My dear sister (or brother as the case may be) in Islam, Insh’Allah this reaches you in the best of health and iman……….But, dearest sister (or brother) everything you’re doing is wrong. You need to do this and that. Don’t do this. Dont do that. Don’t say this and don’t say that. Please repent and save yourself before it is too late. Now, I’m telling you this because I love you. ok?
- First of all let me make this clear: This post is not directed at anyone that has posted on my blog or that I know on a personal level. This is based upon a lesson that I learned several months back but just now felt comfortable enough to write. So, before anyone takes offense. Don’t.
Advising others is a very important part of being a Muslim. It is an action that can bring about love and closeness, an action that can strengthen an Ummah……if done correctly. Although, all to often what happens is that it is done incorrectly and that leads to dissention, hate, end fighting and the total deterioration of an Ummah.
The above seems to be the basic form of giving naseeha among Muslims. Not very original or sucessful if you ask me. I know, because I admit that I have given it this way and recieved it this way. Obviously, there are some who are very well meaning and sincere people who want to give naseeha but it often comes out self rigteous and rude. It’s not entirely the person’s fault. All we see is this basic prototype.
The truth is that not many people learn the ins and outs of giving naseeha from the Quran, the Sunnah and the companions. This is something every Muslim should strive to learn, insh’Allah.
This book really goes into detail on the topic of giving naseeha. I know it’s quite long but insh’Allah well worth reading. You can find it online here:
You can find it online here: http://www.lutonmuslims.co.uk/naseeha1.htm
The Method of Giving Naseeha (Advising Others)
1) Introduction: Giving naseeha (advice)
Bismillaah il-Rahmaan il-Raheem
In the Name of Allaah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Praise be to Allaah, Lord of the Worlds, Master of the Day of Judgement, God of the first and the last, Sustainer of heaven and earth, and peace and blessings be upon His trustworthy Prophet, the Teacher of mankind, sent as a Mercy to the worlds.
Teaching people is one of the greatest good deeds whose benefits spread to others. It is the daiy’ahs’ and educators’ share of the heritage of the Prophets and Messengers. “Allaah and the angels, and even the ant in its nest and the whale in the sea will pray for the one who teaches people the ways of good.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi; Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Ahmad Shaakir edn., no. 2685. Abu ‘Eesa said, this is a saheeh ghareeb hasan hadeeth). There are different types and ways of teaching, with different means and methods, one of which is correcting mistakes. Correcting mistakes is a part of education; they are like inseparable twins.
Dealing with and correcting mistakes is also a part of sincerity in religion (naseehah) which is a duty on all Muslims. The connection between this and the concept of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, which is also a duty, is quite obvious (but we should note that the area of mistakes is broader than the area of evil (munkar), so a mistake may or may not be evil as such).
Correcting mistakes also formed a part of the wahy (revelation) and the methodology of the Qur’aan. The Qur’aan brought commands and prohibitions, approvals and denunciations and correction of mistakes – even those on the part of the Prophet (SAW).
Concerning the mistake made by the archers at the battle of Uhud, who left the position where the Prophet (SAW) had commanded them to stay, Allaah revealed the words (interpretation of the meaning):
“… until (the moment) you lost your courage and fell to disputing about the order, and disobeyed after He showed you (of the booty) which you love. Among you are some that desire this world and some that desire the Hereafter…” [Aal- ‘Imraan 3:152]
When the Prophet (SAW) stayed away from his wives in order to discipline them, and some people spread rumours that he had divorced them, Allaah revealed the words (interpretation of the meaning):
“When there comes to them some matter touching (public) safety or fear, they make it known (among the people), if only they had referred it to the Messenger or to those charged with authority among them, the proper investigators would have understood it from them (directly)…” [al-Nisa’ 4:83]
When some of the Muslims failed to migrate from Makkah to Madeenah with no legitimate excuse, Allaah revealed the words (interpretation of the meaning):
“Verily! As for those whom the angels take (in death) while they are wronging themselves (as they stayed among the disbelievers even though emigration was obligatroy for them), they (angels) say (to them): ‘In what (condition) were you?’ They reply: ‘We were weak and oppressed on earth.’ They (angels) say: ‘Was not the earth of Allaah spacious enough for you to emigrate therein?’ …” [al-Nisa’ 4:97]
When some of the Sahaabah believed and repeated the rumours of the munaafiqeen accusing ‘Aa’ishah of something she was innocent of, Allaah revealed aayaat concerning this lie, including (interpretation of the meaning):
“Had it not been for the Grace of Allaah and His Mercy unto you in this world and in the Hereafter, a great torment would have touched you for that whereof you had spoken. When you were propagating it with your tongues and uttering with your mouths that whereof you had no knowledge, you counted it a little thing, while with Allaah it was very great.”[al-Noor 24:14]
Then Allaah said (interpretation of the meaning):
“And why did you not, when you heard it, say – ‘It is not right for us to speak of this. Glory be to You (O Allaah), this is a great lie’?
Allaah forbids you from it and warns you not to repeat the like of it forever, if you are believers.”[al-Noor 24:16-17]
When some of the Sahaabah argued in the presence of the Prophet (SAW) and raised their voices, Allaah revealed (interpretation of the meaning):
“O you who believe! Do not put (yourselves) forward before Allaah and His Messenger, and fear Allaah. Verily! Allaah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.
O you who believe! Raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet, nor speak aloud to him in talk as you speak aloud to one another, lest your deeds may be rendered fruitless while you perceive not.”[al-Hujuraat 49:1-2]
When the caravan came at the time of the Friday khutbah, and some of the people left the khutbah and dispersed to engage in trade, Allaah revealed the words:
“And when they see some merchandise or some amusement, they disperse headlong to it, and leave you (Muhammad) standing [while delivering the Friday khutbah]. Say: ‘That which Allaah has is better than any amusement or merchandise! And Allaah is the Best of Providers.’”[al-Jumu’ah 62:11]
Many other examples also indicate the importance of correcting mistakes and not keeping quiet about them.
The Prophet (SAW) was guided by the Light of his Lord in following the principle of denouncing evil and correcting mistakes with no compromise. From this and other reports the scholars (may Allaah have mercy on them) derived the principle: it is not permitted for the Prophet to delay speaking up and explaining mistakes at the appropriate time.”
