Perhaps we all have experienced the situation where we meant to convey a correct criticism with good intentions to a friend, but it has unintentionally leaded to displeasure and annoyance. Have we ever thought about the best way to increase the effectiveness of criticism?

In general, when a person makes a moral criticism, two targets could be sought: 1) the action which the criticizer finds incorrect, 2) the person who has performed the incorrect action. What is painful and burdensome about criticism, and can lead to anger, grudge, and animosity is the damage that hurts one’s pride. Although that person might argue about his action and bring proofs for its correctness, in reality, he is defending “himself”, and is attempting to save his esteem and personality.

Therefore, to assure that a criticism does not hurt one’s pride or make him react, the criticizer has to set the incorrect action as the main target of his criticism rather than its performer. If so, the criticism would be constructive, and desirable consequences would follow. The traditions of Imam Hassan (PBUH) bear a good example of such criticism:

One day, Imam Hassan (PBUH) and Imam Hussain (PBUH) passed an old man who was performing Wudu (ablutions); but not in the right way. Instead of criticizing his Wudu, they pretended to be in a debate about their own performance of Wudu. Hence, they said to the old man,”We will perform Wudu; you be the judge, and decide who performs it correctly. Then, they performed Wudu and asked about its correctness from the old man. The old man, who had realized their intention, said, ”You both performed Wudu well. It was me who did not know how to perform Wudu correctly. Now, I have learned how to do so from you. I have repented by you, and been bestowed by the mercy you have upon the nation of your grandfather” (1). 1- Manaqib, volume 3, page 400 – Bihar al-Anwar, volume 43, page 319[/note]

Imam Hassan (PBUH) and Imam Hussain (PBUH) neither criticized the man old man, nor reproached him for his ignorance of the ruling of Islam. Moreover, they did not refer to his way of performing Wudu, nor did they call his action void. Rather, they performed Wudu themselves and taught the man its correct way indirectly. The result of this polite and wise criticism was that the old man confessed to his mistake explicitly, learned how to perform Wudu correctly, and thanked them with kindness and pleasure.

Indeed, having good morals is the best way of criticism and education. It is so important that according to Imam Hassan (PBUH),” The best of the best is having good morals” (2). “In Ahsan al-Hassan al-Khalq al-Hasan” (Khasal, volume 1, page 29, hadith 102 – Mostadrak al-Wasayl, volume 8, page 443, hadith 9941 – Kanz al-Ammal, volume 3, page 5, hadith

How cautious are we towards the details the Ahl al-Bayt (PBUT) have taught us in criticizing our brothers in faith? Are we helping others progress and get educated through good morals and leniency?

(The above is a selection taken from “Morality in Regards with Coexistence and Humane Values”, by Hujjat al-Islam Muhammad Taqi Falsafi (with some changes))


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