Islamic Perspectives

Advising is linked to secrecy, condemning to publicizing

Imam Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali
(died in Damascus, Syria, on 14 July, 1393)

Al-Fudail (rahimahullah) said: “The believer conceals (the sin of his brother) and advises (him), while the evildoer disgraces and condemns (him).”

This is what Al-Fudail has mentioned as being the signs of advising and condemning -- that advising is done secretly while condemning is done through publicizing the advice.

It used to be said in early Islam, “Whosoever orders his brother (to do good) at the head of a gathering, then he has condemned him.” The Salaf used to hate that commanding good and forbidding evil be done in this manner. Instead, they loved that it be done privately between the one commanding and the one being commanded, for indeed, this is a sign of sincere advice.

This is because it is not the goal of the one who is advising to spread and publicize the faults of the person being advised -- rather his goal is only to put an end to the evil that he has fallen into.

As for spreading and exposing someone’s faults, then that is something that Allah and His Messenger (pbuh) have forbidden. Allah, The Exalted, says,

“Verily, those who love that evil and indecent actions of those who believe should be propagated, they will have a painful torment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows and you know not. And had it not been for the grace of Allah and His mercy on you, (Allah would have hastened the punishment on you) and Allah is Full of Kindness, Most Merciful.” (Surah An-Noor: 19-20)

The ahadeeth concerning the virtue of keeping the faults of others secret are many.  Some of the scholars would say to those who were commanding towards good, “Strive hard to conceal the faults of the sinners, for indeed, exposing their faults shows a weakness (in one’s belief) in Islam. What deserves the most to be concealed is one’s faults.”

It is for this reason that publicizing someone’s evil and indecent actions is tantamount to condemning him since it is not the goal of the evildoer to put an end to the fault nor that the believer avoids that fault or defect in future. Rather, his only goal is to spread and publicize the defects found in his believing brother, and to destroy his honour. So he initiates that and repeats it. And his intention is to belittle his believing brother by exposing his defects and bad qualities to the people so that some harm can fall upon him in this world.

But as the person who sincerely advises aims at eradicating the faults found in his believing brother and tries to help him avoid it. This is what Allah the Most High, has described to His Messenger (pbuh) by saying, “Verily, there has come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any harm or difficulty. He is anxious about you (to rid you of faults and sins), for the believers he is full of pity, kind and merciful.” (Surah At-Tawbah: 128)

And Allah described the Prophet’s Companions saying,

“Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. And those who are with him are severe with the disbelievers and merciful towards one another.” (Surah Al-Fath: 29)

And Allah described the believers with the characteristics of patience and mutually advising one another towards mercy and compassion.

What drives the evildoer to propagate his brother’s evil and to disgrace him is force and harshness, his love for abusing his believing brother, and (his desire) to inflict some harm upon him. These are the characteristics of the Satan - the one who beautifies disbelief, sin and disobedience to the children of Adam so that they may join the ranks of the dwellers of Hell, as Allah says,

“Verily, the Satan is an enemy for you, so take him as an enemy. Verily, he only calls his party (of followers) to be from amongst the dwellers of the Hell.” (Surah Fatir: 6)

And Allah says after telling us the story of Iblees (the Satan) when he was with the Prophet of Allah, Adam, and the evil plot that he unleashed on him, such that it brought him to be thrown out of Paradise, “O Children of Adam! Let not the Devil deceive you as he got your parents out of Paradise, stripping them of their garments, to show them their private parts.” (Surah Al-A’araaf: 27)

So what a difference there is between one whose intention it is to advise (offer nasihah) and one whose intention it is to disgrace (cause fadihah)! And no one confuses one of these with the other, except someone who does not possess sound intellect.