. This, hmm… screenplay writer understood so well that each person does what he can do best; and although we should strive to be great achievers in every field, most of us just strive in what we can.

Let’s End it Now

Today must be the last day we tolerate complaining and non-constructive criticism, both in our own writings and speeches as well as in our peers.  I have given the means by which any writer, lecturer, scholar or layman know-it-all can face our modern issues with concrete solutions and without resorting to the easy and destructive method of putting down others who are actually trying to make a difference. Let us inshaAllah keep mindset that if we can’t be part of the solution at least not to be part of the problem.

We are all children of Adam, we are all working towards the same goal, and we all have to answer to only One Authority.

Image Credit: U Toledo

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36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Sister: No non-sense, please!

    March 20, 2009 at 1:43 AM

    The article contains good advice, mashaAllah and JazakAllah!

    Speaking of criticism, I once heard that Umar (ra) used to hold his appointed govt. officials to account by inviting public criticism from the group of people they were responsible for.

  2. abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

    March 20, 2009 at 4:49 AM

    bismillah was salamu alaykum.

    with respect, Rami, for what i perceive to be your good intentions, not only have i not taken the oath not to complain, but i also will not take the oath never to criticize. :)

    but, bi idhnillah, if i do find myself criticizing someone, i pray that it will only be with a good niyat, and i seek refuge with Allah from becoming one of the mockers whom Allah has condemned.

    did you mean deconstructive or destructive by the way? because i think “deconstructive criticism” would properly describe the dawah strategies of Ahmed Deedat (RahimAllah), for example, in exposing the fallacious reasoning behind the Trinity and other Christian dogmas:

    Dictionary
    deconstruct |ˌdēkənˈstrəkt|
    verb [ trans. ]
    analyze (a text or a linguistic or conceptual system) by deconstruction, typically in order to expose its hidden internal assumptions and contradictions and subvert its apparent significance or unity.
    • (in general use) dismantle : do we need to deconstruct all the institutions that we’ve created in order to improve them?
    DERIVATIVES
    deconstructive |-tiv| adjective

    also, take note of the comment by “Sister: No non-sense, please!” — no less a sahabah than Ameer al Mumineen Omar bin Khattab, radi Allaho anho, invited the public to criticize the Muslim government’s officials. and, mashaAllah, he knew the difference between acceptable and unacceptable criticism. if his officials had the best of intentions but were the worst of administrators, only the outright criticism of the people they governed would make it clear what corrective measure Omar would need to take.

    likewise today: imagine masjid boards filled with kindhearted sweet people who are wasting the community’s money, or worse, not making any investment at all in the infrastructure for a better and stronger community in the future. of course people should complain and criticize such a body — but with respectful language and honest intentions, and most of all: fear of Allah.

    i urge you to reconsider, Rami. look at some of the objectives you have — to end disharmonious dealings among Muslims, to end hateful or vengeful behavior, to end callous or thoughtless or snide comments. all of those are good objectives, and i am sure you have better than what i have perceived in mind. but i honestly do not believe any of those objectives requires either of the oaths you have proffered. wAllaho’Alim.

  3. midatlantic

    March 20, 2009 at 7:22 AM

    The article does highlight a serious issue in our Muslim communities and can be very demoralizing for volunteers and the organizations themselves. At the same time, we don’t want our Muslim organizations/communities to comprise a bunch of ditto-heads either. The problem I think is not the criticism per se, because often the criticism is very sincere, but two things:
    1. the lack of action that accompanies the criticism;
    2. The inability to make excuses for the person’s actions that you have a problem with.

    I think to campaign for Muslims to stop complaining and criticizing is setting yourself up for failure. Rather, I think we should aim for Muslims to get into a mindset that if you can’t be part of the solution don’t be part of the problem: to walk the walk not just talk the talk.

    Example: a parent complains that teacher gives too much candy to their kid. I don’t have a problem with the parent telling the teacher their complaint. BUT, (1) they should make excuses for the teacher (perhaps its the cheapest incentive that kids like), and (2) give the teacher a big bag of alternative incentives to dish out instead.

    • Amad

      March 20, 2009 at 8:12 AM

      This article reminds me of a couple of website, no names mentioned, whose entire function is to criticize others (websites and personalities), without offering any solutions or advice.

