The Prophet’s Methods for Correcting People’s Mistakes Part-3

The Prophet’s methods of dealing with people’s mistakes

1- Hastening to deal with people’s mistakes and not putting it off

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to hasten to deal with people’s mistakes, especially when it was not right for him to delay doing so at the moment when this was needed. His task was to explain the truth to people, teach them to do good, and warn them off from doing evil. So he hastened to correct people on many occasions, as is seen in the stories of the man who was not doing his salaah properly, the Makhzoomi woman, Ibn al-Latbiyyah, Usaamah, the three who wanted to go to extremes in worship, and others. These stories will be related in the course of this discussion, in sha Allaah.

Not hastening to deal with mistakes goes against the interests of Islam and misses out on the opportunity to strike while the iron is hot, as it were.

2 – Dealing with mistakes by explaining the ruling (hukm)

Jarhad (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) passed by him when his thigh was uncovered. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “Cover your thigh, for it is part of the ‘awrah.” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi, no. 2796. Al-Tirmidhi said, this is a hasan hadeeth).

3 – Referring people back to Islam when they make mistakes, and pointing out to them the principle that they are breaking

When someone is indulging in a mistake, the Islamic principle is far from their minds and is lost in the clamour of the moment. In such cases reiterating the Islamic principle and announcing it loudly can be an effective way of stopping the person in his tracks and making him wake up from the stupor that has overtaken him. When we look at what happened between the Muhaajiroon and Ansaar, because of the flames of fitnah stirred up by the munaafiqoon, we will see an example of how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used this tactic. Al-Bukhaari (may Allaah have mercy on him) reported in his Saheehthat Jaabir (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “We went out on a military campaign with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and some of the muhaajiroon went with him too, and they were very many. Among the muhaajiroon was a man who was very playful (a joker). He shoved an Ansaari (in jest), and the Ansaari got very angry with him and called others to support him, saying, ‘O Ansaar!’ The Muhaajir called out, ‘O Muhaajireen!’ The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came out and said, ‘What is this call of the people of Jaahiliyyah all about?’ Then he said, ‘What is the matter with him?’ He was told about how the Muhaajir had shoved the Ansaari in jest. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘Let it be, for it (tribalism) is evil.’” (al-Fath, 3518). According to a report narrated by Muslim, he said: “Let a man help his brother whether he is an wrongdoer or the victim of wrongdoing. If he is a wrongdoer, he should stop him, and if he is the victim of wrongdoing, he should come to his aid.” (Saheeh Muslim, no. 2584).

4 – Correcting misconceptions that are due to something not being clear in people’s minds

In Saheeh al-Bukhaari, Humayd ibn Abi Humayd al-Taweel reports that he heard Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him) saying: “Three people came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), asking about how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) worshipped. When they were told about it, they thought that it was little. They said, “Who are we, compared to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)? All his sins, past and future, have been forgiven.” (They thought that the one who does not know that his sins have been forgiven needed to go to extremes in worship and do far more than the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), in the hope that their sins might be forgiven). One of them said, “As for me, I will pray every night from now on.” Another said, “As for me, I will fast for the rest of my life and will never break my fast.” The third said, “As for me, I will have nothing to do with women and I will never marry.” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came to them and said, “Are you the people who said such-and-such? By Allaah, I am the one who fears Allaah more than anyone, but I fast and I break my fast, I pray and I rest, and I get married.”

Muslim reported from Anas that a group of the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) asked the wives of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) about what he did in secret. One of them (those Sahaabah) said, “I will never marry women.” Another said, “I will never eat meat.” Another said, “I will never sleep on a bed.” [The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)] praised and thanked Allaah, then he said, “What is the matter with some people who say such-and-such? But as for me, I pray and I sleep, I fast and I break my fast, and I marry women. Whoever turns away from my Sunnah has nothing to do with me.” (Saheeh Muslim, no. 1041).

Here we may note the following points:

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came to them and addressed them directly; when he wanted to teach all the people, he did not refer to them by name or expose them, he merely said, “What is the matter with some people…?” In this way he was gentle with them and covered up for them whilst at the same time acting in the common interest by teaching everybody.

  • The hadeeth describes finding out about the action of good people and seeking to emulate them. Investigating such things is the sign of a sound mind and efforts to improve oneself.
  • This report indicates that when it comes to useful matters of religion, if it is not possible to learn them from men, it is permissible to learn them from women.
  • There is nothing wrong with a person talking about his deeds so long as there is no element of showing off and it is for the benefit of others.
  • We also learn that going to extremes in worship may cause a person to get bored, which in turn could lead him to stop worshipping altogether; the best of things are those that are moderate. (see al-Fath, 9/104).
  • Mistakes generally come about as a result of misconceptions; if the ideas are put right, mistakes will decrease. It is clear from the hadeeth that the reason why those Sahaabah adopted those concepts of extreme worship and monasticism was that they thought they had to go beyond the Prophet’s actions in worship in order to attain salvation, because he had been told that all his sins were forgiven, but they did not have this advantage. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) set them straight, and told them that even though he was forgiven, he was the most fearing of Allaah among mankind, and he commanded them to follow his Sunnah in worship.

