Could you please explain the hadith which means whoever criticizes his brother/sister (in religion) for his/her sin, he will not die unless he commits the same sin?

Details of the Question
Could you please explain the hadith which means whoever criticizes his brother/sister (in religion) for his/her sin, he will not die unless he commits the same sin?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The statement “Do not criticize; you will not die unless you experience what you criticize” is referred to as hadith in our resources. (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 53, no: 2507; Bayhaqi, Shuabu’l-Iman, 5/315, no: 2778; Kashfu’l-Khafa, 2/265). However, it is stated that it is a weak hadith. (see Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 53). 

Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Umar reports: “One day, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) climbed up the minbar (pulpit) and said loudly: 

O hypocrites who are Muslims in their words but into whose hearts faith failed to penetrate! Do not cause hardships to Muslims; do not criticize them; do not try to reveal their mistakes because whoever reveals his brother’s mistakes Allah will reveal his mistakes. If Allah reveals one’s mistakes, He will embarrass him publicly, even if the mistake is within his house (hidden from people).

One day Ibn Umar looked at the Kaaba and said: “How great your honorableness is, how great your respectfulness is! However, a believer’s respectfulness in sight of Allah is greater than yours!” (Tirmidhi, Birr 85, (2033).) 

1- The phrase of criticizing a Muslim in this hadith means criticizing him/her for his past sins, mistakes and faults and taunting him/her with them. 

According to the opinion of the majority of the scholars, it means that a person who researches and reveals a believer’s faults and sins although that believer has already repented for them will himself experience that fault and sin which he criticized. 

However, some scholars state that there is not a difference between knowing if one has repented or not. In both cases, it is impermissible to taunt people with their sins and faults. 

May Allah let us be among those who conceal people’s sins and not reveal them; in another hadith, the Prophet says: “Muslims are brothers. They do not treat each other cruelly and do not give in each other to the enemy. Whoever meets a need of his Muslim brother Allah will meet a need of his own. Whoever saves a Muslim from a trouble, Allah will save him from one of his troubles on the Day of Judgment. Whoever conceals a Muslim’s fault, Allah will conceal his faults on the Day of Judgment.” (Bukhari, Mazalim, 3; Muslim, Birr, 58). 

One who criticizes someone else because of his faults must repent and ask that person for forgiveness. By doing so, inshaallah, Allah will accept his repentance and keep him away from trouble. 

2- Here, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) defines investigating people’s faults as hypocrisy. Actually, those who say they are Muslims but whose hearts have not been filled with faith are hypocrites. However, if we define faith with the word “perfection”, we deduce that Muslims are meant as well and thus both Muslims and hypocrites are included into this statement of the Prophet. Scholiasts accept the hadith this way. As a matter of fact, the phrase of “Muslim brother” is used in the latter part of the hadith that says “whoever investigates faults of a Muslim brother”. As a hypocrite and a Muslim cannot be brothers, the Messenger of Allah must have meant sinful Muslims in his statement as well. In this sense, those who say the hadith addresses only hypocrites happen to object to the obvious meaning of the hadith. It would be more appropriate to judge according to the general meaning of the hadith.

3- What is meant by “do not treat Muslims cruelly” is “perfect Muslims”; that is to say, Muslims who say they are Muslims and who have got faith in their hearts at the same time. 

4- Criticizing a Muslim means reproaching him because of his past sins, mistakes and faults and taunting him with them. Scholars see no difference between knowing if he has repented or not, if the person corrected himself; in both cases it is not permissible to taunt him with his past. 

On the other hand, as for criticizing someone for a sin which he was seen committing it or for a sin which he committed not long ago, for which he was not seen to repent it is stated that it is necessary for anyone who is liable to criticize. Even hadd and ta’zir (types of punishment) can be applied depending on the situation. In this case, it is considered suggesting goodness and prohibiting evil. 

5- Order of not investigating a Muslim brother’s faults is mentioned for “mature Muslims.” Sinful Muslims are an exception to this order because one should avoid sinful Muslims and should make others avoid them too. 

Investigating Muslims’ faults is also prohibited by the Quranic verses: “Those who love (to see) scandal published broadcast among the Believers, will have a grievous Penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: God knows, and ye know not.” (an-Nur, 19). 

O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: And spy not on each other, nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, ye would abhor it...But fear God: For God is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.” (al-Hujurat, 12)

Questions on Islam

In order to make a comment, please login or register