Community Hot Topics Islamic Character

5 Ways to Stop Being Judgmental published December 2013.

If that feeling of, “I’m better than thou,” creeps up on you while comparing yourself to someone else, consider the following:

1. Consider the saying, “Some saints have a past and many sinners have a future.” 

Being a ‘saint’ isn’t guaranteed for any one person for a lifetime. But the path to God’s forgiveness is always open and especially tailored just for the one who makes a mistake and regrets it and seeks to change, even if it’s over and over and over.

2. Think about our sins and shortcomings.

Oh, wait, can’t think of any? If we can’t, we’ve been deceived by Satan and are in an even worse state than any of those whose blatant sins we perceive.

3. Remember the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “No one with the slightest particle of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise.” (Bukhari)

Sometimes the actions we see others engaged in may be sins, but may not be as serious as the problem of arrogance. In wanting others to act like they’re people of Paradise, let’s be careful not to make ourselves candidates to be barred from it. God protect us.

4. Ask ourselves: Is that person a parent?

If they are and we aren’t, they’re already light-years ahead of our game. If she’s a mom, Paradise is potentially below her feet. If they are a mom or dad, any good they taught their kid and their kid acts upon are rewards going straight back to them. How are we going to compare ourselves to that? If they are and we are, consider: what great work might their progeny do that may be because of one lesson that person taught them?

5. Remind ourselves: We have no idea what another person has gone through or where they’re really coming from.

How many people were physically beaten in order to make them pray, pressured into wearing hijab, or sexually abused by a “religious” individual? Our minute interactions with individuals are not a gateway to their backgrounds and past struggles. We don’t know the pain they’re working through. And sometimes, due to those very painful experiences, people leave the practice of Islam or leave Islam completely. But then they sometimes choose to come back. And when they do, it will take time. They have to work through their emotions, the toxic relationships which originally caused the schism they experienced with Islam and the difficulty in finding a niche in a community after leaving it for some time. And all of that is jihad. Everyday they are waging internal battles.

What they go through cannot quite be compared with the young man or woman who was raised in a supportively religious household, who was a part of a nurturing mosque community, who was put in Islamic school since kindergarten and taken to Qur’an classes everyday. A twenty-year-old hafith (one who has memorized the entire Qur’an by heart) might be impressive and may God bless them and He has raised their status in a special way. But they may not necessarily be closer to God or earning more rewards from God than the struggling servant who has dealt with incredible hardship and is struggling to come back.

So, what can we do when that ‘holier than thou’ feeling creeps in?

Think: Omar, may God be pleased with him, used to be a hostile Islamophobe who would beat his servant for her belief in God. Now, he is known to us as one of those promised Paradise by the Prophet ﷺ himself. Would he have been our role model if we knew him before Islam? Maybe not. But look who he became. You know why? Because, by God’s guidance and mercy, he had a teacher and a community who helped him reach his full potential.

That’s what we need to be for others and allow others to be for us. Be a loving mentor. Be a supportive friend. Be an encouraging counselor. Be a shoulder to cry and lean on. Your awesome love for Islam and “Muslimness” will be communicated simply through your actions of being there for others in an uplifting, genuine way. If applicable, when someone is ready, that person will ask you about Islam and seek your help in becoming the best Muslim they can be, God willing. Or perhaps they’ll be more open to listening to your sincere, gentle advice on something you’re truly concerned about because of your love for them. This perspective does not mean we do not advise others when we’re concerned for them, it simply means we do so while withholding judgment and in a methodically wise way.

Be like the Prophet ﷺ. Engulf your heart so deeply in caring for people’s happiness in both worlds that it simply does not have space for judgment or arrogance. And perhaps, because of your sincere acceptance of another, you’ll soon find that very person being a means of guidance for your own self.

