People are very quick to form judgements on others, and mostly without looking at themselves first. Being quick to criticize someone, a muslim or a non-muslim, is something to be avoided because we do not know a persons intention, and they may be far better than us.
A person’s outward actions
Right now, all we see are the actions that the person has done so far in their life. We do not know later on what they will be doing, or that in secret they might be giving away lots of charity (for instance) which pleases Allah, and maybe they will be much better than us.
Hadith #4 of Imam Nawawi
Prophet Muhammad said:
[…] I swear by Allah – there is no God but He – one of you may perform the deeds of the people of Paradise till there is naught but an arm’s length between him and it, when that which has been written will outstrip him so that he performs the deeds of the people of the Hell Fire; one of you may perform the deeds of the people of the Hell Fire, till there is naught but an arm’s length between him and it, when that which has been written will overtake him so that he performs the deeds of the people of Paradise and enters therein.”
[Al-Bukhari & Muslim, Narrated by Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud]
Read the full hadith here
The lesson to be taken
We may see someone not acting in accordance with Allah’s actions and judge them to be a bad person. Only Allah knows their Niyyah (Intention) and later on in life they may be more succesful than us. We should focus on sharpening ourselves and strengthening ur good deeds rather than bickering with other people about details of their life.
Make 70 excuses
Hamdun al-Qassar, one of the great early Muslims, said:
“If a friend among your friends errs, make seventy excuses for them. If your hearts are unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own selves [ibid]“
And the words of Imam Jafar as-Sadiq
“If you find see something you don’t like in a brother, try to find 1-70 excuses for him. And if you can’t find an excuse, say ‘There might be an excuse, but I don’t know it.’ “
This is a very solid rule to live by when you see someone doing something wrong, because you won’t waste time worrying about them or trying to change them – one of the 70 excuses could be that maybe their Niyyah is not to do something wrong, or they do not know, or they will realize later and try to correct their mistake.
If we think they do not know what they are doing is wrong we should try to tell them in a gentle way. Pointing fingers and calling a muslim ‘Kaafir!’ is highly unlikely to be productive!
Prophet Musa and A;-Khidr
In Surah Al Kahf from ayah 60 till 82, is the story of Prophet Musa and Khidr. To sum up the story briefly, Prophet Musa followed a learned man called Al-Khidr to get guidance. He kept seeing Al-Khidr do actions that to Musa seemed wrong and Musa would speak up and point out that they were wrong. At the end, it turned out that Al-Khidrs intention had been good all along and though his actions seemed wrong he was actually doing them to benefit the people. This shows us that there are things of which we have no knowledge and should not think that we do.
Being harsh to non-Muslims
We will undoubtedly see non-Muslims behaving in ways that are not in accordance to our beliefs (obviously, because they are non-Muslims and don’t have the same lifestyle as a Muslim). Before we judge them and call them ‘Kufaar’ (a harsh term that is translated as ‘Infidels’ but really means someone who hides or covers, in this case, tey are covering up the truth from their Lord by denying it), we should think about the fact that all the people at the Prophet’s time were converts to Islam. They might have done actions that before were wrong but they converted to Islam and corrected their ways.
Ibn Umar, one of the closest companions of the Prophet, was on his way to kill the Prophet when he then converted (read his full story here, it’s very interesting). Now if someone saw him on his way to kill the Prophet and said ‘Kaafir! Infidel!’, they would be wrong in that judgement because he went on to become one of the strongest Muslims and leaders of our Ummah.
Calling muslims Kaafir
We should not call fellow muslims Kaafir, (which is a very common thing these days).
Prophet Muhammad said:
“If a man addresses his brother as, ‘O’ Disbeliever’ (Kaafir) it returns to one of them; either it is as he said or it returns to him.”
Sahih Bukhari 10/427 and Sahih Muslim 60, Narrated by Ibn Umar
This means that if a Muslim calls a Muslim a Kaafir, then one of them is a Kaafir but it is not the one who is being accused but rather the one who is making the judgement.
We need to stand united as an Ummah, now more than ever when outside forces are trying to divide us all (divide and conquer!). We may not always agree wth each other but we need to focus on what we do agree on; that Allah is One and Muhammad is his Messenger. Anything after that is between us and Allah. Abu Bakr and Umar had different ways of ruling when they were Caliphs, and they never called each other Kaafir or quarreled extensively over their small differences. This is because we can only work with the knowledge we have to the best of our abilities and understandings. If someone doesn’t agree with us it’s okay; you’re never going to meet someone who agrees with you 100% on everything.
All judgement belongs to Allah
The Youm-Al Qiyaam, the Day of Judgement, is called that for a reason. Allah is the best of all judges and on that day everyone will be judged acording to their actions. We are merely human beings who have little understanding of these matters, so we should focus on ourselves so that we are not judged harshly by Allah on that day, rather than spending our energy on judging others.
Insha’Allah Allah will give us all guidance, and help us to help others.