      I agree with midatlantic of the demoralizing negative energy that constant criticism causes, even if you try to ignore the “regular” whiners. You wonder and think to yourself that even if you did one thing wrong out of 10, how about the 90% success rate consideration instead of the 10% failure focus? This is also similar to what happens with articles and posts. Sometimes one point is picked and it literally becomes a “go for the kill” mentality.

      Finally, I myself have a lot to learn from this post. JazakAllah khair for this excellent reminder.

  4. Sister: No non-sense, please!

    March 20, 2009 at 10:40 AM

    My article was not really focused on governance such as the incident of Umar (which deals with potential haram activities), but on those trying to be active and valuable to the community (through halal means), and how we should just let these brothers and sisters do what they do.

    I just wanted to highlight the fact that public criticism isn’t always bad and prohibited. In certain cases, it is a good alternative and the only one. I think Br. Abu abd-Allah Tariq almost verbalized what I had in mind.

  5. abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

    March 20, 2009 at 10:58 AM

    Innalhamdolillah.

    To Public Officials & Masjid Shura: When a public official is doing something wrong, this is falling into the haram.

    :) Akhee, noooooooo! :) Omar radi Allaho anho was not trying to expose the sins of his officials. He was exposing their incompetencies. As a life coach, I would tell you he was ensuring the commitment of his officials, too, by making it clear that they would be held to account. Not naudhobillah for committing haram! SubhanAllah. Most of the officials in question were sahabah, and the rest were tabii! …Maybe he was worried about innovations, wAllaho’Alim, and only Allah Knows what was in his heart.

    But Omar’s sunnah of making officials directly answerable to their constituents was superb management skill — a paragon of customer service, alhamdolillah. :)

    So if I did a bad job — meaning sub-par performance, not that I committed a haram act! — and I were one of Omar’s officials, then by Allah I would be found out. And probably replaced. And knowing that, I would avoid responsibility that might lead to embarrassment. :) And if I accepted a position of responsibility over others, I would know and expect to face both complaints and criticisms, and I would not be troubled by that at all.

    And that should be true even if I am not in government. But in any position or function where I have authority over others or where my activity (or inactivity) impacts others.

    SubhanAllah — that is so true that even if my comments are upsetting to you or anyone else, you do me a favor by complaining! Would you instead keep a complaint bottled up inside? Festering? Or mutating like a cancer into something that would be evil for you? I’m only inviting halal speech. :) And I desire to hear honest and heartfelt complaints and criticisms. Because I want to live my life with ihsaan — not with the self-delusion of it.

  6. Sister: No non-sense, please!

    March 20, 2009 at 11:15 AM

    Speaking of “Criticism websites”, I think the criticisers should be given as much ‘benefit of the doubt’ for their intentions and actions (if their public critisism is indeed mistaken) as the one’s being criticized. Perhaps, the critics were ignored, muzzled or accused when they tried voicing their concern in private. So, maybe their intentions for starting such websites were to make the public aware of the lingering vices that were going vastly unnoticed, and the criticism for which, systematically muzzled. You just never know, so you can’t really make a judgment about them or their intentions unless you know what the situation is like for certain.

    I can claim with certainty that some admins of some institutionally owned ‘Islamic’ forums are all not that sincere at heart. Ideally, when someone has a concern or a complaint, it should be dealt with in the most prompt and respectful manner, especially when that someone is paying for some aspect of the institute’s service. Shoving someone’s concern aside by claiming that it was totally understood (when it reality it wasn’t), accusing and molesting him/her for being at fault, acting self-righteous, and literally saying that any such concerns will be tossed aside, I think totally suggests some public calling!

  7. Amad

    March 20, 2009 at 10:25 AM

    When you challenge these people that what they are doing is wrong and often backbiting, they will retort back by saying, “the material is on the net, so its fair-game”. Excuse me? So if the material is on the net, does that give you the excuse to slander the person? To demonize and destroy his character, and to doubt his intentions? Is that fair game? What does “constructive criticism” and name-calling, hate-mongering, mocking have in common? Absolutely nothing. Instead, if one sees an article they feel is wrong or unjustified, the steps to take should follow like this:

    1) Contact the post writer first, esp. if he is not known for having an “agenda”
    2) Write a detailed refutation and send it to him, asking him for clarification or otherwise you would post this refutation.
    3) Ensure that the refutation is unemotional, factual and does not go into intention-policing.
    4) Stop the “dissing” and name-calling immediately if you are responsible for a forum, blog, etc. By allowing it, YOU are equally responsible because you made the platform available.
    5) Don’t make criticism your only job, even if it is of the constructive type and follows the suggested guidelines. Rather, do SOMETHING beneficial for this Ummah so that you can be CREDIBLE enough and justified enough to criticize others. How many of us would like to be checked by a person whose only job is “checking our faults”.

