“On the authority of Abu Ruqayyah Tameem ibn Aus (may Allah be pleased with him) the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘The religion is naseehah.’ The people said, ‘To whom?’ The Prophet (s) replied, ‘To Allah and His Book and to His Messenger and to the Leaders of the Muslims and to the common folk of the Muslims.’” (Recorded by Muslim)
Naseehah to the Leaders of the Muslims
After outlining they ways in which an individual should make naseehah to themselves in respect to purifying their relationship with Allah, His Book and His Messenger, the Prophet (s) goes on to explain that naseehah should also be given to others, including the leaders of the Muslims as well as those in the wider society.
This statement of the Prophet (s) shows us that no-one is above receiving or accepting naseehah, no matter how high-ranking a person may be. With respect to our submission to Allah and our need to follow His Shareerah, we are all equal and everyone is in need of naseehah or sincere guidance. Indeed, if a leader is sincere, they will welcome naseehah and change their views if they are shown to be wrong. At the same time, they are also amongst the first of those who are deserving of our respect because of the responsibility that they take.
There are two kinds of ‘leaders’ amongst the Muslims, and both are referred to in the wording of this hadith. The first are the religious leaders or scholars and the second are the worldly leaders or rulers.
Making naseehah to the scholars implies taking the knowledge that they pass on and applying it in our daily lives, accepting their rulings if they provide sound proofs for their decisions, having good thoughts about them and not suspecting them of evil.
Making naseehah to the leaders of the Muslims includes: helping them when they are following the truth; obeying them in what is right (this will be discussed further in a later hadith Insha’Allah); reminding them if they make an error or forget; being patient with them when they do things that a person does not like; fighting for them and praying for their guidance and piety.
It is the right of the Muslim subject who has knowledge and understanding to advise the rulers to what is best, and to forbid them from evil. Because the actions of those in power affect so many people, making naseehah to them to advise them as what is right is of even more importance. If it is at all possible, naseehah should be given face to face. If that is not possible, it can be done through those who are in contact with them, or by writing to them directly. Many scholars state that it is preferable to advise in private and not in public.
The best examples for the Muslims rulers, such as Abu Bakr (r) and Umar (r), certainly realised what an important role naseehah played in their rule. They actively sought advice reminded the Muslims as a whole that it was an obligation upon them to correct and advise the Muslim rulers. Umar (r) reportedly said, “May Allah have mercy on the one who corrects us concerning our evil.” This was a sign of their sincerity subhanAllah.
It’s a sad fact that when we read this, our hearts can only sink when we think of what has become of Muslims rulers of today. Where can we see any example of rulers who are truly living and implementing the Shareeah? Where can we see any examples of rulers who are willing to listen to the naseehah of their subjects? As I write this, the streets are filled with protesters in Arab countries voicing their discontent with their rulers.
On a more personal level, let’s ask ourselves how willing we are to accept sincere naseehah? Are we willing to listen if someone wants to advise us to what is best concerning our conduct, our speech or how we dress? Pride gets in the way and tells us we don’t want to be told what to do, even if what we are being advised to is best for us in terms of our religion. We should reflect not only on giving naseehah to others, but also on how to accept it, and to change our conduct for the sake of Allah (swt).