A similar thing happened to another Sahaabi, whose name was Kahmas al-Hilaali (may Allaah be pleased with him), who narrated his story: “I became Muslim and came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and told him that I had become Muslim. I stayed away for a year, during which I became very skinny, and when I came back, he looked me up and down. I said, ‘Do you not know me?’ he said, ‘Who are you?’ I said, ‘I am Kahmas al-Hilaali.’ He said, ‘What happened to you?’ I said, ‘After I saw you, I never spent a day without fasting, and I never slept at night.’ He said, ‘Who told you to torture yourself? Fast the month of patience [i.e., Ramadaan], and one day of every month besides that.’ I said, ‘Let me do more.’ He said, ‘Fast the month of patience and two days of every month besides that.’ I said, ‘Let me do more, I am able for it.’ He said, ‘Fast the month of patience and three days of every month besides that.’” (Musnad al-Tayaalisi. Reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer, 19/194, no. 435. Also in al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, no. 2623).

Some misconceptions may be based on how one judges people and regards them. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was very keen to correct this and put people straight in this regard. In Saheeh al-Bukhaari, there is a report from Sahl ibn Sa’d al-Saa’idi who said: “A man passed by the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), who asked a man sitting by him, ‘What do you think of this man?’ He said, ‘He is one of the noblest of the people. By Allaah, if he proposes marriage he deserves to be accepted and if he intercedes he deserves to have his intercession accepted.’ The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said nothing. Then another man passed by and the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) asked the man with him, ‘What do you think of him?’ The man said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, he is one of the poor Muslims. If he proposes marriage he does not deserve to be accepted, if he intercedes he does not deserve to have his intercession accepted, and if he speaks he does not deserve to be heard. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘This man is better than an earth full of men like the other man.’” (al-Fath, 6447).

According to a report narrated by Ibn Maajah: a man passed by the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said (to his Companions), “What do you think of this man?” They said, “We think that he is one of the noblest of people. If he proposes marriage he deserves to be accepted, if he intercedes he deserves to have his intercession accepted, and if he speaks he deserves to be heard.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said nothing. Another man passed by and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) asked, “What do you think of this man?” They said, “By Allaah, O Messenger of Allaah, he is one of the poor Muslims. If he proposes marriage he does not deserve to be accepted, if he intercedes, he does not deserve to have his intercession accepted, and if he speaks he does not deserve to be heard.” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “This man is better than an earth full of men like the other one.” (Sunan Ibn Maajah, ‘Abd al-Baaqi edn., no. 4120)

5 – Dealing with mistakes by repeatedly reminding people to fear Allaah

Jundub ibn ‘Abd-Allaah al-Bajali reported that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) sent a group of Muslims to fight some mushrikeen, and they met in battle. One of the mushrikeen was ambushing individual Muslims and killing them. One of the Muslims wanted to catch him out and kill him. [Jundub said:] “We used to think that that man was Usaamah ibn Zayd. When he raised his sword, the mushrik said ‘La ilaaha ill-Allaah,’ but he [Usaamah] killed him. A messenger came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and reported to him about what had happened in the battle. When he told him about what had happened to the mushrik who said Laa ilaaha ill-Allaah, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) sent for Usaamah and asked him, ‘Why did you kill him?’ He said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, he had caused much grief to the Muslims, he killed So-and-so and So-and-so,’ – and he named a number of people – ‘I attacked him and when he saw the sword he said Laa ilaaha ill-Allaah.’ The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘And then you killed him?’ Usaamah said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘What will you do when Laa illaha ill-Allaah comes on the Day of Resurrection?’ He said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, pray for forgiveness for me.’” The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) simply said, “What will you do when Laa ilaaha ill-Allaahcomes on the Day of Resurrection?”; he did not say any more than that. (Reported by Muslim, ‘Abd al-Baaqi edn., no. 97).

According to a report narrated by Usaamah ibn Zayd, he said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) sent us out on a military campaign and we reached al-Haraqaat near Juhaynah in the morning. [During the battle] I caught a man and he said, ‘Laa ilaaha ill-Allaah,’ but I stabbed him. Then I felt bad about that, and I mentioned it to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘He said Laa ilaaha ill-Allaah and you killed him?’ I said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, he only said it because he was afraid of my weapon.’ He said, ‘How can you know what is in his heart? How can you be sure whether he was sincere or not?’ He kept repeating this until I wished that I had not become Muslim until that day [because embracing Islam wipes out all sins that came before – Translator].” (Reported by Muslim, no. 69)

One issue that may be included under the heading of reminders is reminding people about the power of Allaah. An example of this follows:

Muslim (may Allaah have mercy on him) reported that Abu Mas’ood al-Badri said: “I was beating a slave of mine with a whip, and I heard a voice behind me saying, ‘Listen Abu Mas’ood!’ but I did not pay any attention to the voice because I was so angry. When the voice got nearer to me, I realized that it was the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and he was saying, ‘Listen Abu Mas’ood, listen Abu Mas’ood!’ I dropped the whip from my hand (according to another report: the whip fell from my hand out of respect for him). He said, ‘Listen Abu Mas’ood, Allaah has more power over you than you have over this slave.’ I said, ‘I will never hit a slave again.’” According to another report he said: “I said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, he is free for the sake of Allaah.’ He said, ‘If you did not do this, the Fire of Hell would blow in your face, or the Fire would touch you.’”

