In the Quran, God commands the believers to remind the people because anyone with an ounce of goodness will benefit from the reminder.
[87:9] Therefore, you shall remind; perhaps the reminder will benefit.
فَذَكِّرْ إِنْ نَفَعَتِ الذِّكْرَىٰ
[87:10] The reverent will take heed.
سَيَذَّكَّرُ مَنْ يَخْشَىٰ
[87:11] The wicked will avoid it.
Additionally, if we mediate a good deed by reminding then we gain a share of the credit thereof.
[4:85] Whoever mediates a good deed receives a share of the credit thereof, and whoever mediates an evil work, incurs a share thereof. GOD controls all things.
مَنْ يَشْفَعْ شَفَاعَةً حَسَنَةً يَكُنْ لَهُ نَصِيبٌ مِنْهَا وَمَنْ يَشْفَعْ شَفَاعَةً سَيِّئَةً يَكُنْ لَهُ كِفْلٌ مِنْهَا وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ مُقِيتًا
But sometimes Satan can take our good intentions and push us beyond the limits do something that hurts our souls. As submitters we see this happen when the simple act of reminding morphs into something more. There is a fine line between reminding a person of God’s words in the scripture and bullying someone into being righteous. We have to remember that God is the only One who guides, and that we are incapable of guiding anyone. Because of this our intentions when we remind should be strictly for our own souls by trying to please God through abiding by His commandments and we should be less concerned with the belief or actions of the one we are reminding, as this is outside of our control
[28:56] You cannot guide the ones you love. GOD is the only One who guides in accordance with His will, and in accordance with His knowledge of those who deserve the guidance.
إِنَّكَ لَا تَهْدِي مَنْ أَحْبَبْتَ وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ يَهْدِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ
[5:105] O you who believe, you should worry only about your own necks. If the others go astray, they cannot hurt you, as long as you are guided. To GOD is your ultimate destiny, all of you, then He will inform you of everything you had done.
يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ لَا يَضُرُّكُمْ مَنْ ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ إِلَى اللَّهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ
In order to differentiate between the two, we can think of reminding when done correctly as a form of constructive criticism that we do out of a place of love, while bullying comes from a place of arrogance and insecurity. As a believer we should love to be corrected as this is a sign of wisdom, but an unwise person will rebuke such feedback.
Psalms 12:1 Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid.
Additionally, we should be indifferent where the criticism comes from. If there is truth in the statement then we benefit from the information. We should not let our egos get the best of us and keep us from correcting our shortcomings irrespective how or by who God chooses to point it out to us. We see this is the argument the believing Egyptian made with the people of Pharaoh.
[40:28] A believing man among Pharaoh’s people, who was concealing his belief, said, “How can you kill a man just for saying, ‘My Lord is GOD,’ and he has shown you clear proofs from your Lord? If he is a liar, that is his problem, and if he is truthful, you benefit from his promises. Surely, GOD does not guide any transgressor, liar.
وَقَالَ رَجُلٌ مُؤْمِنٌ مِنْ آلِ فِرْعَوْنَ يَكْتُمُ إِيمَانَهُ أَتَقْتُلُونَ رَجُلًا أَنْ يَقُولَ رَبِّيَ اللَّهُ وَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ وَإِنْ يَكُ كَاذِبًا فَعَلَيْهِ كَذِبُهُ وَإِنْ يَكُ صَادِقًا يُصِبْكُمْ بَعْضُ الَّذِي يَعِدُكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي مَنْ هُوَ مُسْرِفٌ كَذَّابٌ
Another example comes from Moses. One day when he saw one of his people fighting with an Egyptian he intervened and accidentally punched and killed the Egyptian.
[28:15] Once he entered the city unexpectedly, without being recognized by the people. He found two men fighting; one was (a Hebrew) from his people, and the other was (an Egyptian) from his enemies. The one from his people called on him for help against his enemy. Moses punched him, killing him. He said, “This is the work of the devil; he is a real enemy, and a profound misleader.” [28:16] He said, “My Lord, I have wronged my soul. Please forgive me,” and He forgave him. He is the Forgiver, Most Merciful. [28:17] He said, “My Lord, in return for Your blessings upon me, I will never be a supporter of the guilty ones.”
Then the following day he almost committed the same crime again had not the Egyptian he was about to strike point out and remind him of the potential hypocrisy of his actions.
