Once, I shared an article in a social media group. One word in that article needed to be rectified, so an Islamic brother in the group contacted me on my personal number and drew my attention to the mistake. I was very happy with his style of rectifying. Similarly, an Islamic brother once had to correct me in some way. When I met him, he asked me for a few minutes to talk. He then spoke to me in private and corrected me. I also liked his manner a lot.
O devotees of the Prophet! If someone makes a mistake and it is possible to reform him, then he should be reformed, but the way of reforming should be such that the person being addressed accepts it. Some people have a very strange way of reforming. For example, instead of contacting the individual personally and reforming him, they publicly mention his mistakes, share them on the internet and social media, or instead of meeting and talking to him separately, they comment in a strange way in a gathering filled with people. Some people even publish books about the mistakes of others. Sometimes, it also happens that the word or action of the person is not wrong, but due to the lack of knowledge and understanding at our end, it is considered wrong and then he is publicly defamed. Such ‘reformers’ try to adopt every method that is unlawful and immoral instead of adopting the Shar’i and moral path of reform. Someone once said a very beautiful thing: ‘If your intention is to correct someone, do it in isolation, and if your intention is to disgrace him, then scream out loud.’ When you scream it out loud, especially on platforms like social media or in your private gatherings and in your circle of friends, there are many harms in it, some of which are mentioned below:
- Do you want to reform someone or disgrace someone?
The first problem is whether this method of reforming will improve the person or not, and whether he will be reformed by this or not. However, in this manner, it is certain that he will be thoroughly disgraced. So, what do you want? Do you want to reform him or do you just want to disgrace and dishonour him? Certainly, it is not befitting for a Muslim to disgrace or dishonour his Muslim brother without the permission of Shari’ah. The last Prophet of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said: ‘اَلْمُسْلِمُ اَخُو الْمُسْلِمِ لَایَظْلِمُهٗ وَلَا یَخْذُلُهٗ وَلَا یَحْقِرُہٗ’ i.e., ‘A Muslim is a brother to a Muslim, he neither wrongs him nor does he disgrace him and nor does he find him contemptible.’ (Muslim, p. 1064, Hadees 6541) The renowned Taabi’i saint, Sayyiduna Sufyan Bin Uyaynah رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه said: ‘If one of you takes something from another’s property and then wants to get rid himself of it after his death, then give it to his heirs. We think that this will be an expiation for that. However, if any of you defames someone’s honour, and then after his death wishes to expiate for it, and to do so goes to his heirs and all the people of the earth and they all forgive him, even then he would not be forgiven. Thus, the believer’s honour is greater than his wealth. Understand what you are told.’ (Hilya-tul-Awliya, vol. 7, p. 328, Raqm 10720)
- Do you want reformation or discord and mischief?
The second evil of the wrong way of reforming is that it sometimes spreads mischief and discord among the people. The last Prophet of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said: ‘Fitnah (i.e., discord, mischief) is asleep; may Allah Almighty curse whosoever awakens it.’ (Jami’ah-us-Sagheer, p. 370, Hadees 5975) The Imam of Ahl-us-Sunnah, Shah Imam Ahmad Raza Khan رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه, in response to a question, also said: ‘It is the work of Satan to cause a Shar’i division among Muslims without any reason, and Fitnah is severer than murder. Fitnah is sleeping; the curse of Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ is on the one who awakens it.’ (Fatawa Razawiyyah, vol. 6, p. 600)
- Do you want to reform or make yourself famous?
If the purpose of the one who reforms is to make himself famous by objecting against a famous person, then it is not surprising because there is no shortage of such people in our society. Hakeem-ul-Ummah, Mufti Ahmad Yar Khan رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه says in the commentary of a Hadees: ‘Whoever makes himself famous and well-known through someone else will be disgraced publicly on the Day of Judgment, such that an angel will make him stand on a high place and announce, ‘O people! He was a great deceiver, liar and cheater.’ (Mirat-ul-Manajih, vol. 6, p. 620)
- Do you want to reform someone or insult someone?
If the one whom you are reforming in an un-Islamic and immoral way (rather the one whom you are disgracing) happens to be a scholar of Islam, then surely in this way, as well as his mistake coming to the attention of another scholar, it would also come in front of common people too. Then everyone will comment on this scholar of Islam in their own way, and thus a number of people from the common folk will be insulting this religious scholar as well as indulging in backbiting him. My accomplished spiritual guide, Ameer-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat, ‘Allamah Muhammad Ilyas Attar Qadiri دَامَـتْ بَـرَكَـاتُـهُـمُ الْـعَـالِـيَـهْ says: ‘There is a big difference between backbiting a common man and backbiting a scholar of Islam. In backbiting a scholar of Islam, there is often an element of insult which is very dangerous. My master A’la Hadrat رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه says in Fatawa-e-Razawiyyah, volume 21, page 129:
- If one talks ill of an Aalim (scholar of Islam) because he is an ‘Aalim’, then the speaker is a clear Kafir (disbeliever).
- If one considers his (i.e., a scholar’s) respect Fard due to his knowledge but talks ill of him, swears at him, (and) belittles him due to some worldly hostility, then he is a severe transgressor.
- If one has grudge against him (i.e., a scholar) without any reason, then he isمَرِیْضُ الْقَلْبِ وَ خَبِیْثُ الْباطِن (i.e., ill-hearted and possessor of an impure inner-self); and there is a risk of Kufr from him (i.e., the one who has grudge against a scholar for no reason). (Gheebat ki Tabahkariyan, p. 141)
It is my plea to all the devotees of the Prophet! Instead of looking at others, looking for their shortcomings and pointing out their flaws without a lawful reason, look at yourself first. And if you do come across someone’s mistake, then first think about whether it is incumbent upon you to reform it, and reflect on what the correct method of reforming should be from a Shar’i point of view. If you do not know, then find out from ‘Dar-ul-Ifta Ahl-e-Sunnat’, otherwise you will continue to make mistakes whilst thinking to yourself that you are performing a very rewarding act, whereas in actual fact, you will be wasting your time by falling into any of the aforementioned errors as well as sullying your record of deeds. May Allah Almighty correct our outer and inner state.