Question 75 : Assalaamu ‘alaykum respected Shaikhs.
I got asked this:
If someone has an addiction or sin should they keep it private between them and Allah while trying to rectify it or should they try to seek assistance and advice from a sheikh or trusted family member/friend?
Jazaakum Allahu khairan
Answer : Walaikumussalam Br Ismail Ibn Ahmed
Firstly, the default with any sins is to hide them and not mention it to anyone as the Prophet (s.a.w) said in the following hadith for much wisdom including that telling others makes sins seem a common occurence thus legitimising it to others or encouraging them:
– كلُّ أمَّتي مُعافًى إلَّا المُجاهِرينَ ، وإنَّ منَ المُجاهرةِ أن يعمَلَ الرَّجلُ باللَّيلِ عملًا ، ثُمَّ يصبِحَ وقد سترَه اللَّهُ ، فيقولَ : يا فلانُ ، عمِلتُ البارحةَ كذا وَكذا ، وقد باتَ يسترُه ربُّهُ ، ويصبِحُ يَكشِفُ سترَ اللَّهِ عنهُ
Abu Hurairah (r.a) related that the Prophet (s a.w) said that “All my Ummah will be pardoned except for those who publicise. And of publicising is a man who does an action during the night, then in the morning – while Allah had concealed it – he says ‘O So and So, I did this and this last night,’ and he spent the night with His Lord having concealed it and in the moing he removes the concealment from Allah!”
More wisdom in this besides what was mentioned before is that the person may later want to reform and change from sinfulness to piety and Allah may be prepared to forgive him while the people once they know may never forgive him thereby pushing him into a corner from where he may never be able to repent, reform and return. So, Islam tells a person to hide their sins as a default.
However, yes as you mentioned in the question, if there is a wrong that can be rectified, then it is permissible to tell someone else who is able to help stop the wrong/harm. So if a person has a sinful addiction, then they can – and may be good to – inform a person who seems able to help such that they receive help to stop the addiction. The person who is informed should not betray the trust and keep it concealed from others and try their best to help the person suffering, if they are able to help, or point in a direction to someone else who can help. This we learn from the hadith of the story of a man before the time of the Prophet Muhammed, during the time of Banu Israel, a man who had killed 99 people and came to a worshipper seeking advice on how to stop his homocidal addiction. Though the worshipper was not helpful, a learned scholar of religion was approached next and advised the one suffering the addiction to leave his surroundings and move to live in another place to break the addiction triggers and associations.
May Allah help everyone to rise the level of piety, do better deeds, and all praise is to Allah who gave a balanced realistic guidance.