Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Is it true that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said to throw dust on the face of someone who gives praise to us?
Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,
Al-Miqdad (Allah be pleased with him) said that,
“The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) ordered us to throw a handful of dust at the faces of those excessive in praise.” [Muslim (3002), Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Maja, and Ahmad]
There have been numerous interpretations to this hadith as mentioned in the commentaries on the above books of hadith.
The main positions are:
1. That this is literal (as acted upon by al-Miqdad himself and some others of the salaf);
2. That it is to be stern with such excessive praises, so they realize their error and stop, because it can lead to the one being praised becoming deluded and haughty;
Imam Khattabi, the early commentator on Sunan Abi Dawud explained that excessive praisers’ are those who make such praise their habit, or seek material benefit from it with the one praised. As for the one who praised someone for good acts or traits, with a good intention such as others recognizing the person’s virtue and benefiting from them or following their good example, such an individual is not an excessive praiser.’
Imam Ghazali cautioned, however, against the dangers of careless praise, on both the one praised (such as pride and delusion) and the one praising (such as exaggeration that becomes lying, or insincere motives in the praise).
This is why the best of ways in praise, like all matters, is moderation.
And Allah knows best.