Do We Hate the Sinner or the Sin for the Sake of Allah?

Answered by Shaykh Abdullah Anik Misra

Question

Many scholars say that we must hate the sin but not the sinner. There are many very bad people out there like those who commit blasphemy, are magicians, or people like Fir‘awn and Shaytan and Abu Lahab… should we be clear of hatred for such people too?

Doesn’t a Muslim feel angry hearing blasphemy or knowing about Fir‘awn? I have heard from some other scholars that hating disbelievers is part of Imaan.

Answer

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate,

Yes, it is natural for a believer to feel anger when hearing about disbelief, oppression, and sin, and to feel hate for wrongdoers because of their wrongs, as long as they continue their wrong and do not stop. However, this anger or hate is not from the ego; it is purely for Allah’s sake.

Love and hate are two sides of the same coin, in that we should only love or hate for the sake of Allah alone, and not for the sake of our egos and desires. We love what Allah loves because Allah loves it, and hate what Allah hates (i.e., evil) because Allah hates it. It is principled and devotional, and not personal and reactionary.

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever loves for the sake of Allah, hates for the sake of Allah, gives for the sake of Allah, and withholds for the sake of Allah, then he has attained complete faith.” [Abu Dawud]

“For the sake of Allah” means “for no interest other than Him, neither for one’s natural desires nor their stubborn fancies”, and “since it is rare that a person can make (these emotions) purely for Allah alone, when they do make it purely for Him despite the difficulty of doing so, making other things purely for Allah follows as a matter of course, and this is why it has been referred to as the completion of faith.” [Qari, Mirqat al-Mafatih]

Hate the Sin or the Sinner?

Both phrases you mentioned (i.e., “hate the sin, not the sinner” and “hate the wrongdoer”) are valid in their own light, and scholars use both depending on the context and the need of the audience. However, this “hate for Allah’s sake” is not the same “hate” as commonly understood and experienced by people for the sake of their feelings. That kind of hate makes people lash out and hurt others.

As for those whom the divine revelation has clearly condemned as evil (such as Shaytan or Fir‘awn), yes, we do feel hate towards them for Allah’s sake. However, for those wrongdoers who are alive now, while there is hate for Allah’s sake as long as they continue their wrongs, they should not be hated absolutely because they change their ways and repent.

As Imam Munawi comments, “You hate the people of evil for His (Allah’s) sake, not because of the harm they do to you.” (Munawi, Tayseer bi-sharh al-Jami al-Saghir)

We Do Not Hate the Very Being of Anyone

We do not hate the very being of any individual for their own sake, but only hate their evil in them; if they become characterized by that evil, one “hates them” insofar as they are the site where evil is manifest. This is what the scholars mean by “hating a sinner.”

However, many people go beyond the principled concept of hate for Allah’s sake to make it into emotional and personal hate while using religious justifications. Or, they hate those who differ with their opinions and claim it is for Allah’s sake. This then causes them to behave un-Islamically and transgress the limits Allah has set. [Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, Jami’ al-‘Ulum wal-Hikam]

It is only for this reason that some scholars in our time may remind people that “we hate the sin (from the sinner), not the sinner (intrinsically).” It was to prevent believers from acting unjustly towards those whom they were angry at for the sake of Allah.

Allah says, “… Do not let the hatred of a people lead you to injustice. Be just! That is closer to righteousness. And be mindful of Allah. Surely Allah is All-Aware of what you do.” [Quran, 5:8]

The Signs that it is for “the Sake of Allah”

The sign of hating only for the sake of Allah is that it does not cause them to transgress the limits of the Sacred Law in dealing with that person, nor should it make them stop wishing guidance for the wrongdoer (i.e., that they are guided, repent and stop their evil).

If the sinner were to stop their wrongdoing and repent, if the hatred is for Allah alone, it should go away completely (even if hurt may remain). This is the test to see if that feeling is genuinely for Allah or from the unprincipled emotions and lower self (i.e., ego). Imam Khadimi states, “… it is not for a selfish interest; this is why the hate ceases once the (wrongdoers) leave what they were doing.” [Khadimi, al-Bariqa al-Mahmudiyya]

Wassalam,
[Shaykh] Abdullah Anik Misra
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Shaykh Abdullah Misra was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1983. His family hails from India, and he was raised in the Hindu tradition. He embraced Islam in 2001 while at the University of Toronto, from where he completed a Bachelor of Business Administration. He then traveled overseas in 2005 to study the Arabic language and Islamic sciences in Tarim, Yemen, for some time, as well as Darul Uloom in Trinidad, West Indies. He spent 12 years in Amman, Jordan, where he focused on Islamic Law, Theology, Hadith Sciences, Prophetic Biography, and Islamic Spirituality while also working at the Qasid Arabic Institute as Director of Programs. He holds a BA in Islamic Studies (Alimiyya, Darul Uloom) and authorization in the six authentic books of Hadith and is currently pursuing specialized training in issuing Islamic legal verdicts (ifta’). He holds a certificate in Counselling and often works with new Muslims and those struggling with religious OCD. He is an instructor and researcher in Sacred Law and Theology with the SeekersGuidance The Global Islamic Seminary. Currently, He resides in the Greater Toronto Area with his wife and children. His personal interests include Indian history, comparative religion, English singing, and poetry.