Being called ‘Pious’: How to handle praise (and criticism)

Below is an extract from an upcoming book of Hazrat’s called letters of the seekers.

QUESTION

Asalamu alaikum, I pray Hazrat is well Aameen.

People often praise me and call me ‘pious’. Rather than making me happy, it actually makes my heart sink because I know I’m not. It makes me feel like I’m giving off a “good” impression to people, yet I don’t think I’m giving a good impression to Allah! I don’t mean to give a good impression though. I’m just being my natural self, and then people make these assumptions of me. I don’t like it. Then on the other hand, I can’t handle criticism either. Please advise me on how to draw a balance.

ANSWER

Waalaikumsalaam,

If everyone was going to to praise us, then there is a fear that we will become self conceited or worse, proud. So you will get your fair share of criticism in life. When people put you down, regard it as islaah for your nafs; forgive them, make dua for them and move on. Don’t let it get you down. However, if they are pointing out a weakness of ours which is definitely within us, then we must make an effort to rectify it.

In terms of receiving praise due to giving a good impression – Are you intentionally putting on a front so people get the impression that you are pious? If the answer is yes, then it is something to worry about. If shaitaan tells you that you are closer to Allah or more deeni conscious than others, immediately think of your own weaknesses. Even when we see people engaged in sins, always hate and look down on the sin not the sinner, as we are unaware of what ibaadat they may be making in the dead of the night. Whilst they may be a victim of nafs and shaitan, in a second Allah can bless them with hidayet and they could change. On the other hand, the loss of good deeds that we incur by keeping ill thoughts of others will never be recovered.

Also, if someone is designated a role/job/duty in life, never think that you are more worthy of the position. For example, if someone gives a speech and you feel you could have spoken better, then remember that Allah chose them to do it. Now can we think that we could have done better than Allah’s choice? No, of course not! If you notice talents within you, then attribute your abilities to the grace of Allah upon you. This will protect you from vanity and pride. Furthermore, if anyone praises you for your achievements then say from your heart, “Please make dua that Allah accepts.”

On the other hand if the answer to the question is, no you are not putting on a front, you are just being your normal self and people assume you pious, then this is a ni’mah from Allah. Say in your heart, “Oh Allah you know my true condition. So make me better than the good opinion that this person has of me, and make this person pious, Aameen”. In addition, Nabi ﷺ taught us this dua: “Oh Allah make me insignificant in my own eyes and honored in the eyes of people.” So as long as we think nothing of ourselves, there is no problem. One person complained to his Sheikh that people are praising me. The Sheikh asked him, “Would you prefer people insulting you?”

So in conclusion, if people wrongly criticize us, we accept it as islaah. If people have a good opinion of us, it is a ni’mah from Allah and we make shukr to Him. But the key is; we must not think of ourselves as pious, and we must not let the praise of people get to our heads.

May Allah bless you and your family with the best of both worlds, Aameen. Please remember me in your duas.

Wassalam,

(Hazrat Maulana) Dawood Seedat (حفظه الله)

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