According to another report also narrated by Muslim, “the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘Certainly Allaah has more power over you than you have over him.’ So he freed him.” (Saheeh Muslim, no. 1659)

Abu Mas’ood al-Ansaari said: “I was beating a slave of mine when I heard someone saying from behind me, ‘Listen, Abu Mas’ood, listen, Abu Mas’ood.’ I turned around and saw that it was the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). He said, ‘Allaah has more power over you than you have over him.’… I never beat any slave of mine after that.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, no. 1948. Abu ‘Eesa said, this is a hasan saheeh hadeeth).

6 – Showing compassion to the one who is making a mistake

This applies in the case of those who deserve compassion, who feel remorse and show that they have repented, as is sometimes the case when people come to ask questions and find out, as in the following story:

Ibn ‘Abbaas reported that a man who had divorced his wife by zihaar and then had intercourse with her came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said, “O Messenger of Allaah, I divorced my wife by zihaar then I had intercourse with her before I offered kafaarah (expiation).” He said, “What made you do that, may Allaah have mercy on you?” He said, “I saw her anklets in the moonlight.” He said, “Then do not go near her until you have done that which Allaah commanded you to do.” (Abu ‘Eesa said, this is a hasan ghareeb saheeh hadeeth. Saheeh Sunan al-Tirmidhi, no. 1199)

Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “Whilst we were sitting with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), a man came to him and said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, I am doomed!’ He said, ‘What is the matter with you?’ He said, ‘I had intercourse with my wife whilst I was fasting.’ The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘Are you able to set a slave free?’ He said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Can you fast for two consecutive months?’ He said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Do you have the wherewithal to feed sixty poor persons?’ He said, ‘No.’ The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said nothing more about the matter for a while, and whilst we were sitting there like that, a large basket full of dates was brought to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). He said, ‘Where is the one who was asking?’ The man said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take this and give it in charity.’ The man said, ‘Who is poorer than me, O Messenger of Allaah? By Allaah, there is no family in Madeenah poorer than mine.’ The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) smiled until his eyeteeth were visible, then he said, ‘Feed your family with it.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 1936).

This person who had made a mistake and came to ask about it was not joking or taking the matter lightly. He felt remorseful and guilty, as is clear from his saying “I am doomed.” For this reason, he deserved pity and compassion. The report narrated by Ahmad (may Allaah have mercy on him) makes the man’s state even clearer:

Abu Hurayrah reported that a Bedouin came, hitting his cheeks and tearing out his hair, and saying, “I am sure that I am doomed!” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to him, “What makes you doomed?” He said, “I had intercourse with my wife during Ramadaan.” He said, “Can you free a slave?’ He said, “No.” He said, “Can you fast for two consecutive months?” He said, “No.” He said, “Can you feed sixty poor persons?” He said, “No,” and mentioned how poor he was. A large basket containing fifteen saa’of dates was brought to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “Where is that man? … Feed the poor with this.” He said, “O Messenger of Allaah, there is no one in Madeenah who is poorer than my family.” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) smiled until his eyeteeth were visible and said, “Feed your family.” (Al-Musnad, 2/516. Al-Fath al-Rabaani, 10/89)


7- Not hastening to tell someone he is wrong

Something happened to ‘Umar which he himself told about: “I heard Hishaam ibn Hakeem ibn Hizaam reciting Soorat al-Furqaan during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). I listened to his recitation, and he was reciting it differently to the way that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to recite it. I nearly interrupted his prayer, but I waited until he had said the salaam, then I grabbed him by his cloak and said, ‘Who taught you to recite this soorah I heard you reciting?’ He said, ‘The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) taught me to recite it.’ I said, ‘You are lying! The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) taught me to recite it differently.’ I took him to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said, ‘I heard him reciting Soorat al-Furqaan differently than the way you taught me to recite it.’ The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘Let him go. Recite, O Hishaam.’ He recited it as I had heard him recite it. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘This is how it was revealed.’ Then he said, ‘Recite, O ‘Umar.’ So I recited it as he had taught me. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘This is how it was revealed. This Qur’an was revealed with seven ways of recitation, so recite it in the way that is easiest for you.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 4992).

Among the educational methods we learn from this story are the following:

  • Telling each one to recite in front of the other and approving their recitation was more effective in confirming that both were correct and neither was wrong.
  • When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) told ‘Umar to let go of Hishaam, this was preparing both parties to listen in a calm manner. This was an indication that ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) had been too hasty.
  • A person who is seeking knowledge should not be too hasty to condemn any opinion that differs from that with which he is familiar; he should first be sure of what he is saying, because that opinion may turn out to be a valid scholarly opinion.

