Consider following some of these tips when correcting others.
Purify Your intentions: Our intentions, whether explicit or hidden, act as the catalyst in determining the final outcome of our actions. The Prophet (S.A.W.S.) said: “Actions are but by intentions and each person will have but that which he intended” (narrated by al-Bukhaari (1) and Muslim (1907)).Therefore, whenever you decide to correct and advise others, pause to ask yourself if your intent is to sincerely help the other person or to rather punish and belittle the person by exposing his defects. Surprisingly, just asking the question can reveal your hidden intentions. That will provide you an opportunity to stop yourself if you are fueled by the wrong intentions that are hidden in your psyche, which in turn can lead you on the path of “condemning” others.
Reflect the sincerity of your intentions in your demeanor: Once you are clear about your intentions, your demeanor should also reflect a sincere wish on your part to provide suggestions for improvement to the other person. It would be difficult for you to convince the other person that your intentions are pure and clean if your action and words are demeaning and punishing to the other person. Any hint of such an attitude will cause the other person to activate his defenses rather than being open and receptive to your advice. This in turn will not only lead to resentment and the weakening of your relationship but will hurt your credibility, thus locking away all future opportunities as well.
Never publicize people’s faults: Unless there are valid reasons, when correcting others it is best to keep the interaction private rather making it public. If you do it, that will make the recipient of the advice feel more humiliated and exposed. Again, if your intention is to sincerely help the other person rather than exposing his defects, the affair should be kept private. Allah (SWT) has warned us in the Quran:“Verily, those who love that the evil and indecent actions of those who believe should be propagated (and spread), they will have a painful torment in this world and in 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 that Allah is full of kindness, Most Merciful” (An Noor, 24:19, 20). According to Al-Hasan, and as reported in At-Tirmidhee and other collections in marfoo’ form [i.e. that the Prophet said]: “Whosoever condemns his brother for a sin (he committed) that he repented from, will not die until he has committed it (i.e. the same sin) himself.” Al-Fudail, one of the salaf, said: “The believer conceals (the sin of his brother) and advises (him), while the evildoer disgraces and condemns (him).”
In this context, we should, therefore, also refrain from gossips and other idle talk that can lead us to discuss people’s faults. Let’s remind ourselves of the stern warnings both from Allah and His prophet about those who engage in spreading others’ defects.
Don’t go after looking at people’s faults: While advising people of their faults with the sincere intention of correcting them is acceptable, as Muslims we are also advised not to go on a witch hunt looking after other people’s faults. The prophet (S.A.W.S.) said, “O you group of people that believe with your tongues while not with your hearts! Do not abuse the Muslims nor seek after their faults. For indeed, he who seeks after their (other people’s) faults, Allah will seek after his faults. And whomsoever has Allah seek after his faults, He will expose them, even if he may have committed them in the privacy of his own home” (reported by Abu Ya’laa in his Musnad (1675) and with a strong chain of narration in Ahmad (4/421 & 424) and Abu Dawood (4880) and other soruces).
Refer people to the truth of Islam: As Muslims, when correcting someone, we should always refer them to the teachings of Islam and the prophet. This tells the other person that you aren’t forcing your opinions on them but rather simply reminding them about the divine commandments related to those matters. This will make the person more receptive to the advice rather than becoming defensive.
Understand the difference between ‘naseehah’ and ‘fadeehah’: Ibn hajar in his book points out that we should be careful to note the difference between giving advice (naseehah), and disgracing the other (fadeehah) and taking joy in it. The Prophet (S.A.W.S.) cautioned us when he said: “Do not express joy at your brother’s misfortune or else Allah will pardon him for it and test you with it” (reported by multiple sources including by At-Tabaraanee in Al-Kabeer (22/53)).
This hadith therefore warns us not to rejoice at other people’s misfortunes because we could be punished by it as well. Consider that when Ibn Sireen failed to return a debt he owed and was detained because of it, he said: “Indeed, I am aware of the sin (I committed) by which this befell me. I condemned a man forty years ago saying to him: ‘O bankrupt one.’”
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