Understanding the Prophet’s methodology in dealing with the mistakes of the people he met is of great importance, because the Prophet (SAW) was guided by his Lord, and his words and deeds were supported by the wahy, and confirmed or corrected as needed. His methods are wiser and more efficacious, and using his approach is the best way to get people to respond positively. If the one who is in a position to guide and teach others adopts these methods and this approach, his efforts will be successful. Following the method and approach of the Prophet (SAW) also involves following his example, for he is the best example for us, and this will lead us to a great reward from Allaah, if our intention is sincere.
Knowing the methods of the Prophet (SAW) exposes the failure of the man-made methodology – which is followed everywhere on this earth – and proves to the followers of that methodology that it is a failure. Much of it is clearly a deviation that is based on corrupt theories such as absolute freedom, or it is derived from false heritages such a blind imitation of one’s fathers and forefathers.
We must point out that the practical application of this methodology in real life relies heavily on ijtihaad (studying the situation and attempting to determine the best approach) to a great extent. This involves selecting the best methods for a particular situation. Whoever understands people’s nature will be able to notice similarities between real life situations and situations described in the texts, so he will be able to choose the most appropriate method from among the methods of the Prophet (SAW).
This book is an attempt to study the methods of the Prophet (SAW) in dealing with mistakes made by people of different levels and backgrounds, among those who lived with him and with whom he interacted. I ask Allaah to make it successful and free of mistakes, to benefit my Muslim brothers and me through it, for He is in control of all things and He is able to do this, and He is the Guide to the Straight Path.
Considerations in giving naseeha
Before we embark on our discussion we should note some issues and considerations that we should bear in mind before and when dealing with and correcting the mistakes of others.
Sincerity towards Allaah
When correcting the mistakes of others, it is essential that one’s intention be to earn the pleasure of Allaah, not to demonstrate one’s superiority or to vent one’s anger or to impress others.
Al-Tirmidhi (rh) reported from Shufayy al-Asbahi that he entered Madeenah and saw a man with people gathered around him. He asked, “Who is this?” They said, “Abu Hurayrah.” [Shufayy said:] “So I approached him and sat down in front of him. He was speaking to the people, and when he finished and they had gone away, I said to him, ‘I ask you by Allaah, to narrate to me a hadeeth that you heard from the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) and understood fully.’ Abu Hurayrah said, ‘I will do that, I will tell you a hadeeth I heard from the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) and understood fully.’ Then Abu Hurayrah began to gasp, and remained in this condition until he recovered, then he said, ‘I will tell you a hadeeth that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) told me in this house when there was no one else present except me and him.’ Then Abu Hurayrah began to gasp again, then he recovered and wiped his face, and said, ‘I will tell you a hadeeth that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) told me in this house when there was no one else present except me and him.’ Then he gasped, then he recovered and wiped his face and said, ‘I will tell you a hadeeth that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) told me in this house when there was no one else present except me and him.’ Then Abu Hurayrah began to gasp severely, and his head fell forward, and I supported him with my shoulder for a long time, then he recovered, and said: ‘The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) told me: ‘When the Day of Judgement comes, Allaah will come down to judge between the people. And every nation will be kneeling in submission. The first people to be called forth will be a man who had learned the Qur’aan by heart, a man who was killed for the sake of Allaah and a man who had a lot of wealth. Allaah will say to the reader, ‘Did I not teach you that which I had revealed to My Messenger?’ He will say, ‘Of course, My Lord.’ Allaah will say, ‘What did you do with what you were taught?’ He will say, ‘I stayed up at night and during the day (to recite it).’ Allaah will say, ‘You have lied,’ and the angels will say, ‘You have lied.’ Allaah will say, ‘You only wanted it to be said that so-and-so is a reader, and it was said.’ The one who had a lot of wealth will be brought and Allaah will say to him, ‘Did I not give generously to you so that you were not in need of anyone?’ He will say, ‘Of course, O Lord.’ Allaah will say, ‘What did you do with what I gave you?’ He will say, ‘I used to give it to my relatives and in charity.’ Allaah will say, ‘You have lied,’ and the angels will say, ‘You have lied.’ Allaah will say, ‘You only wanted it to be said that so-and-so is generous, and it was said. Then the one who was killed for the sake of Allaah will be brought and Allaah will say to him, ‘What were you killed for?’ He will say, ‘I was commanded to fight in jihaad for Your sake so I fought until I was killed.’ Allaah will say, ‘You have lied,’ and the angels will say, ‘You have lied.’ Allaah will say, ‘You only want it to be said that so-and-so was courageous, and it was said.’ Then the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) struck my knees and said, ‘O Abu Hurayrah, these three are the first people for whom the Fire will be heated on the Day of Resurrection.’” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi, no. 2382, Shaakir edn. Abu ‘Eesa said: this is a ghareeb hasan hadeeth).
If the intention of the person giving advice is sincere, he will earn reward and his advice will be accepted and acted upon, by the permission of Allaah.
Making mistakes is part of human nature.
The Prophet (SAW) said: “Every son of Adam makes mistakes, and the best of those who make mistakes are those who repent.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, no. 2499, and by Ibn Maajah, who narrated this version – al-Sunan, ed. by ‘Abd al-Baqi, no. 4251)
Bearing this fact clearly in mind will put things into their proper perspective, so the educator should not expect people to be perfect or infallible or judge them according to what he thinks they should be, and then consider them to have failed if they make a big mistake or err repeatedly. He should deal with them in a realistic manner, based on his knowledge of human nature which is subject to ignorance, negligence, shortcomings, whims and desires and forgetfulness.
Understanding this fact will also prevent an educator from being greatly shocked by the kind of sudden mistake that could lead him to react in an inappropriate fashion. This will remind the da’iyah and educator who is striving to enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil that he too is a human being who could also make the same mistake, so he should deal with him on a footing of compassion rather than harshness, because the basic aim is to reform, not to punish.
But this does not mean that we should leave people who are making mistakes alone, or find excuses for those who are committing sins on the basis that they are only human or that they are just youngsters, or that the modern age is full of temptations and so on. We must denounce the actions and call the people to account, but at the same time we must evaluate their actions according to Islam.
