It’s drilled into our heads time and time again that advice, in Islam, holds high status. We are commanded to enjoin good and forbid evil whenever it is possible. But the truth of the matter is, sometimes it’s just downright hard. We carefully coin the advice that we want our friends to understand, but even after much work, often times it is met with anger and resentment.
In Tafsir Surat Luqman by Imam Ibn Kathir, Ibn Kathir talks about the Ayah in which Luqman rahimahu’Allah – Allah have mercy on him) advises his son to command the good and forbid the evil—Subhan’Allah the meaning of this ayah shows the true Jihad (struggle) of the Nafs (self or soul) that one must do when advising their loved ones:
“Oh My son! Establish the Salah, enjoin the good and forbid the evil, and bear with patience whatever befalls you. Verily, these are some of the important commandments.”
The part that I wanted to focus on is that which is bold and italicized above. Ibn Kathir says that this part is encouraging people to enjoin good and forbid evil, THEN to follow it up with patience. Why? Because Luqman rahimahu’Allah knew that whoever enjoins what is good and forbids what is evil will inevitably encounter harm and annoyance from the people.
No one likes to hear that they are doing things the wrong way, and they may lash out; you must talk back, take action, but be patient because Jannah is the destination (bi’idhnir-Rahman – with the permission of Allah).
Words of Wisdom about giving advice by Ibn Hazm:
“When you give advice, do not give it only on condition that it will be taken. Do not intercede only on the condition that your intercession is accepted; do not make a gift only on the condition that you will be recompensed. Do it only in order to practice virtue, and to do what you should do when giving advice, interceding and being generous.”
“The definition of advice is that the man giving it feels bad about what harms his friend, whether the latter feels good or bad about it, and he feels happy about what is good for him, whether his friend is happy or unhappy about it. This is the added factor that a counselor has which goes beyond the limit of simple friendship.”
And my Favorite:
“Advice can be given twice. The first time is as prescribed as a religious duty. The second time is a reminder and a warning. If you repeat the advice a third time it becomes a remonstrance and a reprimand. After that you have to slap and punch and perhaps try even more serious methods which may cause harm and damage. Certainly, it is only in questions of religious practices that it is permissible to repeat advice incessantly, whether the listener accepts it or gets irritated, whether the advisor suffers from it or not. When you give advice, give it softly, do not shout it out; use hints, do not speak openly unless you are advising someone who is determined not to understand. Then explanations would be essential. Do not give advice only on condition that it is followed. Otherwise you are a tyrant, not an adviser; you are demanding obedience, you are not allowing religious feeling and brotherly spirit their due. Neither reason nor friendship gives you the right to insist. It is rather the right that a ruler has over his subjects or a master over his slaves.”
And last but not least…when we are on the other side of the advice, remember:
“Anyone who criticizes you cares about your friendship. Anyone who makes light of your faults cares nothing about you.” – Ibn Hazm