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Judge Me!

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“Judge” Me!

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One of the problems in our Ummah that has become wide spread among many Muslims is the confusion about “judging” other people. While one group of Muslims goes to one extreme by over-reacting to the wrong that they see around them and sometimes even going to the extent of declaring some Muslims as disbelievers and sending them to Hell because of a minor sin, the other group of Muslims go to the other extreme of not doing or saying anything to correct the wrong that they see because they do not want to “judge” the person that is doing the wrong action. Unfortunately, many Muslims belong to the latter group, whereby they seem to equate giving advice, enjoining the good, and forbidding the evil to “judging” others. There is a key point that many seem to miss. Yes, we are not supposed to “judge” other people’s intentions because we do not know what is in the people’s hearts and we can not assume things about their intentions for doing things. For example, if I see a brother giving a lot of money in charity, I can’t accuse him that he is donating to show off in front of others, because I don’t know the intentions in his heart, and any assumption I make about that would be based only on conjecture.

{And most of them do not follow (anything) but conjecture; surely conjecture can by no means take the place of truth. Lo! Allah is Aware of what they do} (10.36)

However, we can and we should “judge” the wrong actions that people do on the outside based on the commandments of Allah, and if Allah has made something impermissible or Haram, it is our duty to say that it is wrong when we see a fellow Muslim committing that sinful action and give him/her advice in an attempt to forbid the evil. Enjoining the good and forbidding the evil has a lot of reward in it, and is one of the most beloved good deeds to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

Enjoining the good and forbidding the evil is an obligation on every Muslim, and it is a recurring theme in the Quran and the Hadeeth.

{And from among you there should be a party who invite to good and enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong, and these it is that shall be successful} (3.104)

{You are the best of the nations raised up for (the benefit of) men; you enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong and believe in Allah} (3.110)

It is this that makes us the best of nations, and if we leave our duty of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, then we will be on the path to be among the worst of nations. That is one of the reasons why those who went astray from the Children of Israel were cursed, because they never forbade the sins and evil being done among them.

{Those of the Children of Israel who went astray were cursed by the tongue of David, and of Jesus, son of Mary. That was because they rebelled and used to transgress. They used not to forbid each other the wickedness they did; certainly evil was that which they did} (5.78– 79)

And that is how Allah described the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him in the Quran:

{He (Muhammad peace be upon him) will enjoin on them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong} (7.157)

The prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said: “Whosoever of you sees a Munkar (an evil or wrong) let him change it with his hand, if he could not, then let him change it with his tongue, if he could not, then let him change it with his heart, and this is the weakest of Iman (faith)” (Saheeh Muslim

The companion Abu Saeed Alkhidri may Allah be pleased with him, narrated the above hadeeth. He mentions an incident where a man named Marwan started with the Khutba (sermon) before the prayer on the day of Eid, so a man stood up and said “Oh Marwan, you have opposed the Sunnah by starting with the Khutba before the prayer on Eid” so Abu Saeed Alkhidri said “this man has fulfilled his duty” and then he narrated the above hadeeth.

If we don’t change the wrong we see around us, then we are in danger of being punished by Allah for neglecting this obligation.

It is narrated that Abu Bakr may Allah be pleased with him made a speech and he said “Oh people, you are reading this verse and misinterpreting it {O you who believe! take care of your own souls; no hurt can come to you from those who go astray if you are guided} and I heard the prophet peace be upon him say “if the people see the wrong and they do not change it, Allah will cover them with a punishment from him”” (Recorded by Ibn Maja, Ahmad, Tirmizi, and others; Authenticated by Al- Albani)

Another wording of the above hadeeth: “Any people in which there are sins done among them, they can change the evil and they do not change, Allah will cover them with a punishment from him” (Recorded by Abi Dawud and authenticated by Al- Albani)

If a person has the audacity to commit a sin in public without feeling any shame, then why is it hard for us to say the truth and forbid the evil? Why when we see a person whom Allah blamed, then we do not say about him what Allah has said about him? Has our level of Iman gotten that low? Or is it the fear of how people might react?