    Read this timeless article on turning away from the fault of others, by focusing on oneself.

    And who is that person with whose every single quality characteristic you are pleased with?
    It is enough to make a man noble that his defects can be counted/listed.
    You wish that he should be perfect without any fault.
    And does an incense stick give off a scent/fragrance without any smoke.

  8. Sister: No non-sense, please!

    March 20, 2009 at 12:11 PM

    …turning away from the fault of others, by focusing on oneself.

    But if you see someone committing a sin which you yourself don’t commit, then enjoining good and forbidding evil is part of Islam. Forbidding evil is compulsory not an option. Has everyone heard of the incident of the man who only cared about himself? I don’t remember word for word, but he was destroyed with the entire town of evil people despite developing his own religiosity because he used to worry only about himself.

    • Amad

      March 20, 2009 at 12:27 PM

      Sister, pls read the linked article. I believe it touches on the point you brought up.

  9. Siraaj Muhammad

    March 20, 2009 at 1:04 PM

    One of the worst traits that we Muslim activists possess is our narcissistic love of ourselves and our methods; the mentality that “our way” is the only “right way”, that “our organization” is better than “your organization”, that we “should not do that” until we “first perfect this”, or that we should leave something entirely because we wonder “what is the point?” Each of these points does nothing to move us forward. So how can we stop ourselves from giving non-constructive criticism?

    Your article’s title is different from it’s content – the content appears to claim, “No destructive criticism” while your article’s contents appear to say, “No constructive criticism unless something is haraam.”

    I think it’s perfectly fine to criticize and offer views provided you are pinpointing a what you believe to be a mistake (not all mistakes hold a shar’i hukm value of haraam or makruh behind them).

    Take, for example, this article. If you apply it upon itself, it is taking a group of people who have chosen a methodology of criticism as in the quote I’ve chosen above, and then it actually criticizes such thinking – if I take the ideas of this article and apply it to itself, it should not have been written.

    I think the title of the article (aiming at non-constructive criticism, or as I like to call it, destructive criticism) is what I agree with here – disagreeing without reason, and disagreeing in a khuluq-less fashion, I think that is what we need to leave off. But criticism itself of ideas, of methodologies, of priorities on a personal, familial, and social level…I too have a quote from Imam Maalik:

    “Everyone after the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) will have his sayings accepted and rejected – not so the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam).”

    Everyone, every group, every methodology, all of it is open to criticism. At one level, you have goals to accomplish, and a limited set of resources to accomplish such goals – quality initiatives exist whose purpose is to quantify which initiatives are best to accomplish the goal. At another level, you have to ask yourself if the goal is even worthwhile to begin with, given your resource constraints.

    Let’s make sure we’re clear that anyone is open to constructive criticism, both in the way they seek to accomplish their goals, or even if they should be working towards such a goal, even if it is halaal, because I can guarantee you, halaal doesn’t always equal optimal.

    Siraaj

    • Amad

      March 20, 2009 at 2:58 PM

      Siraaj, constructive criticism sounds fine in concept. The problem is that everyone feels that they are engaged in constructive criticism. “We are doing this because they forced us to”, “we are calling them out because if we don’t do it, they’ll escape”, etc. I think Rami’s point seems to be that if there is “room to play”, if there is an issue of ikhtilaaf, or an issue where benefit of doubt might allow it, then it is not necessary to interject oneself each time.

      Furthermore, I have to insist that regardless of how constructive one is in criticism, if that is the sole modus operandi of this person… i.e. all this person does day-in, day-out, then his/her advice/criticism will become very hard to swallow.

