this is what the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) did with haatib (may allaah be pleased with him) when he heard that he had sent word to the kuffaar of quraysh, informing them of the muslims’ intention to head for makkah to conquer it. the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) asked him,
“what made you do that, o haatib?” he said, “i believe in allaah and his messenger and i never changed, but i wanted to make some gesture towards them through which allaah might protect my family and my wealth. all your other companions have someone there through whom allaah will protect their families and their wealth.” [the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him)] said: “he has spoken the truth, so do not say anything but good to him.” ‘umar ibn al-khattaab said, “but he has betrayed allaah and messenger and the believers! let me strike his neck [cut off his head]!” [the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) ] said: “how do you know? maybe allaah looked at the people of badr and said, ‘do what you like, for paradise is guaranteed for you.’” tears welled up in ‘umar’s eyes and he said, “allaah and his messenger know best.” (fath, 6259)
there are a number of important educational points we learn from this story:
1 – the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) rebuked the sahaabi who had make a serious mistake by asking him, “what made you do that?”
2 – enquiring as to the reason that motivated him to make the mistake undoubtedly has an effect on the way in which he is treated.
3 – those who have an excellent track record are not immune from committing major sins.
4 – the educator must be open-minded in dealing with his companions’ mistakes so that they continue progressing on the straight path. the aim is to reform them, not alienate them.
5 – the educator must appreciate the moments of human weakness that may overcome some of those who are with him, and he should not be shocked by a serious mistake on the part of one who is advanced or senior.
6 – defending one who deserves to be defended even though he has made a mistake.
7 – if a person who makes a mistake has a great deal of good works to his credit, this should be taken into account when evaluating the level of his mistake and dealing with it.