- Saying that someone is wrong should be based on shar’i evidence and proper understanding, not on ignorance and that fact that one happens not to like it. Muhammad ibn al-Munkadir reported that Jaabir prayed wearing only an izar (lower garment wrapped around the waist) tied at the back [the reason for this is that they did not have trousers, and they would wear their izar tied at the back because this was more concealing when they did rukoo’ and sujood. Fath al-Baari, al-Salafiyyah edn., 1/467], and his other clothes were on a clothes hook. Someone said to him, ‘Are you praying in one garment?’ He said, ‘I only did it so that some foolish person like you would see me. Who among us had two garments at the time of the Messenger of Allaah (SAW)?’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 352). Ibn Hajar (rh) said: “What is meant by ‘foolish’ here is ‘ignorant’… The purpose was to explain that it is permissible to pray wearing only one garment, although wearing two garments is preferable. It is as if he was saying, ‘I did it on purpose to show that it is permissible, so that one who does not know could follow me in that or he could rebuke me so that I could teach him that it is permissible.’ The reason why his answer was so harsh was so that he could teach them not to rebuke the scholars and to urge them to look into shar’i matters themselves.” (al-Fath, 1/467)
The more serious a mistake is, the more effort should be made to correct it.
Efforts to correct mistakes that have to do with ‘aqeedah should be greater than those to correct mistakes that have to do with etiquette, for example. The Prophet (SAW) was intensely concerned about dealing with and correcting mistakes that had to do with shirk in all its forms, because this was the most important matter. Examples of this follow:
Al-Mugheerah ibn Shu’bah said: “There was an eclipse of the sun on the day that [the Prophet’s infant son] Ibraaheem died, and the people said, ‘This eclipse is because of the death of Ibraaheem.’ The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) said: ‘The sun and the moon are two of the signs of Allaah, they do not become eclipsed for the death or life of anyone. If you see them (eclipsed) then call on Allaah and pray to Him until the eclipse is over.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 1061).
Abu Waaqid al-Laythi reported that when the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) went out to Hunayn, he passed by a tree belonging to the mushrikeen that was called Dhaat Anwaat, on which they used to hang their weapons. They said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, make for us a Dhaat Anwaat like they have.’ The Prophet (SAW) said, ‘Subhaan-Allaah! This is like what the people of Moosa said, “Make for us a god as they have gods.” By the One in Whose hand is my soul, you will follow the ways of the people who came before you.’” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, no. 2180. He said, This is a saheeh hasan hadeeth).
According to another report narrated by Abu Waaqid, they went out from Makkah with the Messenger of Allaah to Hunayn. He said: “The kuffaar had a lotus-tree to which they were devoted and on which they used to hang their weapons; it was called Dhaat Anwaat. We passed by a big, green lotus-tree, and we said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, make this a Dhaat Anwat for us.’ The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) said: ‘By the One in Whose hand is my soul, you have said what the people of Moosa said to him, “Make for us a god as they have gods,” and he said, “Verily, you are a people who know not.” It is the same thing, and you will follow the ways of the people who came before you, step by step.’” (Reported by Ahmad, al-Sunan, 5/218).
Zayd ibn Khaalid al-Juhani said: “The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) led us in Subh (Fajr) prayer at al-Hudaybiyah just after it had rained in the night. When he finished, he turned to the people and said, ‘Do you know what your Lord says?” They said, ‘Allaah and His Messenger know best.’ He said, ‘This morning one of My slaves became a believer in Me, and one a disbeliever. As for the one who said, we have been given rain by the Grace and Mercy of Allaah, he is a believer in Me and a disbeliever in the stars; and as for him who said, we have been given rain by such-and-such a star, he is a disbeliever in Me and a believer in the stars.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, no. 846).
Ibn ‘Abbaas reported that a man said, “O Messenger of Allaah, whatever Allaah and you will.” He said, “Are you making me equal to Allaah? [Say instead:] What Allaah alone wills.” (Reported by Ahmad, al-Musnad, 1/283).
Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with them both) reported that he caught up with ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab who was with a group of people and was swearing by his father. The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) called them and told them that Allaah had forbidden them to swear by their forefathers; the one who wanted to swear an oath should swear by Allaah or else keep quiet. (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 6108)
Note: Imaam Ahmad reported in his Musnad: Wakee’ told us that al-A’mash told us from Sa’d ibn ‘Ubaydah who said: “I was with Ibn ‘Umar in a circle and he heard a man in another circle saying, ‘No, by my father.’ So Ibn ‘Umar threw pebbles at him and said, ‘This is how ‘Umar used to swear, and the Prophet (SAW) forbade him to do this and said that it was shirk.’” (al-Fath al-Rabbaani, 14/164).
Abu Shurayh Haani’ ibn Yazeed said: “A delegation of people came to the Prophet (SAW) and he heard them calling one of them Abd al-Hajar (“slave of the stone”). He asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘ ‘Abd al-Hajar.’ The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) said, ‘No, you are ‘Abd-Allaah (slave of Allaah).’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari in al-Adab al-Mufrad).
Taking into account the position of the person who is striving to correct the mistake
Some people’s advice may be more readily accepted than others’ because they have a status that others do not, or because, unlike others, they have authority over the person who has made the mistake, for example, a father with his child or a teacher with his student or a government official with the one whom he is inspecting. One who is older is not like one who is younger, a relative is not like a stranger, a person with authority is not like one with no authority. Understanding these differences will make the reformer put things into perspective and evaluate them properly, so that his rebuke or correction will not lead to a greater evil. The position of the one who is rebuking and the esteem in which he is held by the one who has made the mistake are very important in judging how strong the rebuke should be and deciding how harsh or gentle the tone should be. From this we learn two things:
Firstly, that the person to whom Allaah has given status or authority should use that to enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil, and to teach people. He should understand that he has a great responsibility because people will accept more from him than from other people – usually – so he can do more than others can.
Secondly, the person who seeks to enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil should not misjudge the situation and put himself in a higher position than is in fact the case and behave as if he has qualities that he does not have, because this will only put people off.
The Prophet (SAW) made the most of the position of respect that Allaah had given him when he was rebuking and teaching people. He did things that would not have been appropriate if they were done by anyone else, examples of which follow:
Ya’eesh ibn Tihfah al-Ghiffaari reported that his father said: “I was a guest of the Messenger of Allaah (SAW), one of the poor to whom he played host. The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) came out to check on his guests during the night, and saw me lying on my stomach. He kicked me and said, ‘Don’t lie like this; this is the kind of lying that Allaah hates.’” According to another report: “He kicked him and woke him up, and said, ‘This is how the people of Hell lie.’” (Reported by Ahmad, al-Fath al-Rabbaani, 14/244-245. Also reported by al-Tirmidhi, no. 2798, Shaakir edn.; by Abu Dawood in Kitaab al-Adab in his Sunan, no. 5040, al-Da’’aas edn. The hadeeth is also in Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2270-2271).
