“Only Allah Can Judge Me”
Such a common phrase this has become, plastered across social media. For a split second, it does make sense doesn’t it? But then when you look into the matter, things start to fall into place. This phrase is thrown around quite often, mostly by those wanting to find a loophole to justify their questionable actions. In a time where there is a boom of knowledge on the Internet and many people are starting to learn and practice their Deen, there are many still entangled in the web of desires. Many Muslims today are using statements like “Don’t judge me” or “Only God can judge me” to run away from advice.
People have made it a thing to say, “Only God Can Judge Me” to get away with whatever they want. Yes, that’s true, only Allah can judge you ultimately. Now pause. Think! Isn’t that something scary if what’s being done is wrong? Because the judge and the witness both are Allah.
Problem with judging is that when we “judge” many a times we do so with a holier than thou attitude, rather than a helpful or supportful attitude. That’s where all the negativity creeps in. We all make mistakes and sin. When we judge it should be in a manner where we can actually help the person become better rather than push them away. Either that or remain silent. The Prophet ﷺ always made people feel that the Doors of Allah are ever open. We take this opportunity to reflect on our own sins, learn from this and avoid falling into the same sin ourselves.
The Prophet ﷺ famously said,”Every Son of Adam sins but the best of sinners are those that repent to Allah” [Tirmidhi]
The Sahaba when advised to fear Allah would thank the person and have tears in their eyes. Today if someone tells us that, we feel we are being accused or worse insulted. In turn, we start to retort by finding the faults of the person advising us and saying, “Hey! You aren’t perfect, you can’t tell me what to do”. Well if that was the case no one on the face of the Earth, across time could advise another save the Prophet of Allah ﷺ himself. These are feeble excuses fit to be given by kids. The companions of the Prophet ﷺ sinned, so who are we in comparison? We need to embrace that we have done something wrong and actually be thankful that we have someone as a friend or family who has taken the time out to come and advise us. If not for love and care towards us, why would someone else care what we do? Think about it.
Imam al-Nawawi رحمه الله said, "The scholars have said: It is not a condition for the one who commands (good) and forbids (evil) to be perfect, abiding by what he commands, and avoiding what he forbids. Rather, he has to command, even if he falls short of what he commands, and to forbid, even if he is guilty of what he forbids. [al-Minhaj]
When we utter these words, do we even pause to think of the implication? Allah, the One from whom nothing is hidden, the All Seeing, All Hearing is being called upon to judge. This is where the mushkila comes in where we think that ‘Oh Allah is Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim, He’ll forgive me.’ Yes, He might, but not if we show arrogance *whilst* sinning. We also need to remember that Allah is Shadid al-Iqab (Severe in Punishment).
Why Should We Bother About Others?
Firstly, because Allah tells us to: “Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining Al-Ma‘roof (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (polytheism and disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden). And it is they who are the successful” [Surah Aal ‘Imran, 104]
Secondly because if someone falls into sins, then it does have an impact on YOU and ME. If one part of the body is infected it weakens the whole body. We have the story of how the People of Musa were denied rain just because of the actions of one man. Allah tells us
“Corruption has appeared on land and in the sea for what men’s hands have earned, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, that they may return.” [Surah Ar-Rum, 41]
If the ummah fails to do its duty of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, wrongdoing and corruption will spread throughout the ummah, and it will deserve the curse of Allah. For Allah cursed those among the Children of Israel who disbelieved because they failed in this important duty.
Allah tells us, “Those among the Children of Israel who disbelieved were cursed by the tongue of Dawood (David) and Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary). That was because they disobeyed (Allah and the Messengers) and were ever transgressing beyond bounds. They used not to forbid one another from Al-Munkar (wrong, evildoing, sins, polytheism, disbelief) which they committed. Vile indeed was what they used to do. [Surah Al-Ma’idah, 78]
Abu Bakr As-Siddiq رضي الله عنه narrates, “I heard Allah’s Messenger ﷺ say, “When people see something objectionable and do not change it, Allah will soon include them all in His punishment.” [Al-Tirmidhi]
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said “If you see a munkar (unislamic act), you change it with your hand; and if you cannot do that, then change it with your mouth (speak out against it); and if you cannot do that, then forbid it in your heart; and that is the least of belief.”
Allah’s Messenger ﷺ in a Hadith Qudsi tells us, “Let not any one of you belittle himself. They said: O Messenger of Allah, how can any one of us belittle himself? He said: He finds a matter concerning Allah about which he should say something, and he does not say [it], so Allah (mighty and sublime be He) says to him on the Day of Resurrection: What prevented you from saying something about such-and-such and such-and-such? He say: [It was] out of fear of people. Then He says: Rather it is I whom you should more properly fear.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]*
Can WE Judge?
We have numerous examples throughout our history of giving naseeha and judging people based on their actions. Many of the collectors of Hadith like Imam Bukhari رحمه الله used to judge the reliability of the person narrating the hadith by their outward actions and not “what’s in the heart, Allah knows.”
