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Giving sincere advice is one of the most prominent characteristics of Islamic sisterhood; it is part of perfect faith and ihsaan, for a Muslim’s faith cannot be perfect until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself, and until he hates for his brother what he hates for himself. Hadith 13, 40 Hadith an-Nawawi. This forms the motive for giving sincere advice.
Let’s talk about the love for the ‘sake of Allah’ SWT, this is the key to giving and receiving advice, as when its based on the love of Allah SWT, It is only then you will be able to bear it’s fruits.
When a Muslim woman loves her sister ‘in Islam’ she loves her for the ‘sake of Allah,’ subhanahu wa ta’ala—as noted in the hadith. This means that your love for your sister is connected to, and is part of your love for Allah SWT. You may love her and want to befriend her and be close to her for all the good reasons people love and befriend one another, but in addition, you love her and treat her in the manner that Allah SWT has ordained she be treated in. Maintaining that as the basis for the relationship is what strips the love from worldly elements, and purifies it so that you and your friend know and feel your love extends way beyond this world.
In this way, a Muslim woman is certain that your love for your sister will endure, because you share a special bond that can never be broken, the bond of faith in Allah SWT, the Creator of all humankind, the Lord through whose Love people love, respect and be kind to one another. It is a bond between hearts and minds that brings them together in a unique and special way; so much so that they are willing to sacrifice anything for each other knowing they will gain the pleasure of Allah SWT in the process. Nothing is ever done for worldly gain or purpose.
Ibn Hazm (may Allah have mercy on him) said: If you give advice, then give advice in private, not in public, and by hinting, not by speaking bluntly, unless the person to whom advice is given will not understand hints, in which case there is no option but to speak bluntly…. If you go beyond these guidelines, then you are wronging him and are not being sincere in your advice. End quote from al-Akhlaaq wa’s-Siyar (p. 45).
Below I have summarised five characteristics of how advice should be offered but must importantly, we should start with a clean heart, renew our intentions and make it for the sake of Allah SWT.
1. With gentleness
It is easy to become harsh, especially when we feel that Allah’s rights are not being respected, or the rights of others are being violated.
However, there was no greater violator of these rights than Pharaoh, and yet Allah commanded Moses and Aaron:
فَقُو َلاالَهُاقَ ْو ًلاالَّيِّنًاالَّ َعلَّهُا َيتَذَ َّك ُاراأَ ْواا َي ْخ َشىا
And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear [Allah]. 20:44
Whoever you are addressing with your advice will not be worse than Pharaoh, and you are not better than Moses or Aaron, so offer your advice with gentle speech.
2. With wisdom
This is a divine commandment when Allah says:
ادْعُاإلَىاا َسبيلاا َربِّ َكاابا ْلح ْك َمةاا َوا ْل َم ْوع َظةااا ْل َح َسنَةاۖا َو َجاد ْل ُهمابالَّتياه َيااأَ ْح َس ُنا
Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. 16:125
Wisdom is developed over time and through experience. It is not something that can be easily defined. There are many examples from the lives of the prophets and the righteous that came before us exemplifying this quality. We can learn from that and apply it ourselves.
3. With knowledge
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was commanded to say:
قُ ْلاا َهذهاا َسبيلياأَدْ ُعواإلَىا َّاللَّاۚا َعلَىاا َبصي َرةااأَنَاا َو َمناااتَّ َب َعن اي
Say, “This is my way; I invite to Allah with sure knowledge, I and those who follow me….” 12:08
He صلى الله عليه وسلم called to his people with sure knowledge, insight and understanding. This is a prerequisite to giving advice: having the right knowledge relating to the advice that is being given. As opposed to ignorance, which can lead to more harm than good.
4. Without judgement
Before pouncing on someone’s behaviour, be sure to offer excuses. It has been narrated from ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, that he advised:
“Do not think badly of a word uttered by your brother, when you can find a good interpretation for it.”
Only when wrong has occurred without a doubt, should we advise against it.
5. Without assuming the worst
If there is any ambiguity in whatever action you have observed, it is better to assume good thoughts and not negative ones.
َيااأَيُّ َهااالَّذي َنااآ َمنُوااا ْجتَن ُبواا َكثي ًراا ِّم َنااال َّظ ِّنااإ َّناا َب ْع َضااال َّظ ِّنااإثْام
O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. 49:12
Sometimes we may be deceived by our own eyes, thinking that what we have observed is worse than what the actual reality is. Before responding with an automatic reaction, take time to think and fight against any negative assumptions.
In the end it all comes back to us.
The Prophet SAW said, “One who helps a fellow Muslim in removing his difficulty in this world, Allah will remove the former’s distress on the Day of Judgment. He who helps to remove the hardship of another will have his difficulties removed by Allah in this world and the Hereafter. One who covers the shortcomings of another Muslim will have his faults covered up in this world and the next by Allah SWT. Allah SWT continues to help a servant so long as he goes on helping his own brother.” (Muslim)
The rewards that we gain are far beyond the efforts and sacrifices that we make. We will only know true happiness and peace in Jannah, so let’s strive to become better muslimah’s by helping one another and advising one another from the Quran and Sunnah.
I hope this article benefits you sisters as much as it has benefited me on the topic of giving advice, May Allah SWT forgive us for our shortcomings, mistakes and allow us to give and receive advice in the way he is pleased with. Aameen
With love & du’aas,
Your Sister Kiran, United Kingdom