Is it a sin to mock a person who mocks another person?

Details of the Question

- Is it a sin for me to mock a person who mocks me? How should I answer him?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

A hadith narration regarding the issue is as follows:

“When two persons indulge in hurling (abuses) upon one another, it will be the first one who will be the sinner so long as the oppressed does not transgress the limits.” (Muslim, Birr, 68; Abu Dawud, Adab, 47; Tirmidhi, Birr, 51)

- According to Imam Nawawi, it is understood from this hadith that “a person who is insulted has the right to respond in the same way (equally)". There is no disagreement among scholars that it is permissible. There are evidences of it in the Quran and the Sunnah that it is permissible.   

“And those who, when an oppressive wrong is inflicted on them, (are not cowed but) help and defend themselves.” (ash-Shura, 42/39),

“But indeed if any do help and defend themselves after a wrong (done) to them, against such there is no cause of blame.” (ash-Shura, 42/41)

Just like in the hadith mentioned above, it is indicated in the verses of the Quran above that a person who is wronged has the right to retaliate in the same way. (Nawawi, the interpretation of the hadith in question)

- However, it is better to show patience and not to retaliate by forgiving the person that wrongs.  

“But indeed if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs.” (ash-Shura, 42/43)

This fact is emphasized in the verse above.

“And the one who shows humility, Allah elevates him in the estimation (of the people).” (Muslim, Birr, 69)

It is indicated in the hadith above that, forgiveness is a great virtue. (see Nawawi, ibid)

- According to some scholars, when a person who is wronged responds in the same way, he is regarded to have responded equally and the sins of the person who wrongs first will be forgiven. According to some scholars, in that case, the sin of the person who wrongs due to that injustice is forgiven but the sin of starting the injustice first will not be forgiven. (see Nawawi, ibid)

- An important point that Nawawi emphasizes is that a person who is wronged by being cursed has the right to curse back using the same words. However, if those words include accusation of fornication and lies, it is not permissible to retaliate by accusation of fornication and lies. For instance, if somebody curses a person by saying “you are a fornicator”, it is not permissible for that person to say the same thing for him. He can only retaliate by using words like “stupid, oppressor and sinner” that can be used for many people. (Nawawi, ibid) Maybe, the phrase “so long as the oppressed does not transgress the limits” includes this too.

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