Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“The religion is naseehah.” The people said, “To whom?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: “To Allah and to His Book and to His Messenger and to the Leaders of the Muslims and to the common folk of the Muslims.” (Recorded by Muslim)
Making Naseehah to the Scholars:
The Muslim scholars are leaders in the sense that they guide the others to the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah. They are the ones who understand and are aware of how the shareeah is to be applied in daily life. Their position is one of the great importance for the community as a whole. Hence, it is essential that the proper naseehah be made towards them.
Naseehah to them implies, for example
1] taking the knowledge that they pass on, accepting their personal rulings if they give sound proofs for their deicisions, have good thoughts about them and not suspecting them of evil.
2] Furthermore, as ibn Uthaimeen notes, one should not attempt to find their faults or mistakes. One must accept the fact and one should correct them in the proper way. However, to search for their mistakes and expose them is not proper. When one does so, one is not just casting doubt on that one scholar but, in essence, one is casting doubt on all scholars and the shareeah as a whole.
To the Common Folk:
Making naseehah to the common folk of the Muslims would include:
1] guiding them to what is good for them in both this life and the Hereafter, not harming them, teaching them about their religion and other things that they may be ignorant about, aiding them, concealing their faults, ordering them to perform good deeds and eradicating evil among them.
2] having mercy for the young among them and showing respect for the elderly.
3] feel joy when they feel joy and one should be saddened when they are saddened.
Note: Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo next wrote another page about “The Difference Between Naseehah and Shaming or Embarrassing Another Person,” which is definitely worth reading.
Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo, Commentary of the Forty Hadith of Imam Nawawi, Volume 1, Hadith 7. Al Basheer Company for Publication and Translations, 1999.
“Spreading Hadith One Post Per Day” series.
Hadith # 18.