How to Make 70 Excuses for Other People
More Judges Than We Have Courts For
Have you noticed that we have a lot of “judges” in our society nowadays? And they don’t work in courts! As soon as they see something they don’t like:
“Brother, where is your beard?! Astaghfirullah brother, it’s a Sunna. A Sunna! You’re a bad Muslim, a bad Muslim.”
“Sister, where is your hijab?! Astaghfirullah, you’re a bad Muslim.”
“Brother, what are you doing? Why are you holding that girl’s hand? Astaghfirullah, you’re a bad Muslim.”
“Oi, why are you swearing? Cussing is haram! Astaghfirullah, you’re a bad Muslim.”
You know what I think? I think we should make more excuses, and I don’t mean excuses for ourselves but excuses for our brothers and sisters. We're experts at making excuses for ourselves (no doubt about that), but can we make excuses for other people?
Making excuses for our fellow brothers and sisters is very simple. Although it might not be easy, but it is simple.
Here’s what we need to do:
1. Suspend our judgment
When we are on the verge of passing a judgment, stop! And then, take a step back. It might sound easy but restraining ourselves is one of the hardest thing to do.
Ever wonder why they call it a “snap judgment”? Because it happens so fast that it is almost like a reflex.
2. Consider what we don’t know.
We have to realize that each and every one of us are different – we have unique background and unique experiences. Even twins are different!
The next we see something that is displeasing to us, try to think of other explanations and other possibilities that might account for what we just witnessed.
“Maybe he doesn’t have a beard because he can’t grow one.”
“Maybe she’s not wearing a hijab because her parents forbid her to do so. She might be having a hard time dealing with them.”
“Maybe he’s holding his wife’s hand.”
“Maybe the guy is swearing because he is having a tough day.”
If we are able to practice this as a community, Insha Allah we will be more compassionate when dealing with other people.
These other explanations don’t necessarily justify what we witnessed. For example, if we hear someone who used bad words, us thinking of other explanations of such action doesn’t make the action itself okay.
However, it does change how we look at the situation.
Our perception will influence our reaction.
So instead of writing out that person as a bad Muslim, we might instead ask him what’s wrong. He might be going through a very, very serious situation and in need of help.
If we already have a bad judgment in our head (e.g. he is a bad Muslim!), then we’re not giving that person a chance. Remember, there is always two sides of a coin.
Once there was a man who came to Umar al-Khattab (when he was the caliph). The man complained about his son to the caliph and said that his son did not fulfill the rights of the father. Umar, instead of punishing the son immediately, called him over. Umar asked the son if what his father said was true or not. The son did not deny it, but he added that the father did not fulfill his rights as the son. In effect, the father brought this trouble upon himself.
This doesn’t justify what the son did, but from this we can understand why he did what he did. Hopefully, our view of the son is more compassionate once we see the bigger picture.
Just because you see a Muslim brother or a Muslim sister doing something that appears to be wrong, that doesn’t make that person less of a Muslim than us.
That is not to say that we’re changing the laws set by Allah. What is impermissible is impermissible. We can’t change that. However, just because someone is doing something impermissible, that doesn’t give us the right to judge that person. We leave the judging part to Allah. Our part is to provide social support in such a way that the person can repent and move on to become a better Muslim.
We only hate the wrong actions that people do, not the people themselves.
Before we jump into a conclusion, take a step back and think of other possibilities that might explain the situation.
Because things aren’t always what they seem to be.
*Footnote: The term “70 excuses” comes from a saying by Hamdun al-Qassar, one of the great early Muslims, “If a friend among your friends errs, make seventy excuses for them. If your hearts are unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own selves.” [Imam Bayhaqi, Shu`ab al-Iman, 7.522]