A Momin is a Mirror
Hazrat Aby Hurairah RAA has narrated that the Holy Prophet ﷺ said, “a Momin (believer) is a mirror for another Momin.”
The obvious meaning of this Hadith is that just like a mirror tells the person standing in front of it about what is good and what is not good with their appearance, similarly a Momin tells another Momin correctly about their good and not so good attributes. There are many things a person can’t know about their own appearance, for example, if there is a mark on someone’s face they can’t see it themselves. But if they stand in front of a mirror, the mirror will tell them about that mark and then they can clean it. Similarly, if a Momin has a bad attribute or habit they may not always be able to recognize it by themselves, but another caring Momin can tell them about it privately so that they can rectify it.
Not Getting Angry with a Critic
In this Hadith, there is a message for both the people, the one whose mistake is being pointed out, and the one who is pointing out the mistake. For the first person the message is not to get upset with the person who is pointing out his mistake. If a person looks at his face in the mirror and the mirror shows him that there is some mark on his face, does he get angry with the mirror? He doesn’t, rather his whole purpose of looking at the mirror was to find out whether his face was clean or not.
Different Ways of Pointing out Mistakes
Different people have different ways of pointing out someone’s mistake. Some do it kindly, politely and privately, and some do it crudely. However, even if a person points out one of our mistakes crudely, they are still telling us about one of our illnesses that we previously were not aware of. That is why we should be grateful even to those people. There is a verse in Arabic which says that my greatest benefactor is the person who presents me with the gift of my faults, meaning the person who tells me about my mistakes. On the other hand, if a person is praising us too much, and listing virtues we don’t really have, then he is actually harming us because such undue praise can lead to Takabbur (believing one is superior to others). So the person who is criticizing us is in reality doing us good, while the person who is praising us unduly is doing us harm. This Hadith is teaching us to be grateful to the person who tells us our mistakes.
Lessons for the Person Pointing out Someone’s Mistakes
The other lesson in this Hadith is for the person who points out someone else’s mistake. The lesson is that a mirror tells only that person who is standing in front of it if there is anything wrong with their appearance, it does not tell any unrelated person about someone else’s flaws. The other characteristic of the mirror is that it tells the person exactly what is wrong with their appearance, it does not exaggerate their flaws. The third characteristic is that the mirror just informs the person about their flaws, it does not ridicule them, humiliate them or embarrass them. Similarly, if a Momin points out someone else’s mistakes, just like the mirror, they should do so privately and not publicly humiliate them, they should tell exactly what their mistake is and not exaggerate it, and they should not embarrass or ridicule the other person for making those mistakes.
A Sinner Deserves Sympathy, Not Anger
When a Momin tells another Momin about his mistake, he doesn’t get angry with him, he takes pity on him that he has become involved in this mistake. Just like a person doesn’t get angry with someone who is sick, does not blame him for his sickness, and rather feels sympathy towards him, and tries to suggest what he thinks is best for him, similarly if a Momin is involved in some mistake or sin, we should not get angry with him, we should not ridicule or embarrass him, rather we should educate him kindly and politely about his mistake and help him get out of it.
AMR BIL MA’ROOF AND NAHI ANIL MUNKIR ARE FARD (OBLIGATORY)
These days Muslims alternate between two extremes. Either it doesn’t occur to us that if a Muslim is making a mistake it is our duty to let them know about it. For example, if a Muslim is praying Salah and we can see that he is making a mistake, then it is our duty to quietly tell him about it. We are not mindful that Amr BilMa’roof (امر لمعروف encouraging others to do good deeds) and Nahi Anil Munkir (نهي المنکر telling people not to commit sins) are Fard (obligatory) upon every Muslim.
On the other extreme, if someone becomes mindful of these duties then they become so passionate about it as if they have been personally appointed by God to perform it. So, when such people inform people about what they are doing wrong, they start scolding them for it, and start humiliating and embarrassing them in public. The holy Prophet ﷺ has said that Muslims are like mirrors. Do not be angry with people, do not humiliate them, inform them kindly and privately and they will be much more likely to listen to your advice.
The Story of Hazrat Hassan and Hussain Raa
Once when Hazrat Hassan and Hussain RAA were young, they were passing by a river. They saw an old man doing wudu (ablution), who was performing it incorrectly. They thought they shouldtell the person that he is doing wudu incorrectly, but as he was older than them they wanted to do it in a way so that it didn’t hurt his feelings. They went to the old man and kept talking to him for some time. Then they said to him, “you are our elder. When we do wudu we are not sure whether we have done it correctly. Can we please do wudu in front of you so that you can observe us and then tell us whether we are doing it correctly and according to the Sunnah of Rasool Allah ﷺ or not?”
The old man realized that the way he was performing wudu was incorrect and these young people had actually tried to tell him his mistake without criticizing him openly. He thanked them for showing him his mistake and promised that he will try to perform Wudu according to Sunnah from now on. This is the way in which Allah Ta’alah has commanded us to call people to
Islam in this verse of the Holy Quran;
“Invite (people) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good counsel. And argue with them in the best of manners.”(16:125)
We have not been appointed guards over people’s Iman (faith) that we scold them or ridicule them. We are just like a mirror, our job is just to quietly and privately inform them about their error, not to humiliate or embarrass them.
