Before you extol yourself to the heights you don’t belong, before you eject him or her from Islam and take Islam for your, or family business, before you spot the speck in his or her eyes in total disregard of the clear daring stump in your own eye, please pause for a minute and take counsel from the Best of the Best.

The Noble Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) 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.

Bearing this fact clearly in mind should put things into their proper perspective, so that you do not expect people to be perfect or infallible or judge them according to what you think they should be, and then consider them to have failed if they make a big mistake or err repeatedly. You should deal with them in a realistic manner, based on your knowledge of human nature which is subject to ignorance, negligence, shortcomings, whims and desires and forgetfulness.

Understanding this fact will also prevent you from being greatly shocked by the kind of sudden mistake that could lead him or her to react in an inappropriate fashion. This will remind you as you strive to enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil that you too is a human being who could also make the same mistake, so you should deal with him or her on a footing of compassion rather than harshness, because the basic aim here, 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 jurisprudential evidence and proper understanding, not on ignorance or witch hunting. Muhammad ibn al-Munkadir reported that Jaabir prayed wearing only an izaar (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 izaar 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 Noble Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)?’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Al-Fath, no. 352). 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 the “holier than thou” not to rebuke the scholars and to urge them to look into jurisprudential matters themselves.” (Al-Fath, 1/467)

Get to know that 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 Noble Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)  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.

Al-Mugheerah 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 Noble Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)  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.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 1061).

Abu Waaqid al-Laythi reported that when The Noble Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)  went out to Hunayn, he passed by a tree belonging to the mushrikeen that was called Dhaatu Anwaat, on which they used to hang their weapons. They said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, make for us a Dhaatu Anwaat like they have.’ The Noble Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, ‘Subhaana-Allah! This is like what the people of Mussa 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.

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, you need to learn two things:

  1. That the person to whom Allah 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. He shouldn’t be a bully who looks down on people and who makes himself holier than all others.
  2. 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.

Please consider these facts and points for an effective mission in rectifying people who may have gone astray.

1. Address the mistakes.

2. Be gentle.

3. Connect people with Allah.

4. Don’t go looking for mistakes.

5. Be Strategic.

6. Use firmness when appropriate.

7. Spare people’s dignity.


I wish you all the best.

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