Now that the time for my departure to Pakistan is drawing close, I find myself taking stock of the people here in Singapore who have made a big difference to me.

One of them is someone I will call Huda. When I first met her, I was a brash and hot-headed youth whose impulsive ways and tongue often landed myself and others in difficult situations. Huda was always calm and collected. I have not to this day, seen her lose her temper or speak ill of others unless justice demanded that she do so.

I remember, once, a group of us were annoyed with a colleague. Our discussion first started out with the intention of trying to rectify a problem that we suspected this person had caused, but shaytan took over and it descended into gheebah (backbiting). This person’s character was scrutinised and criticised all in the name of correcting a wrong. Huda grew silent as the conversation gained vicious momentum.

A few minutes later, we paused for salat ul Maghrib (the dusk prayer). Huda, I noticed, spent a longer time than usual after her prayer, making du`aa and dhikr. Then she rose and looked at the rest of us. She looked solemn and her voice was almost hushed when she spoke.

“You know,” she said gravely, “No one is ever really a hundred per cent bad. None of us are perfect so when we speak about others we should remember the person’s good qualities as well and not cut him up to pieces.”

We were overcome with shame and regret. We had felt ever so righteous but what had we really accomplished? We had done nothing but eaten the flesh of a fellow Muslim … may Allah forgive us, ameen.

Huda had taught me about the simple but often forgotten principle of giving others the benefit of the doubt.

Allah `azza wa jall says [translation]: “O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.” [Al-Hujurat 49:12]

Here we are commanded to avoid suspicion. We are to think well of our fellow Muslims as the tradition goes: “If you see something you do not like in your brother, try to find from one to seventy excuses for him. If you cannot find an excuse, say, ‘There might be an excuse but I do not know it.'”

Indeed, the religion is naseehah (sincere advice). Allah has told us, “The believers, men and women, are Awliyaa’ (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another; they enjoin (on the people) Al-Ma’roof and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar.” [at-Tawbah 9:71]

Also, “By Al-`Asr (the time). Verily, man is in loss, except those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth and recommend one another to patience.” [al-`Asr 103:1-3]

Many of us, when we see a wrong, we do our best to correct it and if we see a fellow Muslim erring, we try to bring him back to the right and urge him to repent. However, we sometimes forget that the way of a righteous Muslim is that he does this with love and he hides the sins of others. We should always bear in mind that the Messenger of Allah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said: “Whoever covers a Muslim’s (sins), Allah will cover him (his sins) in this world and in the Hereafter.” [Muslim] Are we so faultless that we can do away with this?

I’ve never forgotten Huda’s words – may Allah reward her with the best ameen – and was reminded of her advice to have a good opinion when I read this narration last weekend:

Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim transmitted in their own Saheeh the hadeeth narrated by Abu Hurayrah radhiallahu `anhu that the Messenger of Allah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam said, “`Isa `alayhis salaam, the son of Maryam, saw a man stealing and asked him, ‘Did you steal?’ He said, ‘No, by Allah besides Whom there is no other god.’ So `Isa `alayhis salaam said, ‘I believe in Allah and contradict my eyes.'”