[28:18] In the morning, he was in the city, afraid and watchful. The one who sought his help yesterday, asked for his help again. Moses said to him, “You are really a troublemaker.” [28:19] Before he attempted to strike their common enemy, he said, “O Moses, do you want to kill me, as you killed the other man yesterday? Obviously, you wish to be a tyrant on earth; you do not wish to be righteous.” [28:20] A man came running from the other side of the city, saying, “O Moses, the people are plotting to kill you. You better leave immediately. I am giving you good advice.” [28:21] He fled the city, afraid and watchful. He said, “My Lord, save me from the oppressive people.”
فَأَصْبَحَ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ خَائِفًا يَتَرَقَّبُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي اسْتَنْصَرَهُ بِالْأَمْسِ يَسْتَصْرِخُهُ ۚ قَالَ لَهُ مُوسَىٰ إِنَّكَ لَغَوِيٌّ مُبِينٌ فَلَمَّا أَنْ أَرَادَ أَنْ يَبْطِشَ بِالَّذِي هُوَ عَدُوٌّ لَهُمَا قَالَ يَامُوسَىٰ أَتُرِيدُ أَنْ تَقْتُلَنِي كَمَا قَتَلْتَ نَفْسًا بِالْأَمْسِ ۖ إِنْ تُرِيدُ إِلَّا أَنْ تَكُونَ جَبَّارًا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا تُرِيدُ أَنْ تَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُصْلِحِينَ وَجَاءَ رَجُلٌ مِنْ أَقْصَى الْمَدِينَةِ يَسْعَىٰ قَالَ يَامُوسَىٰ إِنَّ الْمَلَأَ يَأْتَمِرُونَ بِكَ لِيَقْتُلُوكَ فَاخْرُجْ إِنِّي لَكَ مِنَ النَّاصِحِينَ فَخَرَجَ مِنْهَا خَائِفًا يَتَرَقَّبُ ۖ قَالَ رَبِّ نَجِّنِي مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ
Obviously Moses benefited from this feedback as he was about to commit the same crime again and could have fallen further into sin had he not been reminded and chose to take heed despite the criticism coming from an enemy. Had he instead refused to accept the information because of the person delivering it, it would have been to his own detriment.
That said, how do we differentiate between reminding as a form of constructive criticism versus reminding as a form of bullying? To contrast these two we can pull from the exchange between Moses and Pharaoh. In this dialogue we see that Moses used constructive criticism to attempt to sway Pharaoh to believe, while Pharaoh used bullying tactics as a rebuttal to Moses. Let’s compare these two methods and identify the differences.
Constructive Criticism: Intended to help someone improve through logic and reason
Bullying: Intended to bring someone down through fear, aggression, and intimidation
[7:105] “It is incumbent upon me that I do not say about GOD except the truth. I come to you with a sign from your Lord; let the Children of Israel go.”
حَقِيقٌ عَلَىٰ أَنْ لَا أَقُولَ عَلَى اللَّهِ إِلَّا الْحَقَّ قَدْ جِئْتُكُمْ بِبَيِّنَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ فَأَرْسِلْ مَعِيَ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ
[20:71] He (Pharaoh) said, “Did you believe in him without my permission? He must be your chief; the one who taught you magic. I will surely sever your hands and feet on alternate sides. I will crucify you on the palm trunks. You will find out which of us can inflict the worst retribution, and who outlasts whom.”
قَالَ آمَنْتُمْ لَهُ قَبْلَ أَنْ آذَنَ لَكُمْ إِنَّهُ لَكَبِيرُكُمُ الَّذِي عَلَّمَكُمُ السِّحْرَ فَلَأُقَطِّعَنَّ أَيْدِيَكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ مِنْ خِلَافٍ وَلَأُصَلِّبَنَّكُمْ فِي جُذُوعِ النَّخْلِ وَلَتَعْلَمُنَّ أَيُّنَا أَشَدُّ عَذَابًا وَأَبْقَىٰ
Constructive Criticism: Designed to make someone think and reflect by addressing the argument
Bullying: Designed to discredit, demean, humiliate or harm someone’s reputation by addressing the person
[20:47] “Go to him (Pharaoh) and say, ‘We are two messengers from your Lord. Let the Children of Israel go. You must refrain from persecuting them. We bring a sign from your Lord, and peace is the lot of those who heed the guidance.
فَأْتِيَاهُ فَقُولَا إِنَّا رَسُولَا رَبِّكَ فَأَرْسِلْ مَعَنَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ وَلَا تُعَذِّبْهُمْ قَدْ جِئْنَاكَ بِآيَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّكَ وَالسَّلَامُ عَلَىٰ مَنِ اتَّبَعَ الْهُدَىٰ
[43:52] “Which one is better; me or that one who is lowly and can hardly speak? [43:53] “How come he does not possess a treasure of gold; how come the angels do not accompany him?”
