Focusing on one's own mistakes and ...

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

Focusing on one's own mistakes and disregarding people's pitfall: is this required from Muslims?


Is the statement “Glad tidings to the one whose blemishes preoccupy him from focusing on the blemishes of others” a Prophetic statement (hadith), and is the statement “you see the small error in your brother, but forget the grave error in your self” a Prophetic statement and if they both are what are their societal implications?


The statement “glad tidings to the one whose blemishes preoccupy him from focusing on the blemishes of others” is part of a hadith as narrated by Tabarani (Mu‘ajam al-Kabir 5:71), Bayhaqi (Shu‘ab al-Iman 7:355), al-Qada‘i (Musnad al-Shihab 1:358), Daylami al-Hamadani (al-Firdous bi ma’thur al-Khitab 2:447), and Haythami (Majm‘a al-Zawaid 10:229). The hadith is narrated on the authority of Anas ibn Malik who said, “the Messenger of God addressed us while he was on his camel al-‘Adaba’ and not al-Jada‘a’ and he said, “O people it is as if death has been prescribed on other than us, and it is as truth has been made mandatory on other than us, and it is as those whom we carry in biers who will travel on a journey few will return from we live in their tombs and eat their remains as if we will live forever after them. We have forgotten all reprimand and are we now safe from calamity, glad tidings to the one whose blemishes preoccupy him from focusing on the blemishes of others…”

Abu Bakr al-Haythami comments on this in his Majma‘a al-Zawaid by saying, “this has been narrated by al-Tabarani from the chain of Nasih al-‘Abasi on the authority of Rakb and I do not know him, but the rest of the narrators are reliable.”

Al-‘Ajluni also mentions this hadith in Kashf al-Khafa’ (2:59) and commented on it by saying, “and he spends from the extra of his wealth and for he who the Sunna is enough and he does not stray from it into reprehensible innovation.” The same theme is mentioned in a hadith narrated by al-Hasan ibn Ali and Abu Hurrayra. It is said in al-Tamyiz that this hadith has been narrated in the collection of Bazzar on the authority of Anas with a raised chain with a chain that is strong.

The Hadith Master al-Dhahabi also mentioned this hadith in his Siyar ‘Alam al-Nubala’ (13:557) and he commented on it by saying “this hadith is of a weak chain as al-Nadir is unknown as it is mentioned by Abu Hatim and al-Walid is not known so this hadith text can not be supported by a chain of transmission.”

From this above discussion it can be seen that the scholars of hadith have disputed the strength of this particular hadith. Some have graded it as rigorously authentic (sahih) and others have said it is weak (da‘if). Nonetheless we know that the scholars have deemed the weak hadith permissible to be used in matters of righteous actions with the known conditions set by the scholars of Hadith. There is no doubt that this hadith is amongst those that encourage moral action so we say that the scholars amongst the Muslims have agreed that its meaning is sound but they have differed as to its attribution to the Messenger of God.

As for the statement of the Messenger of God, “you see the small error in your brother, but forget the grave error in your self” this hadith has been narrated by Ibn Hibban (Sahih 13:73), al-Bayhaqi (Sahih 5:311), Bukhari (al-Adab al-Mufrad, once with the wording ‘you see’ 1:207 and another with the wording ‘one of you notice’ 1:305), and al-Mundhari (al-Targhib wa al-Tarhib, 3:167).

Abu N‘aim al-Asfahani has said in his Hilyat al-Awliya’ (4:99) after mentioning this hadith, “it is singular from the hadith narrated by Yazid, it has been singularly narrated by Muhammad ibn Hamir on the authority of J‘afar. However, Ibn Hibban graded it as rigorously authentic (sahih).

This hadith, like the previous, has been debated as to its authenticity. However, its meaning is sound and this is agreed upon amongst the scholars of the Muslims.

In these two hadith the Messenger of God has placed before us a system and method for improving the overall condition of society. These two hadith serve as the measuring stick for all those who call for the betterment of society; are they honest or not? If a person is to be obsessed with the faults of others and forgets to look within, these two hadith serve as a reminder to return to one’s senses and work on themselves first. If one has improved their own state, then they can start with helping to improve the state of those closest to them etc. To this effect Imam al-Shafi‘I composed the following verses:

O you man who seek to teach others
Why not be a teacher to your self
You describe the medicine to the sick amongst the weak
So that they gets better while in fact you are the sick
Do not forbid people from certain traits and you in turn engage in it
Shame on you if you do this grave sin
Begin with yourself and forbid it from following its desire
If your self can seize this then you are truly wise
Then what you say will be accepted and you will be followed
In what you say and you will be efficient in teaching
If one is sincere in helping society then let them begin with themselves. This will form a center that is sound which can radiate out to all corners of society. May God grant us uprightness in our selves, our families, and our progeny and our final prayer is all praise is due to God, and God is most High and Most knowledgeable.

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