To err is human. People commit mistakes, blunders, resort to mudslinging, defame each other and even kill each other. This is human nature. The believers being the members of a single family have to exercise care and caution and refrain from defaming a fellow believer and making a precedent out of his misdeeds. However, it does not mean that a believer is at liberty to cause injury to the reputation of a non-believer. In fact a believer is under a religious obligation to protect the life, property and honour of the non-believers who live around him.
The most revered Prophet (SAW) has said, “The most hated person to Allah the most exalted is the one who takes the bad deed of a believer as an example and leaves his good deed”.
In this hadith, the Holy Prophet (SAW) addresses the believers and urges them not to follow a fellow believer if he has committed a sin, or a mistake. The believers have been further told to look at the good deeds of the believer and follow suit. These commandments have been issued for a variety of reasons including preventing a vice from polluting the society and of course to protect and strengthen the relation between the believers. Thirdly it teaches Muslims not to publicize the misdeeds of fellow believers. And, the one who does not follow this commandment has been described as the most hated person before Allah the almighty.
The person to whom the misdeed of a believer is narrated has also a role to play. He cannot just listen to what is being said. If he does not object and tell the narrator to stop, he too becomes a party to it and wins wrath of Allah the almighty. Such persons who publicize the sins or misdeeds of others should not be encouraged.
If a person protects the secrets of others, Allah the most exalted shall protect his secrets. Similarly if a person humiliates someone, Allah the almighty shall humiliate him in this world and in the hereafter.
The hadith also warns a believer against justifying his bad deed by saying that such and such person has also done it. If a believer has committed a sin or a blunder, it should not become a precedent. On the contrary if a Muslim does a virtuous deed, others must follow it. This is the reason that the Muslims have been directed not to publicize their sins. Instead they have been asked to seek Allah’s mercy and repent for their mistakes. Once a Muslim publicizes his sins, or when anybody else publicizes the sins of others some people with fickle minds do what they hear without caring about the consequences. And if this process goes on unchecked, a time comes when values wither away and the society crumbles.
This hadith, however, needs to be understood in its right perspectives. The most revered Prophet (SAW) wants the believers not to make an issue out of a misdeed of a fellow believer. And as mentioned above the misdeed of a believer should not be taken as a license for justifying one’s misadventures.
Normally, a Muslim has to take measures to ensure that a fellow Muslim follows the right track, does not go astray. The Holy Prophet (SAW) went to the extent of directing Muslims to use force for stopping a believer from committing a sin or a bad deed. Publicizing one own sins, publicizing the sins of others and making a precedent out of a misdeed are all vices and must be fought vehemently.