This method of rebuking was appropriate for the Prophet (SAW) because of his position and status, but it is not appropriate for ordinary people. It is not alright for any person who wants to rebuke another for sleeping on his stomach to kick him whilst he is asleep and wake him up, and then expect him to accept this advice and thank him for it. The same applies to hitting a person who is making a mistake or throwing something like pebbles or whatever at him. Although some of the salaf did that, it was because of their particular status. Some stories of this nature follow:
Al-Daarimi (rh) reported from Sulaymaan ibn Yassaar that a man called Sabeegh came to Madeenah and started to ask about the ambiguous texts of the Qur’aan. ‘Umar sent for him, and he had prepared some date palm branches for him (to hit him with). [‘Umar] asked him, “Who are you?’ He said, “I am the slave of Allaah, Sabeegh.” ‘Umar took hold of one of the palm branches and hit him, saying, “I am the slave of Allaah, ‘Umar.” He kept hitting him until his head began to bleed, and he said, “O Ameer al-Mu’mineen, enough! [The ideas that] were in my head have gone!” (Sunan al-Daarimi, ed. by ‘Abd-Allaah Haashim Yamaani, 1/51, no. 146).
Al-Bukhaari (rh) reported that Ibn Abi Layla said: “Hudhayfah was in al-Madaa’in and asked for a drink, and a grandee gave him a vessel of silver. He threw it at him and said, ‘I would not have thrown it, but I told him not to do it and he didn’t stop. The Prophet (SAW) forbade us from wearing silk and brocade, and from drinking from vessels of gold and silver. He said, ‘These are for them in this world and for you in the Hereafter.’” (al-Fath, no. 5632).
According to a report narrated by Ahmad, describing the same incident, ‘Abd al-Rahmaan ibn Abi Laylaa said: “I went out with Hudhayfah to one of these areas, and he asked for something to drink. A grandee brought him a vessel of silver and he (Hudhayfah) threw it in his face. We said, ‘Be quiet, be quiet, if we ask why he did it, he might not tell us.’ So we were quiet, and a little while later he said, ‘Do you know why I threw it in his face?’ We said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘I had told him not to do it. The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) said, “Do not drink from vessels of gold,” and Mu’aadh said, “Do not drink from vessels of gold or silver, and do not wear silk or brocade; these are for them in this world and for you in the Hereafter.”’” (al-Musnad, 5/396)
Al-Bukhaari narrated that Seereen asked Anas to write him a contract of manumission, as he had plenty of money, but Anas refused. Seereen went to ‘Umar (RA), who told Anas to write the document, and Anas still refused, so ‘Umar hit him with a whip whilst reciting the words (interpretation of the meaning): “… give them [slaves seeking emancipation] such writing [of a document of manumission], if you know that they are good and trustworthy…” [al-Noor 24:33], so he wrote the document for him. (Al-Fath, 5/184).
Al-Nisaa’i reported from Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri that he was praying when a son of Marwaan came in front of him, so he checked him, and when he did not go back, he hit him. The boy went out crying, and went to Marwaan and told him what had happened. Marwaan asked Abu Sa’eed, “Why did you hit the son of your brother?” He said, “I did not hit him, I hit the Shaytaan. I heard the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) say: ‘If any one of you is praying and someone wants to pass in front of him, let him stop him as much as he can, and if he refuses then fight him, for he is a devil.’” (al-Mujtaba min Sunan al-Nisaa’i, 8/61; Saheeh Sunan al-Nisaa’i, no. 4518)
Ahmad (rh) reported from Abu’l-Nadr that Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri was suffering from a sore leg, and his brother came in and saw him lying with one leg crossed over the other, so he hit him on the sore leg, making it hurt even more. He said, “You hurt my leg! Didn’t you know it is sore?” He said, “Of course I knew.” He said, “What made you do that?” He said, “Did you not hear that the Prophet (SAW) forbade us to sit like this?” (al-Musnad, 3/42)
Maalik reported from Abu’l-Zubayr al-Makki that a man proposed marriage to another man’s sister, and he [the brother] told him that she had committed zinaa. News of this reached ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab, so he hit him or nearly hit him, and said, “Why did you tell him?” (Muwatta’ Maalik, no. 1553, report of Abu Mus’ab al-Zuhri, ed. by Bashshaar Ma’roof and Mahmood Khaleel. Mu’sasat al-Risaalah).
Muslim reported in his Saheeh from Abu Ishaaq who said: “I was with al-Aswad ibn Yazeed in the Great Mosque, and al-Sha’bi was with us. Al-Sha’bi told us about what Faatimah bint Qays had said about the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) not providing housing or an income for her. Al-Aswad took a handful of pebbles and threw them at him, saying, ‘Woe to you! You talk about something like this? ‘Umar said that we should not leave the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of our Prophet (SAW) for the words of a woman who we cannot be sure has remembered things properly or not. Women have the right to accommodation and an income. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “… and turn them not out of their homes, not shall they (themselves) leave, except in case they are guilty of some open illegal sexual intercourse…” [al-Talaaq 65:1].’” (Saheeh Muslim, no. 1480).
Abu Dawood reported, with an isnaad in which two men are maqbool, that two men entered from the doors of Kindah, when Abu Mas’ood al-Ansaari was sitting in a circle. The two men said, “Is there any man who will judge between us?” A man in the circle said, “I will.” Abu Mas’ood took a handful of pebbles and threw them at him, saying, “Shut up! It is disliked to hasten to judgement.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, Kitaab al-Aqdiyah, Bab fi talab al-qada’ wa al-tasarru’ ilayhi)
We should also note that the Prophet’s rebuking of some of his closest Companions was, on occasions, harsher than his rebuking of a bedouin, for example, or a stranger. All of this has to do with wisdom and proper evaluation in rebuking.
Making a distinction between one who errs out of ignorance and one who errs despite his knowledge
One of the stories that illustrate this clearly is what happened to Mu’aawiyah ibn al-Hakam al-Salami when he came to Madeenah from the desert, and he did not know that it is forbidden to speak during the salaah. He said: “Whilst I was praying behind the Messenger of Allaah (SAW), a man sneezed, so I said ‘Yarhamuk Allaah (may Allaah have mercy on you).’ The people glared at me, so I said, ‘May my mother lose me! What is wrong with you that you are looking at me?’ They began to slap their thighs with their hands, and when I saw that they were indicating that I should be quiet, I stopped talking (i.e., I nearly wanted to answer them back, but I controlled myself and kept quiet). When the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) had finished praying – may my father and mother be sacrificed for him, I have never seen a better teacher than him before or since – he did not rebuke me or hit me or put me to shame. He just said, ‘This prayer should contain nothing of the speech of men; it is only tasbeeh and takbeer and recitation of the Qur’aan.’” (Saheeh Muslim, ‘Abd al-Baaqi edn., no. 537).
