The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “That person who taunts and ridicules his Muslim brother over a sin from which he has repented, will not die until he himself commits that same sin.” For example, you come to know that a certain person committed or was involved in a particular sin and you also know that this person has repented from it. To think low of him or to taunt or ridicule him because of that sin, by saying something like: “You are the one who was involved in certain evil actions”, is in itself a sin.
Through repentance a person has corrected his relationship with Allah Most High. Through repentance not only has the sin been forgiven, it has also been erased from his book of deeds! Allah Most High has erased it from his book of deeds but you, because of that sin, are thinking low of him and treating him with contempt. You are taunting and ridiculing him. This action is extremely despised by Allah Most High.
This is regarding a person whom you know has repented. If you don’t know whether he has repented or not, then there is always this possibility that he, being a mu’min (believer), has repented or will repent in the future. Therefore, if someone has committed a sin and you do not know whether he has repented or not, you still do not have the right to hold him in contempt. It is possible that he has repented. Remember! Abhorrence should be for the sin and not the sinner! Hatred should be for sins. Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not teach us to despise those who sin.
On the other hand, the sinner is worthy of pity and compassion, for this distressed person has been overtaken by a sickness. If a person is overtaken by a physical sickness, do you abhor his sickness or the person who is sick? Does the sick person become the target of your hatred? Obviously, the sick person is not deserving of your hatred. Yes, despise his sickness. Concern yourself with removing his sickness, so make du’a. The sick person should not be the target of hatred. He should be pitied for the reason that this poor person is caught up in a difficulty.
If someone is a kafir (disbeliever) then despise his kufr (disbelief), do not despise him. Make du’a for him that Allah Most High grants him guidance. Amin. How much did the kuffar (disbelievers) not persecute the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace)? They shot at him with arrows, they pelted stones at him, and his body bled from various places, but the words that flowed from his mouth were the following: “O Allah! Grant my people guidance, for they do not know the reality” (of this din).
Take note that that he did not despise them because of their kufr, shirk (associating partners with Allah), oppression and transgressions. Rather, while expressing pity and affection, he made du’a for them that ‘O Allah! These people are ignorant. They are unaware of the reality; therefore they are treating me in this manner. O Allah! Grant them guidance’.
So when seeing someone involved in sin, have pity on him and make du’a for him and try to steer him away from sin. Advise and counsel him but do not think low of him. Perhaps Allah accepts his repentance and he surpasses you in the sight of Allah.
I have heard the following words of advice of Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi from my respected father, Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ and ‘Arif Billah Dr. Abdul Hayy ‘Arifi (may Allah have mercy on them): “I consider every current Muslim and every non Muslim, as far as the future is concerned to be superior to me.” “As far as the future is concerned” means that although the person is presently in the condition of kufr, maybe Allah Most High grants him the tawfiq (guidance) of repenting and he is freed from the burden of kufr. Thereafter, Allah Most High raises his status so high that he surpasses me!
“Every current Muslim” means that a person who is a Muslim, a person of iman (true faith), one whom Allah Most High has granted the wealth of iman. What do I know regarding his connection and status with Allah Most High? Every person’s relationship with Allah Most High is unique. How can we judge anyone? Therefore, I consider every Muslim to be superior to me.
In this statement of Hakim al-Ummah, “I consider every Muslim to be superior to me”, there is obviously no possibility of lies and deception, or that he just said it out of moral courtesy. He said it because he firmly believed it. Anyway, to think low of someone, even though it is due to his committing of sin, is not permissible.
This malady of regarding others with contempt is found mostly in people who have reformed and turned towards din (Islam). They were not concerned with din previously but now have changed and became steadfast on salah and fasting. They have made their dressing and appearance in conformity with the Shari’ah. They have started frequenting the masjid. They have become regular in performing salah with congregation.1 Satan induces such a person with this thought that you are now on the straight path. These people who are involved in sin are ruined. The result of this thought is that he starts thinking low of them and treats them with contempt. He now starts criticizing them in a hurtful manner. This results in Satan involving such people in vanity, self-regard and pride. When a person suffers from self-regard and pride, all his good actions are destroyed.
When a person’s gaze falls on himself that he is pious and others are bad then he is caught up in vanity. Vanity causes all good actions to become worthless. Only that action is acceptable which is done with sincerity for Allah Most High alone. After performing the action the person makes shukr (gives thanks) unto Allah Most High that He granted me the tawfiq to perform this action (if He did not grant me the tawfiq, I would never have been able to carry out this action).
Therefore, do not treat anyone with contempt. Do not think low of any non-Muslim or any sinner.
