As people of Faith, we have the duty of commanding good and forbidding evil. We thus engage ourselves, as social beings, in improving ourselves and working towards being instruments in improving the world we live in. Our Faith behooves us not to search for faults in others and we would do well to heed the advice of our Beloved Prophet : “Part of being a good person is minding your own business.”
While the purpose of commanding good and forbidding evil is to correct and restore; fault-finding inevitably leads to undermining the character of people and sometimes to destroying relationships. Prophet Muhammad said: “The worst of people are those engaged in slandering others, those who ruin relationships between dear ones who try to find fault with innocent people.”
The Prophet also admonished us that “when you pursue the faults of others, you corrupt them” and warned that “those who unduly pursue the shortcomings of others will have their own faults exposed.”
Fault-finding is the habit of the miserable
Confucius said: “the great person calls to attention the good points in others while the miserable person calls to attention the defects in others.” (Analects 12:16). That is perhaps why losers can easily say, “something is wrong” and winners usually say, “how can I correct it”. Why losers say, “why don’t you do this?” and winners usually say, “here is something I can do.”
Fault-finders normally tell others about someone’s faults and rarely have the guts to face people; fitting the description of dhul-wajhayn (two-faced) which the Prophet Muhammad assigned to troublemakers and hypocrites. Fault-finders also tend to be miserable themselves, lacking self-esteem; and since they focus so much on blaming others, they become resentful; and rather than cherish people, tend to develop a desire to undermine and discredit people.
Negativity consumes a person
The negative feelings that a fault-finder harbors regarding others eventually consumes the person and this negativity eventually becomes part of the fault-finder’s character. Prophet Muhammad therefore advised us “Refrain from holding bad opinions of people.”
Deflecting one’s own shortcomings
One of the common ways through which people deflect their own shortcomings and do not face up to their own faults is to blame others. The faults we see may well not be in what we are looking at, but rather in our looking. Prophet ‘Isa/Jesus is reported to have said; “why do you look at the little speck in your brother’s eye and forget the plank in your own eye”. Hadrat ‘Ali said: “The worst of people is the person who searches for faults in others while being blind to his own faults”. Martin Luther King rightly said: “the highest form of maturity is self inquiry”.
Watch your Heart, your Emotions and your Tongue
Speech is projection of thoughts and emotions; the content of speech reflects the culture of the heart, so consider carefully how you feel about others, why you feel the way you feel and what you say about people. Prophet Muhammad said: “None of your faith is correct unless your heart is upright and your heart will not be rectified until your tongue is in order”. That is why Allah states in the Quran “speak what is correct, your actions will be rectified and your sins will be forgiven”. Since virtually all fault-finding is conveyed verbally, we must be careful of the power of the tongue since wise people caution the fact that affliction caused by the tongue is more severe than the harm caused by the sword. The Prophet also provided a basic rule of good character when he responded to a question regarding salvation. He replied: “It is necessary for you to control your tongue and weep for your own faults”.
The prayer of the Prophet is the most appropriate expression for one who introspects and genuinely wishes to be a catalyst for a better world: “O Allah, forgive that which I did secretly and what I did publicly; What I did inadvertently and what I did deliberately; What I did knowingly and what I did out of ignorance”.
Always reflect on this advice of the Prophet : “glad tidings to the person more concerned about his own faults than bothering about the faults of others”.
Sadullah Khan is the Director of Islamic Center of Irvine. He has presented lectures on Islamic Civilization at California State University at Dominguez Hills. He is a frequent lecturer for the Academy of Judaic, Christian and Islamic Studies at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). He is also an advisor to the Chancellor’s Committee on Religion Ethics and Values at UCLA and serves as Director of Muslim Affairs at USC (University of Southern California).
You can watch his lectures on Empowerment at IslamiTV