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PROPHET MUHAMMAD'S ﷺ METHODS OF CORRECTING PEOPLE'S MISTAKES


There are many teaching methods with different means and aids. Correcting mistakes is one of these teaching methods and educationalists call is the "remedial method." Correcting people's mistakes is essential if teaching people is the aim. Correcting mistakes is a divine method the Prophet (pbuh) practiced as the Qur'an was sometimes revealed to correct some mistakes of the Sahabah (companions of the Prophet). The Prophet (pbuh) was divinely guided in correcting the mistakes of people. So his methods are the best mankind has ever known. Following the example of the Prophet (pbuh) is therefore the best approach if one is really keen to teach Islamic knowledge and all the other branches of knowledge. The author has in this book compiled many methods of the Prophet (pbuh) for teaching people and correcting their mistakes. This book, as such, is indispensable for everyone who is concerned with education in general, and Islamic knowledge in particular. [1]

 

Table of Contents

 

Waiting for correcting mistakes

Anas Ibn Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, said: "Whilst we were in the Mosque with the Messenger of Allah a Bedouin came and stood urinating in the Mosque. The Companions of the Messenger of Allah said, 'Stop it! Stop it!' and were about to attack him. But the Messenger of Allah said, 'Do not interrupt him; leave him alone.' So they left him until he had finished urinating, then the Messenger of Allah 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." (Muslim)

Explanation- The principle which the Prophet followed in dealing with this mistake was to treat the man gently, not to be harsh with him.

 

The Prophet 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  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.

Ibn Hajar  mentioned in his commentary a number of things we learn from the hadith 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 was kind and he dealt nicely with him.

- The idea of taking precautions against impurity was established well in the minds of the Sahabah (Prophet's companions), which is why they hastened to denounce it in the presence of the Prophet 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 issued instructions that the place should be cleaned with water. [3]

 

Hastening to Deal with People’s Mistakes

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

 

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

 

Jarhad (may allaah be pleased with him) reported that the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) passed by him when his thigh was uncovered. the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) said, “cover your thigh, for it is part of the ‘awrah.” (sunan al-tirmidhi, no. 2796. al-tirmidhi said, this is a hasan hadeeth).

 

Pointing out to the Principle they Break

When someone is indulging in a mistake, the islamic principle is far from their minds and is lost in the clamour of the moment. in such cases reiterating the islamic principle and announcing it loudly can be an effective way of stopping the person in his tracks and making him wake up from the stupor that has overtaken him. when we look at what happened between the muhaajiroon and ansaar, because of the flames of fitnah stirred up by the munaafiqoon, we will see an example of how the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) used this tactic. al-bukhaari (may allaah have mercy on him) reported in his saheeh that jaabir (may allaah be pleased with him) said:

“we went out on a military campaign with the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him), and some of the muhaajiroon went with him too, and they were very many. among the muhaajiroon was a man who was very playful (a joker). he shoved an ansaari (in jest), and the ansaari got very angry with him and called others to support him, saying, ‘o ansaar!’ the muhaajir called out, ‘o muhaajireen!’ the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) came out and said, ‘what is this call of the people of jaahiliyyah all about?’ then he said, ‘what is the matter with him?’ he was told about how the muhaajir had shoved the ansaari in jest. the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) said, ‘leave it, 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).

 

Correcting Misconceptions Happend Because of Something Unclear in People’s Minds

Humayd ibn abi humayd al-taweel reports that he heard anas ibn maalik (may allaah be pleased with him) saying: “three people came to the houses of the wives of the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him), asking about how the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) worshipped. when they were told about it, they thought that it was little. they said, “who are we, compared to the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him)? all his sins, past and future, have been forgiven.” (they thought that the one who does not know that his sins have been forgiven needed to go to extremes in worship and do far more than the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him), in the hope that their sins might be forgiven). one of them said, “as for me, i will pray every night from now on.” another said, “as for me, i will fast for the rest of my life and will never break my fast.” the third said, “as for me, i will have nothing to do with women and i will never marry.” the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) came to them and said, “are you the people who said such-and-such? by allaah, i am the one who fears allaah more than anyone, but i fast and i break my fast, i pray and i rest, and i get married.” saheeh al-bukhaari,

Reported from Anas that a group of the companions of the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) asked the wives of the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) about what he did in secret. one of them (those sahaabah) said, “i will never marry women.” another said, “i will never eat meat.” another said, “i will never sleep on a bed.” [the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him)] praised and thanked allaah, then he said,

“what is the matter with some people who say such-and-such? but as for me, i pray and i sleep, i fast and i break my fast, and i marry women. whoever turns away from my sunnah has nothing to do with me.” (saheeh muslim, no. 1041).

