On the authority of Tamim Al-Dari that the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, said:
“Religion is nasihah.” We said: “To whom?” The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, said: “To Allah and His Book, and His messenger, and to the leaders of the Muslims and their common folk.” [Muslim]
The word “nasihah” cannot be accurately translated to English because it is a broad concept which cannot be traced in the English language. Some use the term “sincerity” but this is only part of the concept – to negate deception/cheating. According to Imam Ibnu al-Salah, nasihah is “truly seeking the best, in terms of intention and action, for the one whom he is making nasihah to”.
This hadith is a profound statement as Sheikh Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo says that in this one brief statement the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, described the essence of Islam. Nasihah hence forms the bulk and the most important pillar of Islam since it encompasses Islam, Iman and Ihsan.
Nasihah to Allah
The nasihah should be to Allah first. This includes the fulfillment of the obligations in the best way possible (Ihsan).This should be the goal for every Muslim. This also includes striving to get as close to Allah as possible by doing not only the obligations but also the preferable good deeds, by forbidding the forbidden and avoiding the disliked acts.
Nasihah to Allah also involves:
Believing in Allah and denying any partners with Him.
Believing in His attributes.
Fulfilling His commands and abstaining from what He has forbidden.
Doing what is best to remember Him, under all circumstances.
Loving whatever He loves and hating whatever He hates, be it objects, persons, actions, sayings, etc.
Recognising the blessings He has bestowed upon us and properly thanking Him for these blessings.
To do nasihah to Allah one should have the correct intention in one’s heart to fulfill the rights of Allah, even when one is excused and it is beyond one’s ability to perform these obligations. Sometimes a person may not be able to perform an obligation but at least he has good intentions in his heart to fulfill it in the first place.
The actions of the heart (i.e. to have hope in Allah’s mercy, to trust Him, to fear Him and to seek refuge in Him), and the actions of the limbs (prayers, Zakah, etc.) also fall under nasihah to Allah.
Honesty is also another aspect of this great concept. In whatever we do we should always be honest with Allah, similarly with ikhlas (sincerity). In fact ikhlas should be the first thing that a Muslim should attain when we talk about nasihah to Allah.
Nasihah to His Book
Believing that the Qur’an is from Allah, that it is the Word of Allah and that it is not like the word of man.
According to one’s ability, to read and recite the Qur’an and to practice it.
To study it’s admonitions, lessons and parables.
Calling others to believe in the Qur’an.
To defend and protect it from any kind of distortion or misinterpretation.
Defending the Qur’an against false claims made against it.
Having proper respect and treating the Qur’an in a proper manner – e.g. to be careful not to throw away a piece of paper which has an ayat printed on it (magazine article, etc.) as it may be stepped on – we should also be aware if we see such a piece of paper on the ground to pick it up and keep it away safely or destroy it by burning it so that it is not subject to disrespect.
Nasihah to His Messenger
Believing the Prophet’s, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, message.
Believing in all that he brought as being divinely inspired.
Loving him more than we love ourselves and our families – it is the second level of love after the love of Allah.
Our love for him should lead to other obligations like obeying him.
Helping him and defending him (for those who were alive during his time) – defending his honour and respecting his status.
For the people who came after the Prophet’s, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, life, we should respect and love his Sunnah which is an implication of loving him.
To say “sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam” whenever his name is mentioned.
To accept his Sunnah as a scale by which we judge things, actions and sayings.
To accept him as the true leader and only human’s final word with respect to the religion – he is the only true human authority and everyone else’s statements/opinions come after his.
To love those who love him and hate those who hate him.
Reviving his Sunnah by learning, understanding, teaching and spreading it. However, when we call people to the Sunnah – as advised by Imam Ahmad – we should do it in a nice and proper way and not to end up fighting about it. One problem today is that many Muslims are unaware of the Sunnah and the status of the Sunnah – so one of the things we should do is to make these people love the Sunnah, and we should not do so in an aggressive or confrontational way as this might lead to the people being confused, offensive and rejecting the Sunnah.
There are so many bid’ah being practiced today and the way to remove bid’ah amongst the people is to revive the Sunnah (The Salaf said: “Bid’ah only arises when the Sunnan is not known or practiced.”). To revive the Sunnah, we should not start with the condemnation of bid’ah but rather with the introduction/presentation of the Sunnah. We have to set good role models of those who love, and follow the Sunnah and we should teach others in a nice, proper way so that others too can understand, love and appreciate the Sunnah. Then they will use the Sunnah as a scale to judge things. Slowly, insha Allah, bid’ah will be reduced and minimized.