Umar Ibn Al-Khattab رضي الله عنه said, “Verily, in the time of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, the people would be judged by revelation, but the revelation has ended. Now we judge you according to your outward deeds. Whoever shows us good, we will trust him and favor him and it is not for us to judge his inner secrets, for Allah will hold him accountable for those. Whoever shows us evil, then we will not trust him or believe in him even if he claims his intention is good.” [Sahih Bukhari]
Abdullah Ibn Umar رضي الله عنه said: “When we noticed that a man was not present at Fajr and ‘Isha’ prayer, we would think badly of him.” [Sahih]
A very famous line is also dropped, "Hate the sin, not the sinner." Though this might sound good to listen, it makes no sense overall. If true, the inverse of this should also be true. That is, "Love the good, not the doer." We are all responsible for our actions unless we have lost our mental faculties or were forced into doing something against our wills. Otherwise, things are quite clear.
Allah says in the Quran,
…and Allah does not like the mischief-makers. [Surah al-Ma’idah, 64]
Allah does not like the transgressors. [Surah al-Baqarah, 190]
Allah does not like the sinning disbeliever. [Surah al-Baqarah, 276]
Allah does not like the wrong-doers. [Surah Aal Imran 140]
Narrated Abu Umamah: The Prophet ﷺ said, "Whoever loves for the sake of Allah, and hates for the sake of Allah, and gives for the sake of Allah and withholds for the sake of Allah, he will have perfect faith." [Abu Dawud] Notice how its not just the action, but the doer of those actions that is being highlighted here again and again.
How to Judge?
Allah tells us in the Quran, “But no, by your Lord, they will not [truly] believe until they make you, [O Muhammad], judge concerning that over which they dispute among themselves and then find within themselves no discomfort from what you have judged and submit in [full, willing] submission.” [Surah An-Nisa, 42]
Indeed, We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth so you may judge between the people by that which Allah has shown you. And do not be for the deceitful an advocate. [Surah An-Nisa, 79]
And judge, between them by what Allah has revealed and do not follow their inclinations and beware of them, lest they tempt you away from some of what Allah has revealed to you. And if they turn away – then know that Allah only intends to afflict them with some of their (own) sins. And indeed, many among the people are defiantly disobedient. [Surah Al-Maidah, 49]
All this goes to show that the criterion that we are supposed to judge between ourselves is what Allah has revealed and the teachings of His Prophet ﷺ. We don’t let personal bias or hidden grudges take reign of our advice and actions in enjoining good and forbidding evil. Yes there are also those who just question and judge unnecessarily without any intention of helping, but rather just to show themselves as superior or its likes. Positive criticism people! Care for the one you are advising just as if they were your own brother or sister.
Some say that they have good intentions but their actions are quite contrary to it. Ends don’t justify the means so good intentions but with reprehensible actions become redundant. Simply saying something doesn’t work, we have to walk the talk.
Allah says: “And those who, when they have committed fahishah (illegal sexual intercourse) or wronged themselves with evil, remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their sins; — and none can forgive sins but Allah — and do not persist in what (wrong) they have done, while they know. For such, the reward is forgiveness from their Lord, and Gardens with rivers flowing underneath (Paradise), wherein they shall abide forever. How excellent is this reward for the doers (who do righteous deeds according to Allah’s orders).” [Surah Aal Imran, 135-136]
Imam Ibn Katheer رحمه الله commented on this and said: The words “and do not persist in what (wrong) they have done” mean: they repent from their sins and quickly turn to Allah, and they do not persist in their sin, rather they give it up, and if they do it again they repent to Him.
Imam al-Ghazali رحمه الله in his magnum opus, Ihya ‘Ulum ud-Deen said: “The status of sins do not change (from their sinfulness) on mere account of (change in) intentions. The ignoramus must not infer and understand this from the statement of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, “Actions are according to intentions”, and subsequently presume that sins transform into righteous deeds merely via intention. This is similar to the case of a person who backbites out of concern for someone else. Or feeds the poor by using someone else’s money (without his permission). Or builds a school or masjid or ribat [not sure if Ghazali means it in the military or Sufi context] by using haram money. All the while his intention is good. This is sheer ignorance. Mere intention does not have any impact in changing the reality of such actions from being oppressive, antagonistic, and sinful. Intending good by committing evil is contrary to the requisites prescribed by the Shariah.”
Ibn Amir al-Hajj in his Madkhal said: “Validated actions of the Shariah are three: Wajib (compulsory), Mandub (recommended), and Mubah (permitted). As for haram and makruh, one does not seek nearness to Allah All-Mighty via such means.”
Imam an-Nawawi رحمه الله in his commentary of the 40 Hadith said: “Al-Harith al-Muhasibi said: There is no sincerity in committing haram and makruh actions. This is similar to the one who gazes at that which he is not permitted to, and then asserts that he is only looking [at that thing or person] in order to ponder upon (the beauty and magnificence of) Allah’s creation.”
We are a Nation of the Middle Path. We don’t go out to the two extremes on either side. We don’t give a free reign to indulge in all desires and at the same time we do not make one despair and fall into misery.
