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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What about advice?

Should we just mind our own business, or give advice to people when our advice is not asked for? This is a question we all think about, usually after the advice we have given is rudely rejected. I am fond of giving advice and have put  much effort into trying to 'mind my own business'. However, yesterday while I was attending a Quran tafsir class, my opinion changed. In the Quran, Allah commands us to be of those who enjoin good and forbid evil. We do have a responsibility to show some reaction if we see something around us that is not right. e.g. we are meeting friends for lunch and one shows up with an immodest, revealing outfit. If she asks how she looks, we can politely and kindly say that the outfit looks too revealing. Even if she does not ask, if we have a good friendship and feel as if a sincere comment might help her, we have a duty to try to say something, at least to not approve, and at the very least, to consciously think that dressing in such a manner is forbidden by Allah. We can't just mind our own business, for then we are not forbidding evil and enjoining good. We are just being polite and worrying about what people will think.

This applies to almost all situations of life. While we cannot grab perfect strangers on the street and give advice, there are so many people who are close enough to influence us and be influenced by us. Who knows when a simple, sincere word from us may help them.

The flip side of giving advice is: We have to act upon that same advice ourselves and hold ourselves up to the same standard. So the urge to give advice can help us improve as well. I might say to a friend, "Hey, lets both try our best to not backbite when we talk to each other. If I forget, please remind me."

If we think about it, why do we remain silent when we see or hear something wrong? It is rare that we are truly helpless. Usually there is something we can do or say, without being harsh or cruel and deliberately offending others. As our Blessed Prophet reminds us in a hadith, if we see something wrong, the best thing is to stop something it by taking action, second best is speaking out about it and the last is to affirm in our hearts that this is wrong. Even when we feel that our advice will fall on deaf ears, we have a responsibility to say what is right, because then at least we have tried.

Think about it, if we cannot speak from the heart with those we care about, then do we really care about them? If we don't try to stop them from something that is sure to harm them, are we sincere with them?

Giving sincere advice with kindness and accepting advice sincerely offered, are both hard things to do. May Allah help us with both.

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