 

Another relevant point is that one should not hasten to punish someone who makes a mistake, as we see in the following story:

Al-Nisaa’i (may Allaah have mercy on him) reported from ‘Abbaad ibn Sharhabeel (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said: “I came with my (paternal) uncles to Madeenah, and we entered one of the gardens of the city. I rubbed some of the wheat, and the owner of the garden came and took my cloak and hit me. I came to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) asking for his help. He sent for that man and they brought him to him. He said to him, ‘What made you do that?’ He said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, he went into my garden and took some of my wheat and rubbed it.’ The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘You did not teach him if it was the matter of him not knowing, and you did not feed him if it was the matter of him being hungry. Give him back his cloak.’ And the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) ordered that I should be given a wasq or half a wasq ( measure of wheat).” (Al-Nisaa’i, al-Mujtabaa, Kitaab Aadaab al-Qudaat, Baab al-Isti’daa’; Saheeh Sunan al-Nisaa’i, no. 4999).

From this story we learn that we should find out the circumstances of the one who is making a mistake or acting in an aggressive manner, so that we may know the right way to deal with him.

We may also note that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did not punish the owner of the garden, because he was in the right, but he had handled the matter wrong. He pointed out to him that the way he had dealt with someone who knew not better was inappropriate in such circumstances, then he taught him how to handle the matter properly, and told him to give back the garment he had taken from the hungry man.

8 – Remaining calm when dealing with people’s mistakes

– especially when being too harsh could make matters worse and do more harm than good. We can learn this from looking at how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) dealt with the mistake made by the Bedouin who urinated in the mosque, as was reported by Anas ibn Maalik, who said: “Whilst we were in the mosque with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), a Bedouin came and stood urinating in the mosque. The Companions of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘Stop it! Stop it!’ But the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘Do not interrupt him; leave him alone.’ So they left him until he had finished urinating, then the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) called him and said to him, ‘In these mosques it is not right to do anything like urinating or defecating; they are only for remembering Allaah, praying and reading Qur’aan,’ or words to that effect. Then he commanded a man who was there to bring a bucket of water and throw it over the (urine), and he did so.” (Saheeh Muslim, no. 285).

The principle which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) followed in dealing with this mistake was to treat the man gently, not to be harsh with him. Al-Bukhaari reported from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him): “A Bedouin urinated in the mosque, and the people got up to sort him out. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to them, ‘Leave him alone, and throw a bucket of water over it. You have been sent to make things easy for people, not to make things hard.’” (Fath, 6128).

The Sahaabah, may Allaah be pleased with them, were very keen to denounce the bad thing they had seen and to keep their mosque clean and pure, as is indicated in the various reports of this hadeeth, which describe them as shouting at him, getting up to sort him out, rebuking him and hastening to deal with him, or telling him to “Stop it!” (Jaami’ al-Usool, 7/83-87). But the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was thinking of the likely consequences of the two options – stopping him or leaving him alone. If they tried to stop him, forcing a man to suppress his urination could do him harm, and if he was unable to stop but moved away because he was afraid of them, the impurity would be spread over a wider area of the mosque and on the man’s body and clothing. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had the farsightedness to see that leaving the man alone until he had finished urinating was the lesser of two evils, especially since the man had already started doing it, and it was a problem that they would be able to do something about by cleaning it afterwards. So he told his companions to leave him alone and not to interrupt him. He told them to leave him alone because this was in the better interests of all and would ward off a worse evil by putting up with the lesser evil.

It was also reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) asked the man the reason for his action. Al-Tabaraani reported in al-Kabeer that Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “A Bedouin came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and pledged allegiance to him in the mosque. Then he went away and started to urinate. The people wanted to stop him, but the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘Do not stop a man when he is urinating.’ Then he asked him, ‘Are you not a Muslim?’ He said, ‘Of course.’ He said, ‘What made you urinate in our mosque?’ He said, ‘By the One Who sent you with the truth, I thought it was just like any other place so I urinated in it.’ The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) called for a bucket of water and poured it over the urine.” (Reported by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer, no. 11552, vol. 11, p.220. Al-Haythami said in al-Majma’: its men are the men of saheeh, 2/10).

This wise manner of dealing with the problem had a far-reaching effect on the Bedouin, as is clear from his reaction. Ibn Maajah reported that Abu Hurayrah said: “A Bedouin entered the mosque where the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was sitting, and said, ‘O Allaah, forgive me and Muhammad, and do not forgive anyone else.’ The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) smiled and said, ‘You are narrowing something vast.’ Then (the Bedouin) went away to the furthest part of the mosque, opened his legs, and began to urinate. After he had learnt better, the Bedouin said, ‘He got up, may my mother and my father be sacrificed for him, he did not rebuke me or insult me. He just said, “We do not urinate in this mosque; it was only built for the remembrance of Allaah and for prayer.” Then he called for a bucket of water and poured it over the urine.’” (Sunan Ibn Maajah, ‘Abd al-Baaqi edn., 529; Saheeh Ibn Maajah, 428).

