Walk the Walk or Shut Up, Quit Fakin’ the Funk(?!?!)
April 7, 2007 3 Comments
I recently took part in a discussion in the comments section to Umar Lee’s blog under an entry titled Movies and pretending like you don’t go. Some of the comments made to this entry are what prompted me to write this one.
In the post written by Umar, he was criticizing brothers and sisters who criticized another brother for posting up a review about the movie 300 that was recently released in theatres earlier this month. The brother who wrote the review (who I won’t name here) was apparently chastised for writing the review and was pressured to take it down by some “Muslim phonies (who [Umar’s] sure were watching TV as they were typing)” —how he’s so certain of that, only Allah knows. The brother then posted an apology for the review, which has subsequently been taken down as well (I haven’t read the brother’s blog myself, this info is strictly from what was mentioned on Umar’s blog).
Anyhow, one brother commented on the entry by Umar and his criticism stating, “It’s called covering your sins. There is nothing honorable or praiseworthy about broadcasting sin. Yes, we all sin, but I shouldn’t broadcast it to the world.” While the brother’s statement is Islamically true and correct, a couple of the brothers and sisters found contention with it and basically went on about hypocrisy and (perceived) pretentiousness in hiding one’s sins, walking the walk or shutting up, not fakin’ the funk, not changing what we are, etc. This, despite the fact that in an authentic hadîth Prophet Muhammad, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, mentioned that all of his nation will be pardoned except those who are frank and candid about their sins. Brother Hood (pronounced hūd) Bradford, a student at the Islamic University in Madînah, has written a post on his blog about this hadîth (which I posted the link to in one of my comments to the post on Umar’s blog), you can read Hood’s post here.
One of the arguments made by those in contention to what the brother quoted above mentioned was that it’s hypocritical for one to criticize another who he sees committing a sin openly in public when he commits the same sin himself, even if he does so in secret. Now, while this is somewhat blameworthy and is something that Allah has criticized in the Qur’an when He said, «Do you not see that they roam everywhere while they say what they do not do?» (26:225-226), and «O those who believed, why do you say what you do not do? [What] is greater with Allah in hatred is that you say what you do not do» (61:2-3), an important distinction must be made between one who chastises or rebukes those committing sins while he himself is committing the same sins (whether secretly or publically) nonchalantly and between one who is struggling with his vices, who tries to stop the sins he’s committing but fails and feels shame and disgrace for having committed them, who also advises and reminds others who do the same things to either try their best to stop or at the very least hide them from others. The difference between these two types of people should be clear, and if Allah wills, I will mention some things related to this (i.e., a person’s sincerity) later on.
A distinction must also be made between one who sins openly in public, and between one who does so in secret. The one who sins in open and is frank and candid about what he does brings about more harm than one who sins in private and is ashamed of others discovering his faults and flaws. The one who sins in secret only harms himself, while the one who sins openly not only harms himself, but also those who witness him doing whatever he’s doing. This is because it is made to seem that there is nothing wrong with what he is doing, and thus, may lead those who witness him to doing the same. And this is something which we should all be cautious and weary of as Allah will punish us for the sins of those we lead to those sins; He, exalted is He, said, «they will carry their burdens in full on the Day of Standing, and [also] from the burdens of those they misguided without knowledge» (16:25). And in his Sahîh, Imam al-Bukhârî reports that Prophet Muhammad, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, said «There is not a soul killed oppressively except that upon the first son of Âdam is a guarantee from it (and perhaps Sufyân [i.e., one of the narrators in the chain] said, “from its blood”) [as] he introduced killing initially.»
In addition to this, we Muslims are obligated to advise, correct, and remind our brothers and sisters when we see them slipping or erring (of course, there is a proper and improper way of going about this, but discussing that is not the purpose of this post). In the famous authentic hadîth narrated by Abū Ruqayyah Tamîm bin Aws ad-Dârî (may Allah be pleased with him) and reported by Imams al-Bukhârî and Muslim in their Sahîhs, Prophet Muhammad (may Allah send salutations and peace upon him) said, «The religion is [sincere] advice.» His companions asked, “To whom?” He replied saying, «To Allah, to His book, to His messenger, and to the leaders of the Muslims as well as their general folk.» He, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, also stated in another famous authentic hadîth narrated by Abū Sa’îd al-Khudrî (may Allah be pleased with him) and reported by Imam Muslim, «Whoever of you sees a reprehensible act, then let him change it with his hand; then if he is not able, then with his tongue; then if he is not able, then with his heart—and that is the weakest of faith.»
Regarding the first hadîth, on pg. 44 of his Fat•h al-Qawî al-Matîn fî Sharh al-Arba’în wa Tatammah al-Khamsîn lin-Nawawî wa Ibn Rajab Rahimahumallah, Shaikh ‘Abdul-Muhsin al-’Abbâd explains,
[Regarding] his statement «The religion is [sincere] advice,» this is a comprehensive word that indicates the importance of advice in the religion and that it is its basis and its support. What came of the Messenger’s explanation of Islam, faith (Îmân), and excellence (Ihsân) in the hadîth of Gabriel is included under it, as he named that [i.e., Islam, faith, and excellence] ‘religion’ and he said, «This is Gabriel. He came to you teaching you your religion,» and this sentence resembles his statement, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, «The Hajj is [the day of] ‘Arafah» and that is because it [i.e., the day of ‘Arafah] is the greatest pillar of the Hajj by whose passing, the Hajj escapes [i.e., you miss the day of ‘Arafah, you lose your Hajj].
