"The religion is naseehah." The people asked, "To whom?" The Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) replied, "To Allaah and to His Book and to His Messenger and to the leaders of the Muslims and the common folk." [Collected by Bukhari, Muslim]
MANNERS OF GIVING NASEEHAH
Seeking the Pleasure of Allaah by giving Naseehah
It is necessary that a person has the intention of seeking the pleasure of Allaah when giving naseehah. Only such an intention deserves reward from Allaah and acceptance from His slaves.
If the intention is other than that, then that person deserves the anger and wrath of Allaah as well as the hatred and rejection of the people - including the one being advised.
Not slandering the one being advised
This is an affliction that has befallen many Muslims. Many times, after taking a closer look, we find that the person giving naseehah actually wants to slander the person he is advising because of personal hatred. This does not befit the one being advised and may lead to a worse situation with no benefit resulting from the naseehah.
Naseehah is to be given in secret
Naseehah is most likely to bear its fruit when given to a person when he is by himself, for in such a situation the person is less likely to be affected by the thoughts of others. The sincere advisor should not aid the Devil over his brother by publicly rebuking him and letting Shaitaan beguile his brother into not taking the naseehah. This closes the doors of goodness and acceptance, and reduces the chances of the naseehah from being accepted.
This is why our pious predecessors used to give naseehah in secret. Hafidh Ibn Rajab writes, "When the righteous predecessors intended to give naseehah to someone, they admonished him privately, to the point that some of them said, "The one who exhorts his brother between him and himself , then it is naseehah. The one who exhorts him in front of people, then it is merely scolding!"
Fudail Ibn Ayyadh, one of the pious scholars from our predecessors, said, "A believer covers up and gives naseehah, whereas an evildoer exposes and humiliates." Ibn Rajab commented on Fudail's saying, "It is naseehah if it is with a cover, while humiliating is with broadcasting".
Naseehah is to be given with kindness, gentleness and softness
A sincere advisor must be kind, soft and well-mannered in giving naseehah to others, as this might get the desired response from the one he is advising. One must understand that accepting naseehah is like opening a door, and that the door will not open without the proper key. The one who is given naseehah has a heart that has a lock in some matter - for he has abandoned something that Allaah has demanded from him, or has committed something that Allaah had forbidden him from. There is no better key to unlock the heart than kindness in giving advice, gentleness in exhortation and softness in speech as the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) has said, "Kindness is not to be found in anything but that it adds to its beauty, and it is not withdrawn from anything but it makes it defective." [Muslim]
Do not compel others to follow one's Naseehah
It is wajib (obligatory) on the advisor to render sincere advice to others, but it is not his right to compel others to follow his advice as well. That is the right of the Muslim ruler upon his subjects or a Muslim Qadhi (Judge) in his jurisdiction. A sincere advisor is one who guides toward goodness, but he is not to command others to act upon it.
Ibn Hazm writes that one should not give naseehah on the condition that it must be accepted, otherwise if one goes beyond this, he will be oppressing not advising, and seeking obedience and control. In another passage, Ibn Hazm writes that if a person is mistaken in his advice, he would be expecting people to follow him in his mistake.
Choosing the proper time to give Naseehah
The one giving naseehah must choose the right time to give his advice, since a person is not always ready to receive naseehah.A person may be angry about something, upset about not getting what he wanted, grieved for something he may have lost, or there may be some other reason that might prevent him from responding to the naseehah.
Abdul Hamid Bilali writes, "Choosing proper time and place is one of the greatest causes for the acceptance of naseehah and eradicating evil", and as Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud said, "Hearts (sometimes) yearn and are attentive, but (sometimes) they go through lapses and feed repulsion. So take from them when they are (in a state of) yearning and are attentive, and leave them alone when they go through lapses and are feeling repulsion".