Ibn Hajar (may Allaah have mercy on him) mentioned in his commentary a number of things we learn from the hadeeth about the Bedouin, among which are the following:

  • we should be gentle when dealing with one who is ignorant and teach him what he needs to know without rebuking him, so long as he is not acting out of stubbornness, especially if he is one who needs to be won over.
  • The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was kind and dealt nicely with him.
  • The idea of taking precautions against impurity (najaasah) was well-established in the minds of the Sahaabah, which is why they hastened to denounce it in the presence of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) without first asking his permission. The idea of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil was also well-established in their minds.
  • We should also hasten to remove anything objectionable when there is nothing to stop us from doing so, because when the man had finished urinating, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) issued instructions that the place should be cleaned with water.

9 – Explaining the seriousness of the mistake

Ibn ‘Umar, Muhammad ibn Ka’b, Zayd ibn Aslam and Qutaadah reported (the following is compiled from their reports) that during the campaign of Tabook, a man said, “We have never seen anyone who loves food and tells lies more than our reciters, or anyone who is more cowardly on the battlefield” – referring to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and his Companions. ‘Awf ibn Maalik said, ‘You are lying! You are a hypocrite, and I am going to tell the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).’ ‘Awf went to the Messenger of Allaah to tell him, but found that Qur’aan had already been revealed concerning it. That man came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), who was riding his camel, and said, “O Messenger of Allaah, we were only talking idly and joking, just to pass time on the journey.” Ibn ‘Umar said, “It is as if I can see him hanging onto the reins of the Prophet’s camel, with the stones hitting his feet, saying, “We were only talking idly and joking,” whilst the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was reciting (interpretation of the meaning), ‘Say: Was it at Allaah and His aayaat (signs) and His Messenger that you were mocking?’ [al-Tawbah 9:65], no more, no less.”

Ibn Jareer reported that Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “During the campaign of Tabook a man said in a gathering, ‘We have never seen anyone who loves food and tells lies more than our reciters, or anyone who is more cowardly on the battlefield.’ A man who was present said, ‘You are lying! You are a hypocrite, and I am going to tell the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him),’ and Qur’aan was revealed.” ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar said, “I saw him hanging on to the reins of the Prophet’s camel, kicking up the stones and saying, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, we were only talking idly and joking,’ and the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was saying (interpretation of the meaning), “Say: Was it at Allaah and His aayaat (signs) and His Messenger that you were mocking?” [al-Tawbah 9:65]. (Tafseer ibn Jareer al-Tabari, 14/333, Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, first edn., 1412. Its men are the men of saheeh, except Hishaam ibn Sa’d, from whom Muslim did not report except as a corroborating report, as in al-Meezaan. It was also reported by al-Tabari with his isnaad, and there is a corroborating report with a hasan isnaad recorded by Ibn Haatim from the hadeeth of Ka’b ibn Maalik. Saheeh al-Musnad min Asbaab al-Nuzool, p.71).

10 – Explaining the harmful effects of the mistake

Abu Tha’labah al-Khashani said: “Whenever the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) broke his journey in a place, the people would disperse in the valleys and mountains. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘Your dispersing in these valleys and mountains is from Shaytaan.’ After that he never stopped anywhere but they all stayed close together, so much so that if a cloak was spread over them, it would cover them all.” (Reported by Abu Dawood (may Allaah have mercy on him), in his Sunan, 2286; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Sunan Abi Dawood, no. 2288). According to another report: “… until you would say that if you were to spread a cloth over them, it would cover them.” (Ahmad, al-Fath al-Rabbaani, 14/44).

Here we may note the Prophet’s concern for his Companions, which was the leader’s concern for his troops. The army’s dispersing when they made camp was a trick of the Shaytaan to make the Muslims scared and to lead the enemy to attack them. (See ‘Awn al-Ma’bood, 7/292). Dispersing in this manner would make it hard for one part of the army to come to the aid of another part. (See Daleel al-Faaliheen, 6/130).

We may also note that the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) obeyed him in whatever instructions they received from him.

Another example of how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) explained how serious and dangerous a mistake was is to be seen in the hadeeth of al-Nu’maan ibn Basheer, according to which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Straighten your rows (for prayer), or Allaah will make you divided.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari in his Saheeh, Fath, no. 717).

Muslim reported in his Saheeh from Sammaak ibn Harb, who said: “I heard al-Nu’maan ibn Basheer saying, ‘The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to straighten our rows strictly, until he realized that we had got the message. One day he came out and was about to say takbeer when he noticed a man whose chest was sticking out. He said, “O slaves of Allaah, straighten your rows, or Allaah will make you divided.”’” (Saheeh Muslim, no. 436).

Al-Nisaa’i reported from Anas (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “Make your rows firm and close together, and make your necks in a straight line, for by the One in Whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, I see the shayaateen (devils) coming among your ranks as if they are small black sheep.” (al-Mujtabaa, 2/92. Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Sunan al-Nisaa’i, no. 785).