In the hadîth, Prophet Muhammad listed five to whom advice is to be given: i) Allah, ii) the Qur’an, iii) Prophet Muhammad, iv) the Muslim leaders, and v) the Muslim general folk. Each of these has its explanation, but the one I wish to focus on and mention here will be the explanation to the last, the Muslim general folk (if Allah wills that I have the time, I’ll post up the full explanation to this hadîth as given by Shaikh ‘Abdul-Muhsin al-’Abbâd sometime in the future). In his explanation of this hadîth the great imam, Abū ‘Amr bin as–Salâh (as quoted by Shaikh ‘Abdul-Muhsin on pgs. 45-46 of the same reference as above) said,
Advice to the general folk of the Muslims (here they are whoever is [from the Muslims], with the exception of those given the authority from them) is directing them to their benefits, teaching them the affairs of their religion and their worldly [life], veiling their imperfections, plugging up their voids, aiding them against their enemies and defending them, keeping away from disloyalty and envy for them, that one loves for them what he loves for himself and disliking for them what he dislikes for himself, and whatever resembles that.
Regarding the second hadîth, on pgs. 116-117 of Fat•h al-Qawî al-Matîn, Shaikh ‘Abdul-Muhsin al-’Abbâd explains,
This hadîth contains the levels of disavowal of the reprehensible act, and that changing [the reprehensible act] by the hand is incumbent on whoever is capable of it (this is from the sultân and his deputies in the [affairs of] general guardianships, and it is also from the owner of the house with regards to the people of his house in the [affairs of] specific guardianships; it is possible that the intent of the seeing of the reprehensible act is the optical seeing, or what contains it—and it is contained by the knowledge-related “seeing” [i.e., coming to know of it without actually witnessing it first hand]). Then if he was not from the people [capable] of changing [the reprehensible act] by the hand, it is transferred to changing [it] by the tongue where he is capable of it. Otherwise, then changing [it] by the heart is what has been left for him—and it is the weakest of faith. Changing the reprehensible act by the heart is by disliking the reprehensible act and [by] the setting in of the effect on the heart because of that [i.e., because of the dislike]. There is no mutual incompatibility between what came in this hadîth of commanding the changing of the reprehensible acts and [between] the statement of Allah, mighty and majestic is He, «O you who believed, upon you is yourselves. Whoever strayed will not harm you if you were guided» (5:105), because the meaning [of the verse] is: if you performed what is sought from you of commanding the good acts and prohibiting the reprehensible acts, then you have fulfilled what is upon you and the misguidance of [those] who strayed will not harm you after that, if you were guided.
We will all be held accountable for what we are able to do, as Allah says in the Qur’an, «Allah does not take a soul to account except for what it is able» (2:286). Thus, if we have the ability to correct a situation or advise one of our brothers or sisters in Islam, but fail to do so even though the benefits would have outweighed the harms, then we will be questioned about that. Being a sinner does not free us from our responsibility towards our brothers and sisters. We still have a duty towards them to advise, correct, and generally wish good for them—even if we see ourselves as not being fit or worthy.
Now for the question of sincerity. There are an abundant amount of texts from the Qur’an and authentic Sunnah to show us the importance of being sincere in our actions and our deeds. There are also an abundant amount of texts from the Qur’an and Sunnah which warn about the dangers and consequences of insincerity. There are also an equally abundant amount of articles floating around on the internet and on various blogs to highlight these texts and encourage us to show great concern for and be very mindful of it, thus I will not really get into this aspect of sincerity here. The aspect of sincerity I wish to mention with respect to the general topic of this post is that sincerity is an action of the heart. It is from the affairs of the unseen and none can know person’s true intent except Allah, exalted and glorified is He. Sincerity is the sole right of Allah’s to determine and judge, not ours. Thus, it is not for us to question anyone’s intention or sincerity accusing them of being hypocritical, two-faced, phoney, or anything else, without any substancial evidence; speculation and suspicion have no place here. Allah, mighty and majestic is He, said, «O those who believed, avoid much of the suspicion. Surely some of the suspicion is transgression» (49:12), and in one of the various narrations of the famous hadîth telling the story of Dhul-Khuwaisarah (father of the Khawârij) recorded by Imam al-Bukhârî (no. 4351) when Khâlid bin al-Walîd (may Allah be pleased with him) asked, “O Allah’s messenger, shall I not strike his neck?” Prophet Muhammad, may Allah send salutations and peace upon him, said, «No, perhaps it is that he prays.» Khâlid bin al-Walîd commented, “And how many of those who pray say with their tongues what is not is their hearts!” At this, Prophet Muhammad (may Allah send salutations and peace be upon him) said, «Surely I was not commanded to pierce the hearts of the people, nor split their bellies.»
Let us take heed of this and not try to peer into the hearts of our brothers and sisters, especially when they advise us or correct us when they witness our mistakes. We should try to be humble enough to accept their advice and admonition when it’s correct and true, and avoid being so arrogant as to either reject their advice and admonition because of some perceived pretentiousness or hypocrisy or start pointing fingers, as if to lessen the severity of our sins by bringing theirs to light.