By: TGH Habib Ziadi
There is a story told that someone came to advise the Caliph Al-Ma’mun in a loud and impolite way. The Caliph then replied.
“Someone who is better than you have once come to warn those who are worse than me. Indeed, the Prophet Moses and the Prophet Aaron, Alassiwassalam, was sent to Pharaoh with the saying, ‘And speak to [Pharaoh] with qaulan layyinan (gentle sayings) that perhaps he may be reminded [Allah]” (QS Taha : 44).
Advice in life is necessary. With advice, someone can find out what should be done, what their shortcomings are, and how they should be. Someone needs advice from others in order to become better. Because humans cannot do anything by themselves, we need a guide or a piece of advice and input from others.
In advising someone, one should choose a polite and gentle language. Often people use sentences that are no longer appropriate and have a high sense of in rebuking others. This certainly gives a bad impression. Counseling is different from being angry even though the purpose is sometimes the same.
Giving advice by using abusive or harsh language, heightened tones, impolite attitudes, and seemingly challenging automatic debate will not be readily accepted by the person being advised, even though their point may be real and true. The politeness in choosing your words and attitude you convey are very important in influencing whether or not the advice is accepted. So, the adviser must be smart to sort and choose the right words.
Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jauziah mentions the difference between advising and shaming. According to him, advising is fair and charity to those who are admonished, showing affection to him, not willing to see his brother make a mistake. His intention is only to seek happiness of Allah. He should act like a doctor who knows the patient’s illness and then determines the right medicine in order for his patient to get better quickly.
As for humiliating someone, his intention is to change him while humiliating him. Reproaching the person as if warning him and criticizing him all in the form of advice. The adviser saying, “O you, why do you do such things? Hi, you are being stupid, don’t dishonor yourself,” while pretending to advise.
The adab (manner) in giving advice, is to advise when alone. Because, whoever covers the mistakes of his brother, Allah will cover his shortcomings in the afterlife.
This can be difficult because when giving advice in front of many people, the adviser would look smart, wise, and seem like an expert, but the person being advised certainly feels different. He must have felt ashamed, uneasy, maybe even annoyed.
Imam as-Shafi’I said, “Whoever advises his brother in secret, then he has truly advised him and glorified him. And whoever advised him openly, he has defamed and shamed him.”
A person must be ready to be praised and on the contrary ready to be given input or even criticized. If praise is subjective by mentioning the good which sometimes is exaggerated, the reprimand or criticism is to convey the shortcomings, mistakes, of both attitudes and manners. With that, he can improve and can minimize mistakes by not repeating it again.
Therefore, advising is a religious suggestion. It is also part of amar ma’ruf nahi munkar. When a person comes and gives him advice, it is an indication of affection for his brother.
Readiness to receive input is a sign of the heart and soul of the recipient of advice. In fact, he will pray, “May Allah bless you and repay you with kindness because your advice shows my shortcomings.”