Giving advice is an Islamic obligation, which every Muslim should fulfill regardless of what people may think of him. He should not think about the reaction of people, whether they will condemn or praise him. Moreover, one should not allow satanic whispers to hinder him from giving advice on the pretext that he may feel superior to others. But he should let the pleasure of Allah and obtaining His reward be his sole goal and motivation.
In stressing this fact, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, says, “Religion is founded upon (sincere) advice.” We (attending Companions) said: “To whom O Messenger of Allah?” He said: “To Allah, His Messenger and His Book, and to the leaders of the Muslims as well as their common folk.”
But there are some manners and conditions which are necessary for fulfilling this task—giving advice. Allah Almighty says, (Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way. Lo! Thy Lord is best aware of him who strayeth from His way, and He is Best Aware of those who go aright.) (An-Nahl 16:125)
Wisdom and fair exhortation are the most important prerequisites for a da`iyah, as he/she should be careful in choosing the suitable time and the suitable means for giving advice. For instance, one should be careful in choosing his words and give advice in a very gentle manner. The advisor should not give advice publicly lest he embarrasses the person whom he advises.
Elaborating on the manners of giving advice, the eminent Muslim scholar Sheikh `Abdus-Sattar Fathallah As-Sa`eed, Professor of the Exegesis of the Qur’an at Al-Azhar Univ., states:
As a Muslim, you should keep in mind that advice in Islam requires certain ethics which are as follows:
1. It should be in secret, i.e., one should advise in secret not in public so as not to embarrass the person.
2. Advice should be given in a kind and gentle manner.
3. The advisor should explain to the person his wrongdoing and support his stance with proofs from Shari`ah.
Therefore, if you abide by these ethics, people will accept your advice. If they do not accept, Allah will reward you for your sincere efforts in advising people.
Advice, in fact, is a must in Islam, for the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, says: “Religion is founded upon (sincere) advice.” And: “Whoever sees a wrong, should change it by his hand, if he is not able to do so, let him do so by his tongue, and if he is not able to do so, let him do so by his heart, and the latter is the slightest of faith.”
Accordingly, you should sincerely advise your friends, relatives, etc., irrespective of their acceptance as long as you abide by the Islamic ethics of advice. May Allah help you in doing good!
In conclusion, we would like to cite a practical example of giving advice to the elders. This is the example set by Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn, the grandsons of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) while dealing with an old man who did not perform wudu’ (ablution) properly. Upon seeing this, they asked him to judge between them, as each of them claimed that he performed ablution in a more proper way than the other. Both of them performed ablution properly in front of the man. The man got their hint and learnt the proper way of making ablution. This proves that in cases like these hints and indirect advice are much more effective for they save one from embarrassment and do not hurt feelings.