The companion Ubadah bin Assamit may Allah be pleased with him reported: “We swore allegiance to the messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) to say what was right wherever we were, and not to fear from anyone’s reproach” (Bukhari & Muslim)

The prophet peace be upon him said “By Allah, you shall enjoin good and you shall forbid evil, or Allah will send punishment over you, then you will call upon Him and He shall not respond to you” (Recorded by Tirmizi; Authenticated by Al- Albani)

Ibn Taymiyah said “Ordering people to follow the Sunnah and forbidding the innovations is enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, and this is from the best of good deeds” (Minhaj Assunnah)

When we see some one doing wrong, we should not say “who am I to judge” and keep quiet, and when some one gives us advice to fear Allah and correct the wrong we are doing, we should not say “who are you to judge me?!” This is something that Allah does not like.

The prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said “The most hated speech to Allah is when a man says to another man, ‘Fear Allah!’ and he replies, ‘Worry about your own self!’ ” (Authenticated by Al- Albani in Silsilat Alahadith Assahiha)

Giving other people advice when we see them doing something wrong is very important and one of the basic foundations of Islam, to the extent that the prophet peace be upon him said “The Religion is sincere advice, to Allah, His Book, His Messenger, and to the leaders of the Muslims and the general people” (Saheeh Muslim)

Many of us have become reluctant to give our fellow Muslims advice when we see them doing something wrong because unfortunately, many Muslims don’t take advice well anymore.

Imam Abdullah bin Almubarak (who died year 181 Hijri) may Allah have mercy on him, was asked “is there anyone left to give (people) advice?!” and so he replied “do you know anyone who accepts (advice)?”

If that was the case back then, centuries and centuries ago, then what about our times? Why has it become hard for us to accept advice? Why do we take things so personally? Correct me if I am wrong here, but our main goal in life as Muslims is to go to Jannah (Heaven) right? So we should help each other out to do good and stay away from the bad to be able to achieve our goal. None of us is perfect, and we all have our own sins and shortcomings, and that is exactly why we need each other to be able to stay on the right path.

{The Believers, men and women, are guardians of each other: they enjoin what is good, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise} (9.071)

{And help one another in goodness and piety, and do not help one another in sin and transgression} (5.2)

Abu Huraira may Allah be pleased with him narrated that “The believer is a mirror for his brother, if he sees something wrong in him he fixes it” (Authenticated by Al- Albani in Saheeh Aladab Almufrad)

That is how we should be, looking out for each other, making sure that we are doing good deeds and staying away from doing wrong. None of us believes until we love for our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters what we love for ourselves. We love for ourselves Jannah, so we should also love it for them too, and that is why we should enjoin the good on one another and forbid the evil to help each other get to Jannah. The prophet peace be upon him commanded us to give victory to our fellow Muslims when they are oppressed, and if they are oppressing then we should stop them and that would be like giving them victory. This includes when we see a Muslim oppressing himself by doing wrong or sinning, we give him victory by giving him advice and helping him stop the wrong that he is doing.

{And continue to remind, for surely the reminder benefits the believers} (51.55)

By forbidding the evil and giving others advice, it also helps us become better Muslims. If you are struggling with trying to stop doing something that you know is wrong, like listening to music for example, then if you start telling other people that music is Haram and that they should stop listening to it, this will help you stop as well, because if you don’t, then that will make you look like a hypocrite, and no one wants to be a hypocrite. So you also benefit from giving other people sincere advice.

Now, before we all go out to enjoin the good and forbid the evil and give each other advice, we should learn the proper way to do so according to the Quran and the Sunnah of the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him.

{Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in the best and most gracious manner} (16.125)

Allah tells the prophet peace be upon him, and us, that we should not be harsh and rough because that turns people away.

{Thus it is due to mercy from Allah that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough or harsh-hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you} (3.159)

Therefore we should be gentle with each other, and give sincere advice in the best of manners with softness and gentleness.

The prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said “Allah is gentle and loves gentleness in all matters” (Saheeh Bukhari)

{Then speak to him (to Pharoah) a gentle word, that he may heed or fear} (20.44)

If Allah ordered Musa and Harun peace be upon them, to be gentle when reminding an oppressor such as Pharoah who has transgressed all boundaries, then what about our own Muslim brothers and sisters? We should be very gentle and kind when giving them advice, and in all our affairs with them.

{Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves} (48.29)

Our aim should not be to go around looking for people who are doing wrong or to wait for a specific brother or sister and watch their every move waiting for them to slip and do something wrong so we can forbid the evil. We should forbid the evil if we see it or encounter it as we go about our own business, but we should never follow other people’s faults purposefully.

The prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said “O you who believe with your tongues, yet Iman has not entered your hearts. Do not backbite the Muslims, nor follow their faults. For he who follows others’ faults, then Allah will follow his faults, and he whom Allah follows his faults, then Allah will reveal them and disgrace him even if he is in his own house” (Recorded by Abu Dawud and authenticated by Al- Albani)

We should also try to give people excuses in some cases where appearances could be misleading, and we should investigate the matter before making assumptions. For example when the man entered the masjid and sat down while the prophet peace be upon him was giving a Khutbah, the prophet only ordered him to get up and pray 2 rak’as after he had asked him whether he prayed or not, and the man answered that he did not pray yet, so then the prophet ordered him to pray. We should never jump to conclusions and investigate the matter further, unless things are very clear and obvious and can not have any other explanation.

Although the general rule with enjoining the good, forbidding the evil, and giving advice is to be soft and gentle, however, there are always exceptions where a little bit of harshness might be needed to have an effect on some people.

That is why Ibn Taymiyah said “The believer to a believer is like hands washing each other, and the dirt might not come off except with a little bit of harshness, but the result of this of cleanliness and softness which we like, only comes with this harshness” (Majmu’ Alfatawa)

Please note that he was describing the believers, so not everyone might accept advice that is given with a little bit of harshness, and some might be very sensitive about it. It takes a believer who is humble and does not have a big ego to accept this advice and thank Allah that one of his fellow Muslims cares enough about him to take the trouble and give him advice to help him become a better Muslim.

Here are some examples from the Sunnah of how prophet Muhammad peace be upon him advised people, many times being gentle and soft, while some times being a bit harsh.

Abu Huraira may Allah be pleased with him narrated that “A man came to the Prophet peace be upon him and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! I am destroyed.’ He (peace be upon him) asked, ‘What has destroyed you?’ He said, ‘I had sexual intercourse with my wife in Ramadan.’ He (peace be upon him) asked, ‘Are you able to free a slave?’ He replied, ‘No.’ The Prophet (peace be upon him) asked, ‘Are you able to fast two months consecutively?’ The man replied, ‘No.’ He (peace be upon him) asked, ‘Are you able to feed sixty poor people?” He replied, ‘No.’ The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘Then sit.’ So, he sat down. Then a large basket of palm leaves containing dates was brought to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and he (peace be upon him) said, ‘Give this in charity.’ He said, ‘There is no one between its two lava-plains poorer than us.’ So the Prophet (peace be upon him) smiled until his molar teeth became visible and said, ‘Take it and feed it to your family.’ (Saheeh Bukhari)

So here is a man that came to the prophet after committing a sin, but the prophet peace be upon him ended up smiling and giving him food for his family. Other instances when the prophet was gentle is when the Bedouin Arab urinated in the masjid, or when one of the companions talked during prayer one time, and in both cases the prophet peace be upon him addressed them gently and was not harsh with them. But here is an incident where the prophet peace be upon him reacted harshly to Usama bin Zaid when he killed one of the disbelievers in battle after the disbeliever had said “La Ilaha Illa Allah”. Usama may Allah be pleased with him felt so bad that he wished he hadn’t become Muslim yet at that time. However, this harsh advice from the prophet benefited Usama during the days full of fitna after Uthman may Allah be pleased with him was killed, and so Usama stayed at home and didn’t get involved in the fighting. Another incident when the prophet peace be upon him was harsh is when he scolded Mu’az bin Jabal may Allah be pleased with him for leading the people in prayer and making it lengthy. So this shows that although we should be gentle when giving other people advice, but sometimes it might be necessary to use a little bit of harshness to get the required outcome. Therefore, you must use your own good judgment to evaluate every situation and see what would be the best way to approach that person and give him advice.