Explaining bad effects and negative consequences is very important when it comes to convincing people that they are making a mistake. The consequences may affect the person himself, or they may spread to other people. An example of the former is the report narrated by Abu Dawood (may Allaah have mercy on him) in his Sunan from Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with them both), in which a man cursed the wind. Muslim said that a man’s cloak was snatched away by the wind at the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and he cursed the wind. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “Do not curse it, for it only does as it is commanded, and if a person curses something that does not deserve to be cursed, his curse will come back upon him.” (Abu Dawood, no. 4908; Saheeh Abi Dawood, no. 4102). An example of the latter was narrated by al-Bukhaari (may Allaah have mercy on him) in his Saheeh from ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn Abi Bakrah from his father, who said: “A man praised another man in the presence of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).” According to a report narrated by Muslim: a man said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, there is no one other than the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) who is better than him in such-and-such.’ (Saheeh Muslim, no. 3000). [The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)] said to him, ‘Woe to you! You have cut your companion’s throat! You have cut your companion’s throat!’ several times, then he said, ‘If any one of you insists on praising his brother, let him say, “I think so-and-so is such-and-such, and Allaah knows the exact truth, and I do not confirm anyone’s good conduct before Allaah, but I think him to be such-and-such,” if he knows that this is the case.’” (2662, Kitaab al-Shahaadaat). According to a report narrated by al-Bukhaari in al-Adab al-Mufrad, Mihjan al-Aslami (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “… until when we were in the mosque, the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) saw a man praying, prostrating and bowing. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to me, ‘Who is this?’ I started to praise him and said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, this is so-and-so, and he is such-and-such.’ (According to another report also in al-Adab al-Mufrad, he said, ‘This is so-and-so and he is one of the best people in Madeenah in prayer.’) He said, ‘Be quiet, lest he hear you and you destroy him.’” (Saheeh al-Adab al-Mufrad, 137; al-Albaani said, it is hasan).

Al-Bukhaari reported that Abu Moosa (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) heard a man praising another man and going to extremes in that. He said, ‘You have destroyed him’ or ‘You have broken the man’s back.’” (Fath 2663).

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) explained that exaggeration when praising someone is a mistake which can have bad consequences. It may make the person who is praised feel proud, so that his heart is filled with arrogance and self-admiration, and he rests on his laurels or starts to show off because he enjoys the praise so much. This in turn may lead to his utimate doom, which is what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) meant when he said, “You have destroyed him,” or “You have cut the man’s throat,” or “You have broken the man’s back.”

Moreover, if a person goes to extremes in praising someone, and says something he is not certain of, or affirms something he could not possibly know, or maybe even tells lies or says something to please the person he is praising, this will be a disaster, especially if the person he is praising is an oppressor or wrongdoer. (See al-Fath, 10/478).

Generally speaking, it is not forbidden to praise people. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) praised some people in their presence. An important explanation of this topic is to be found in Saheeh Muslim, where there is a chapter entitled Baab al-Nahy ‘an al-Madh idhaa kaana feehi ifraat wa kheefa minhu fitnatan ‘ala’l-mamdooh (Chapter: Prohibition of praising others if it is exaggerated or if there is the danger of fitnah for the one who is praised). (Kitaab al-Zuhd wa’l-Raqaa’iq, Saheeh Muslim).

The person who sees himself as falling short will not be damaged by praise, and if he is praised he will not become arrogant, because he knows his own true nature. Some of the salaf said: “If a man is praised to his face, let him say: ‘O Allaah, forgive me for what they do not know, do not hold me responsible for what they say, and make me better than what they think.” (Fath, 10/478).

11 – Practical teaching of the one who is making a mistake

In many cases practical teaching is more effective than theoretical teaching. This is what the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did. Jubayr ibn Nufayr reported from his father that he came to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), who called for water, then said, “Do wudoo’, O Abu Jubayr.” Abu Jubayr started with his mouth, and the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “Do not start with your mouth, O Abu Jubayr, for the kaafir starts with his mouth.” Then the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) called for water, and washed his hands until they were clean, then he rinsed his mouth and nose three times, washed his face three times, washed his right arm up to the elbow three times, and his left arm three times, wiped his head and washed his feet. (Reported by al-Bayhaqi in al-Sunan, 1/46; al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, no. 2820).

We may note here that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) deliberately put this Sahaabi off from doing an incorrect action by telling him that the kaafir starts with his mouth; the meaning may be that the kaafir does not wash his hands before putting them in the vessel (I was told this by Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez Ibn Baaz when I asked him about the interpretation of this hadeeth), and that this is not hygienic. And Allaah knows best.

12 – Offering a sound alternative

‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood said, “When we prayed with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), we used to say, “Peace be upon Allaah from His slaves, peace be upon so-and-so.” (According to a report narrated by al-Nisaa’i, he said, “Pecae be upon Jibreel, peace be upon Mikaa’eel.” Al-Mujtabaa: Kitaab al-Tatbeeq, Baab Kayfa al-Tashahhud al-Awwal. See also Saheeh Sunan al-Nisaa’i, no. 1119). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “Do not say, ‘Peace be upon Allaah,’ for Allaah is ‘The Peace’ (al-Salaam). But you should say, ‘Al-Tahiyyaatu Lillaahi wa’l-salawaatu wa’l-tayyibaat, al-salaamu ‘alayka ayyuha’l-Nabiyyu wa rahmat-Allaahi wa barakaatuhu, wa’l-salaamu ‘alaynaa wa ‘alaa ‘ibaad-Illaah il-saaliheen.’ If you say this, it will include every slave of Allaah in heaven or between heaven and earth. [Then say:] ‘I bear witness that there is no god except Allaah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.’ Then choose whichever du’aa’ you like, and recite it.” (al-Bukhaari, Fath, 835).