      When people DO something, they can DO the criticism too. When they are bankrupt of ideas and actions, then criticism flowing from them just isn’t going to get much attention. Walking the talk is an important element of constructive criticism. Yes, you don’t have to be perfect before advising/criticizing, but again it is a question of how you “operate”. Seriously, many of us know of people/sites that even in their best moment of advice and sincerity, they come off spiteful and distasteful, because we can’t spit out the taste from the previous hammering. I hope I am making some sense here. And I hope those people reading this (you know who you are) can consider what is being said here.

      w/s

  10. Iman

    March 20, 2009 at 5:26 PM

    jazakallah khair for starting dialogue on this important topic. Br. Nouman Ali Khan offers some incredible advice on dealing with communication gaps in masajids and proper shura, the lecture is called Communication Catastrophe

    http://www.halaltube.com/nouman-ali-khan-communication-catastrophe

  11. Siraaj Muhammad

    March 20, 2009 at 6:14 PM

    Siraaj, constructive criticism sounds fine in concept. The problem is that everyone feels that they are engaged in constructive criticism. “We are doing this because they forced us to”, “we are calling them out because if we don’t do it, they’ll escape”, etc. I think Rami’s point seems to be that if there is “room to play”, if there is an issue of ikhtilaaf, or an issue where benefit of doubt might allow it, then it is not necessary to interject oneself each time.

    Furthermore, I have to insist that regardless of how constructive one is in criticism, if that is the sole modus operandi of this person… i.e. all this person does day-in, day-out, then his/her advice/criticism will become very hard to swallow.

    When people DO something, they can DO the criticism too. When they are bankrupt of ideas and actions, then criticism flowing from them just isn’t going to get much attention. Walking the talk is an important element of constructive criticism. Yes, you don’t have to be perfect before advising/criticizing, but again it is a question of how you “operate”. Seriously, many of us know of people/sites that even in their best moment of advice and sincerity, they come off spiteful and distasteful, because we can’t spit out the taste from the previous hammering. I hope I am making some sense here. And I hope those people reading this (you know who you are) can consider what is being said here.

    You’re thinking of it personally, and from the perspective of one group of people, and I agree with what you’ve said, which is why I noted that criticism has to be done with proper manners. As for whether someone is doing something or not, if their lack of experience in work indicates the weakness in their argument, I think it would be good to point out, but if the argument has nothing to do with experience, then I think it doesn’t matter if they are doers or not – what matters if they are speaking the truth or not.

    Myself, when I read the points made by some, I often automatically tune out the “noise” from poor manners and try to dissect:

    1. What was said?
    2. What’s the proof?

    Siraaj

  12. ibnkhalil

    March 20, 2009 at 6:25 PM

    Assalam o alaykum, at the Jummuah Khuthbah today the Khateeb talked about advising fellow brothers in Islam. One point that he made that really stuck to me was that there are etiquettes and manners in Islam to advise people. Dont call them out in public to criticize or advise them, because this could cause malice and humiliate the person. The only condition he said you are allowed to call them out is if they are openly doing a sin and in the best interest of the muslims you are supposed to call him out openly. He said, if you want to adivse people follow the way of the Prophet(SAW) i.e. say what is wrong with people they do such and such when Allah has ordered to do such and such. SubhanAllah, what a beautiful way to convey the message and not hurt anyone’s feeling. And being truthful at the same time.

    He also said that if you stop giving naseeha to your brother you will have gheeba prevalent in the society. He said the truth. I really was moved by his khuthbah.

    My whole point is that we should engage our brothers and advise each other. It is the best thing compared to criticism. Plus we need to put our desires aside and do what right. Imam Shafi used to say, “Never do I argue with a man with a desire to hear him say what is wrong, or to expose him and win victory over him. Whenever I face an opponent in debate I silently pray – Ya Rabb, help him so that truth may flow from his heart and on his tongue, and so that if truth is on my side, he may follow me; and if truth be on his side, I may follow him.”

    We should be careful in criticizing others because it maybe that person is better then us in front of Allah. Also there is a Surah in the Quran that is called Surah of Manners. It is Surah Al Hujarat. Very short surah and subhanAllah the words are very powerful if you pay attention. I recommend everyone to read it and understand its meaning. I will inshAllah change your life and make things very easy for you. There is a tafseer of that Surah by Shaykh Bilal Philips rahimahullah which is a must read as well.

