The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The religion is naseehah (sincerity).” We said, “To whom?” He (ﷺ) said, “To Allah, His Book, His Messenger, to the leaders of the Muslims and their common folk.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
This is a great hadith. It gathers all of the affairs of the religion in one expression through the statement, “The religion is naseehah.” So the Prophet (peace be upon him) defined religion as naseehah (sincerity) just as he defined Hajj as ‘Arafah [in a separate hadith]. By doing so, the Prophet is elevating its importance and position in the religion.
Naseehah is [so important that it is] the job of the messengers (may Allah be pleased with them) because they were sent to warn their people from the punishment of Allah and to call them to the worship of Allah alone and His obedience. This is why when Prophet Nuh (Noah) addressed his people, he clarified to them the goals of his call by saying, “I convey to you the messages of my Lord and advise you; and I know from Allah what you do not know.” [Qur’an 7:62] And when the earthquake took hold of the people of Prophet Salih, he said to them, “O my people, I had certainly conveyed to you the message of my Lord and advised you, but you do not like advisers.” [Qur’an 7:79]
The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) followed the footsteps of the prophets before him in this regard. He presented to us the most magnificent of examples in giving advice. And he would change and diversify its methods according to the various circumstances of the people. It is sufficient for us to mention just one example to highlight his wise attitude in this regard. It is mentioned that once a Bedouin came into the mosque and started to urinate. The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) didn’t rebuke him, rather, the Prophet waited until the Bedouin finished urinating. Abu Hurayrah narrated the incident as follows:
A bedouin urinated in the mosque, and the people rushed to beat him. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) ordered them to leave him and pour a bucket or a tumbler (full) of water over the place where he has passed urine. The Prophet then said, ” You have been sent to make things easy (for the people) and you have not been sent to make things difficult for them.” (Bukhari)
Meaning of Naseehah to Allah
Now, going back to the original hadith above, the Prophet (ﷺ) clearly points out the recipients of naseehah. The first of these recipients is Allah. There are many meanings which fall under it and among the greatest of which is sincerity to Allah in all actions. Similarly, from among its meanings is that the slave continuously remembers his Lord and Master in all of his affairs and circumstances. His tongue does not go dry from the remembrance (dhikr) of Allah. And from the naseehah to Allah is to defend the honor of the religion and defend against the doubts of the liars/wrongdoers. He calls to Allah with all of his faculties vowing to himself to serve the religion of Allah. It has other meanings as well.
Meaning of Naseehah to His Book
The origin of naseehah is ikhlaas (sincerity, honesty, loyalty, attachment, allegiance, etc.) Therefore, ikhlaas is in everything in accordance to it. So ikhlaas to the Book of Allah means to perfect its recitation as Allah Says [meaning of which is]: “And recite the Qur’an calmly and distinctly.” (Qur’an 73:4) It also means to reflect and contemplate over its great meanings and to act in accordance to it. Then to teach it to the people.
Meaning of Naseehah to His Messenger
It means to believe in and submit to whatever he (ﷺ) reported to us from revelation even if our understanding of it is limited with regards to some of the realities behind his pure Sunnah. The basis of our deep faith is that everything the he came with is all a revelation from Allah. It also means to obey the Messenger in whatever he commanded and to follow him in his guidance and Sunnah. This is a shining proof of his love for the Prophet (ﷺ).
Meaning of Naseehah to the Leaders of the Muslims
It is referring to both the scholars and the leaders [of the Muslims]. The scholars are leaders in religious matters, whereas, the others are leaders in worldly matters.
Giving naseehah to the scholars means to receive knowledge from them, to assemble around them, and to spread their virtues among the people until the hearts of the people become attached to them. It also means to not follow their mistakes and stumbles. Verily, this is from the greatest of injustice and unfairness towards them.
As for giving naseehah to the worldly leaders of the Muslims, it means helping them to carry out the burdens of leadership and firmly encourage them upon the truth. It also means to obey them in all that which is known to be good (ma’roof).
Meaning of Naseehah to the Common Folk Muslims
It means that you love for them what you love for yourself. You direct them to that which will be in their favor in this life and the afterlife. You also guide them [back] to the truth if they depart from it and remind them if they forget [the truth]. In addition, you continue to do so through forbearance and kindness towards them and by that [behavior] the unity of the Muslims is achieved so that they become like one body “so that, if any part of the body is not well then the whole body shares the sleeplessness (insomnia) and fever with it.” (Bukhari)