“When people praise you for what they assume about you, blame yourself for what you certainly know about yourself.
The most ignorant is the one who denies what he really knows about himself and believes what others assume about him.”
While journeying to Allah, you will face a great challenge, which is the challenge of praise.
When people praise you for what you are trying to do of the good things or what they think you are trying to do, and what they think you are… That praise is a serious danger and something that could compromise your journey to Allah.
A man was praised in front of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in like great terms and so forth. So he told his companions:
You cut the neck of your friend. (You harmed your friend more than benefiting him by praising him).
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
When you praise someone you should say, ‘I think that he is so and so, or such and such, not that you are certain that he is so and so, such and such. You should say ‘Allah knows best’. I cannot sanctify anyone before Allah.’
That is the right way of praising people. When you praise somebody say: “Well I think that person is good and Allah knows best.”
People’s praise could be very dangerous because they could affect your intention. If your intention is to be praised and liked and so forth, then this would impact your niyyah (intend) when you do something good. And perhaps when people start to praise you, you stop doing what is good because you got your praise. And that is going to be dangerous.
People praise you based on assumptions; they praise me because they think that I have this and that quality. But in this case, I should look into myself and blame myself for the shortcomings I have. That is the way to advance in the way of Allah.
Look At Your Faults
When people praise you, look at your faults that you know for sure. The sheikh here is saying: ‘They praise you because they assume something about you, but you don’t think anything about yourself, you know yourself very well. Therefore you have to blame yourself for your faults.’
Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, used to do something very interesting when people praised him. He would say:
“Oh Allah! Don’t take me to task for what they say and make me better from what they think of me; and forgive me for the sins that they are unaware of that I do.”
And he would feel in danger when people praise him even though he was siddiq (one of the highest ranks of belief), but he wouldn’t accept that praise; he would turn to himself and turn to Allah and say, ‘forgive me for what they don’t know and make me better perhaps than what they think.’
This is something that you need to deal with and to reflect when people praise you.
The Positive Side of Praise
On the other hand, when people praise you, you should also take this as good news. It’s a balance, here, because Allah says in the Quran:
For them are good tidings in the worldly life and in the Hereafter. No change is there in the words of Allah. That is what is the great attainment. (Quran 10:64)
So there is a concept, as well, that is called Bushra, or the glad tidings, or the good news.
When somebody gives you good news that we think that you’re doing something good, may Allah bless you… etc., you should also take this in a positive way, not only the negative way.
And the positive way is to ask Allah for this to be true, and to consider people’s praise to be glad tidings.
We ask Allah to give us those glad tidings in this life and in the hereafter.