About the author

Maryam Amirebrahimi

Maryam Amirebrahimi received her master’s in Education from UCLA, where her research focused on the effects of mentorship rooted in Critical Race Theory for urban high school students of color. She holds a bachelor’s in Child and Adolescent Development from San Jose State University, where she served as the President of the Muslim Student Association for two consecutive years. Currently, she is pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in Islamic Studies through Al Azhar University’s distance learning program. Maryam spent a year studying the Arabic language and Qur’an in Cairo, Egypt, and has memorized the Qur’an. She has been presented the Student of the Year award by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and holds a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Maryam frequently travels to work with different communities to address a variety of social issues and writes about topics related to social realities, women’s studies and spiritual connections on


  • Jazakallahu Khayr for this post. I agree with it all, and compassion is so important. But sometimes we mistake compassion and non-judgmentalism with never pointing put the difference between right and wrong. It is important to remind each other and give appropriate nasihah – to not do so shows a lack of concern for our brother or sister as well. There is just as much a trend at the moment, to avoid giving good and gentle advice on things like Islamic attire, because we are also so scared we might seem judgmental. And it is just as possible for someone who is giving nasihah out of sincere concern to be judged (unfairly) by others as ‘arrogant’. That too is a huge allegation. Judgmentalism goes both ways.
    Thank you once again for your post mashaLlah.

    • You are right – It is all in the delivery. 2 examples:

      I saw that a sister was praying incorrectly. So when she was finished, I took her aside, where others wouldn’t hear. I said, “Please don’t be offended, but I noticed something (that I would want pointed out to me, if the situation was reversed), when you pray……” And I gently explained the proper way. She had no idea, and was grateful.

      Second example – I had not yet said shahada, but was pretty much practicing. At the masjid one night after iftar (during Ramadan), a sister blurted out loudly for all to hear, “Hey sister – don’t you know wearing nailpolish is haram?!” Silence from all the other sisters, in embarrassment. I was humiliated. And no, I didn’t know.

      Remember this difference. Allah knows best.

    • I agree with you 200%, I think we need to have a balanced discussion on ‘being judged’, and that includes both sides, people also need to learn how to take constructive criticism without them thinking that they’re are being judged.


  • JazakAllah khayr sister for the kind advise.
    “Let your dealing with your brother{ in Islam or humanity} be of three types: If you can not benefit him, do not harm him. If you can’nt gladden him, do not sadden him. If you can not speak well of him, do not speak ill of him.” Yahya ibn Mu’adh al-Razi

  • Salaam, Sister Maryam, and all.

    “We don’t know the pain they’re working through. And sometimes, due to those very painful experiences, people leave the practice of Islam or leave Islam completely. But then they sometimes choose to come back. And when they do, it will take time. They have to work through their emotions, the toxic relationships which originally caused the schism they experienced with Islam and the difficulty in finding a niche in a community after leaving it for some time.”

    This is so true. Sadly — may Allah (swt) forgive us all for our shortcomings — many people do have literally toxic experiences in the Muslim ummah (I am referring to North America). Some of them get very badly burned and give up, whether they are “born” Muslims or converts.

    Younger people can sometimes overcome these bad experiences, but older people (especially older converts) often cannot. As the old saying goes, once burned twice shy. There are a lot of people who are hurting, but unfortunately there are some individuals who take a rigid approach, reproaching the hurting people for lack of faith, weakness, or whatever.

    Time and again in the Noble Qur’an we read that Allah (swt) is Compassionate and Merciful, but tragically we frequently do not see that divine compassion and mercy reflected in the ummah. Individuals struggle with their faith, often scarcely holding on, barely able to literally crawl back to Islam, and they do not receive support, so some of them do not make it, because others are unable or unwilling to comprehend what they have been going through. So sometimes they give up completely and fall away from Islam. It happens.

    And Allah (swt) knows best.

  • JazakAllah khayr sister..

    My parent strongly disagree with my reversion to Islam, especially I write a book about my journey to Islam. This make me ponder upon why I am born into non muslim family? Would my life becomes better if I destined to study Islam since kinder garden.