أَمْ أَنَا خَيْرٌ مِنْ هَٰذَا الَّذِي هُوَ مَهِينٌ وَلَا يَكَادُ يُبِينُ فَلَوْلَا أُلْقِيَ عَلَيْهِ أَسْوِرَةٌ مِنْ ذَهَبٍ أَوْ جَاءَ مَعَهُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ مُقْتَرِنِينَ
Constructive Criticism: Comes from a place of compassion
Bullying: Comes from a place of insecurity
[20:44] (God told Moses) “Speak to him (Pharaoh) nicely; he may take heed, or become reverent.”
فَقُولَا لَهُ قَوْلًا لَيِّنًا لَعَلَّهُ يَتَذَكَّرُ أَوْ يَخْشَىٰ
[26:34] He said to the elders around him, “This is an experienced magician. [26:35] “He wants to take you out of your land, with his magic. What do you suggest?”
قَالَ لِلْمَلَإِ حَوْلَهُ إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَسَاحِرٌ عَلِيمٌ يُرِيدُ أَنْ يُخْرِجَكُمْ مِنْ أَرْضِكُمْ بِسِحْرِهِ فَمَاذَا تَأْمُرُونَ
Constructive Criticism: Appeals to a person’s intellect
Bullying: Resorts to slander, mocking, and intimidation
[26:23] Pharaoh said, “What is the Lord of the universe?” [26:24] He said, “The Lord of the heavens and the earth, and everything between them. You should be certain about this.” [26:25] He said to those around him, “Did you hear this?” [26:26] He said, “Your Lord and the Lord of your ancestors.” [26:27] He said, “Your messenger who is sent to you is crazy.” [26:28] He said, “The Lord of the east and the west, and everything between them, if you understand.” [26:29] He said, “If you accept any god, other than me, I will throw you in the prison.”
قَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ وَمَا رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ قَالَ رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا ۖ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُوقِنِينَ قَالَ لِمَنْ حَوْلَهُ أَلَا تَسْتَمِعُونَ قَالَ رَبُّكُمْ وَرَبُّ آبَائِكُمُ الْأَوَّلِينَ قَالَ إِنَّ رَسُولَكُمُ الَّذِي أُرْسِلَ إِلَيْكُمْ لَمَجْنُونٌ قَالَ رَبُّ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا ۖ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ قَالَ لَئِنِ اتَّخَذْتَ إِلَٰهًا غَيْرِي لَأَجْعَلَنَّكَ مِنَ الْمَسْجُونِينَ
As submitters the greatest triumph for a person is to make it to Paradise in the Hereafter.
[64:9] The day will come when He summons you to the Day of Summoning. That is the Day of Mutual Blaming. Anyone who believes in GOD and leads a righteous life, He will remit his sins, and will admit him into gardens with flowing streams. They abide therein forever. This is the greatest triumph.
يَوْمَ يَجْمَعُكُمْ لِيَوْمِ الْجَمْعِ ذَٰلِكَ يَوْمُ التَّغَابُنِ وَمَنْ يُؤْمِنْ بِاللَّهِ وَيَعْمَلْ صَالِحًا يُكَفِّرْ عَنْهُ سَيِّئَاتِهِ وَيُدْخِلْهُ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ذَٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ
So let’s not let the devil trick us as he did to Moses by taking our good intentions and propel us to behave like a tyrant. But also like Moses, let’s take heed of the reminder when we hear it and use it as an opportunity to fix our ways so we can draw closer to God, and not like Pharaoh who only became more arrogant after being reminded.
[51:52] Consistently, when a messenger went to the previous generations, they said, “Magician,” or, “Crazy.” [51:53] Did they make an agreement with each other? Indeed, they are transgressors. [51:54] You may disregard them; you cannot be blamed. [51:55] And remind, for the reminder benefits the believers.
كَذَٰلِكَ مَا أَتَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ مِنْ رَسُولٍ إِلَّا قَالُوا سَاحِرٌ أَوْ مَجْنُونٌ أَتَوَاصَوْا بِهِ ۚ بَلْ هُمْ قَوْمٌ طَاغُونَ فَتَوَلَّ عَنْهُمْ فَمَا أَنْتَ بِمَلُومٍ وَذَكِّرْ فَإِنَّ الذِّكْرَىٰ تَنْفَعُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