By Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Every son of Adam makes mistakes, and the best of those who make mistakes are those who repent.” (At-Tirmidhi)
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 Shari`ah evidence and proper understanding, not on ignorance and that fact that one happens not to like it.
Muhammad ibn Al-Munkadir reported that Jabir prayed wearing only an idhar (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 idhar tied at the back because this was more concealing when they did ruku` and sujud (Fath Al-Bari), 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 Allah (peace be upon him)?’” (Al-Bukhari)
Ibn Hajar (may Allah 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 Shari`ah matters themselves.” (Al-Fath)
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 (Islamic Creed) should be greater than those to correct mistakes that have to do with etiquette, for example. The Prophet (peace 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-Mughirah ibn Shu`bah said:
“There was an eclipse of the sun on the day that (the Prophet’s infant son) Ibrahim died, and the people said, ‘this eclipse is because of the death of Ibrahim.’ The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: ‘The sun and the moon are two of the signs of Allah, they do not become eclipsed for the death or life of anyone. If you see them (eclipsed) then call on Allah and pray to Him until the eclipse is over.’” (Al-Bukhari)
Abu Waqid Al-Laythi reported that when the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) went out to Hunayn, he passed by a tree belonging to the mushrikeen (disbeliever) that was called Dhat Anwat, on which they used to hang their weapons.
They said, (O Messenger of Allah, make for us a Dhat Anwat like they have.’ The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, (Subhana Allah (Glory be to Allah)! This is like what the people of Musa 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.’ ” (At-Tirmidhi)
Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) reported that he caught up with `Umar ibn Al-Khattab who was with a group of people and was swearing by his father. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) called them and told them that Allah had forbidden them to swear by their forefathers; the one who wanted to swear an oath should swear by Allah or else keep quiet. (Al-Bukhari)
The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “The Prophet’s Methods for Correcting People’s Mistakes”.
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid is a prominent Saudi scholar and lecturer.