Is it appropriate to tell others to do what you do not do yourself?

The Details of the Question

- Can a person not tell others to do what he does not do?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

A verse regarding the issue is as follows:

أَتَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبِرِّوَتَنسَوْنَ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ تَتْلُونَ الْكِتَابَ أَفَلاَ تَعْقِلُونَ:

“(O people!) Do ye enjoin right conduct on the people, and forget (To practise it) yourselves?” (al-Baqara, 2/44)

The verse above condemns a person’s forgetting himself, that is, not doing what he preaches, while enjoining others goodness, beauty, beneficial things, worship, and obedience to Allah and His Prophet (pbuh).

However, it is not possible to deduce from the verse that “it is not appropriate for us to tell others what we do not practice in our own lives”.

Yes, man should do what is right, good, and beautiful, and invite others to do them; he should give up bad, ugly, sinful, and useless things, and tell others to give them up. That is ideal. However, a person cannot abandon the duty of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil just because he cannot do good things or abandon bad things; if he does so, he will have abandoned one duty; thus, his fault will double:

The first fault is not doing what is good, and committing harams and sinful deeds.

The second fault is to abandon the duty of amr bil-ma’ruf wan-nahy anil-munkar, that is, enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil.

Therefore, even if a person cannot practice himself, he should fulfil his duty of giving advice, enjoining good deeds and forbidding evil.

We can say that it is not appropriate to think that a person who does not do what he preaches will not have an effect on others because the duty of man is to tell people good things, to order what is good and to forbid what is evil; success and effect belong to Allah.

Sometimes the speech of a person who does a bad deed can be more effective. For example, a person who has bad habits such as having alcohol, cigarettes and drugs can say to another, “I have been harmed by these bad things; do not get used to them.” It may be more effective than the words of a person who does not have such a bad habit.

To sum up, a Muslim should first do everything he will advise to others, and then tell others to do them. If he does not do it, this should not prevent him from giving advice to others but he should also do or try to do what he preaches.

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