Although Allah hates sin and warns of punishment for it, He does not want His slaves to despair of His mercy. He likes the sinner to seek His forgiveness and repent to Him, but the shaitan likes it when despair fills a person’s heart and prevents him from repenting and turning to Allah.
It was said to Imam Hasan al-Basri رحمه الله: Would not any one of us feel ashamed before his Lord to seek forgiveness from his sin then go back to it, then seek forgiveness then go back to it? He said: The Shaitan would like you to feel that way; never give up seeking forgiveness.
Basic Point to Remember: We DO NOT judge the person’s heart or intention, but if the action is going against what is taught by Islam then for sure, as Muslims we have the right to judge AND help our brother/sister in rectifying it. NOT making mountains out of a molehill.
Here’s what we DO:
- Make as many excuses as possible for the sake of your brother/sister by giving them the benefit of doubt. Understand the scenario of the action and the situation of the doer whilst committing that action.
- Practice extreme patience. As my grandmother says, “People who start practicing the Deen anew are generally very strict and go to extremes. They forget that they themselves were once sinners and at the edge of the cliff. Had not Allah saved them where would they be? How would they feel if they themselves were so harshly reprimanded?”
- Keep a calm tone, that doesn’t sound accusatory and with a smile on the face – Advice. Take them aside and make it clear that you do this only out of love and care for the person.
- Speak to their parents or someone close to them whom they trust or at-least respect enough to take advice from.
- Advice privately first but if the person keeps committing the sin and inviting people to it in public, then such people deserve to be spoken and warned against. Exhaust yourself in advising privately and having husn ud dhan (good thoughts and excuses) first before even thinking of going to the next step.
Here’s what we DON’T:
- “YOU are going to HELL!” Umm, did Allah tell you His judgement?
- We don’t single out people marking them for Hell or Heaven. THAT is solely up to Allah. What we say in advice is that these actions, or continuing them without repentance will lead to Hell.
- We DON’T shame or call people out in public for their sins unless a host of criteria are met. For all we know, the person didn’t know what they were doing is wrong or were just plain ignorant about it.
- We DON’T become accusatory and take the ‘holier than thou’ route because then that would be of no help other than just putting the person on defensive mode and all your well intended “naseeha” will fall on deaf ears. Humility and the adab of giving naseeha or even differing over something needs to be learnt.
The most hated speech to Allah is when a man says to another man, ‘Fear Allah!’ and he replies, ‘Worry about your own self!’”
Allah says “So admonish/remind them that maybe the reminder will be of benefit and as for him who fears Allah he will be reminded but as for the wretched one he will turn away” [Surah Al A’la, 9-11]
Understanding Intention and Knowledge
Our Sheikh, Ibrahim Nuhu حفظه الله said, “For an action to be Accepted by Allah, it requires 2 ingredients:
1. It is done with Ikhlas. True sincerity for the sake of Allah
2. It is done as per the instruction and methodology taught by the Prophet ﷺ.
If even one is missing, the action is rejected. Imagine doing Hajj with utmost sincerity, but in Ramadan. What will happen to it? It will be utterly rejected.
We are not fulfilling the obligations upon us, yet we are running to search for the recommended actions which at times are in reality, innovations.
Allah describes such deeds as a mirage. People think it is good, but when the Day of Results comes, they’ll find that they’ve not achieved anything.”
Let’s take an example of loving the Prophet ﷺ. One can only love the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ proportional to what he knows about him. True love for the Prophet ﷺ can only be found by immersing ourselves into his Seerah.
Claiming to love him without knowing who he was or what he taught is a disservice to yourself and more importantly to the legacy of the greatest man to walk the face of this Earth.
Looking at the times we live in today, how can we propagate the Message of our Prophet ﷺ or even defend his honour from the vile accusations of the lost if we do not know him well.
Allah swears by the life of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. This is a life that has given life to so many generations. This is a Seerah, the nectar of which has nourished the Seerah of so many across the world throughout our history. What a perfect life it must be that Allah, the Almighty swore upon it from above the seven heavens.
It’s easy to tell someone to do something. But what really gets them going is to show that thing practically. Humans need someone to look up to and follow. Even our Prophet ﷺ was give role models and examples to follow through their stories revealed in the Qur’an. Their actions and the way they dealt with their people are mentioned abundantly in the Qur’an.
Family Issue: Surah Yusuf was revealed detailing the best of examples on dealing with family that is bent on harming you.
Hijrah from homeland: Surah Qasas was revealed detailing the journey of Prophet Musa from Egypt and the success that followed.
Reading and reflecting upon the Seerah of the Prophet ﷺ brings peace, tranquillity and stability to the heart. From the miracles of this Seerah is that no matter through which lens you look at this blessed life, you will find an ideal example for you to emulate. From every angle it oozes perfection and completeness. Be it a spouse, teacher, or even a political leader. For any other person’s life, they might have good from one aspect but they will have shortcomings in another. Allah compiled such characteristics in this one life which are impossible to find elsewhere.
There were no sins but mistakes out of forgetfulness that were corrected immediately or else he was made to forget to be a practical example for us. He’s not just Uswatun Hasanah but also Uswatun Kamilah
*The chain of narration is weak.
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