    May Allah Guide us! Wallah u alam!

    I really enjoyed this article mashAllah. JazakAllah khair

    Uthman

  13. IbnAbbas

    March 20, 2009 at 6:49 PM

    I miss articles by Dr. Ali Shehata!?!

  14. Sister: No non-sense, Please!

    March 20, 2009 at 9:24 PM

    Sister, pls read the linked article. I believe it touches on the point you brought up.

    Jazakallah khair. That was indeed a beneficial article. To bring the points of the article to this discussion…

    Dont call them out in public to criticize or advise them, because this could cause malice and humiliate the person.

    Personal sins whose consequences are suffered only by the person should definitely be advised for correction in private.

    The only condition he said you are allowed to call them out is if they are openly doing a sin and in the best interest of the muslims you are supposed to call him out openly.

    Yup! When an author’s, volunteer’s, or any other active community figure’s words or actions negatively affect the masses on a seemingly permanent or continual basis, I think it is more appropriate to constructively criticize publicly when the ‘criticism opportunity’ occurs. Wallahu alim. This way their fans willinstantly realize that the people they look up to are not always right in their words and actions and subsequently they are more protected from being misled or harmed by them. When community figures refuse to accept and fix their shortcomings, I feel the degree and harshness of public criticism should increase as they have no right to fool, mislead, or harm people!
    This comment expounds the concept of public criticism clearly…

    Akhee, noooooooo! Omar radi Allaho anho was not trying to expose the sins of his officials. He was exposing their incompetencies. As a life coach, I would tell you he was ensuring the commitment of his officials, too, by making it clear that they would be held to account.
    …..
    So if I did a bad job — meaning sub-par performance, not that I committed a haram act! — and I were one of Omar’s officials, then by Allah I would be found out. And probably replaced. And knowing that, I would avoid responsibility that might lead to embarrassment. And if I accepted a position of responsibility over others, I would know and expect to face both complaints and criticisms, and I would not be troubled by that at all.
    And that should be true even if I am not in government. But in any position or function where I have authority over others or where my activity (or inactivity) impacts others.</.

    and….
    speaking of Umar (ra) once again (or was it Uthman(ra)?), I heard that he (ra) was the vigilante of his time who used to take extra interest in finding and fixing problems of the society…
    Perhaps, he thought, to safeguard the society and protect the purest form of Islam, keeping a critical eye was critical!

    Don’t make criticism your only job, even if it is of the constructive type and follows the suggested guidelines. Rather, do SOMETHING beneficial for this Ummah so that you can be CREDIBLE enough and justified enough to criticize others. How many of us would like to be checked by a person whose only job is “checking our faults”.

    I am not joking here, but isn’t critically analyzing someone’s work, taking the time and offering appropriate feedback DOING SOMETHING? Not everyone is blessed with the intellectual skill of being critical. So I think people who have been blessed with this skill in plentiful proportions should be embraced by the Muslim community and these blessed ones should be taught the best manner for putting their skill to use.
    Wallahu Alim!

    DaNg! Why do words take up so much space?!?

  15. abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

    March 21, 2009 at 12:39 AM

    alhamdolillah, i wonder if per the article IbnAbbas’s comment would be classified as a complaint or as merely plaintive. ;)

    it won’t be the end of my world if any of you take these oaths — remember that oaths are sacred in Islam, so if you make one, honor it. and if you are convinced of the wrong of it later, or if you just break the oath because it goes against nature — remember the kaffaara that is due from you.

    i will ask you, though, to ponder, please:

    Thesaurus
    constructive
    adjective
    constructive criticism useful, helpful, productive, positive, encouraging; practical, valuable, profitable, worthwhile.

    did you notice that there is not one negative association in the thesaurus with the phrase constructive criticism? not one!

    think about that.

    finally, “indeed actions (including the manner of complaints, criticisms) are judged by their intentions.” so fear Allah.

  16. Abu Maryam

    March 21, 2009 at 1:40 AM

    Amad said:
    [quote=Amad]This article reminds me of a couple of website, no names mentioned, whose entire function is to criticize others (websites and personalities), without offering any solutions or advice.[/quote]

    is it not slander to state that the ENTIRE point of these sites is to pick out peoples faults?