One important thing is to always give people hope of Allah’s mercy and glad tidings that Allah will forgive them if they sincerely repent and do good. It is a very dangerous thing to say that someone will not be forgiven or that they are going to Hell because they have done many major sins.

Jundub may Allah be pleased with him narrated that the prophet peace be upon him said “A man said: “By Allah, Allah will not forgive So-and-so.” At this Allah the Almighty said: “Who is he who swears by Me that I will not forgive So-and-so? Verily I have forgiven So-and-so and have nullified your [own good] deeds”” (Saheeh Muslim)

The take home message from this article is that we should enjoin the good, forbid the evil, gently give other people sincere advice when we see them do wrong, humbly accept advice when it is offered to us without taking things personally, and try to improve ourselves and work on our flaws so that we can become better Muslims, and therefore a better Ummah as a whole.

Allah knows best.

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Gohar

    March 28, 2009 at 10:35 AM

    And like many other things, we tend to object to being judged when we’ve done something bad, but feel pleased with people’s good opinions of ourselves when we’ve done something good.

  2. Abd- Allah

    March 28, 2009 at 3:31 PM

    And before you start ordering people to do good without doing it yourself as well and forbidding the evil while doing it yourself (i.e. being a hypocrite), here is a hadeeth about what happens to those people who enjoin the good and forbid the evil but do not hold themselves to the same standards:

    The prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said: “A man will be brought on the Day of Resurrection and thrown in the (Hell) Fire, so that his intestines will come out, and he will go around like a donkey goes around a millstone. The people of (Hell) Fire will gather around him and say: O so-and-so! What is wrong with you? Didn’t you use to order us to do good deeds and forbid us to do bad deeds? He will reply: Yes, I used to order you to do good deeds, but I did not do them myself, and I used to forbid you to do bad deeds, yet I used to do them myself.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

  3. Ayesha Fatima

    March 29, 2009 at 9:04 AM

    Jazakumallahu khairaa for an excellent article.

  4. Me

    March 29, 2009 at 12:17 PM

    Jazak Allah khair! Very well written mashaAllah.

  5. Fatimah

    March 29, 2009 at 9:34 PM

    Subhana’Allah! Allaahu Akbar! This topic has been on my mind the last few weeks. Jazakum Allah khairun for the insightful article, and the reminder that the only One we need to please is Allah (swt).

  6. Faisal

    March 30, 2009 at 1:40 PM

    JazakAllah Khair brother,

    I was discussing this topic with a brother a couple of weeks back however I was not able to come up with relevant verses and ahadith to back my views. This verses and ahadeeth will inshAllah help me to convince the brother of the true ruling regarding forbidding evil and enjoining good.

  7. Ibn Masood

    March 31, 2009 at 10:42 PM

    Assalamualaikum

    JazakAllah khairan katheeran… a much needed piece.

  8. Allah's slave

    April 7, 2009 at 4:44 PM

    Bismillah

    Assalaamualekum wa rehmatullahi wabarkatuhu
    Jazakh Allah Khair for this excellent article…i tend to identify with the latter category of muslims thinking who am i to judge anyone…or know what is in their hearts…but thank you for giving a clearer perspective…it makes good sense!

    Although balancing softnessharshness approach would be a difficult act to carry … one thing i always wonder is cant a person offer nasiha according to their innate nature…i mean a naturally soft person using a soft approach and vice versa since it would be coming straight from the heart but since you explained the sunnah is to use both i guess thats where hikma kicks in …may Allah swt help us attain that kind of wisdom aameen

    Jazakh Allah Khair once again!

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