The ignorant person needs to be taught; the one who has doubts needs to have things explained to him; the negligent person needs to be reminded; and the one who wilfully persists in error needs to be warned. It is not right to treat one who knows about a ruling and one who is ignorant of it in the same manner when rebuking them. Treating one who does not know too harshly will only put him off and make him refuse to follow your advice, unlike teaching him with wisdom and gentleness, because an ignorant person simply does not realize that he is making a mistake. It is as if he is saying to the one who is rebuking him: “Why don’t you teach me before you launch an attack on me?”
The one who is making a mistake without realizing it may think that he is right, so we should take this into account and deal with him tactfully. Imaam Ahmad (rh) reported in al-Musnad from al-Mugheerah ibn Shu’bah: “The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) ate some food, then got up to pray. He had already done wudoo’ before that, but I brought some water for him to do wudoo’, He rebuffed me and said, ‘Go away!’ I felt upset, by Allaah. He prayed, and I complained to ‘Umar about what had happened. He said, ‘O Prophet of Allaah, al-Mugheerah feels hurt by your rebuff, and he is worried that you may be angry with him for some reason.’ The Prophet (SAW) said: ‘I see only good in him, but he brought me water to do wudoo’ after I had eaten some food, and if I had done wudoo’ then, the people would have followed suit [i.e., they would have thought that they had to do wudoo’ every time they had eaten something].’” (al-Musnad, 4/253)
We should note here that when the Prophet (SAW) pointed out the mistakes of these great Sahaabah, it did not have a negative impact on them or put them off; rather, it had a positive effect on them, and having been corrected in this manner by the Prophet (SAW), they would remain anxious and worried, watching their behaviour and feeling concerned until they could be sure that the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) was pleased with them.
We may also note from this story that when the Prophet (SAW) pointed out al-Mugheerah’s mistake, he was not angry with al-Mugheerah himself; he did this out of mercy to the people and to explain things clearly to them, so that they would not impose something on themselves that was not waajib and that would cause them a great deal of hardship.
Making a distinction between mistakes stemming from an honest effort to find out what is right (ijtihaad), and mistakes done deliberately, out of negligence or because of shortcomings
There is no doubt that in the first case, a person is not to be blamed; indeed he will earn one reward even if he is mistaken, so long as his intention was sincere and he tried to reach the right conclusion, because the Prophet (SAW) said: “If a ruler judges and strives to make the right decision, and his decision is correct, he will have two rewards, and if his decision is wrong, he will still have one reward.” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 1326, Shaakir edn. Abu ‘Eesa al-Tirmidhi said it is a ghareeb hasan hadeeth in this version. )
This is a different case from one who errs deliberately or because of shortcomings. In the first instance, the person should be taught and advised; in the second, he should be warned and rebuked.
The ijtihaad which may be excused should be done on the part of one who is qualified, not one who gives fatwas without knowledge and without taking circumstances into account. This is why the Prophet severely denounced the people who made the mistake in the case of the man with the head wound. Abu Dawood narrated in his Sunan from Jaabir (RA) who said: “We went out on a journey, and one of the men with us was struck in the head with a stone and started bleeding. Then he slept and when he woke up he needed to do ghusl (he was in state of janaabah or impurity). He asked his companions, ‘Do you think I could get away with doing tayammum?’ They said, ‘We don’t think you have any excuse because water is available.’ So he did ghusl, and he died. When we came to the Prophet (SAW) and he was told about this, he said, ‘They have killed him, may Allaah kill them! Why did they not ask if they did not know? The cure of the one who does not know is to ask…’” (Sunan Abi Dawood, Kitaab al-Tahaarah, Baab al-majrooh yatayammam)
The Prophet (SAW) said that judges are of three types, one will be in Paradise and the other two in Hell. The type that will be in Paradise is a man who knows the truth and judges accordingly. A man who knows the truth but judges unjustly will be in Hell, and a man who judges between people without proper knowledge will also be in Hell. (Sunan Abi Dawood, no. 3573). The third type is not regarded as having any excuse.
Another factor in gauging the degree of rebuking is paying attention to the environment in which the mistake occurred, such as whether it was an environment in which the Sunnah is followed or bid’ah is widespread, or how prevalent evil is, or whether there are ignorant or overly lenient people, whose opinions are widely followed, issuing fatwas to say that it is permissible.
A good intention on the part of the one who makes the mistake does not mean that he should not be rebuked
‘Amr ibn Yahya said: “I heard my father narrating from his father who said: ‘We were at the door of ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood before the early morning prayer. When he came out we walked with him to the mosque. Abu Moosa al-Ash’ari came up to us and said, “Did Abu ‘Abd al-Rahmaan come out to you yet?” We said, “No.” He sat down with us until [Abu ‘Abd al-Rahmaan] came out. When he came out, we all stood up to greet him, and Abu Moosa said to him: “O Abu ‘Abd al-Rahmaan, earlier I saw in the mosque something that I have never seen before, but it seems good, al-hamdu Lillaah.” He said, “And what was it?” He said, “if you live, you will see it. I saw people in the mosque sitting in circles waiting for the prayer. In every circle there was a man, and they had pebbles in their hands. He would say, ‘Say Allaahu akbar one hundred times,’ and they would say Allaahu akbar one hundred times; then he would say, ‘Say Laa ilaaha ill-Allaah one hundred times,’ and they would say Laa ilaaha ill-Allaah one hundred times; then he would say, ‘Say Subhaan Allaah one hundred times,’ and they would say Subhaan Allaah one hundred times.’ He asked, ‘What did you say to them?’ He said, ‘I did not say anything to them; I was waiting to see what your opinion would be and what you would tell me to do.’ He said, ‘Why did you not tell them to count their bad deeds and guarantee them that nothing of their good deeds would be wasted?’ Then he left, and we went with him, until he reached one of those circles. He stood over them and said, ‘What is this I see you doing?’ They said, ‘O Abu ‘Abd al-Rahmaan, these are pebbles we are using to count our takbeer, tahleel and tasbeeh.’ He said, ‘Count your bad deeds, and I guarantee that nothing of your good deeds will be wasted. Woe to you, O ummah of Muhammad, how quickly you are getting destroyed! The Companions of your Prophet (SAW) are still alive, his garment is not yet worn out and his vessels are not yet broken. By the One in Whose hand is my soul, either you are following a way that is more guided than that of Muhammad or you have opened the door of misguidance!’ They said, ‘By Allaah, O Abu ‘Abd al-Rahmaan, we only wanted to do good.’ He said, ‘How many of those who wanted to do good failed to achieve it! The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) told us that people recite Qur’aan and it does not go any further than their throats. By Allaah, I do not know, maybe most of them are people like you.’ Then he turned away from them. ‘Amr ibn Salamah said, ‘I saw most of the members of those circles fighting alongside the Khawaarij on the day of Nahrawaan.’” (Reported by al-Daarimi, al-Sunan, no. 210, ed. by ‘Abd-Allaah Haashim al-Yamaani).
