Judging Others: How to Avoid Encouraging Evil and Discouraging Good Unintentionally

Judging Others - GSalam.Net

Alhamdulillah… Infinite thanks and praise are due to the Almighty Allah, the One and Only who own the authority of judging others. Complete blessings and salutations are upon the most guided person in judging others, Sayyidinā Muhammad, his household, his companions and all those who follow his guided path.

This article is a reflection on how to avoid encouraging evil or discouraging good unintentionally. It’s observed, that we embrace good acts from individuals with an unacceptable appearance at the same time when we demean those in Islamically acceptable appearance when they are seen committing wrongdoings.

How We Are in Judging Others

A tattooed brother is seen praying, reading the Qur’an or giving charity. We are awed and ‘woooow,’ and become like “don’t judge the book by its cover. I told you!” Similarly, we hear about a young man who died in a disco, and we jump to his defence, “who knows, maybe he went there to advise disco-goers and remind them about Allah!”

On the other hand, a hijabi sister or a bearded brother is caught red-handed committing a wrongdoing. And we are like, “I told you: all that glitters is not gold.” Likewise, we hear about a man who died in the mosque, and we jump into conclusion that, “he went to show off; who knows!”

The scenarios presented above are real, and they happen. However, they are not the problem. Our reactions are, indeed, problematic. The impressions these double-standard reactions give are disastrous than just passing quick judgements.

In both real-life scenarios, we are wrong in our reactions (you can call it judgement). We are (unlikely) knowingly or (likely) unknowingly encouraging bad or sin, and discouraging good. We are simply telling others, not to look at those who go to the mosques regularly with admiration. And they should embrace disco-going fellows, for they may be potentially good Qur’an readers.

The possibility of the one dying in the mosque having gone there to show off is true. But how do we know that? How do we come to such a conclusion? Unless we have received a revelation from God, or the person has verbally indicated his intention, we are wrong to pass judgement on him. Similarly, isn’t it possible that the tattooed brother is also praying to show off; to tell us that despite being tattooed, he also knows how read the Qur’an with a style (swaga)?

Let’s agree, that a tattooed person who frequents to the mosque might have repented and regretted his past. No doubt, he did that in his moments of weakness. The same thing applies to the one who died in the disco. We should also agree, that the hijabi or the bearded Muslim, while he or she is caught red-handed, is in his moments of weakness.

In situations like this, we have two options:

We are to reach out to him or her and extend our advice. Whether they accept it or not, we are doing our social responsibility. It’s needless to indicate, that if we choose this option, we must apply a wise approach (ḥikmah) as per the teachings of Islam.

The other option is, in the case we don’t have the courage to lend our advice, we make du’a for the person, to be strengthened and taken out of this moment of weakness.

Imām al-Tirmidhī reports from the narration of Sayyidinā Ḥudhayfah, raḍiya Allāhu ‘anhu, that the Messenger of Allah ṣallā Allāhu’alayhi wa sallam said:

وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ لَتَأْمُرُنَّ بِالمَعْرُوفِ، وَلَتَنْهَوُنَّ عَنِ المُنْكَرِ، أَوْ لَيُوشِكَنَّ اللهُ أَنْ يَبْعَثَ عَلَيْكُمْ عِقَابًا مِنْهُ، ثُمَّ تَدْعُونَهُ فلا يُسْتَجَابَ لَكُمْ

“By Him in Whose Hand my life is, you either enjoin good and forbid evil, or Allah will certainly soon send His punishment to you. Then you will make supplication and it will not be accepted.”

This is to say, that the tattooed guy’s moments of weakness have passed. Now is the moments of weakness for the hijabi sister or the bearded brother, and it shall pass. Our moments of weakness are coming to pass. Can we ensure we will pass its test?

Imām al-Bukhārī reports from the narration of Sayyidunā Abū Hurayrah raḍiya Allāhu ‘anhu, that a Bedouin urinated in the mosque and some people rushed to beat him up. The Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:

دَعُوهُ وَأَرِيقُوا عَلَى بَوْلِهِ سِجْلاً مِنْ مَاءٍ، أَوْ ذَنُوباً مِنْ مَاءٍ، فَإِنَّمَا بُعِثْتُمْ مُيَسَّرِينَ وَلَمْ تُبْعَثُوا مُعَسَّرِينَ

“Leave him alone and pour a bucket of water over it. You have been sent to make things easy and not to make them difficult.”