Another report that deals with this topic was narrated by Anas (may Allaah be please with him), who said that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) saw some sputum in the direction of the qiblah and this upset him so much that his anger could be seen on his face. He stood up and removed it with his hand, then said, “When any one of you stands up to pray, he is talking to his Lord. His Lord is between him and the qiblah, so no one of you should spit in the direction of the qiblah; he should spit to his left or under his feet.” Then he took the edge of his cloak, spat on it and rubbed part of it against another part and said, “Or do like this.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 405).

Another example was reported by Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allaah be pleased with him), who said: “Bilaal came to the Prophet with some good-quality dates, and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) asked him, ‘Where is this from?’ Bilaal said, ‘We had some poor-quality dates, and I sold two measures of those for one measure of these so that we could give them to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).’ When he heard that, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “Oh, oh! The essence of ribaa, the essence of ribaa! Do not do that. If you want to buy, sell your dates for something else, then buy it.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 2312). According to another report, one day a slave belonging to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) brought him some fresh dates, but the Prophet’s dates were dry, so the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘Where did you get these dates from?’ He said, ‘We bought a measure of these for two measures of our dates.’ The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘Do not do this, because it is not right. Sell your dates first, then buy whatever dates you want.’ (Musnad Ahmad, 3/67).

But in the case of some da’iyahs and people who seek to enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil, we notice that there is a shortcoming in their methods when they denounce some of the mistakes that people make. They only point out the mistakes and denounce them as haraam, without offering an alternative or explaining what must be done if one makes a mistake. It is known that the method of Islam is to offer alternatives to make up for any benefits that may have been gained through the haraam practice. When zinaa (fornication, adultery) was forbidden, marriage was allowed and prescribed; when ribaa (usury, interest) was forbidden, trading was allowed; when pork, dead meat and the flesh of every creature that has fangs or talons were forbidden, the meat of properly-slaughtered cattle and other animals was allowed, and so on. If a person does fall into error, Islam shows him the way out, through repentance and expiation, as is explained in the texts on kafaaraat (acts of expiation). So those who seek to call others to Islam must follow the sharee’ah in offering alternatives and finding acceptable ways out. (Another example of offering an alternative is to quote saheeh ahaadeeth which will replace da’eef and fabricated ahaadeeth).

It is worth pointing out here that offering alternatives is something that depends on what is possible. Sometimes a mistake may be something that has to be stopped, but there is no realistic alternative, either because the general situation is bad and people are far removed from the sharee’ah of Allaah, or because the one who is seeking to enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil cannot remember what the alternative is – all he wants to do is denounce the mistake and change it, even if he has no alternative to offer. This happens a great deal in the case of financial dealings and investment organizations, which emerged in kaafir societies and were brought, complete with all their Islamically unacceptable features, to Muslim societies; the Muslims have shortcomings and weaknesses that prevent them from creating Islamic alternatives and applying them everywhere. So those shortcomings and weaknesses remain, even though the divine methodology contains alternatives and ways out that could alleviate the Muslims’ hardships, and there are some who know this and some who do not.

13 – Guiding people to that which will prevent them from making mistakes

Abu Umaamah ibn Sahl ibn Haneef reported that his father told him that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) went out, and they travelled with him in the direction of Makkah, until they reached the ravine of al-Khazzaar near al-Juhfah. Sahl ibn Haneef did ghusl, and he was a white man with a handsome body and beautiful skin. ‘Aamir ibn Rabee’ah, the brother of Banu ‘Adiyy ibn Ka’b looked at him whilst he was doing ghusl and said, ‘I have never seen anything like what I have seen today, not even the skin of the virgin who is hidden away!’ [referring to the whiteness of his skin]. Sahl fell to the ground (he had an epileptic fit). The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came and it was said to him, ‘Do you want to see Sahl? By Allaah, he cannot raise his head or wake up.’ He asked, ‘Whose fault is this?’ They said, ‘ ‘Aamir ibn Rabee’ah looked at him.’ The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) called ‘Aamir and rebuked him angrily, and said, ‘Why would any one of you kill his brother? If any one of you sees that his brother has something he likes, let him pray for blessing for him.’ Then he said to him, ‘Wash yourself to help him’. So he washed his face, his hands up to the elbows, his knees, the sides of his feet and inside his izaar (lower garment) in a vessel. Then the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘Pour that water over him.’ So he poured the water over his head and back from behind, tilting the vessel, and Sahl went with the people and there was nothing wrong with him.” (Al-Musnad, 3/486. Al-Haythami said, the men of Ahmad are the men of saheeh. Al-Majma’, 5/107)

According to a report narrated by Maalik (may Allaah have mercy on him), Muhammad ibn Abi Umaamah ibn Sahl ibn Haneef said that he heard his father saying: “Abu Sahl ibn Haneef did ghusl in al-Kharraar and took off the garment he was wearing. ‘Aamir ibn Rabee’ah was looking at him, and Sahl was a white man with beautiful skin. ‘Aamir ibn Rabee’ah said to him, ‘I have never seen anything like what I have seen today, not even the skin of the virgin!’. Sahl fell ill on the spot and became seriously ill. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came and was told, ‘Sahl has fallen ill, and cannot go with you, O Messenger of Allaah.’ Sahl told him what had happened with ‘Aamir, and the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘Why would any one of you kill his brother? You should have asked for blessing for him. The (evil) eye is real. Do wudoo’ to help him.” So ‘Aamir did wudoo’, and Sahl went with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and there was nothing wrong with him. (Al-Muwatta’, hadeeth no. 1972).

