The Prophet's Methods for Correcting People's Mistakes


  • bookcover

  • The Prophet's Methods for Correcting People's Mistakes


  •  

    Points to be Noted when Dealing with Mistakes

     

    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
    (may Allaah have mercy on him) 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 (peace and blessings of
    Allaah be upon him) and understood fully.’ Abu Hurayrah said, ‘I will do that,
    I will tell you a hadeeth I heard from the Messenger of Allaah (peace and
    blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah
    be upon him) 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 (peace
    and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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
    (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and
    blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 reciter [of the Qur`aan], ‘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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of
    Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)?’” (Reported by
    al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, no. 352). Ibn Hajar (may Allaah have mercy on him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah
    be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and
    blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
    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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace
    and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
    him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
    him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘No, you are
    ‘Abd-Allaah (slave of Allaah).’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari in al-Adab al-Mufrad,
    no. 813. Al-Albaani said in Saheeh al-Adab al-Mufrad that it is saheeh, no.
    623).

     

    - 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 (peace and blessings of
    Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
    him), one of the poor to whom he played host. The Messenger of Allaah (peace
    and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 ed.; by Abu Dawood in Kitaab al-Adab in his
    Sunan, no. 5040, ad-Da‘aas edn. The hadeeth is also in Saheeh al-Jaami’,
    2270-2271)

    This method of rebuking was appropriate
    for the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (may Allaah have mercy on him) 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 (may Allaah have mercy on
    him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (may Allaah be pleased with him), 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…” [an-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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be
    upon him) 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 (may Allaah have mercy on him)
    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 (peace and
    blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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`asaasat 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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:

    “… 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be
    upon him), 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah
    be upon him) 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 willfully 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 (may Allaah have mercy on him)
    reported in al-Musnad from al-Mugheerah ibn Shu’bah:

    “The
    Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and
    blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), they
    would remain anxious and worried, watching their behaviour and feeling concerned
    until they could be sure that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah
    be upon him) was pleased with them.

    We may also note from this story that
    when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace
    and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (may
    Allaah be pleased with him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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;
    al-Albaani classed it as hasan in Saheeh Abi Dawood, 325, and indicated that
    the extra material [not mentioned]added at the end of the hadeeth is da’eef)

    The Prophet (peace and blessings of
    Allaah be upon him) 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; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in
    al-Irwa’, 2164). 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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. Al-Albaani classed
    its isnaad as saheeh in al-Silsilat al-Saheehah under hadeeth no. 2005. See
    Majma’ al-Zawaa’id by al-Haythami, 1/181).

     

    - 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and the son
    of his beloved [Zayd] did not stop the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah
    be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), at the
    time of the Conquest of Makkah. They said,

    ‘Who
    will speak to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
    him) about her? Who will dare to do this other than Usaamah ibn Zayd, the beloved
    of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)?’ She
    was brought to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
    him), and Usaamah ibn Zayd spoke to him concerning her. The face of the
    Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of
    Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). Her family went to Usaamah
    ibn Zayd, who spoke to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah
    be upon him) concerning her. The face of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and
    blessings of Allaah be upon him) changed colour whilst Usaamah was speaking,
    then the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
    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, al-Mujtabaa, Dar
    al-Fikr edn., 8/73. Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Sunan al-Nisaa`i,
    no. 4548).

    The Prophet’s attitude towards Usaamah
    (may Allaah be pleased with him) 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 un-Islamic 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 (peace and blessings of
    Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and
    blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace
    and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 da‘iyah 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (may Allaah be pleased with him), 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 (may Allaah have mercy on
    him) 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 (peace and blessings of
    Allaah be upon him) 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 (may Allaah have mercy on him) reported in his Saheeh
    that Anas ibn Maalik said:

    “I
    was walking with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
    him), 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah
    be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
    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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
    him) as pilgrims, and when we reached al-‘Arj, the Messenger of Allaah (peace
    and blessings of Allaah be upon him) stopped to rest, and we stopped with him. ‘Aa`ishah
    (may Allaah be pleased with her) sat beside the Messenger of Allaah (peace and
    blessings of Allaah be upon him), and I sat beside my father. The riding beast
    shared by Abu Bakr and the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah
    be upon him) 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
    (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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. Classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh Sunan Abi Dawood,
    no. 1602)

    - 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
    (may Allaah have mercy on him) 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 (peace
    and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said in Persian,

    “Kakh,
    kakh, do you not know that we do not eat the sadaqah (things given in
    charity)?” (Fath, 3072).

    Al-Tabaraani (may Allaah have mercy on
    him) reported from Zaynab bint Abi Salamah that she entered upon the Messenger
    of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings
    of Allaah be upon him), and my hand used to wander all over the plate (at
    mealtimes). The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
    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-Fat’h, no. 5376)

    We may note that when the Prophet (peace
    and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace
    and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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.
    In his footnote, al-Albaani said, it is a hasan hadeeth. See also al-Musnad,
    2/246. Ahmad Shaakir classed it as saheeh with this isnaad in his footnote to
    al-Musnad, no. 7350)

     

    - 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
    when dealing with the mistakes of people, as recorded in the saheeh ahaadeeth
    narrated by the scholars.

     

     

     

  • Advertise with us 

    Islambasics.com © 2018