    I have been upset for few days, reading al-Quran translation to calm down my heart. Especially while my mother who raised me up telling me how sad she is feeling now.

    All praises to Allah, today I found your article. I will bookmark it and remember your sincere advice.

  • MashaAllah! Well written with great insight into human nature as you bring our attention to the myriad of experiences that people can possibly undergo. Thanks, Maryam for highlighting the importance of not judging other people but also not judging them using a black/white continuum as God in His infinite mercy does not portray His prophets as doing such in their plight to transform human perception of the world.
    In Chapter Yusuf, Prophet Yaq’ub’s sons were wrongdoers but study closely the character and the dawa methodology of their own father, a great prophet who did not only carry the burden of his own family but a whole nation. He is patient; sometimes lets them be…never forsakes them and continues to counsel them bringing to their attention their wrong actions, reminding them of God using His appropriate attributes…until their hearts are finely transformed to the hearts of repentant servants. Prophet Yaq’ub (as) understood their test and his own test and proceeded to painstakingly support them through counsel and console himself through supplication. This is Wisdom! Let us not rush to judgment and let’s change the world with the excellence of our character when we fail to find appropriate words to show compassion and let’s remember that the world can be utterly changed through the power of sincere supplication.
    Brother Paul…if I may respond to your remark as I felt a state of despair from the community. Maybe you need to redefine your expectations, as the community at that point can’t offer what it lacks…the community is tested in many ways now as we all are. Find comfort in the Quran as there is a Hadith in Tirmidhi reprted by Ali bin Abi Talib may God be pleased with him that he heard the Prophet PBUH
    say that there will come a time when calamites will be as heavy as the darkest portions of the night. He asked: what is the treatment for that? The prophet PBUH said: The Book Of GOD exalted is He. I apologize for the poor translation but my point is that if you hold on to the Quran and, especially reflect on the stories of the Prophets, you will remain steadfast inshaAllah. Also listening to wonderful scholars such as Hamza Yusuf, Timothy winters, Suhaibb Webb and many others will help you in your struggle. May Allah SWT ease everyone’s trials.

    • Salaam alaikum, Manal. (I apologize that due to my ignorance I do not know whether you are a sister or brother.)

      Yes, I do have a little tendency to despair with respect to the Muslim ummah, at least here in North America. Is it so, that the community cannot offer to those of us who are older (I was already of middle age when I professed myself a Muslim many years ago) what is beneficial to us? Is the community so degenerate today? Please understand that some of us do in fact nearly despair. We have struggled year after year when we were already no longer young. Sometimes we just fall down.

      If I beat my pet cat (really, the only friend I have in this world) every time she tries to stand up, eventually she will just cower in terror and quit trying, or else she will lash out violently. Is it so different with people? Those of us who have been beaten down by life, and there is no one in the ummah to lift us up? Not everyone is strong and able to live by abstractions. To be totally blunt — may Allah (swt) forgive us all — not everyone finds comfort in a bare text without people who live the meaning of that text. Books and recorded (/internet) lectures are all very fine and nice, but they do not take the place of just sitting down and conversing with another human being over a cup of coffee, if that is all you have.

      Allah (swt) knows best. I certainly don’t.

      • Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        You know, I was listening to a brother knowledgeable in Arabic, and he said Insan, a common word for “man” in Arabic is actually derived from anasiya which means intimacy(or seeking intimacy, I can’t remember.)

        That’s pretty interesting to me….we actually are seeking intimacy as it is part of our nature. Intimacy in brotherhood, friendship and spouse. And of course,intimacy with Allah aza wa jal.

  • Jzk Sister Maryam for the article. But this issue needs more than a 5 step article. Being judgmental is a very pervasive and subversive (not obvious) problem in our community. Please write and speak about more of this. We need your inspiring voice.

  • A beautiful article, Masha’Allah. If we just remember that no one is perfect – not even ourselves – it will help us not to be so quick in passing judgement on others. May Allah help us to emulate the Prophet (pbuh) and the salaf in our dealings with others. Ameen.

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