Dealing With Criticism and Praise

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Salam. I have mentioned Sh al-Khadim before on the blog. I had to sit in a waiting room today and knew I would be some time, so I took along Sh al-Khadim’s excellent commentary on the ‘Matharah al-Qulub’ poem which has been translated by Sh Hamza Yusuf. Sh al-Khadim’s commentary can only be described as ‘Mawsui’ in nature, and as one of the Mauritanians said: ‘It is as if he has summarized the Ihya and presented it’. The Sheikh goes into quite some detail, however the following stuck out. It is taken from p.102.
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He said in al-Ihya: Know that people are of four conditions in relation to one who criticises or praises (them):
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The First is to be happy at the praise and thank the one praising, and to be angry with with the criticism and have hatred for the critic, along with retaliating and wishing to relatiate. This is the condition of most of the creation, and it is the utmost level of disobedience on this matter.
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The Second condition: To feel vexed at the critic inside, but to refrain his tongue and limbs from retaliating. And inside he is happy and content at the one praising, but prevents his outer from expressing joy. This is deficient except that in relation to that which is before it is perfection.
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The Third: And it is the first of the levels of perfection, it is that his critic and the one praising are equal to him, he is neither saddened by criticism nor delighted with praise. Some of the worshippers think themselves to be like this, but are deluded if they do not test themselves with its signs, and look at it (the self) for its signs…
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The Fourth Condition: It is truthfulness in worship and to dislike praise and loathe the one praising as he knows that he is a tribulation for him, smashing his back, harmful to him in his religion. And he loves the critic as he knows that he has gifted to him his faults and guides him to that which is important for him and gifts him his own good actions…
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Until he (al-Ghazali) said: The most that the likes of us desire is the second condition, which is to hide the happiness and dislike of the critic and one praising, and not to express this in words or actions.
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As for the third condition which is the viewing as equal between the one praising and critic then we do not desire it, then if we seek from ourselves a characterstic of the second condition we do not fulfil it for we find it necessary to hurry to honour the one praising and fulfilling his needs, and find it difficult to honour the critic and praise him, and fulfill his needs. We are unable to treat both of them equally in our outward action just as we are unable to in the secret of the heart.
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And whoever is able to treat equally the critic and one praising in outward action is deserving of being taken as an example in this age, for if he is found then he is red sulphur which is discussed but not seen, how would it then be about the other two stations above it?

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