Mercy with People’s Faults
By Dr.Jasser Auda
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-`ālamīn. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam is His Messenger.
In his well-known book, Al-Hikam (Words of Wisdom), Sheikh Ahmad Ibn ‘Atā‘illah As-Sakandari says:
“A person, who learns of people’s secrets and does not have ‘Godly mercy’ on them, brings upon himself great danger and disaster.”
When one's knowledge and awareness increase, he will find himself in situations and incidents where he gets involved in many social matters, and starts to learn about people’s secrets, faults, and problems. One comes to know people's secrets when he or she is consulted about some problems or becomes an arbitrator in certain disputes on the individual, family, or society’s levels. Another source of knowledge is experience and insight that one gains with time, which allows one to judge people’s nature and real character based on their outward appearance and what is between the lines of their speech or writing.
Learning people's secrets and their weaknesses is a form of power over them. A believer who happens to learn people's secrets should learn how to deal with them. Sheikh Ibn ‘Atā‘illah says here: “A person, who learns of people’s secrets and does not have Godly mercy on them, brings upon himself great danger and disaster”.
First of all, one should not feel that he is authorized by Allāh to act as a judge or have an illusion of a great mission to establish justice based on the secrets he or she came to know.
Secondly, what one should do is to have what Ibn `Atā'illah called ‘Godly mercy’ on others involved in the secrets. And ‘Godly mercy’ requires that one should not reveal people’s faults. Allāh is the One who conceals people’s faults. A man called Ma‘iz came to the Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) confessing that he committed adultery. Hazzal, the Companion, said: "I saw him and ordered him to confess". The Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) then said:
“It would have been better for you if you had covered him with your robe, Hazzal.” (Recorded by Abu Dawud)
It is a major sin to reveal people’s faults or use their faults against them.
The Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) is reported to have said:“A believer who conceals) the faults of others in this world, Allāh would conceal his faults on the Day of Resurrection.” (Recorded by Muslim)
Thirdly, having ‘Godly mercy’ on people also requires that you advise people and call them to do good deeds with a view of correcting their faults. This is how the Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) behaved with the hypocrites after Allāh told him about what they hid in their hearts:
“As for them - God knows all that is in their hearts; so leave them alone, and advise them, and speak unto them about themselves in a gravely searching manner.” (An-Nisā’, 4: 64)
When Allāh Himself commands us to do something, His commandments are conveyed in a most gentle way. Allāh says in a Hadith Qudsi:
“If they offer repentance, I will surely love them. If they do not repent, I will be like their physician who helps them with their diseases until they are recovered”.
Thus, having ‘Godly mercy’ on people also requires, like a physician, to follow a gradual course in treating people's diseases. A physician also tries different medicines until a certain medicine works out. A good physician resorts to surgery, only as the very last option.
Finally, having ‘Godly mercy’ on people requires that you free yourself from any personal interest when you handle people's secrets or information which you learn about them. As mentioned earlier, learning people's secrets gives power over them. An ignorant person might exploit this power for his own interests. This contradicts the concept of ‘Godly mercy’ which urges one to overlook his own interests and aims only at fixing and correcting people's behavior for their own sake.
A person who does not have ‘Godly mercy’ on people after learning about their faults, might find himself falling into tyranny, arrogance, conceit, envy, and suspicion. All these traits are dangerous and destructive, and are punishable both in this world and the world to come. Therefore, Sheikh Ibn ‘Atā‘illah says: “A person, who learns of people’s secrets and does not have Godly mercy on them, brings upon himself great danger and disaster”. This word of wisdom is reinforced by the hadith, in which the Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam says,
“No sin has a faster Divine punishment than the sin of injustice.” (Reported in Musnad Abi Hanifah)
The original situation is: “do not spy” (Al-Hujurat 49: 12). But if one finds himself in a situation where people's secrets are revealed before him, he should have ‘Godly mercy’ on them as the Sheikh Ibn ‘Atā‘illah says. Otherwise, he will be journeying backward not forward to Allāh.
Allāh Almighty Knows Best
Dr. Jasser Auda is an Associate Professor at Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies (QFIS), with the Public Policy in Islam Program. He is a founding member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, based in Dublin; member of the Academic Board of the International Institute of Islamic Thought in London, UK; fellow of the International Institute of Advanced Systems Research (IIAS), Canada; member of the Board of Trustees of the Global Civilizations Study Centre (GCSC), UK; member of the Executive Board of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS), UK; member of the Forum Against Islamophobia and Racism (FAIR), UK. He has a PhD from University of Wales, UK, on the philosophy of Islamic law; a PhD from the University of Waterloo, Canada, on systems analysis; and a Masters of Jurisprudence from the Islamic American University, Michigan, on Islamic legal purposes (maqasid al-shariah). He memorized the Quran and received traditional studies in Islamic sciences in Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, he was a founding director of the Maqasid Research Center in Philosophy of Islamic law in London, UK, and a visiting lecturer to Alexandria University Faculty of law, Egypt, the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Canada, and the Islamic Fiqh Academy of India. He has lectured on Islamic law, its philosophy, and its relation to the issues of Muslim minorities and policy in a couple dozen countries around the world. He was a contributor to policy reports related to Muslim minorities and Islamic education to the UK Ministry of Communities and the Higher Education Funding Council of England, and has written a number of books, the latest of which in English is: Maqasid Al-Shariah as Philosophy of Islamic Law: A Systems Approach, London: IIIT, 2008, and in Arabic: Averröes's Premier of the Jurist: Synopsis and Commentary, Cairo: Al-Shuruq Al-Dawliya, 2010.
[Via On Islam Ibn `Attaa’ Words of Wisdom (22) Tuesday, 10 January 2012]