The Bedouin’s presence in the mosque was commendable. He didn’t know much about Islam, and that didn’t prevent him from coming to learn. However, it was wrong that he urinated in the mosque. While the companions wanted to whack him–just like many of us will do today, the best teacher, Rasūlullah ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam came in to teach both parties (the Bedouin and the companions) the manners of Islam. Therefore, the companions were told to treat people like that with consideration and compassion. He didn’t call them names, nor did he say to them, “all that glitters is not gold.”

As for the Bedouin, he was taught the etiquettes of the mosque. In another hadīth reported by Imām Muslim from the narration of Sayyidinā Anas ibn Mālik, The Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam said to the Bedouin:

إِنَّ هَذِهِ الْمَسَاجِدَ لاَ تَصْلُحُ لِشَىْءٍ مِنْ هَذَا الْبَوْلِ وَلاَ الْقَذَرِ إِنَّمَا هِيَ لِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ وَالصَّلاَةِ وَقِرَاءَةِ الْقُرْآنِ

“These mosques are not the places meant for urine and filth, but are only for the remembrance of Allah, prayer and the recitation of the Qur’an.”

He, ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam used his wisdom (ḥikmah) and educational (tarbiyah) method to teach the Bedouin. He didn’t hail him as a hero.

In Islam…

In Islam, good deeds are commanded and should be applauded always. However, in the end, Allah decides who was sincere and who wasn’t.  In other words, we are encouraged to learn and read the Qur’an. And we should enjoin others to it. We are also encouraged to give charity. And we should enjoin others to it.

Likewise, we are required to pray punctually. And we should enjoin others to it. It is known, that Muslim males and females are required to dress modestly. And we should remind each other about this.

In a nutshell, we are encouraged to observe all sorts of righteous deeds. And we should encourage others, too, to observe them.

Also in Islam…

Also in Islam, bad deeds are rejected always. Only Allah excuses and grants forgiveness to those with good intention or valid excuses. Therefore, it’s wrong to have tattoos. And it’s never something cool, nor does it make anyone cool. It’s also wrong to steal (corruption included).

Corruption, likewise any form of cheating or stealing, does not affect only you. It affects your offspring and those you feed as well (see: Haram Income: Its Effects on the Individual, His Loved Ones and the Society). It’s wrong to flirt the opposite gender (except your spouse). It leads to greater immorality (see: 15 Dangers of Zina Which the Muslim Should Know).

In a nutshell, Islam prohibits us from committing sinful acts, and it also forbids us from praising wrong doers. If you can’t stop it, don’t praise it.

Discussion and Conclusion

The ability to overcome one’s desire to hang out with a bad company, and instead, go to the mosque to pray is a strength, which we should motivate each other to uphold. Putting in the effort to learn and read the Qur’an is a strength, that every parent must ensure to instill in his children (See: Magnitude of the Qur’an Every Muslim Parent Should Teach His Children). The quality of giving is another strength that erodes greediness and purifies the heart from corruption. However, having tattoo on one’s body reflects weakness. Drinking, taking drugs or going to discos reflect other forms of weaknesses. We don’t expose its victims. We don’t look down on them. But it’s not cool to be in state of that weakness. And we shouldn’t hail them as heroes.

On the other hand, being caught red-handed stealing or abusing an elderly folk is a weakness. Likewise, falling to one’s desire to flirt women (or men) is also another weakness. We should help its victims to overcome such weaknesses. But these weaknesses don’t undermine the strength of dressing modestly, as it’s a religious obligation for Muslim men and women. Nor do they undermine upholding a quality that the Prophet has commanded Muslim men to observe; keeping a beard. It does not nullify the other (possible) many strengths they may possess.

We should be careful, not to normalize immorality just because we don’t want to offend its committers if we condemn it. Don’t condemn it; but use a wise approach to send a clear message, that it’s wrong. We should also not lose the moral courage to commend good deeds because we doubt the intention and sincerity of its doers.

As much as we don’t judge, for it is only God who knows what are hidden in the breasts, we don’t ridicule doing good and normalize what is prescribed in Islam as essentially immoral and sinful.

We shouldn’t take anyone as an angel. Neither a hijabi nor a bearded Muslim. Similarly, just because one reads the Qur’an or is seen giving charity doesn’t make tattoos a cool thing. Tattoos is haram in Islam.

In the name of not judging others, we should be consistent in not judging anyone. In the name of not judging others, we should recognize the weakness and help its victims to overcome it. And in the name of not judging others, we should recognize the strengths of our Muslim brethren and praise them whenever they make good use of it.

May Allah grant every Muslim a good ending. Āmīn!

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Allah knows best.
Allahu Hafiz 🙂