It is mentioned in a hadith that when seeing a person afflicted with any sickness, recite the following du’a:
اَلْحَمْدُ للهِ الَّذِىْ عَافَانِىْ مِمَّا ابْتَلاَكَ بِه وَ فَضَّلَنِىْ عَلَى كَثِيْرٍ مِّمَّنْ خَلَقَ تِفْضِيْلاً
All praises are due unto Allah, who has granted me safety from that which he has afflicted you with, and granted me well-being over many of the creation. (Al-Hisn al-Hasin, p.349)
It is sunnah to recite this du’a when seeing an afflicted person. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) taught us this (Note: it should be recited softly lest the afflicted person is offended).
Shaykh Dr. Abdul Hayy ‘Arifi (may Allah have mercy on him) used to say: “Whenever I pass by a hospital, then, praises be to Allah, I always recite this du’a.” He would also make du’a that Allah grants the sick good health.
One of my teachers used to say that Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) taught us to recite this du’a when seeing a sick person, but I also recite it when seeing someone involved in sin. Sometimes when walking on the road I see people lined up at the cinema houses purchasing tickets. I recite this du’a on seeing them. Then I make shukr unto Allah Most High that He has saved me from this sin.
The reason for reciting this du’a when seeing a person involved in sin is that just as a physically sick person is worthy of pity, so is the sinner worthy of pity and sympathy, for he is also caught up in a predicament. Also, make du’a for him that: “O Allah! Remove this difficulty from him.”
It should be known that those who are presently involved in sin and you consider them low and worthy of contempt may later on receive the tawfiq of repentance and surpass you! So for what reason are you boasting? If you have been granted the tawfiq of abstaining from sin then make shukr unto Allah Most High. If they haven’t as yet received the tawfiq, then make du’a for them that Allah Most High grants them guidance and grants them relief from their afflictions. Amin.
Anyway, despise kufr, despise sin and transgression, but do not despise the person. In fact, you should treat him with love and kindness. When you speak to him, speak with softness and affection. Speak with feeling and love so that it may have a good effect on him. This was always the method of all our pious elders.
I heard this story of Hadrat Junayd al-Baghdadi (may Allah have mercy on him) from my respected father Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ (may Allah have mercy on him). While passing a certain place, Hadrat Junayd saw a person hanging from the gallows, whose hands and one leg was amputated. He inquired from the people regarding this person. The people informed him that this person was a habitual thief. His hand was cut when he was caught the first time. His leg was cut when caught the second time. Now on the third occasion he has been hanged. Hadrat Junayd went forward and kissed the dead man’s foot. People said to him: “This man was such a big and habitual thief, and you kissed his feet?” He replied: “Although he had committed such a big crime and sin for which he has been punished, but he had a wonderful quality in him, and that is steadfastness (istiqamah). Although he used this quality in a wrong way, however, he remained steadfast on the manner of his chosen occupation. His hand was amputated but he never left his choice. His leg was amputated yet he remained steadfast on theft. His other hand was amputated and still he did not give up his occupation. He remained steadfast on theft until finally his life has been taken. It is now apparent that he had the quality of steadfastness in him and I kissed his foot because of this quality.” May Allah Most High grant us this quality in our worship and obedience unto Him. Amin.
Anyway, the pious servants of Allah do not despise people but despise the evils perpetrated by them. They (the pious) go to the extent of saying that if an evil person has any good qualities in him then those good qualities should be striven for! Concern yourself with trying to remove the bad qualities in a person by speaking to him with love and affection. Speak only to him and do not speak to others about him.
It is mentioned in a hadith: “A believer (mu’min) is a mirror to another believer” (Abu Dawud). If a person has a spot on his face and stands in front of a mirror, the mirror will reflect that spot on his face. The mirror is showing him his defects. In the same way, a believer is also a mirror to another believer. When a believer sees another with a defect, he should inform him with love and affection that you have this certain weakness in you, remove it.
It is just like when a person has a worm or any insect crawling on him, then out of concern you inform him that there is an insect crawling on him, so remove it. Similarly, if a Muslim brother has a dini defect in him, then with love and affection, inform him that he has this defect in him, because a believer is a mirror to another believer.
Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanawi says that this hadith teaches us that when you see a fault in another person, then inform only that person of this fault, do not tell it to others. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) compared a believer to a mirror. The mirror only exposes the spot on the face to the person standing in front of it and not to others. Thus, the duty of a believer is to inform the person involved that he has a certain weakness in him and not to inform others of his weakness. If a person also tells others then it implies that he has acted upon his own evil desires and this will not be an act of din anymore. If he only informs and advises the afflicted person with love and concern, then this is what iman (true faith) and brotherhood demands. But to despise or think low of him is not permissible under any circumstance.
May Allah Most High grant us the understanding and the guidance to practice on this. Amin.
- Obviously this is not always the case. There are those among the reformed who are not like this. Also, there are those who have always been regular on their din but suffer from this malady. The respected author is saying that this malady is mostly found in such people, but not always. (Translator) [↩]