    • Amad

      March 21, 2009 at 10:29 AM

      I’ll say it again then, if you (not talking about anyone specific) can’t contribute something positive, then even sincere commentary becomes hard to swallow. All I would ask you is to think of some person in your life, who only criticizes you, never giving you praise and never giving you positive feedback. Think about your feelings towards this person, and how much of the “advice” you were able to drive past your spite for this person. If you were able to screen the good out of it without the incessant criticism bothering you, then you are much better than I, and I applaud you for it.

      “Sister”: if someone or some organization or some site’s “skill” is only to criticize negatively (i.e. criticism is always one-directional), then I am sorry that is an awful skill, may Allah protect us from such skills. If you personalize it based on my comments above, I don’t think you’ll accept this “skill” for yourself.

      It is amazing that people find such a topic “controversial”, really it is. Not because I am not guilty of it, but precisely because I am guilty of it many time but at least I realize this guilt.

      -“American Muslim” — be scared, very scared :)

  17. Abu Maryam

    March 21, 2009 at 1:43 AM

    [quote]without offering any solutions or advice[/quote]

    I think i have aired my views before, and please let me do so again. The solution is for people like ur kind self to educate themselves and look out of their American box. Until then please don’t burden us with ur condescending views.

  18. bin ameer

    March 21, 2009 at 2:37 AM

    The solution is for people like ur kind self to educate themselves and look out of their American box. Until then please don’t burden us with ur condescending views.

    you mean the same way you just burdened us with your condescending views?

    i have read comments like yours on this site as well as others, and i am still perplexed as to why you continue to visit this website? if you are so thoroughly convinced that this website is just an american tool, then why do you visit it? why don’t you start your own website and propagate your ‘correct’ viewpoint?

    this is a good example i believe of what Amad is saying. people have nothing to offer anyone except constantly bash anything and everything others are doing. instead of making thinly veiled sarcastic remarks about American Islam, why don’t you leave an intelligent comment explaining your viewpoint and why you disagree with what is written here as opposed to just dropping by to make some criticism and win fantasy points in front of your buddies in this internet battle? I’m quite sure (if there isn’t already) this comment of yours will be put on other websites to show how you left this comment and somehow achieved a great victory with this stunning remark.

    back to the original article, i don’t necessarily agree with the premise of this article. i think criticism is healthy when done properly, without it, progress doesn’t take place. it is nice to give people the benefit of the doubt for the work they are doing, but it doesn’t mean that all actions can be removed from any type of public assessment. its the same way that people criticize things like halaqahs or sunday schools – of course the people involved are doing good work, but it doesn’t mean that is sufficient to turn a blind eye and not help them improve.

    simply, i think it is just a bit naive to think we can take some pledge not to criticize. everything needs balance, and we need to identify the constructive types. i agree mostly with what Siraaj and Abu Abdallah said.

    however, there is something to be said for armchair quarterbacks who are constantly criticizing everything. that is not so much an issue with criticism in and of itself, but rather is a display of a negative attitude. some people will just always be negative no matter what, so that is why even when they make legitimate criticisms (such as “those websites”) – the criticisms often fall on deaf ears. why should i care what an armchair quarterback has to say about anything when all he does is complain? the article muslimmatters posted about negativity i think much better encapsulated the intended message that the author may have been trying to convey here, Allahu Alam.

    • Amad

      March 21, 2009 at 10:31 AM

      jazakallahkhair bin ameer… not because you stood up for my comment, but because you said it better than most. It is not criticism that is the problem, but rather the “non-constructive” one… I think if you keep that qualifier in mind, it does fall in line with what you are saying as well.

      props to you Tariq too… I don’t expect/need an apology. If only drive-by internet hits would recede due to this article, I think that would be a huge positive contribution :)

      • rmirza

        February 25, 2014 at 11:04 PM

        Amad, we appreciate your replies when they are constructive. But like all of us, who have been involved in da’wah, you do come off as arrogant sometimes. I have noticed this in some of your posts.

        And i am not the only brother who finds your posts to be this way sometimes. It just sounds like, and i am not questioning your intention, you are trying to show you are more intellectually ‘superior’ to the other person.

        Also, not everyone on salafinet or whatever websites you mention falls in the same boat. They have every right to criticize even the scholars we love (shaikh YQ, for example) if they disagree. As long as it is done in a just and fair manner. Just like you have the right to criticize them back.

