Whoever conceals [the faults of] a Muslim, Allah will conceal [his faults] in this life and the Hereafter.”
The matter of concealing the faults of others is mentioned in numerous hadith of the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam. In particular, we find the following:
“O gathering who believe with their tongues but faith has yet to enter into their hearts, do not backbite the Muslims. And do not search into their private matters. Whoever searches for their private matters will have Allah follow up his private matters. And whose private matters Allah follows, He will expose him even [if his act were done] in his house.”
[Recorded in Ahmad and Abu Dawood]
In general, a believer in Allah and the Last Day, would not like their mistakes and faults to be broadcast to others. If we make a mistake or commit a sin, it is better that we keep the matter to ourselves and ask Allah for forgiveness than to tell others about we have done, perhaps inadvertently encouraging them to do the same. If, may Allah forgive us, we are happy at having committed the sin, then it is a sign of a shortcoming in our faith, and we should repent to Allah and ask Him to guide us to what is better. Allah, all praises and glory be to Him has told us in the Qur’an:
“Verily, those who like that lewd sinful acts should be propagated among those who believe, they will have a painful torment in this world and in the Hereafter”
THOSE WHOSE SINS SHOULD BE CONCEALED:
There are essentially two types of people. One is religious and performs the obligatory and recommended acts and remains away from what is forbidden. The other openly admits commits sins and acts that are forbidden by the shareeah. In the light of the teachings of this hadith, the actions with respect to each type of person is different.
The first type of person, who is not known to commit sins, should have shortcomings concealed by others. However, conditions must be met for this approach to be followed:
1) The sin that the person committed must be one related to the ‘rights of Allah’ and not the rights of mankind. That is, if you see them do something that will not harm anyone else, you should conceal that. But if what they are doing concerns others, such as stealing, then you cannot remain silent because another person’s rights have been violated.
2) The sin must have already been finished. In other words, if see someone in the act of committing a sin, you should try to stop them, even if it means telling others about it, but if the acts is done, then it should be concealed.
3) The person whose fault is being concealed must be a religious person who is not known to perform evil deeds, thus the act could be considered a slip.
4) The concealment must not be in a situation where one has been called to be a witness to what has occurred, or to the character of the accused.
5) The benefit of concealing the person’s sin must outweigh the benefit of letting the sin be known. If the benefit and the harm seem of an equal level, the sin should be concealed.
According to ibn Rajab, the one who comes privately to the authorities, full of repentance and sorrow, asking for punishment without explicitly stating which type of sin has been committed, should also have their sin concealed and be told to repent privately to Allah. This was the practice of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.
Those Who are Not Deserving of Intercession
The second category of people, who openly and repeatedly commit sins, are not deserving of having their sins concealed. Instead, others should be told about them so that they take precautions against them. They should also be reported to the proper authorities in order to try and curb their evil, and one should not intercede on their behalf.
When all this is considered, we can see that this teaching serves to protect the honour of the pious Muslim who may have slipped and committed a sin against the rights of Allah. But if the act committed was against the rights of a person, or committed openly with no shame, then there is no concealment and the action should be dealt with appropriately. Allah is all-Forgiving and He loves to Forgive, and we should never despair of His Mercy, but neither should we openly commit sins or harm the rights of another person, otherwise we cannot hope for Allah to conceal our own faults, in this life, or more importantly, in the Hereafter