 

Here we may note the following points:

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

 

•         the hadeeth describes finding out about the action of good people and seeking to emulate them. investigating such things is the sign of a sound mind and efforts to improve oneself.

 

•         this report indicates that when it comes to useful matters of religion, if it is not possible to learn them from men, it is permissible to learn them from women.

 

•         there is nothing wrong with a person talking about his deeds so long as there is no element of showing off and it is for the benefit of others.

 

•         we also learn that going to extremes in worship may cause a person to get bored, which in turn could lead him to stop worshipping altogether; the best of things are those that are moderate. (see al-fath, 9/104).

 

•         mistakes generally come about as a result of misconceptions; if the ideas are put right, mistakes will decrease. it is clear from the hadeeth that the reason why those sahaabah adopted those concepts of extreme worship and monasticism was that they thought they had to go beyond the prophet’s actions in worship in order to attain salvation, because he had been told that all his sins were forgiven, but they did not have this advantage. the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) set them straight, and told them that even though he was forgiven, he was the most fearing of allaah among mankind, and he commanded them to follow his sunnah in worship.

 

a similar thing happened to another sahaabi, whose name was kahmas al-hilaali (may allaah be pleased with him), who narrated his story:

“I became Muslim and came to the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) and told him that i had become muslim. i stayed away for a year, during which i became very skinny, and when i came back, he looked me up and down. i said, ‘do you not know me?’ he said, ‘who are you?’ i said, ‘i am kahmas al-hilaali.’ he said, ‘what happened to you?’ i said, ‘after i saw you, i never spent a day without fasting, and i never slept at night.’ he said, ‘who told you to torture yourself? fast the month of patience [i.e., ramadaan], and one day of every month besides that.’ i said, ‘let me do more.’ he said, ‘fast the month of patience and two days of every month besides that.’ i said, ‘let me do more, i am able for it.’ he said, ‘fast the month of patience and three days of every month besides that.’” (musnad al-tayaalisi. reported by al-tabaraani in al-kabeer, 19/194, no. 435. also in al-silsilat al-saheehah, no. 2623).

 

According to a report narrated by ibn maajah: a man passed by the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him), and the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) said (to his companions),

“what do you think of this man?” they said, “we think that he is one of the noblest of people. if he proposes marriage he deserves to be accepted, if he intercedes he deserves to have his intercession accepted, and if he speaks he deserves to be heard.” the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) said nothing. another man passed by and the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) asked, “what do you think of this man?” they said, “by allaah, o messenger of allaah, he is one of the poor muslims. if he proposes marriage he does not deserve to be accepted, if he intercedes, he does not deserve to have his intercession accepted, and if he speaks he does not deserve to be heard.” the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) said, “this man is better than an earth full of men like the other one.” (sunan ibn maajah, ‘abd al-baaqi edn., no. 4120)

 

Dealing with Mistakes by Repeatedly Reminding People to Fear Allaah

Jundub ibn ‘abd-allaah al-bajali reported that the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) sent a group of muslims to fight some mushrikeen, and they met in battle. one of the mushrikeen was ambushing individual muslims and killing them. one of the muslims wanted to catch him out and kill him. [jundub said:] “we used to think that that man was usaamah ibn zayd. when he raised his sword, the mushrik said ‘la ilaaha ill-allaah,’ but he [usaamah] killed him. a messenger came to the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) and reported to him about what had happened in the battle. when he told him about what had happened to the mushrik who said laa ilaaha ill-allaah, the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) sent for usaamah and asked him,

