It was during one of the last ten nights of Ramadhan. I had made wudhu and found the nearest vacant spot to pray just in time for the Imam to start the prayer. After we were done with the prayer, I got up to pray the sunnah. Just as I finished giving salams, the old lady seated next to me spoke. “Your hands were slanted in sujood. They should be straight, like this.” she gestured, her hand pointing straight towards the qiblah. I hadn’t realized that my hands weren’t straight and were not fully facing the qiblah while I was praying. “Thank you. Jzaakillaahu khayr for telling me.” I told her, smiling. She then said: “You are like my daughter, so I just wanted to tell you.” Something about the way she advised me – so lovingly and mother-like – made me reach out immediately and give her a hug. I hugged her with tears in my eyes and she hugged me back. I never met her again after that day.
I don’t remember what prayer it was. I don’t remember what she looked like or what the exact words she told me that day were. All I remember was her advising me so lovingly and how valued she had made me feel while doing it. Her sincerity and genuineness to teach me what was good and right, I believe, had shown through in the way she had advised me and taught me that day. It’s something I can never forget!
Our Prophet (peace be upon him) taught us that a sign of having true faith is to love for our brothers what we love for ourselves. When we’ve been blessed with a little understanding of this religion, it’s natural to want to share the goodness with others. In fact, it is a sign of true faith to do so! To teach, correct, advise, and educate is what Islam is built on. It is the way of spreading the message, moving forward, and excelling.
To the advisor:
Advising towards good is a rewardable act. When we see something that needs to be corrected or improved, we must try to guide. But how we do so is just as important. Always remember before advising to step back and introspect. Check your intention. Are you genuinely and sincerely wanting good for this person just as you want for yourself? Or is this just an ego-boost for you to show off your knowledge a little? Are you sincere in trying to teach? Or are you just trying to put them down? If you are genuine and sincere in wanting goodness for this person, is this the best time to advise them? Is it wise to do so now? What’s the best way to do it? What would the Prophet (peace be upon him) do in such a situation? These are all questions we need to be asking ourselves before we advise someone.
Advising someone towards good is deeply rooted in wanting the person to go to Jannah and achieve goodness and reward just as we want for ourselves. It stems from genuine love and concern for the well-being of the person. What advising does not mean is attempting to put others down, exclude them, or shame them in any way. Say yes to genuineness and truthfulness and say no to pride! We must never be hard to approach and think that we are better or more religious than the other person. Our demeanor and manner when advising may be tell-tale signs of something quite not right going on within us. For example, are we backbiting this person when they aren’t around and discussing their flaws or short-comings with others? Are we analyzing their every move, giving them looks, being snide in any way and making them feel like they are a bad Muslim? Are we being condescending towards them due to their sin or mistake? Are our mannerisms towards them pointing towards sincerity and genuineness? Or are they pointing to something else entirely? Being self-aware is key to carrying out this rewardable act in a good and beautiful way. Be genuine with yourself and most importantly, be genuine with Allaah! Ask yourself the golden question before advising: What’s at the heart of it?
To the one being advised:
Yes, it is unfortunate that we may have not been advised in the best of ways at times. Being mean or inconsiderate is never justifiable when advising someone. I’m really sorry if you had to ever face anything like that in the name of religion. Sometimes such advice makes us feel angry and demotivated. Some of us even might think we don’t want anything to do with religion anymore! One thing to keep in mind is that Islam is perfect, but Muslims are not. Therefore, we musn’t allow the poor actions of others to get in the way of us doing good. If someone advises you in a poor or inconsiderate manner, take a minute to swallow your annoyance or anger (Good-bye ego!), take in the advice if it indeed holds some truth, say thank you, and move on. If you feel that you can advise them on how not to advise, do so! While doing so, don’t forget to embody the Prophetic example.
Think about it – if you allow the poor actions of others to stop you from doing good and improving, who is it that is really losing at the end of the day? True, the advice may have not been given in the best and most suitable manner, but the manner in which it was given doesn’t necessarily make the advice itself untrue. Perhaps, the heart of the advice itself may be your stepping stone to improvement and success! Step back and analyze the advice. If it actually does hold some weight, take the advice and work on it – for yourself and for Your Lord. If it is something you feel that doesn’t apply to you, leave it, and excuse their ignorance. Stay focused on your own self-growth and improvement and never allow anyone to make you feel less or that you are a bad Muslim. You are trying. All that matters is that you are making the effort and indeed, your Lord sees and knows that. Keep trying! Keep improving! And most importantly, when advising, don’t make the same mistake!