By Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid
A prominent Saudi scholar and lecturer
Dealing with and correcting mistakes is a part of sincerity in religion (naseeha) 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 revelation and the methodology of the Qur`an. The Qur`an brought commands and prohibitions, approvals and denunciations and correction of mistakes – even those on the part of the Prophet (peace be upon him). So it included rebukes and pointing out of mistakes:
(The Prophet) frowned and turned away. Because there came to him the blind man (interrupting). But what could tell thee but that perchance he might grow (in spiritual understanding)? Or that he might receive admonition, and that the teaching might profit him? As for him who thinks himself self-sufficient. To him you attend; though it is no blame to thee if he grow not (in spiritual understanding).
But as to him who came to you striving earnestly, And with fear (in his heart), Of him was you unmindful. (`Abasa 80:1-10)
Behold! You did say to one who had received the grace of Allah and your favor: “Retain you (in wedlock) your wife, and fear Allah.” But you did hide in your heart that which Allah was about to make manifest: you did fear the people, but it is more fitting that you should fear Allah. (Al-Ahzab 33:37)
Not for you (O Muhammad, but for Allah), is the decision: Whether He turn in mercy to them, or punish them; for they are indeed wrong-doers. (Aal `Imran 3:128)
With the Companions
The Qur`an was also revealed to correct the mistakes of some of the Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet) in some situations. When Hatib ibn Abi Balta`ah (may Allah be pleased with him) made the mistake of writing to the kuffar of Quraysh and informing them of the direction in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) headed on a military campaign against them, Allah revealed the words:
O you who believe! Take not my enemies and yours as friends (or protectors),- offering them (your) love, even though they have rejected the Truth that has come to you, and have (on the contrary) driven out the Prophet and yourselves (from your homes), (simply) because ye believe in Allah your Lord! If ye have come out to strive in My Way and to seek My Good Pleasure, (take them not as friends), holding secret converse of love (and friendship) with them: for I know full well all that ye conceal and all that ye reveal. And any of you that does this has strayed from the Straight Path. (Al-Mumtahanah 60:1)
Concerning the mistake made by the archers at the battle of Uhud, who left the position where the Prophet had commanded them to stay, Allah revealed:
… 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 `Imran 37)
When the Prophet (peace be upon him) stayed away from his wives in order to discipline them, and some people spread rumors that he had divorced them, Allah revealed the words:
When there comes to them some matter touching (Public) safety or fear, they divulge it. If they had only referred it to the Messenger, or to those charged with authority among them, the proper investigators would have Tested it from them (direct). Were it not for the grace and mercy of Allah unto you, all but a few of you would have fallen into the clutches of Satan. (An-Nisaa’ 4:83)
When some of the Muslims failed to migrate from Makkah to Madinah with no legitimate excuse, Allah revealed the words:
When angels take the souls of those who die in sin against their souls, they say: “In what (plight) Were you?” They reply: “Weak and oppressed Were we in the earth.” They say: “Was not the earth of Allah spacious enough for you to move yourselves away (From evil)?” (An-Nisaa’ 4:97)
When some of the Sahabah believed and repeated the rumors of the munafiqin (hypocrites) accusing `Aa’ishah of something she was innocent of, Allah revealed verses concerning this lie, including:
Had it not been for the Grace of Allah 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 Allah it was very great. (An-Nur 24:14,15)
Then Allah said :
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 Allah) this is a great lie.” Allah forbids you from it and warns you not to repeat the like of it forever, if you are believers. (An-Nur 24:16,17)
The article is an excerpt from the author’s The Prophet’s Methods for Correcting People’s Mistakes.