‘why did you kill him?’ he said, ‘o messenger of allaah, he had caused much grief to the muslims, he killed so-and-so and so-and-so,’ – and he named a number of people – ‘i attacked him and when he saw the sword he said laa ilaaha ill-allaah.’ the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) said, ‘and then you killed him?’ usaamah said, ‘yes.’ he said, ‘what will you do when laa illaha ill-allaah comes on the day of resurrection?’ he said, ‘o messenger of allaah, pray for forgiveness for me.’” the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) simply said, “what will you do when laa ilaaha ill-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 (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) sent us out on a military campaign and we reached al-haraqaat near juhaynah in the morning. [during the battle] i caught a man and he said, ‘laa ilaaha ill-allaah,’ but i stabbed him. then i felt bad about that, and i mentioned it to the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him). the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) said, ‘he said laa ilaaha ill-allaah and you killed him?’ i said, ‘o messenger of allaah, he only said it because he was afraid of my weapon.’ he said, ‘how can you know what is in his heart? how can you be sure whether he was sincere or not?’ he kept repeating this until i wished that i had not become muslim until that day [because embracing islam wipes out all sins that came before - translator].” (reported by Muslim, no. 69)

 

According to another report also narrated by muslim, “the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) said:

‘certainly allaah has more power over you than you have over him.’ so he freed him.” (saheeh Muslim, no. 1659)

 

Abu mas‘ood al-ansaari said:

“I was beating a slave of mine when i heard someone saying from behind me, ‘listen, abu mas‘ood, listen, abu mas‘ood.’ i turned around and saw that it was the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him). he said, ‘allaah has more power over you than you have over him.’… i never beat any slave of mine after that.” (reported by al-tirmidhi, no. 1948. abu ‘eesa said, this is a hasan saheeh hadeeth).

 

Explaining the Harmful Effects of the Mistake

Abu tha’labah al-khashani said: “whenever the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) broke his journey in a place, the people would disperse in the valleys and mountains. the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) said,

‘your dispersing in these valleys and mountains is from shaytaan.’ after that he never stopped anywhere but they all stayed close together, so much so that if a cloak was spread over them, it would cover them all.” (reported by abu dawood (may allaah have mercy on him), in his sunan, 2286; classed as saheeh by al-albaani in saheeh sunan abi dawood, no. 2288).

 

According to another report:

“… until you would say that if you were to spread a cloth over them, it would cover them.” (ahmad, al-fath al-rabbaani, 14/44).

 

Here we may note the prophet’s concern for his companions, which was the leader’s concern for his troops. the army’s dispersing when they made camp was a trick of the shaytaan to make the muslims scared and to lead the enemy to attack them. (see ‘awn al-ma’bood, 7/292). dispersing in this manner would make it hard for one part of the army to come to the aid of another part. (see daleel al-faaliheen, 6/130).

 

we may also note that the companions of the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) obeyed him in whatever instructions they received from him.

 

Another example of how the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) explained how serious and dangerous a mistake was is to be seen in the hadeeth of al-nu’maan ibn basheer, according to which the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) said: “Straighten your rows (for prayer), or allaah will make you divided.” (reported by al-bukhaari in his saheeh, fath, no. 717).

 

Teaching the one who Made a Mistake in a Practical Way

in many cases practical teaching is more effective than theoretical teaching. this is what the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) did. jubayr ibn nufayr reported from his father that he came to the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him), who called for water, then said, “do wudoo’, o abu jubayr.” abu jubayr started with his mouth, and the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) said, “do not start with your mouth, o abu jubayr, for the kaafir starts with his mouth.” then the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) called for water, and washed his hands until they were clean, then he rinsed his mouth and nose three times, washed his face three times, washed his right arm up to the elbow three times, and his left arm three times, wiped his head and washed his feet. (reported by al-bayhaqi in al-sunan, 1/46; al-silsilat al-saheehah, no. 2820).

 

we may note here that the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) deliberately put this sahaabi off from doing an incorrect action by telling him that the kaafir starts with his mouth; the meaning may be that the kaafir does not wash his hands before putting them in the vessel (i was told this by shaykh ‘abd al-‘azeez ibn baaz when i asked him about the interpretation of this hadeeth), and that this is not hygienic. and allaah knows best.