        And not everything is classified as backbiting. If a shaikh from almaghrib (someone who recently supported voting for obama) is free to publicly vocalize his views about why we should vote for obama (i have no issue with voting, contrary to some hardcore salafis), then he should expect to be criticized publicly as well.

        The point is constructive criticism is not about one’s ego. It’s about truly wanting the best for the other person. I have noticed with you (Amad) and some other brothers and myself as well, it becomes about ego and showing the other person up.

        i think we all have some work to do, in regards to the topic in this article. So no one is above criticism when this topic is brought up.

        May Allaah help us in applying the principles that we ‘claim’ to follow.

        ‘Abdur Rahman

  19. abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

    March 21, 2009 at 9:22 AM

    bismillah. bin ameer left this point out, but please accept my criticism, too. Abu Maryam, why are you taking personally, Amad’s words — and accusing him of slander, subhanAllah:

    This article reminds me of a couple of website, no names mentioned, whose entire function is to criticize others (websites and personalities), without offering any solutions or advice. (emphasis added)

    he never mentioned you — so why you would offer a link to a site, unless you want to imply that your link is a site Amad thinks about, and negatively at that?

    to go out of your way to throw yourself on a sword that was never pointed in your direction, never even unsheathed for that matter, is melodramatic and even childish. and it renders your words an unjustified/unprovoked attack on Amad. if you are sure that Amad means you, just wait for him to actually attack you. and while you wait, do something beneficial for both of you: pray for him. you don’t have to post your prayers — Allah is the One Who will answer them, not any of us.

    but you should apologize to Amad because publicly accusing someone of slander without proof is itself a slander of the one accused.

  20. thinker

    March 21, 2009 at 12:59 PM

    is it not slander to state that the ENTIRE point of these sites is to pick out peoples faults?

    the fact that no site was mentioned, and you immediately rushed to it’s defense is not helping your case. as the saying goes, “if the shoe fits…”

    furthermore, would you be willing to make this same defense of muslimmatters on said websites when they say that “muslimmatters is….”?

    it seems it is the exact same thing both ways, at least play fair.

  21. saima

    March 21, 2009 at 1:21 PM

    May Allah bless you for this.
    I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at how precisely you have described the issue.
    this constant negative criticism chisels away at the efforts of our brothers and sisters, which are, after all for our own sakes.

    For example, we cannot live in a cultural vacuum and so efforts to create halal forms of entertainment for our youth are necessary. Activism is also necessary as we find muslims being treated with a judicial double standard increasingly in the west. The two are not meant to tackle the same problems. And the two sometimes are not appropriate to be handled in the same venue!

    There are times to relax and enjoy with our families, times to learn, and times for activism. Just because an organization/event does not tackle all three at the same time does not make it less muslim or less aware of the other needs of the community.

    As any community, we have many and varied needs that no one person or organization can meet all at once. The muslim ummah is as one body. But a body has eyes to see with, hands to build with, ears to hear with. There is the absolute need for all parts in order to have a functioning whole.

    Let us acknowledge the good EACH effort brings to our community.

  22. Sister: No non-sense, Please!

    March 21, 2009 at 2:58 PM

    Sister”: if someone or some organization or some site’s “skill” is only to criticize negatively (i.e. criticism is always one-directional), then I am sorry that is an awful skill, may Allah protect us from such skills.

    :) wow!…I agree that pointing out only the negatives without affirming the positives can often be overwhelmingly demoralizing, especially when done on a public level. However, I believe if we’re constructively criticised (either publicly or privately, depending upon what is situationally, Islamically appropriate) even one-directionally by some person, and our intention is to improve, then this sort of criticism wouldn’t sound awful at all. It will feel like we’re gettin some free help that we can use for our benefit. I reiterate that the criticism should be offered in the best manner to yield fruitful results.

    Having an intellectual skill is like having power. You can either use that power to empower others (by offering them appropriate feed back or ‘constructive criticism’) or you can use it to insult or demoralize them. May Allah protect us from using our skills to demoralize others.

    I’ll say it again then, if you (not talking about anyone specific) can’t contribute something positive, then even sincere commentary becomes hard to swallow.