When we try to educate people about the Sunnah, we should be careful not to confuse them by focussing on minor issues. Sunnan can be broken into different levels and we should start from the highest level. We should not teach people about the lower levels (details) when they haven’t been taught the higher levels (basic concepts). We should let the people understand and love the higher level Sunnan first before we go step by step into the lower levels, slowly covering more details. This, insha Allah, will lead to the revival of the Sunnah.
To love both his family and his companions. Most Islamic sects love one or the other and not both. There are some deviated Islamic sects who are propagating their false beliefs by creating doubts about the Sahabahs (Companions) with the intention of making people hate them. This will lead to the rejection of the Sunnah. Some sects only believe the Sunnah that comes through their imams, e.g. the Shi’ah. We should be aware of the sources of narrations about the Sahabah as some of these narrations are false and may create doubts.
To love those who follow, defend and strive to revive the Sunnah of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam.
Nasihah to the Muslim Leaders
The word ‘leader’ stands for both ‘ulama and those in authority (at all levels). Nasihah should be given to all leaders, no matter how high or what the ranking is. No one is above the law in Islam and no one is above needing advice. Nasihah is for the benefit of anyone who is in authority. This means that a ruler, leader or scholar should be the first to accept sincere advice.
Making nasihah to Muslim leaders should include:-
Helping them in whatever is good or beneficial.
Obeying them in what is right.
Reminding them if they should err or forget.
Being patient with them if they do things which we dislike – we try to do the nasihah and at the same time we tolerate the leader because otherwise it may lead to instability in the Muslim community.
Using hikmah (wisdom) tp account the leaders if they violate the shariah.
Making jihad with them and not revolting against their proper authority.
One should pray for their guidance and piety.
Choosing the right way, manner and channel in advising them. The Scholars say giving nasihah to leaders should be done according to certain rules:
One must have good intentions (ikhlas).
It should be done mildly, calling on them with respect.
Avoiding harshness and not to embarrass them – our aim is to advise and correct them and not to show off.
Not to divulge or inform others about their wrong-doings as this may lead to more problems in the society.
Give the nasihah privately and not publicly.
If one is asked by the leader to do a maksiah or something which contradicts with Shariah, one shouldn’t obey. However, we should disobey in a nice/assertive manner and not in an aggressive way because our aim is to remind them that this is wrong so that they will change and not ask us to do the maksiah.
For the Scholars, our nasihah is seeking knowledge from them.
We obey them if their opinion is based on sound proof and evidence.
Not to seek or point out their mistakes. There are some people who search for the mistakes of Scholars – we shouldn’t do this because Scholars are pious people and this act may cause Allah to be displeased with us. It may also create chaos in the community.
Not to follow them blindly.
Not to hollow them
Nasihah to the Common Folk of the Muslims
To observe the rights of other Muslims – fulfilling our obligations towards other Muslims. These obligations differ depending on the group of Muslims (e.g. our parents, children, relatives, neighbours, etc.) – e.g. greeting them, visiting them when they are sick, making du’a for them, giving advice if they ask for it, praying solat ul janazah for the one who dies, etc.
To observe the concept of wala’ which means:
to love every Muslim.
to care for all Muslims.
to help other Muslims.
to defend/protect other Muslims.
If you do not love, you will not care. If you do not care, you will not help. If you do not help, you will not protect. The reason why so many Muslims today do not care or help others is because there is something wrong with the wala’ aspect of love. We should have love for other Muslims, especially those who are suffering, so we will care and help them. The Scholars say one way to help and the least we can do is to make du’a (pray for them).
There is a counter concept to al-wala’ which is al-bara or disassociation with (for the purpose of leading others from doing evil). However we should not do it:
for our own interest.
if it will not lead the other person to change his ways – we should not start with disassociation, we should start with giving advice and educating.
We should show love and concern and give nasihah in the proper way. If all else fails, then we can use the concept of disassociation (if it will lead to the person changing).
The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, said that “he is a real Muslim if he is the one who the other Muslims are saved from his tongue and his hand” – the true Muslim is one who will not harm others verbally or physically, in any way or by any means.
Having mercy for the young and showing respect to the elders – it is part of glorifying Allah that we respect the elder Muslims.
Sacrificing one’s time, effort, money, etc. for the betterment of the Muslim community.
If we are the ones in authority, then we should act sincerely towards the rest of the Muslims and do whatever is in their best interest. We should give nasihah to the people by, e.g. doing what is best for the ummah, defending the community, putting the right and qualified people in the right position and job. Any kind of leadership or authority, whatever the level or rank, is responsible for the people being lead – e.g. supervisors, managers, teachers, principles, etc.
From exploring all the obligations mentioned above, we can see that nasihah encompasses everything in Islam, Iman and Ihsan.