as salaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah,
It's true that we should be able accept reminders, advice, criticism etc from others, but as human beings the *approach* used often effects whether we are willing to accept what is being said or reject it and become defensive. The Prophet
was a master at dispensing advice in the best way depending on the audience and the context of the situation. I'm sure we all know some of the beautiful stories from the seerah in which that is evident ... one of my favorites is about the man who didn't know that it's not allowed to talk during the prayer, and so when he heard someone sneeze during the prayer he said 'YarhamukAllah!'. The people started staring at him, trying to let him know that he did something wrong, so he looked at them and said 'Why are you looking at me like that?!' (also during the prayer
). Then the people started to slap their thighs to indicate to him to keep quiet, so he realized he was doing something wrong and stopped talking.
Afterwards, the Prophet
corrected him and he said about it: "I have never seen a better teacher than him before or since. He did not scold me or hit me or put me to shame. He just said, ‘This prayer should contain nothing of the speech of men; it is only tasbeeh and takbeer and recitation of the Quran.’” (Sahih Muslim).
Who can say that about us? How many times have people walked away from our posts, emails, conversations, etc where we are trying to correct others and felt that they were dealt with in such a kind and respectful way? Or is our approach only distancing people from accepting the truth?
There is a duaa from the sunnah that I have always found interesting, 'O Allah, do not make us a fitna for the disbelievers.' We can be a fitna for them by making the truth unpalatable through our own behavior and actions, and thus making them even more obstinant and further from the truth. That is really a scary thing, and can you imagine being held accountable for doing that to other people, and what about if we are doing that to other Muslims? Are your efforts bringing about the results you want (bringing people closer to Allah swt) or are they actually backfiring and causing people to dislike or have a distaste for it? May Allah protect us.
There is a famous quote of a sahabi I think who lived to an old age and saw the next generation emerge after the sahaba and he basically said "There was a time when we were told to fear Allah and we loved that, while if you are told to fear Allah it is something you dislike." Meaning that people have changed, their level of iman, knowledge and understanding of the deen and their own personal struggles and issues. I can totally imagine telling someone "Fear Allah!" today and the response being 1. 'Why should I fear Allah? Isn't He a loving Creator?' = lack of knowledge OR 2. 'Who are you to tell me something like that? How do you know that I'm not already fearing Him??' = defensiveness/guilt because one is doing something wrong. In both cases, the approach fails to bring about the results that you want (getting the person to respond!) and I feel that most people we are trying to give dawah to falls into one (or both) of these categories. So I think we should think about a different way of doing things. If the person falls into the first category (they have a lack of knowledge) then the most important thing is to lay the right foundation in terms of the persons understanding of the deen, Allah (swt), etc in the first place before talking about specific commandments. (Remember what A'isha (ra) said about the companions, that if alcohol was prohibited right away in Makkah then everyone would have refused to leave it, and that Allah (swt) started His revelation with the aqa'id and with emphasis on beliefs and changing peoples' understanding before the ahkaam/ rulings people had to follow). If a person falls into the second category, they know what they are doing is wrong but are stubborn about it, different approaches can be tried, but the main idea would be '*gentle* reminding' like Allah (swt) asks Musa alayhis salaam to do with Fir'aun. Usually being angry or having a 'you are such a moron' tone doesn't really work.
Example, there are particular actions mentioned in this hadeeth that should be avoided, perhaps the sister/brother who started the post could have begun by talking about the good qualities we as women should cultivate in ourselves and things we can do to better ourselves, and then brought in these texts to show what should be avoided.
Also the hadith should be put into context in order to be understood correctly. I've heard someone liken a hadith to a snapshot -- something said or done at a specific time in a specific place, while the Sunnah is a more comprehensive, holistic understanding of what Rasulullah
taught and His message. So we have to put the hadith that we are discussing in that framework. Another example is like taking a 400 page novel and randomly ripping out one page and reading it, trying to understand the novel as a whole from it. Obviously, it won't make sense or you will come to the wrong conclusions without looking at the book as a whole. (Note that that one page having the ability to be misinterpreted or having content we dislike does not necessarily mean that it was not part of the original novel... a pt. I am coming to insha'Allah).
The other point I want to make is on the idea that if we don't like something or understand something, does that mean that it is not authentic/valid/ part of Islam? We are all influenced by our own experiences, personalities and limitations, and have our own unique way of viewing things and are influenced by the culture and time in which we live, so wouldn't using such an approach mean that each person would only be practicing their religion based on something which by its nature is subjective, and then taking only *selected parts* of the Quran, Sunnah and what has been established by Ijmaa? And doesn't doing so undermind their significance and validity? Allah asks us in the Quran 'do you believe in part of the book and reject part of it?' and He asks us to enter into Islam wholeheartedly.
Also, while Allah swt tells us many times in the Quran to use our intelligence and to reflect, think, ponder, observe, etc, He also asks us 'to ask the people of dhikr [His remembrance] if we don't know'. Saying that anyone can derive and make religious rulings, even those who are uninitiated and unqualified, opens the doors for misinterpretations, distortions, or misreadings of the texts. (Check out the interview with Dalia Mujahid and Irshad Manji for more on this point of making ijtihaad open to the masses). There is a fine balance that has always existed among Muslims between the ulema (those who are educated in religious law) and the people. While the ulema are not infallible they are the key to understanding the legal texts correctly, just as you would need a lawyer to understand a country's legal code correctly and could make serious blunders if you have not taken the effort or time to study things. Again, that doesn't mean you should shut your mind 'off' when you hear the words of a scholar, and it is always good to think and be inquisitive and learn about the wisdoms and reasonings behind ahkaam, but we should all be aware of our limitations and give deference where it is due.
I have to say as a final point that I completely disagree with the idea of the possible latent misogynism in Bukhari and Muslim. If you look the the field of hadith criticism women played a critical role from the very beginning. (You can check out the first volume of the multivolume encyclopedia on the Muhadithaat - women scholars of hadith by Dr. Akram Nadwi recently published in English). So I would argue that even if it did exist it would have not been able to penetrate into the authentication process of the hadith since it was such a nuanced and carefully crafted science, and also because women played such a significant role in it! I definitely agree that a misogynistic attitude entered into the Muslim world but I would argue that it came *later* with the influence of Christianity and other cultures, and that if you look to the scholarly tradition of Islam especially in its early stages you will find many women playing a pivotal role as teachers, hadith narrators, and even deriving rulings and issuing judgments etc.
Allahu 'alam, may Allah forgive us and grant us proper understanding of His deen, 'If Allah wants good for a person He grants them tafaqquh [deep and good understanding] of His religion'
's on the house to anyone who made it to the end of my long post