In my first job interview, I had no idea what to expect. I walked into a room with multiple interviewers and really did not know how it would turn out. I just took deep breaths, made du’aa, smiled and plowed on. Looking back on it, I find that out of all the questions in that interview, this is the one I remember best: “If you had a disagreement with a [colleague], how would you address it?”
Right away my mind flicked to the hadith on advising others or naseehah:
The Prophet, sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “Whoever wishes to give advice to a ruler about a matter should not do so publicly. Instead, he should take him by his hand and be alone with him [to talk to him] about it. If he accepts the advice from him [the matter is finished successfully]. If he does not [accept the advice], the person has fulfilled [the obligation] upon him.” [AlHaakim & Ahmad]
Although I was not in a religious setting, I knew this lesson from the Rasool applied to life in general. So I smiled and answered that if I disagreed with someone or felt he or she was doing something incorrect, I would find a time to speak to him or her or privately and relay my concerns then. I would do my best to avoid embarrassing him or her in front of others at all costs.
How many times have we made a mistake – knowingly or not – in public? It is bad enough when we realize we made that mistake. It is even worse when a person, with perhaps the best intentions, begins to point out the wrongs of our ways in front of others. If the mistake was not enough to humiliate us, the supposed advice will then do the trick. Even our greatest scholars understood this predicament. Imam AshShafe’ee, rahimahuAllah, said in a poem to the meaning of: “Whenever you want to advise me do so privately, / and avoid advising publicly, / because advising in the presence of people, / is a form of embarrassment I am not pleased to listen to.”
How many times has a sister come into the mosque in improper hijab and been berated? How many times has a brother been embarrassed over his lifestyle choices? How many times has a person praying been told they’re doing it all wrong? How many times has a child playing in the mosque been made a public example – for being a child? The salaf used to say, “Whoever commanded his brother [to do good] in a gathering where there are [other] people, then he has exposed him.”
We are all human. We *will* make mistakes. That is a given. But by the grace of Allah, we live, we learn, and we improve from our mistakes. The test for both you and I is in how we give that naseehah and how we receive it in when we are in either situation.
Just as our siyaam, our fasting is only between us and Allah swt, let us ensure that our naseehah, our advisement, is only between that person and Allah swt. I would hate to find out on the day of Judgement that because of my supposedly well-intended advice, I actually turned a person away from the deen than towards it. I pray that this Ramadan may be a means of softening our hearts towards each one of our fellow humans, both in this month and for the rest of the our lives.