قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّ اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَ سَلَّمَ: إِذَا أَرَدْتَ أَنْ تَذْكُرَ عُيُوبَ غَيْرِكَ فَاذْكُرْ عُيُوبَ نَفْسِكَ رواه الرافعي
The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) said: “Should you become eager (or: if you wanted) to mention another’s faults, recall your own (faults).” Narrated by ar-Rafi’i
Short commentary and notes
The hadith speaks for itself and is sufficient.
This hadith of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) has been collected by the great Kenyan scholar Muhammad al-Amin al-Mazru’i rahimahullah (1891 – 1947 AD) in his short collection al-Ahadith al-Mukhtarah of ahadith (130) about hikmah, aadaab and akhlaaq. This text is still being taught at many madaaris around Kenya. Hamza Yusuf has translated it into English with the title “The content of character“. For more info, see here: http://forum.cordobaacademy.com/2012/09/29/al-ahadith-al-mukhtarah/
This hadith has been related by imam Abu al-Qasim al-Rafi’i (d. 623/1226 AH) rahimahullah, the great Shafi’i scholar and the principal reference of the late school next to imam an-Nawawi (r.), in his book Fath al-‘Aziz fi sharh al-Wajiz, his seminal commentary on al-Wajiz by imam al-Ghazali (r.), which is more renowned as al-Sharh al-Kabir, which furnished the textual basis for an-Nawawi’s Minhaj at-Talibin.
Imam al-Rafi’i’s work has been checked on authenticity by imam Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani in his Talkhis al-Habir fi Takhrij Ahadith al-Rafi’i al-Kabir.
The one who relates this from the Prophet s.a.w.s. is Ibn ‘Abbas radi’Allahu ‘anhuma, the great Sahabi and mufassir of the Qur’an. Shaykh ‘Abdullah Fahd al-Khilafi has collected authentic statements of Ibn ‘Abbas in his book al-Sahih al-Musnad min Aathaar Ibn ‘Abbas but I haven’t checked if this specific statement is in there, nor in the work of Ibn Hajar (due to its many volumes). See here: https://ia601500.us.archive.org/28/items/sahih-ben-abbas2/sahih-ben-abbas.pdf
Shaykh al-Albani rahimahullah has declared this hadith as weak in his Da’if al-Jaami’.
Imam al-Bukhari rahimahullah has collected a similar statement of (‘Abdullah) Ibn ‘Abbas in his al-Adab al-Mufrad, nr. 329: “If you wish to mention the faults of your friend, mention your own faults first.” The wording is slightly different in the sense that instead of the word ‘another’ (ghayrik) there is the word ‘friend’ (saahibik). Imam al-Albani has declared this statement (athar) of Ibn ‘Abbas weak (da’if) in his Da’if al-Adab al-Mufrad and as munkar in his al-Silsalah al-Da’ifah.
Shaykh Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo says in his English translation of al-Adab al-Mufrad that this narration appears not to have been related in any of the other major (hadith) collections.
Question remains: Although the statement is true (sahih), did the Prophet s.a.w.s. really say this? Just because Ibn ‘Abbas related it we can’t attribute it unconditionally to the Prophet s.a.w.s. because it is mawquf and stops at the Sahabi.
In “Reliance of the Traveller“, under r24.0 (pp. 759, 760) ) SEARCHING OUT A PERSON’S FAULTS, we can read the following:
r24.1 (Nahlawi:) Asking about and searching out the faults of other is spying, which Allah Most High has forbidden by saying, “Don not spy.” (Koran 49:12),
meaning to look for the shameful points of Muslims. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said (in a sahih hadith):
(1) “If you search for people’s shameful points, you corrupt them…
(2) “O you who have entered Islam with your tongues but whose hearts faith has not entered: do not slander people, and do not ferret out people’s shameful points. Whoever searches out the shameful points of his brother, Allah will search out his own shameful points, and if Allah searches out a person’s shameful points, be sure that He will disgrace him even if he should remain in the middle of his house.” (Related by Abu Dawud)