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Criticizing People – Good or Bad?

Criticizing People – Good or Bad?

“Criticism” can be good if it results in a positive behavior change or it can be bad when it ends up hurting relationships and not causing the intended change. Lately, “criticism” has been used primarily in a negative sense because the way it’s used by people.

Nothing seems to gradually erode relationships (sometimes causing irreversible damage) than criticizing people around us negatively. The goal of constructive criticism, as it is sometimes called, should be to correct people’s mistakes – but not to bring them down. What good is criticizing someone when the recipient of the critical feedback ends up having negative feelings about the one providing the feedback? What good is criticism when the mistake or behavior is never corrected due to the ill feelings that one develops about the person showering that criticism? What good is criticism when the person being criticized pulls away from the person providing it?

The following paragraphs taken from Dr. al-Arifi’s famous book “Enoy Your life” provides an insight into this topic. For those of us who may be unaware of how our day to day critical feedback may be pushing us away from our loved ones can take note and look to improve the art of correcting others.

Hadith and Prophet’s Saying on Qibla toward Bait-ul-Maqdis and Kaaba – Hadith Bukhari

No doubt, some people bother you by their frequent criticisms. Nothing seems to please them in the world. They cannot notice, in a delicious meal, except a strand of hair that mistakenly dropped therein. They cannot notice in a clean garment except a drop of ink that affected it by error. Neither can they notice in a beneficial book except an innocent printing error. Hence, none seems to be saved from their criticisms. They always have comments to pass. These people scrutinize everything, be it great or small.

I know a person, who was a colleague of mine during our secondary education and university days, and our relationship to this day continues, except that I do not remember him ever making a positive comment about anything. I asked him about a book I wrote, which was praised by many people, and of which hundreds of thousands of copies were printed, and he coldly replied, “Well, it is ok, but it has an inappropriate story. I didn’t like the font size, either. The print quality is also poor”, and so on.

I asked him once about someone’s performance in the Friday sermon, and he did not seem to mention anything positive, until he became more burdensome for me than a mountain. I then wouldn’t ask him for his opinion with respect to anything, because I already knew it would be negative. You can say the same about someone who expects everyone to be exemplary, thus, he expects his wife to keep the house 100% clean twenty-four hours a day. He also expects his wife to keep the children nice and clean all day. If he is visited by guests, he expects her to cook the best dishes. If he sits with her, he expects her to talk about the best topics.

He expects the same from his children. He wants them to be perfect at everything, excellent with his friends and with whomever he meets on the street or a marketplace, etc. If anyone of them falls short, he would consume him by his speech, over-criticise and repeatedly pass comments, until people become bored of him. This is because he cannot see on a white page but a black spot.

Such people usually punish themselves by their nature. Their closest friends dislike them and avoid their company.

Hadith and Prophet’s Saying on Quran revelation, Ramadan and Angel Jibraeel – Sahih Bukhari

SubhanAllah! All the while, Allah says, “And when you speak, be just!”

Our mother ‘Aishah – may Allah be pleased with her – said, whilst describing the way the Prophet would treat others, “The Messenger of Allah never complained about food. If he liked it, he ate it. If he didn’t like it, he simply left it.’ (al-Bukhari and Muslim) Absolutely! He never used to make a fuss about anything.

Anas – may Allah be pleased with him – said, “I served the Messenger of Allah for nine years. I never heard him comment about anything I did, ‘Why did you do this?!’ He never criticized me for anything at all. By Allah! He never even said uff to me!” This is how he was, and this is how we should be.

By saying that, however, I am not suggesting that you should not advise others, or that you should remain silent over their mistakes. Rather, you should not scrutinize everything people do, especially in worldly matters. Learn to overlook such matters.

People dislike too much criticism.

However, if you really do need to criticize, then package it well and then present it with kindness to others. Present it as if it were a suggestion, rather than a criticism. Present it indirectly, or using vague expressions.

If the Messenger of Allah ever noticed a person making a mistake, he would not confront him directly. Rather, he would say, “What is wrong with the people, who do such-and-such?” which would indirectly imply, “I mean by that you, dear neighbor, so please pay attention!”

The summary, again is that lets be smart when criticizing our loved ones. First, lets use it sparingly. Second, lets direct it to the behavior rather than the person. Third, lets do it without hurting the other person. Therefore, package it well.

A few steps can take us a long way in saving our relationships.

Read more here on how to advise people and not ‘condemn’ them

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12 comments… add one
  • Agreeed 🙂

  • Critism is a good thing. Because people can change and grow as a result of the critism. Nobody likes to be critized, but sometimes it is necessary for our growth as a human being.
    Life is a spiritual journey and we are only travelers passing through and learning as we go.

    • Timothy

      Critism is not a good thing only constructive criticism. some people only critize to just bring people down. there are a diffenece between the two.

  • Critisim is good if done in a polite way and indirectly with great amount of precaution so that it could not hurt & humiliate him/her in his/her eyes rather than his/her hearts.

  • Amina

    when we give praise when it is due, critisims will be taken in good faith.When people do good jobs,we should let them know so they will know the difference.If it is always negative,they start feeling the comment is about us,that is,we are always negative.That way we are not able to correct any bad behaviour but rather repel people

    • Hassen

      I totally agree with you, when we give praise and give criticism at times it would be taken at good faith because it would feel you are only coming with a good intention In’Sha’ALLAH.

  • criticisim is good because it change the behabour of every people and force to think about good or bad.

  • Sameena

    I agree with sister Amina’s observation that criticism will be taken in the right spirit from someone who also ‘gives praise where it is due’. The examples from Prophet (SAWS)’s life, and his approach to people, are lessons to be remembered, cherished and implemented in our own life as well. Wonder why people tend to ignore such examples and are keen on emulating only aspects which have to do with outer appearance alone? This shouldn’t be understood as a criticism of focus on Islamic way of dressing, but, an appeal for equal attention to morals, ethics and behavior as well.

  • Hassen

    Salam Aleikum,
    Criticizing people every time you meet them sounds too much. Even when it is praising them for their good deeds i think it should be well packaged because they feel they are really good or better than others, so that also should be done with a balance of time and place. But criticism should not be to the extreme that people get bored or do not want to be around you. With balance i think things can go a long way In’Sha’ALLAH. ALLAH knows best

  • Anonymous

    very good lesson about how to apply our deed in hablum minannas( human relation). We are human that make mistakes. It’ is true that criticism can be a good thing and a bad thing depend how we express and what kind of message behind. When we deliver criticism, respect must be go along the words, and remember that later on we might make mistake too. Perfection is belong to Allah swt.

    • Anonymous

      When something bad things happens there is some good that has happened also. Likewise when good things happen some thing bad has also occurred. This is the nature of this world. Nothing is perfect other than the God. As such how can ones criticism be perfect be it good or bad. Just as much as we have to be patient in the event of calamity so should we in the event of unkind words. In time The all-Knowing will reveal the true nature of the spoken words.

  • Bridget

    When my mother criticizes me, she compares me to other people and it makes me feel horrible! She says I don’t fold clothes right, chop up veggies correctly and says things like, “Connie doesn’t do this or that” and “Lauren does more than you.”. I know she loves me, but this comparing me to others when I am doing my best really hurts! It makes me not want to try anything because of the criticism and when I do something right, I don’t take her seriously anyway!

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