Fact Finding Vs. Fault Finding: On the Adab (Etiquette) of Criticism

There is a forum called Sufis Without Borders by Prof. Alan Godlas (Shaykh 'Abd al-Haqq) the main purposes of which are: 

(1) to enable those who have some knowledge of Sufism to share it with those who wish to deepen their knowledge of Sufism;

(2) to enable people who are practicing Sufism to share their insights about Sufism with each other; and,

(3) to foster harmonious relationships and dialogue between participants.

Now just like any other forum, due to our human limitation, some people sometime will start to use it as a spring board to criticize others and turning the space into yet another arena for peoples' egos to fight in. Judgement, more judgment, self-righteousness, my way or highway, our group is better than the rest because... etc.

Whenever such a thing happen, the founder of the Group, Shaykh 'Abd al-Haqq will always report and remind the etiquette of communicating in the group as well as remind the guidelines for moderation.

While reading it through, I found them very helpful personally in rectifying some of my own lacking and limitations and wanted to pay a lot of attention to them. I am moved to share this here as a post so that others can learn from this as these things are hardly being taught in our schools, colleges and universities or any other place in our societies. 

I. Criticism of Shaykhs (and Prophets) and their doctrines or writings

Many participants have their own shaykhs and are also devoted to particular prophets. Hence, if anyone were to criticize a shaykh or prophet or their writings, it could easily be offensive to them, leading them to drop out of the forum. This has in fact happened in the past. Consequently, criticism  of a shaykh's (or prophet's) writings, personality, behaviour, or legitimacy is prohibited.


II. Criticism of Members' Postings in General.

If you have a different opinion than another member, note that you have a different perspective and express it, but in doing so, refrain from putting down the other person. If you want to criticize a member's posting, you should email the person privately and ask if they want to know your criticism. If so, you can then email them privately your criticism.

Alternatively, you can take your criticism over to our Sufism, Politics, and Debates group.

Moreover, while all forms of criticism are not permitted on Sufis Without Borders, certain forms of criticism (all either unreasoned or disrespectful) have been voiced in the past and are particularly in
violation of the guidelines/adab of Sufis Without Borders; and if such criticism comes to the attention of the moderators, it will result in one warning; if continued, such criticism will result in the author being put on moderated status; and if continued further, it will result in the author being banned from the group. What follows are some examples of particular forms of criticism that are clear violations of the guidelines:

1) Criticism that is not-reasoned or not based in a documented fact (e.g. "What he wrote was is simply wrong!"). This means that even if you are privy to ma'rifah (gnosis) or haqiqah (Absolute truth), if you can't support your gnosis or truth with reason or historical fact, do not use it to criticize a shaykh's or anyone else's statements.

2) Criticism that is sarcastic or not respectful (e.g. "I'm appalled that your judgement would be so bad as to accept what he said as being true."),

3) Criticism that contains implicit or explicit threats or warnings (e.g. "That's a dangerous statement that he made."), with the exceptions that moderators are permitted to warn members who are violating or coming close to violating the guidelines.

4) Criticism involving accusations of saying things that are religiously prohibited (e.g. "What that shaykh is saying is bid'ah (prohibited innovation) [or haram (forbidden) or kufr (disbelief)].") Note the authentic hadith (as far as I can remember it) "When one Muslim accuses another of being a kafir, surely one of them is!"

5) Publicly calling for someone to apologize or accusing someone (either members or moderators) of violating the adab of the group - this is called "vigilante adab-policing." (Deal with the person privately and/or report the problem to the moderating committee.)

6) Criticism on the basis of authorities without support from reason (e.g. My shaykhs say that that is wrong.)

7) Criticism of particularly countries, ethnic or religious groups (like Muslims, Shi'is, Sunnis, Hindus, or Jews), or religions.


III. For discussion involving criticism and all kinds of contentious issues and argumentative perspectives, we have another forum: Sufism, Politics, and Debates http://groups.google.com/group/Sufism-and-Politics .

While scandal mongering about shaykhs or prophets, backbiting of Sufis Without Borders members, and personal vendettas against members are not permitted there, virtually anything else, including criticism of members' postings and criticism of the writings or doctrines of shaykhs, is permitted in the Sufism, Politics, and Debates forum.

There is a difference between fact (truth) finding vs fault finding. Those who have in God's Beautiful Quality Who Constantly Covers His Creature's fault from others - must also emulate the same. Thus the hallmark of saintlihood is to cover the faults of others, not exposing it. May we realize the difference between fact finding and fault finding.

Allahumma, 'a'inna 'ala dhikrika, wa-shukrika, wa-husni 'ibadatik. Wa-la taj'alna, rabbana, min al-ghafilin. Ameen.

O Lord, assist us in remembering You, thanking You, and in the beauty of worshipping You. And do not put us, O Lord, among the neglectful. Amen



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Technology of the Heart: Fact Finding Vs. Fault Finding: On the Adab (Etiquette) of Criticism
Fact Finding Vs. Fault Finding: On the Adab (Etiquette) of Criticism
There is a difference between fact finding and fault finding. May we stick to the first and oppose to the last.
Technology of the Heart
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