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How Prophet Muhammad Corrected Mistakes (7 Strategies)

Part 1 | Part 2

Mistakes are the consequences of life and being human. They help us repent, learn and grow wiser. Mistakes can be catalysts of self-improvement and reminders of our imperfections. Still, we tend to interpret mistakes more as disaster than opportunity.

Prophet Muhammad, the Messenger of God and the most brilliant educator of humanity, approached mistakes not as cause for shame, but as teachable moments.

Even though the Prophet taught his companions to strive for excellence and conquer their flaws, mistakes were inevitably made, some minor and some very serious. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) corrected people’s missteps with gentleness, empathy, and creativity.

He used mistakes as opportunities to empower people, not break them.

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Studying Prophet Muhammad’s example gives us insight on how to help people in their moments of error. In this part we discuss four lessons that highlight some aspects of how Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) mended mistakes:

1. Address the mistakes

Because mistakes make us uncomfortable, we may ignore them or think they are not our business. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did not leave mistakes to stand on their own without guiding people towards a solution.

He was sincere toward his companions, and at the center of his attitude toward mistakes was a deep love and compassion. He may have chosen to correct a mistake discreetly, delay his reaction, or withhold a response, but he did so with the individual’s best interest in mind.

Sometimes, the Prophet did not even have to use words to correct a mistake. He once left the company of his companions to express disapproval of an action. A change in his posture would indicate to his companions that something was not right. When a mistake was truly grave, he would emphasize his words and repeat them several times.

The young Usamah ibn Zaid was narrating to the Prophet the events of an armed conflict with their enemy. He described one soldier who had cried out, “There is no God but Allah!” out of hope that he would be spared. Usamah told the Prophet that he then killed the soldier with his sword.

When the Prophet heard this, his face changed. He said,

(How could) you kill him when he said, ‘La ilaha illa Allah’? (How could) you kill him when he said, ‘La ilaha illa Allah’?…

The Prophet kept repeating these words, until Usamah wished that he could erase all his deeds. He said that he wished he could embrace Islam all over again that day, so that he could start his life afresh.  (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

2. Be gentle

The Prophet was extremely perceptive toward the people around him. He knew when someone was sensitive or vulnerable, and he often approached mistakes with utmost gentleness.

Bedouins were known at the time of the Prophet for being gruff and somewhat uncivilized. Once a bedouin entered the Prophet’s mosque for the first time. He raised his voice in supplication, “O Allah, forgive me and Muhammad, but don’t forgive anyone else!”

The Prophet smiled at him and remarked gently, “You are limiting something that is vast.”

Later, to everyone’s horror, the man urinated on the masjid floor. The Prophet calmed the dismayed onlookers, and told them to leave the man alone.

He reminded his companions that they were sent to make things easy on people, not difficult. The bedouin later recounted his experience with the Prophet:

May my mother and father be sacrificed for him. He did not scold or insult me. He just said,

We do not urinate in these mosques-they were built for prayer and remembrance of Allah.

Then he called for a bucket of water to be poured on the ground. (Ibn Majah and authenticated by Al-Albani)

So deep was the empathy the Prophet had for his people that he did everything possible to make things easy for them. He removed every obstacle that stood between the people and Allah’s forgiveness, and he searched out solutions to individual’s unique circumstances. A man once confessed he was doomed because he slept with his wife while fasting in Ramadan. The Prophet asked if he was able to free a slave. The man said no.

– “Can you fast two consecutive months?

– “No.”

– “Can you feed sixty poor people?

– “No.”

The Prophet stayed quiet. Soon, a basket of dates was presented to him. The Prophet took the dates, and looked for the man.

Take these dates and give them in charity.

The man said dejectedly, “No one is poorer than me, Messenger of Allah. By Allah, there is no family in all of Madinah poorer than mine.”

At this, the Prophet’s face broke into a smile.

Take it and feed your family,” he said. (Al-Bukhari)

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About Maha Ezzeddine
Maha Ezzeddine has a bachelor degree in Journalism and History from the University of Maryland - College Park and a Master degree in History from Stanford University. She edited several publications for MAS Youth between 2006 and 2008, when she was a member of the national executive team.