Being fair and not being biased when correcting those who make mistakes
Allaah says (interpretation of the meanings):
“And whenever you give your word (i.e., judge between men or give evidence), say the truth…” [al-An’aam 6:152]
“… and when you judge between men, you [should] judge with justice…” [al-Nisa’ 4:58]
The fact that Usaamah ibn Zayd was the beloved of the Prophet (SAW) and the son of his beloved [Zayd] did not stop the Prophet (SAW) from rebuking him most sternly when he tried to intercede regarding one of the punishments (hudood) prescribed by Allaah. ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) reported that Quraysh were concerned about a woman who stole at the time of the Prophet (SAW), at the time of the Conquest of Makkah. They said, ‘Who will speak to the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) about her? Who will dare to do this other than Usaamah ibn Zayd, the beloved of the Messenger of Allaah (SAW)?’ She was brought to the Messenger of Allaah (SAW), and Usaamah ibn Zayd spoke to him concerning her. The face of the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) changed colour and he said: ‘Are you interceding concerning one of the punishments prescribed by Allaah?’ Usaamah said to him, ‘Pray for forgiveness for me, O Messenger of Allaah.’ When evening came, the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) stood up and addressed the people. He praised Allaah as He deserves to be praised, then he said: ‘The people who came before you were destroyed because if one of their nobles stole, they would let him go, but if one of the weak among them stole, they would carry out the punishment on him. By the One in Whose hand is my soul, if Faatimah the daughter of Muhammad were to steal, I would cut off her hand.’ Then he ordered that the woman who had stolen should have her hand cut off.” (The hadeeth was reported by al-Bukhaari and Muslim; this version was narrated by Muslim, no. 1688).
According to a report narrated by al-Nisaa’i from ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her), she said: “A woman borrowed some jewellery, claiming that she wanted to lend it to someone else, but she sold it and kept the money. She was brought to the Messenger of Allaah (SAW). Her family went to Usaamah ibn Zayd, who spoke to the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) concerning her. The face of the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) changed colour whilst Usaamah was speaking, then the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) said to him: ‘Are you interceding concerning one of the punishments prescribed by Allaah?’ Usaamah said, ‘Pray for forgiveness for me, O Messenger of Allaah.’ In the evening, the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) stood up, praised Allaah as He deserves to be praised, then said, ‘The people who came before you were destroyed because if one of their nobles stole, they would let him go, but if one of the weak among them stole, they would carry out the punishment on him. By the One in Whose hand is my soul, if Faatimah the daughter of Muhammad were to steal, I would cut off her hand.’ Then he ordered that the woman’s hand should be cut off.” (Sunan al-Nisaa’i).
The Prophet’s attitude towards Usaamah (RA) indicates that he was fair and just, and that Islam came before love of people in his view. A person may put up with the personal faults of whoever he wishes, but he has no right to be tolerant or biased towards those whose mistakes transgress the limits set by Islam.
Sometimes, when a relative or friend makes a mistake, a person does not rebuke him as he would a person whom he does not know, so one may see unIslamic bias or discrimination in his dealings because of this, and a person may turn a blind eye to his friend’s mistake while harshly criticizing another person.
[An Arab poet once said:] “If you are happy with a person, you do not see his mistakes, but if you are angry with him, you see them all.”
This may also be reflected in the way in which actions are interpreted. An action on the part of a person one loves will be taken one way, and the same deed on the part of another person will be taken quite differently.
All of the above applies only when circumstances are the same, otherwise there could be different considerations as we will see below.
Being careful lest correcting one mistake leads to a bigger mistake
It is a well-established fact that Islam allows the lesser of two evils in order to repel a greater evil. So a da’iyah may keep quiet about one mistake lest saying something lead to a more serious mistake.
The Prophet (SAW) kept quiet about the munaafiqeen and did not execute them, even though their kufr was well-established. He bore their insults with patience, lest people say, “Muhammad is killing his companions,” especially since their true nature was not known to everyone. The Prophet (SAW) did not destroy the Ka’bah in order to rebuild it on the foundations laid by Ibraaheem, out of consideration towards Quraysh who were still new in Islam and too close to their recent jaahiliyyah. He (SAW) feared that it might be too much for them, so he left it as it was, with part missing, and the door set high up and closed to the masses, even though this contains an element of zulm (wrongdoing or oppression).
Before this, Allaah had told the Muslims not to insult the gods of the mushrikeen, even though this is a form of worship, because this could lead to people insulting Allaah, which is the worst of evil.
A dai’yah may keep quiet about a wrong action, or defer rebuking, or change his approach, if he thinks that by doing so he will avoid a greater evil or mistake. This is not considered to be shortcoming or negligence so long as his intention is sincere and he does not fear anyone except Allaah, and it was only concern for the best interests of Islam, not cowardice, that stopped him from saying anything.
We may note that what causes a greater evil when rebuking for one mistake is zealousness which is not checked or controlled.
Understanding the human nature from which the mistake sprang
There are some mistakes which can never be fully eradicated, because they have to do with the way Allaah has created people. It is possible to reduce them a little, but going to extremes in dealing with them will lead to a disaster. Such is the case of women. The Prophet (SAW) said: “Woman was created from a rib, and she will not behave consistently towards you. If you enjoy her company, then enjoy it despite her crookedness. If you try to straighten her you will break her, and her breaking is her divorce.” (Reported by Muslim from Abu Hurayrah (RA), no. 1468).