Naseehah that is against Islam is not to be followed
Giving naseehah is part of Sharia. Therefore, if someone gives advice to leave a deen demanded by the Sharia or to perform a forbidden deed, then it is not called naseehah. The one giving such should quit doing that and the one being advised should not accept it.
For instance, if someone tells you to shave your beard, to expose some part of the body by taking off the hijab, to shake hands with women on job interviews, to date the girl you are interested in, to take a job at a gas station that sells alcohol, or to go see the latest movie, then you should not obey. These matters are not counted as naseehah which the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) made part of the religion.
FACTORS AFFECTING THE ACCEPTANCE OF NASEEHAH
i) Naseehah must be given according to the proper manners which have been described above.
ii) One of the most important factors that contribute in one's rejecting a fellow Muslim's naseehah is arrogance. Arrogance prevents one from accepting naseehah and acting upon it. Whereas, the one who continuously strives to take arrogance out of his heart, finds it easy to accept naseehah. This is because the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said, "Arrogance is to reject the truth and despise the people".
Naseehah is from the truth and the advisor is from the people. The arrogant person, on the other hand, is one who rejects the truth and looks down on the people. As a result, neither the naseehah nor the one giving it suits him. On the contrary, a humble person will accept naseehah from others with an open heart, no matter where the advisor comes from, because he knows that a wajib (obligatory deed) is being conveyed.
Unfortunately, many are tricked by Shaitaan in this matter to accept naseehah only from those who are from the same country, or are of the same race, or hold affiliations with the same Islamic organisation / party as they do. The situation gets very sad when some of our brothers and sisters will not take naseehah because the one giving it has not been a Muslim for very long, or has not lived in America for very long, or is too young to be "telling people what to do." They pay no attention to the naseehah itself, or try to determine whether the naseehah itself is according to the Quran and Sunnah. Rather they are quick to reject their fellow Muslim's naseehah due to such baseless reasons. We must realise all these subtle forms of looking down on others and rejecting their beneficial naseehah. Remember that the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) has said that anyone with an atom's weight of arrogance in their heart will not enter Paradise.
BENEFITS OF NASEEHAH
i) It purifies the one being advised from some weakness. When one sees a fellow Muslim negligent in performing a good deed, or committing some wrong, he should take it upon himself to mend the shortcoming. The shortcoming may pertain to the rights of Allaah or to the rights of His slaves.
ii) When a believer gives naseehah to his brother in Islaam, he helps him in a matter in which his brother has erred because the believer loves for his brother what he loves for himself.
iii) When a believer gives naseehah to his brother, he is disposing of the right that his brother has upon him. Just as you would not like to see a fault in yourself, and would work to remove it, likewise, you should not like to see that fault in your brother. You must hate to see in him what you hate to see in yourself, hence, you should give him naseehah to remove that fault as you would have liked to receive naseehah to have that fault removed from you. Give your brother naseehah and guide him toward goodness, and take him away from harm.
Giving naseehah is a sign of true brotherhood, a way of bringing the hearts closer, and of closing the doors of hatred and suspicion. This is why Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz said, "The one who grants naseehah to his brother in matters of this his religion and concerns himself with mending affairs of this life; then, he has granted an excellent gift and fulfilled a wajib that was due on him .." If someone were to ask, "How is naseehah a right of brotherhood, when one's faults are mentioned?" the answer is not to feel apprehension when your brother informs you of your faults. He may know something that perhaps you are unaware of, and is compelled to tell you about it out of sheer compassion. It is a way of winning over the hearts of those who are endowed with insight.
Shaitaan has declared war on all of humanity, and Allaah has given the believers the tools necessary to win this war. Informing each other of ugly deeds we perform, or about loathsome characteristics that we may have is like pointing out where the land mines are on a battlefield. By pointing out these hidden dangers, we help to keep each other from destruction. In this war of conquering the self, the help, aid and guidance of our brothers and sisters is needed to assure that ultimate victory, insha'Allaah, of true success in this life and in the Hereafter.
by Kamil Mufti