What we learn from this story is:

  • The teacher (i.e., the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)) got angry with the one who caused harm to his Muslim brother.
  • He explained the harmful effects of the mistake and that it could lead to death.
  • He pointed the way to that which would prevent harm befalling a Muslim.

14 – Not confronting people directly with their mistakes and addressing the issue in general terms may be sufficient

Anas ibn Maalik said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘What is the matter with some people who raise their gaze to the heavens whilst they are praying?’ He spoke so harshly about them that he said, ‘They should stop doing that, or else Allaah will take away their sight.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, hadeeth no. 750).

When ‘Aa’ishah wanted to buy a slave-woman whose name was Bareerah, her owners refused to sell her except with the condition that she would still be connected to them. When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) found out about this, he stood up to address the people, praised and thanked Allaah, then said, “What is wrong with men who impose conditions which are not mentioned in the Book of Allaah? There is no condition that is not mentioned in the Book of Allaah but it is invalid, even if there were one hundred such conditions. The decree of Allaah is more true, the conditions laid down by Allaah are more binding, and wala’ (connection, loyalty, allegiance) is to the one who sets the slave free.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari (may Allaah have mercy on him) in numerous places in his Saheeh. See Fath, 5636).

‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did something and made it permissible, but some people felt that they were above doing that. News of this reached the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), so he addressed the people. He praised and thanked Allaah, then he said, ‘What is the matter with people who think themselves above doing the things that I do? By Allaah, I know more about Allaah than they do, and I fear Him more than they do.’” (Fath, 6101).

Abu Hurayrah reported that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) saw sputum in the qiblah of the mosque, so he turned to the people and said, “What is wrong with one of you that he stands facing his Lord and spits in front of Him? Would any of you like someone to face him and spit in his face? If any one of you wants to spit, let him spit towards his left, under his feet, and if he cannot do this, let him do this” – and al-Qaasim described how he spat on his garment and rubbed one part of it against another part. (Saheeh Muslim, no. 550).

Al-Nisaa’i reported in his Sunan that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) prayed Salaat al-Subh and recited Soorat al-Room, but got mixed up in his recitation. When he had finished praying, he said, “What is the matter with people who pray with us but do not purify themselves properly? Such people are the ones who make us get mixed up when we recite Qur’aan.” (Sunan al-Nisaa’i, al-Mujtabaa, 2/156. Its men are thiqaat, but al-Haafiz said about ‘Abd al-Malik ibn ‘Umayr that he was thiqah but his memory changed and he may have fabricated reports).

Ahmad (may Allaah have mercy on him) reported that Abu Rawh al-Kalaa’i said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) led us in prayer and recited Soorat al-Room, but he got mixed up in part of the recitation. He said, ‘The Shaytaan made us get mixed up in our recitation, because of some people who come to the prayer without wudoo’. When you come to pray, do wudoo’ properly.’”

He also reported from Shu’bah from ‘Abd al-Malik ibn ‘Umayr, who said: “I heard Shabeeb Abu Rawh narrating from a man from among the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) who said that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) prayed Salaat al-Subh and recited Soorat al-Room, and got mixed up, and he narrated (the same hadeeth).” (It was also reported from Zaa’idah and Sufyaan from ‘Abd al-Malik. Al-Musnad, 3/473).

There are many examples, all of which indicate that the identity of the person who has made the mistake need not be exposed. This indirect approach and avoiding a direct confrontation has a number of benefits, including the following:

  1. It avoids a negative reaction on the part of the person who has made the mistake, and prevents him from being tempted by the Shaytaan to avenge himself or defend himself.
  2. It is more acceptable to people and is more effective.
  3. It conceals the person’s mistake in front of other people.
  4. It increases the status of the educator and makes the advisor more beloved.

It must be pointed out that this method of using hints to convey a ruling to a person who has made a mistake, without exposing him and causing him embarrassment, is only to be used when what he has done is not known to the majority of people. If most of the people do know what he has done, and he knows that they know, then this method would be more in the nature of a rebuke and scolding, and exposing him in the most hurtful manner. The one who has made a mistake would most likely rather be confronted directly than be dealt with in this manner. Among the factors that can make a difference are: who is giving the advice, in the presence of whom the advice is being given, and whether the advice is given in a provocative and aggressive manner, or in a kindly and gentle manner.

Indirect methods of teaching people may be of benefit to the one who has made the mistake and to others, if they are used wisely.

continue to Part-4 :

15 – Provoking public opinion against the one who has made the mistake

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