Do Not Publicize Others’ Mistakes
In the interpretation of this Hadith, Hazrat Thanvi RE used to say that a mirror tells only the person standing in front of it about his mistakes. It does not go and tell other people that so and so has such faults. Similarly, a Momin is supposed to act like a mirror. If he sees a fault in someone then he should go and tell that person quietly and privately that what you are doing is wrong. Publicizing people’s mistakes to other people is not the characteristic of a Muslim. If a person informs someone about their mistake with the intention that I am doing this because Allah Ta’alah has ordered me to do so, then he will never humiliate him in front of other people. It is Hara’am (unlawful) to bring disrepute to other Muslims’ honour.
Our Behaviour Today
If we look around ourselves today, we will find only a few people who tell somebody kindly and privately that what you have done is wrong, or is not in accordance with the Shariah. But we will find a far greater number who enjoy discussing another person’s mistakes in public, more often when they are not there and would not gain anything from that discussion. These kinds of discussions lead to the sins of Gheebat (backbiting), making undue allegations against another person, exaggeration and sometimes outright lying. When you see you brother making a mistake, do not go on to tell the whole world about it, just tell him kindly and privately.
We are not in Charge of Other People
Another lesson that can be deduced from this Hadith is that if a person stands in front of a mirror the first time, the mirror will tell him if there is anything wrong with his appearance. If he comes a second time the mirror will tell him again, as well as a third time. But the mirror doesn’t start insisting that the person must correct what’s wrong with his appearance, or it won’t tell him about his mistake again. The mirror doesn’t start controlling his life, that if you do not start living like the way I want you to live, I will not talk to you again.
The Way of Prophets
It is known that when Prophets were sent to bring people the message of Allah, many of the people they were sent to didn’t listen to them and didn’t even believe in them. But the Prophets did not stop preaching after people refused to accept what they were saying the first or the second time. They spent their entire lives delivering Allah’s message. However, they delivered the message gently and kindly, and never tried to take over control of people’s lives. In the Holy Quran Allah Ta’alah says:
“So, (O Prophet,) keep on preaching; you are only a preacher.You are not a taskmaster set up over them,” (88:21-22)
Meaning that the task that Allah Ta’alah had set for His Prophets was to convey His message, to inform people about their wrong beliefs and actions. Then it is up to that person to start following the right path. If he doesn’t correct his mistakes then the duty is to inform him again, and a third time. Do not get angry or upset with that person that because he didn’t listen to me the last time, I will not convey Allah’s message to him anymore.
The Holy Prophet’s ﷺ Love for Ummah
Because the Holy Prophet ﷺ loved his people very much he felt great sadness when the non-believers refused to accept Allah’s message. Allah Ta’alah revealed a verse in the
Holy Quran to console him;
“(O Prophet,) perhaps you are going to let yourself collapse in grief because they do not believe.” (26:3)
Allah Ta’alah advised the Holy Prophet that it wasn’t his duty to make people believe. His duty was to pass Allah Ta’alah’s message on to them. Then it was their own responsibility whether they embraced that message or not.
Why Do We Do Tableegh
Hazrat Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi RE used to say that a preacher should stay focused on why is he doing Tableegh (preaching). If he is conveying Allah Ta’alah’s message to people with the intention of pleasing Allah Ta’alah, then he should not get upset or disappointed if people don’t listen to him, and should not stop conveying Allah’s message for that reason. Rather he should remind himself why he was doing this Tableegh. If he was doing it with the sincere intention of pleasing Allah Ta’alah then he will get his reward whether people listen to him or not. And that is why he should keep doing Tableegh even if people don’t listen because he will get his reward regardless. He would have carried out his duty and then it is people’s own responsibility whether they accept Allah’s message or not.
Keep Praying for Your Brother
If a Muslim keeps giving constructive feedback to another Muslim brother with Ikhlas (sincerity) and also keeps praying to Allah Ta’alah that, “O’ Allah! My brother is involved in this sin. Please give him guidance and show him the right path”, then Allah Ta’alah does accept this prayer if it is made repeatedly with Ikhlas. If we keep doing this for each other, then the whole society can change for the better. Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Shafi RE used to say that if a Muslim informs his brother about his mistakes observing the conditions mentioned above, then Allah Ta’alah often brings about improvement.
In summary, what this Hadith is telling us is that a Momin’s duty is to inform his Muslim brother about his mistake kindly and privately. If he doesn’t pay heed to our advice immediately then we shouldn’t feel upset and despondent. When a Muslim advises another Muslim with Ikhlas (sincerity), and does so again and again, it does lead to change eventually. So just keep acting like a mirror. And if someone else acts like a mirror and tells you about your mistakes, then don’t get angry and upset with them. May Allah Ta’alah help all of us put these attitudes into out practice.
وآخر دعوا ان الحمد ﷲ رب العالمين