    If not taken so personally, it can become easier to swallow. :) Really, at the end of the day, whatever social work we do, our goal shouldn’t just be do it but to do it in the best fashion. I agree that not all critisim is valid and useful but I believe being open to constructive criticism helps us become aware of shortcomings, we might have overlooked.

    All I would ask you is to think of some person in your life, who only criticizes you, never giving you praise and never giving you positive feedback. Think about your feelings towards this person, and how much of the “advice” you were able to drive past your spite for this person.

    I think, we should differentiate between ‘personal’ criticism and ‘work’ criticism (I couldn’t think of a better term). Really, if its about YOUR WORK and not about YOU and its valid, it shouldn’t be taken so personally. Human beings are living, animate, emotional, creatures and they can’t be criticized in the same way their work can. So I believe, personal criticism and ‘work’ criticism are two different things and can be differentiated to a certain extent. I hope that makes sense.

    If you personalize it based on my comments above, I don’t think you’ll accept this “skill” for yourself.

    I wouldn’t accept criticizing someone’s personal character as a useful skill, unless their character is so totally obviously harming someone :)

    And finally, I didn’t find this topic controversial and hence I was not arguing against the points mentioned in the article (which I’ll say once again contains good advice) in my comments. My intentions were only to bring up aspects of criticism that were not mentioned in the article, but are allowed in Islam. At the end, like said before, actions are based on intentions, so the words you speak will be judged by your intentions. Wallahu Alim.

  23. Sister: No non-sense, Please!

    March 21, 2009 at 5:23 PM

    While I have not personally investigated the authenticity of these hadith and verified whether or not they are actually mentioned in Bukhari and Muslim, I have heard them narrated in religious gatherings. They’re regarding the undesirability of praising someone in their presence…

    http://www.witness-pioneer.org/vil/hadeeth/riyad/17/chap360.htm

  24. ComplexitySimplified

    March 21, 2009 at 8:48 PM

    Sahih Muslim – Book 034 (Book of Knowledge), Hadith Number 6462:

    ‘Abdullah b. ‘Amr b. al-‘As reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Verily, Allah does not take away knowledge by snatching it from the people but He takes away knowledge by taking away the scholars, so that when He leaves no learned person, people turn to ignorant as their leaders; then they are asked to deliver religious verdicts and they deliver them without knowledge, they go astray, and lead others astray.

    Are we already at that stage where there are no more scholars left?

  25. Sister: No non-sense, Please!

    March 21, 2009 at 10:46 PM

    Who’s delivering religious verdicts here?

  26. Abu Maryam

    March 22, 2009 at 3:05 AM

    [quote]the fact that no site was mentioned, and you immediately rushed to it’s defense is not helping your case. [/quote]

    It’s obvious which site Br. Amad was talking about.

    [quote]furthermore, would you be willing to make this same defense of muslimmatters on said websites when they say that “muslimmatters is….”?[/quote]
    more than willing. There are some very good aspects of the site, which we all appreciate. Ask ibnabiomar and Navaid Aziz. The only beef people have with this site is political ‘correctedness’, which is a hallmark of American Islam in general.

  27. Kai

    March 26, 2009 at 1:18 AM

    Assalamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahee wa Barakatu

    Brother or Sister? Rami:

    I would like to know if you mind if I add a third part to your Moving Forward Series? I have been writing an article that would really fit. It would be about the Ethics of Disagreement. As soon as I am done, I will forward the article and hopefully it is beneficial.

  28. Anees Mohammed

    March 27, 2009 at 6:11 AM

    Asalaam Alaikum…
    Kudos to you to Rami :-)
    After reading your write up… my character fits exactly into it.
    I am a person, who sometimes gets very much carried away with the work of our local organization, and i show my commitment
    towards that work.
    Sometimes… it goes other way round, as u have said in your article(I comment and criticize their activities or sometimes do not participate in anything because of my introversive attitude)

    As u said: “Let us insha Allah keep mindset that if we can’t be part of the solution at least not to be part of the problem.”

    Inshallah.. I shall try my best to implement this.

    ~ Anees Mohammed

  29. Pingback: Advice to Authors Regarding Negative Blog Comments | MuslimMatters.org

  30. Pingback: Moving Forward: The End Of Complaining | MuslimMatters.org

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