I recently had this discussion with a friend of mine. Here are my potentially mistaken thoughts:
There are 3 meanings of judge involved in this discussion.
- Judge the fate of mankind on the Day of Judgement.
Then indeed Allah is the Judge of mankind, and we humans do not have the ability to do so. I guess we are on the same page regarding this.
- Judge as in the legal sense. Deciding cases and disputes according to law.
Then it is allowed and there are several sura and hadiths regarding this:
إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ لِتَحْكُمَ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ بِمَا أَرَاكَ اللَّهُ ۚ وَلَا تَكُن لِّلْخَائِنِينَ خَصِيمًا
Indeed, We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth so you may judge between the people by that which Allah has shown you. And do not be for the deceitful an advocate.
وَلْيَحْكُمْ أَهْلُ الْإِنجِيلِ بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ فِيهِ ۚ وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ
And let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah has revealed therein. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed - then it is those who are the defiantly disobedient.
Here is a list of Hadith regarding judging, such as:
[Ibn Buraidah narrated from his father that the Prophet (PBUH) said:
"The judges are three: Two judges that are in the Fire, and a judge that is in Paradise. A man who judges without the truth, and he knows that. This one is in the Fire. One who judges while not knowing, ruining the rights of the people. So he is in the Fire. A judge who judges with the truth, that is the one in Paradise."] (Daif)
حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ إِسْمَاعِيلَ، حَدَّثَنِي الْحَسَنُ بْنُ بِشْرٍ، حَدَّثَنَا شَرِيكٌ، عَنِ الأَعْمَشِ، عَنْ سَعْدِ بْنِ عُبَيْدَةَ، عَنِ ابْنِ بُرَيْدَةَ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ " الْقُضَاةُ ثَلاَثَةٌ قَاضِيَانِ فِي النَّارِ وَقَاضٍ فِي الْجَنَّةِ رَجُلٌ قَضَى بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ فَعَلِمَ ذَاكَ فَذَاكَ فِي النَّارِ وَقَاضٍ لاَ يَعْلَمُ فَأَهْلَكَ حُقُوقَ النَّاسِ فَهُوَ فِي النَّارِ وَقَاضٍ قَضَى بِالْحَقِّ فَذَلِكَ فِي الْجَنَّةِ " .
Reference : Jami` at-Tirmidhi 1322
The third meaning, as I postulate, is
- forming an judgmental opinion about some person (based on Quran and Hadith)
I did not see any clear and explicit sura or hadith about this. However, my reasoning is, since we are allowed to judge legally, we should be allowed to judge in the third sense. Because how do we judge legally without forming an opinion about somebody?
Moreover, my second argument is, that we judge (3rd sense) involuntarily. What is voluntary is whether we voice our judgement or keep it to ourselves. When you see and talk to a person, you just have an "impression" of him/her, which is entangled with opinion.
I suggest the following. Instead of judging (3rd sense) a person, try to limit your opinion toward some specific actions. Something like the following: This person's this action is haram according to this sura/hadith, therefore I should refrain from similar mistake. Rather than: This person is going to hell because ... or this person is a bad person because ...
In connection with your last paragraph, I think that it is less judgmental if you form an opinion on a specific action of a person rather than on the person him/herself. Also available is choice of remaining silence unless asked. I don't think anyone would deem you to be judgmental if you only tell them what they think upon their asking.
You ask, do we have the right to judge (in the third sense)? May I break down your question into two parts. Do we have the right to form an opinion on a person or an action of a person? Do we have the right to voice such opinion? You mention the 'non-judgmental' philosophy of the modern times, but what also is available is the notion of freedom of thoughts and freedom of speech (e.g. as illustrated by J.S.Mill in his On Liberty). So some people would say yes we do.
Now it brings me to my next point. I have realized the conflict between 'non-judgmental' and 'freedom of thoughts/speech'. I think the conflict is natural, since both philosophy are formulated by human, specific to the social-economic situation of the era. For example, a lot of 'non-judgmental' philosophy comes because of increasing globalization, a typical trend of the era.
Last but not the least. I think that human-made philosophies are transient and specific. Allah's religion and philosophy is eternal. Therefore don't be afraid of the judgement (third meaning) of other people on you for being too judgmental, if your intention is to advise the person for his success in the hereafter, then you are doing good deed. People don't always know what's best for them, Allah knows.
Please do comment to point out mistakes in my argument or discuss with me. Above are my temporary thoughts and postulations that are open to changes.
And Allah knows the best.