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Be your brother's keeper | Blog


It was a chilly noisy evening in Nairobi as Khadija, my friend, and I briskly strolled towards the matatu stops. We passed the pizza place located en route to the stop and I forgot to look away. Not again! I spotted two Muslim women queuing patiently for their hot pizzas. I turned to Khadija as she nervously bit her nails — she had seen them too. We knew we had to tell them even though we were not enthusiastic about it. ‘’You start,’’ I mumbled.  ‘’No, I can’t. Please start,’’ she responded.


We held each other’s hands and walked towards the queue. We waved at the first woman, a short lady with a beautiful blue headscarf on her head, signalling her to come to us. “Assalaam Alaykum,” we greeted her with smiles on our faces. She responded inquisitively. We then explained, in turns, that the particular pizza place we were in was not halal certified despite its chicken branch, directly next to it, having a halal certificate elaborately hung on the wall.


“We too didn’t know initially,” we reassured her. She listened attentively while thankfully smiling.   


We then called the second lady who looked puzzled by our greetings. As we started explaining, I extended my hand towards her shoulder to set a friendly mood, but she coldly withdrew. She stared back at us blankly and did not smile back as we said goodbye. It was blatant that she was relieved by our departure. Meanwhile, we were relieved that we had summed up the courage to approach the two women about the issue.


We always burden ourselves with a reluctant attitude towards approaching fellow Muslims regarding matters of religion. Most challenges pertaining to it are self–imposed. We care what people will think of us and care about their negative reactions, or we view ourselves as less practicing Muslims thus stripping ourselves of that responsibility.


Most commonly, our perception of a person as a sinner who can’t change has a huge impact.


If we are doing the right thing and Allah is pleased with us, why should we care what people think? If a person reacts negatively, starts to argue, or attacks you, it is just easy to calmly excuse yourself and say, ‘’sorry if I have offended you’’. All human beings are to err; we can concentrate on bad deeds that we avoid and encourage others to avoid them too.  Lastly, it is best not to brand a person as a sinner because they may change and we never know where we’ll end up.


Who knows?  You might be the person to guide them. In a hadith by Muslim, it was reported by Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri that the messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Whoever amongst you sees an evil should change it with his hand.  If he is unable to do that, then with his tongue. If he is unable to do that, then with his heart and that is the weakest level of iman.”


Unfortunately, enjoining good and forbidding evil has become an alien concept. We hardly do it and when we do, it becomes overwhelmingly awkward.


When was the last time you reminded your colleague to say, “bismillah,” before eating or saw someone performing wudhu incorrectly and casually passed by them? When was the last time one of your friends called you and reminded you that it’s Monday so you should fast together?


We have become desensitised to the bad whereby the hadith portrays that our iman needs strengthening if we merely don’t feel bad about a wrongdoing. We are the ummah marked by these two qualities of enjoining good and forbidding evil. Allah (SWT) says in Surat At-Tawba: “The believers, men and women are protectors of each other; they enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil” (English Translation of the Qur’an, 9:91).


The best approach to use while encouraging good or correcting a mistake is the loving approach. When correcting someone, it is important to put yourself in their shoes and think of how you’d like to be handled. Avoid negative thoughts and assumptions.


It is wise to correct someone in seclusion to avoid embarrassment. Adopt a friendly attitude and view it from the perspective that, “we all make mistakes.” Preferably have evidence: a hadith, an ayah or a reference, and smile and avoid arguing or being too insistent. Say what you have to amiably, answer any questions, and excuse yourself.


In this world of moral relativism, our permanent values from the Qur’an and the Sunnah are kept alive by enjoining good and forbidding evil.

photo credit: magnusfranklin via photopin cc


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