According to another report: “Be kind to women, for they were created from a rib, and the most crooked part of the rib is the top. If you try to straighten it, you will break it, and if you leave it alone, it will stay crooked. So be kind to women.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari from Abu Hurayrah. Al-Fath, no. 5186).
Ibn Hajar (rh) said: “The words ‘treat women kindly’ indicate that you should try to put them right gently, because if you go to extremes in trying to straighten them you will break them, and if you leave them they will remain crooked… What we learn from this is that we should not leave them crooked if they go beyond the natural expected shortcomings and commit sins or neglect duties. What is meant is that we can leave them crooked with regard to permissible matters. We also learn from the hadeeth that a gentle approach wins people over and opens their hearts. It also tells us to deal with women by being easy going with them, and to bear their crookedness with patience. Whoever insists on putting them right will not benefit from them, and as a man cannot do without a woman to enjoy the pleasure of living with her and to be his support in life, it is as if he said: you cannot enjoy her company unless you put up with her.” (Fath, 9/954).
Making a distinction between mistakes that transgress the limits of Islam and mistakes that only affect other people
If Islam is dearer to us than our own selves, we must defend it and protect it and get angry for its sake more than we get angry for our own sakes and defend our own selves. It is a sign of not having religious feelings if we see a man getting angry for his own sake if someone insults him, but not getting angry for the sake of Allaah’s religion if anybody insults it; at most, we may see him feebly defending it in an embarrassed manner.
The Prophet (SAW) often used to forgive those who made mistakes in their interactions with him, especially the hard-hearted Bedouin, in order to soften their hearts. Al-Bukhaari (rh) reported in his Saheeh that Anas ibn Maalik said: “I was walking with the Messenger of Allaah (SAW), and he was wearing a Najraani cloak with a stiff collar. A Bedouin accosted him, grabbing his cloak in such a manner that the collar left a mark on the Prophet’s neck, and said, ‘O Muhammad! Give me some of the wealth of Allaah that you have!’ The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) turned to him and smiled, then ordered that he should be given something.” (al-Fath, 5809).
But if the mistake had to do with some issue of religion, then the Prophet (SAW) would become angry for the sake of Allaah. Examples of this will be given below.
There are some other matters which should also be borne in mind when dealing with people’s mistakes, such as:
- Making a distinction between major mistakes and minor mistakes, just as Islam makes a distinction between major sins (kabaa’ir) and minor sins (saghaa’ir).
- Making a distinction between a person who has a track record of many good deeds, which will more or less cancel out the significance of his mistake, and a sinner who transgresses against himself (by doing evil deeds). People may put up with actions on the part of the one with the good track record that they will not put up with on the part of others. This is what happened to al-Siddeeq (Abu Bakr), as the following story illustrates: Asma’ bint Abi Bakr said: “We went out with the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) as pilgrims, and when we reached al-‘Arj, the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) stopped to rest, and we stopped with him. ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) sat beside the Messenger of Allaah (SAW), and I sat beside my father. The riding beast shared by Abu Bakr and the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) was with a slave belonging to Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr sat down, waiting for him to catch up, and when he caught up, the camel was not with him. Abu Bakr said, ‘Where is the camel?’ The slave answered, ‘I lost it yesterday.’ Abu Bakr said, ‘One camel, you lost it?’ and started to hit him. The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) smiled and said, ‘Look at what this muhrim (person in a state of ihraam for Hajj) is doing.’” Ibn Abi Rizmah said, ‘The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) did not do any more than saying, ‘Look at what this muhrim is doing,’ and smiling.” (Reported by Abu Dawood in his Sunan, Kitaab al-Manaasik, Baab al-Muhrim yu’addib ghulaamahu)
- Making a distinction between the one who makes mistakes repeatedly and the one who is making a mistake for the first time
- Making a distinction between the one who frequently makes mistakes and the one who rarely does so.
- Making a distinction between the one who makes mistakes openly and blatantly, and one who tries to cover up his mistakes
- Paying attention to cases where a person’s adherence to Islam may not be strong and his heart needs to be opened to the religion, so we should not be too harsh with him
- Taking into account a person’s situation as regards status and authority
The considerations that we have mentioned above do not contradict the fairness and justice referred to earlier.
- Rebuking a youngster who makes a mistake should be done in a manner appropriate to the child’s age.
Al-Bukhaari (rh) reported that al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali took one of the dates that had been given in charity, and put it in his mouth. The Prophet (SAW) said in Persian, “Kikh, kikh, do you not know that we do not eat the sadaqah (things given in charity)?” (Fath, 3072).
Al-Tabaraani (rh) reported from Zaynab bint Abi Salamah that she entered upon the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) whilst he was performing ghusl. She said, “he took a handful of water and threw it in my face, saying, ‘Go away, foolish girl!’” (al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer, 24/281. Al-Haythami said, its isnaad is hasan, al-Majma’, 1/269)
From this it is clear that a child’s tender years do not mean that his mistakes should not be corrected; indeed, correcting his mistakes is giving him the best upbringing, as it will be imprinted in his memory and will benefit him in the future. The first hadeeth shows how a child is taught to fear Allaah and restrain himself, and the second hadeeth shows how he is taught good manners, how to seek permission to enter, and to refrain from looking at the ‘awrah (that which should be covered) of others.
Another brilliant example of correcting children is the story of the young boy ‘Umar ibn Abi Salamah. Al-Bukhaari reported that he said: “I was a young boy under the care of the Messenger of Allaah (SAW), and my hand used to wander all over the plate (at mealtimes). The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) said to me: ‘O young boy! Say Bismillah, eat with your right hand, and eat from what is directly in front of you.’ This remained my way of eating from that time on.” (al-Fath, no. 5376)
We may note that when the Prophet (SAW) advised that young boy who made the mistake of letting his hand go everywhere in the food, his words were short, brief and clear, which made it easy for the child to remember and understand; the effect on the boy’s heart lasted for a lifetime, as he said, “This remained my way of eating from that time on.”
