Advising a Muslim of His Faults

If a Muslim sees a shortcoming in another Muslim’s deen, then he should not point him out in public in front of others and make apparent to other’s his shortcoming(s). This is not the correct etiquette in dealing with one’s brother in deen and giving him advice. The Muslims are suppose to try and increase love and harmony between each other but such attitudes only cause disharmony and enmity between Muslims in the community. Rather, it is a way of putting one’s brother or sister down in front of others and degrading them from respect and labeling them with bad attributes. This hurts the honor and position of a Muslim in the community and in particular in front of those Muslims amongst whom he is ridiculed. And the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have said when asked which believer in Islam is most excellent that, “One from whose tongue and hand the Muslims are safe” (Muslim). When finding faults in other Muslims, a Muslim should keep some of the following points (amongst others) in mind:

Be aware of the differences of opinion – It is well known that the scholars of Islam differed on many issues of the deen, which resulted in many differences of opinion among them. It may be that the brother/sister follows an opinion that views that action as permissible. Or maybe he follows the opinion that the action is not obligatory but rather just recommended. So the Muslim should think about this before trying to criticize his brothers and sisters. And he should research thoroughly to make sure there are not any other valid opinions on this matter before opening one’s mouth.

Ignorance of the ruling – It may be that he/she is ignorant of the ruling that it is prohibited. It may be that the knowledge and the evidence regarding that particular action being prohibited never reached the individual. So, rather than openly criticizing other Muslims, one should take the possibility that his brother in the deen may be ignorant of the ruling, which is a valid excuse.

Weakness in one’s faith – It may be that that brother or sister is just weak in faith. And it may be that he/she is under certain circumstances, problems, concerns, etc. which one may not be aware of. We are not in their shoes and are not aware of the circumstances in their lives and why they are choosing to do a certain prohibited action. It may be that he/she feels bad in their heart but are not currently able to leave that prohibition either due to weak faith, certain circumstances, problems, and other possible scenarios. So a Muslim should always give his brother or sister the benefit of doubt before judging them.

Advise with wisdom – If a Muslim really feels that he would like to give advice to his brother or sister regarding a prohibited action, then it should be done with wisdom. He should not call him out in front of others and put them on the spot. Rather, there are certain etiquettes in prohibiting evil in others. Of these etiquettes is that you take him to a separate location and talk to him in secret and advise him with love, care, and kindness. It is not appropriate to point people out in public with regards to their faults and is usually only done by the ignorant. The people of knowledge do not do this nor do they advise others to do so. Rather, they take people to the side and advise them in privacy or advise in a general manner to everyone not specifying who they are referring to. Because this is the proper etiquette when advising your brothers and sisters in Islam. Another etiquette is that you advise them at appropriate times and places. A Muslim should look for the appropriate time and place to advise his brother. For example, it is not appropriate to advise them when they are in a hurry to leave your company due to an important matter. So, the point here is that it should be done with wisdom and a Muslim should try to seek the appropriate manner, time, and place to advise his brother in Islam.

And Allah Knows Best.

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