 

Guiding People to Prevent them from Making Mistakes

Abu umaamah ibn sahl ibn haneef reported that his father told him that the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) went out, and they travelled with him in the direction of makkah, until they reached the ravine of al-khazzaar near al-juhfah. sahl ibn haneef did ghusl, and he was a white man with a handsome body and beautiful skin. ‘aamir ibn rabee’ah, the brother of banu ‘adiyy ibn ka’b looked at him whilst he was doing ghusl and said, ‘i have never seen anything like what i have seen today, not even the skin of the virgin who is hidden away!’ [referring to the whiteness of his skin]. sahl fell to the ground (he had an epileptic fit). the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) came and it was said to him,

‘Do you want to see sahl? by allaah, he cannot raise his head or wake up.’ he asked, ‘whose fault is this?’ they said, ‘ ‘aamir ibn rabee’ah looked at him.’ the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) called ‘aamir and rebuked him angrily, and said, ‘why would any one of you kill his brother? if any one of you sees that his brother has something he likes, let him pray for blessing for him.’ then he said to him, ‘bathe yourself to help him’. so he washed his face, his hands up to the elbows, his knees, the sides of his feet and inside his izaar (lower garment) in a vessel. then the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) said, ‘pour that water over him.’ so he poured the water over his head and back from behind, tilting the vessel, and sahl went with the people and there was nothing wrong with him.” (al-musnad, 3/486. al-haythami said, the men of ahmad are the men of saheeh. al-majma’, 5/107)

 

According to a report narrated by maalik (may allaah have mercy on him), muhammad ibn abi umaamah ibn sahl ibn haneef said that he heard his father saying: “abu sahl ibn haneef did ghusl in al-kharraar and took off the garment he was wearing. ‘aamir ibn rabee’ah was looking at him, and sahl was a white man with beautiful skin. ‘aamir ibn rabee’ah said to him, ‘i have never seen anything like what i have seen today, not even the skin of the virgin!’. sahl fell ill on the spot and became seriously ill. the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) came and was told, ‘sahl has fallen ill, and cannot go with you, o messenger of allaah.’ sahl told him what had happened with ‘aamir, and the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) said,

‘Why would any one of you kill his brother? you should have asked for blessing for him. the (evil) eye is real. do wudoo’ to help him.” so ‘aamir did wudoo’, and sahl went with the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him), and there was nothing wrong with him. (al-muwatta’, hadeeth no. 1972).

 

what we learn from this story is:

•         the teacher (i.e., the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him)) got angry with the one who caused harm to his muslim brother.

•         he explained the harmful effects of the mistake and that it could lead to death.

•         he pointed the way to that which would prevent harm befalling a muslim.

 

Explaining the seriousness of the mistake

Ibn 'Umar, Muhammad Ibn Ka'b, Zayd Ibn Aslam and Qutadah  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 rectors, or anyone who is more cowardly in the battlefield" - referring to the Messenger of Allah and his Companions. 

 

Awf Ibn Malik said, 'You are lying! You are a hypocrite, and I am going to tell the Messenger of Allah. ' Awf went to the Messenger of Allah to tell him, but found that Qur'aan had already been revealed concerning it. That man came to the Prophet who was riding his camel, and said, "O Messenger of Allah we were only talking idly and joking, just to pass time in the journey." Ibn 'Umar said, "It is as if I saw 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 Allah was reciting (what means):

”Say: ‘Is it Allah and His aayaath and His Messenger that you were mocking?’” (Qur'an 9: 65)

 

We see that the prophet’s reply to these abominable remarks was by reciting some verses of the Qur’aan by which this man was told that Allaah and His Messenger are far above mocking. He didn’t become enraged or order that the man should be punished severely. Anyone else may do that, but the Prophet was sent as a mercy to all creation and to be an example of how people should behave. [2]

 

References

[1] http://www.kalamullah.com/salih-al-munajjid.html

[2] http://rasoulallah.net/index.php/en/articles/category/101

[3] http://www.islamweb.net/emainpage/index.php?page=articles&id=76856

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