- Exercising caution when advising non-mahram women, so that the advice is not taken wrongly, and so that fitnah (temptation, trouble) is avoided. No young man should use the excuse of speaking to young women in order to correct their mistakes or teach them. How often has this led to disasters! When it comes to correcting women, a large role should be given to ahl al-hisbah (“religious police”) and older people who could help them in this regard. The person who is seeking to enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil must act in accordance with what he thinks will be the outcome of his rebuking. If he thinks that it is likely to be of benefit, he should speak up, otherwise he should refrain from speaking to ignorant women who may make false accusations against him whilst still persisting in their wrongdoing. The state of the society at large and the status of the one who is seeking to enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil play a fundamental role in the success of his efforts to rebuke, convey the message or establish evidence. The following story illustrates this:
The freed slave of Abu Raham, whose name was ‘Ubayd, reported that Abu Hurayrah met a woman who was wearing perfume, heading for the mosque. He said, “O female slave of al-Jabbaar (the Compeller), where are you going?” She said, “To the mosque.” He said, “And you have put on perfume for this?” She said, “Yes.” He said, “I heard the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) saying, “If any woman puts on perfume and then goes out to the mosque, Allaah will not accept her prayers until she does ghusl.” (Reported by Ibn Maajah, no. 4002; see also Saheeh Ibn Maajah, 2/367).
According to Saheeh Ibn Khuzaymah: A woman passed by Abu Hurayrah and her perfume was overwhelming. He said to her, “Where are you going, O female slave of al-Jabbaar?” She said, “To the mosque.” He said, “Are you wearing perfume?” She said, “Yes.” He said, ‘Go back and do ghusl, for I heard the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) saying that Allaah does not accept the prayer of any woman who goes out to the mosque with overwhelming perfume, until she goes back and does ghusl.” (Saheeh Ibn Khuzaymah, no. 1682. See also al-Musnad, 2/246)
- Not occupying oneself with putting the symptoms right whilst neglecting to deal with the cause of the mistake
- Not exaggerating about the mistake
- Not going to extremes to prove the mistake happened or trying to force an admission of guilt from the one who made the mistake
- Allowing enough time for correcting the mistake, especially in the case of one who has been accustomed to doing it for a long time, whilst still following up the matter and continuing to advise and correct
- Not making the one who makes the mistake feel like an enemy, because the aim is to win people over, not score points against them
Now we will move on to our discussion of the methods used by the Prophet (SAW) when dealing with the mistakes of people, as recorded in the saheeh ahaadeeth narrated by the scholars.
3) The method of Rasoolillah(SAW) in dealing with mistakes
1- Hastening to deal with people’s mistakes and not putting it off
The Prophet (SAW) 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 (RA) reported that the Prophet (SAW) passed by him when his thigh was uncovered. The Prophet (SAW) 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 (SAW) used this tactic. Al-Bukhaari (may Allaah have mercy on him) reported in his Saheeh that Jaabir (RA) said: “We went out on a military campaign with the Messenger of Allaah (SAW), 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (RA) saying: “Three people came to the houses of the wives of the Prophet (SAW), asking about how the Prophet (SAW) worshipped. When they were told about it, they thought that it was little. They said, “Who are we, compared to the Prophet (SAW)? 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 (SAW), 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) asked the wives of the Prophet (SAW) 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 (SAW)] 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (RA), who narrated his story: “I became Muslim and came to the Prophet (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW), 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 (SAW) said nothing. Then another man passed by and the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW), and the Prophet (SAW) 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 (SAW) said nothing. Another man passed by and the Prophet (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) simply said, “What will you do when Laa ilaaha ill-Allaah comes 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW). The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) 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 (SAW), 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW). 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 (SAW) 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 (RA) said: “Whilst we were sitting with the Prophet (SAW), 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW). 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW), and the Prophet (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW). I listened to his recitation, and he was reciting it differently to the way that the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) 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 (SAW) taught me to recite it.’ I said, ‘You are lying! The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) taught me to recite it differently.’ I took him to the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) and said, ‘I heard him reciting Soorat al-Furqaan differently than the way you taught me to recite it.’ The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) said, ‘Let him go. Recite, O Hishaam.’ He recited it as I had heard him recite it. The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) told ‘Umar to let go of Hishaam, this was preparing both parties to listen in a calm manner. This was an indication that ‘Umar (RA) 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 (RA) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW), a Bedouin came and stood urinating in the mosque. The Companions of the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) said, ‘Stop it! Stop it!’ But the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) said, ‘Do not interrupt him; leave him alone.’ So they left him until he had finished urinating, then the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) 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 (SAW) followed in dealing with this mistake was to treat the man gently, not to be harsh with him. Al-Bukhaari reported from Abu Hurayrah (RA): “A Bedouin urinated in the mosque, and the people got up to sort him out. The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) asked the man the reason for his action. Al-Tabaraani reported in al-Kabeer that Ibn ‘Abbaas (RA) said: “A Bedouin came to the Prophet (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) was sitting, and said, ‘O Allaah, forgive me and Muhammad, and do not forgive anyone else.’ The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) and his Companions. ‘Awf ibn Maalik said, ‘You are lying! You are a hypocrite, and I am going to tell the Messenger of Allaah (SAW).’ ‘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 (SAW), 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 (SAW) 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 (RA) 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 (SAW),’ 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) broke his journey in a place, the people would disperse in the valleys and mountains. The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) 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). 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 (SAW) obeyed him in whatever instructions they received from him.
Another example of how the Prophet (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (RA) that the Prophet of Allaah (SAW) 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).
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 (SAW), and he cursed the wind. The Prophet (SAW) 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 (SAW).” According to a report narrated by Muslim: a man said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, there is no one other than the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) who is better than him in such-and-such.’ (Saheeh Muslim, no. 3000). [The Prophet (SAW)] 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 (RA) said: “… until when we were in the mosque, the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) saw a man praying, prostrating and bowing. The Messenger of Allaah (SAW) 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-Bukhaari reported that Abu Moosa (RA) said: “The Prophet (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) did. Jubayr ibn Nufayr reported from his father that he came to the Messenger of Allaah (SAW), who called for water, then said, “Do wudoo’, O Abu Jubayr.” Abu Jubayr started with his mouth, and the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) said, “Do not start with your mouth, O Abu Jubayr, for the kaafir starts with his mouth.” Then the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW), 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (RA), who said: “Bilaal came to the Prophet with some good-quality dates, and the Prophet (SAW) 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 (SAW).’ When he heard that, the Prophet (SAW) 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 (SAW) brought him some fresh dates, but the Prophet’s dates were dry, so the Prophet (SAW) said, ‘Where did you get these dates from?’ He said, ‘We bought a measure of these for two measures of our dates.’ The Prophet (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW), 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 (SAW)) 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 (SAW) 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 (SAW) 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
You can find it online here: http://www.lutonmuslims.co.uk/naseeha1.htm