this is one of the effective methods used by the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) especially when a very serious mistake was made, because of the far-reaching effect that a boycott has on the person concerned. an example of this is what happened to ka’b ibn maalik and his two companions who stayed behind from the campaign of tabook. after the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) had ascertained that they had no valid excuse, and they had admitted it, as ka’b said:
“the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) forbade the muslims to speak to any of the three of us who had stayed behind. so the people avoided us and their attitude towards us changed so that even the earth i was walking on looked different to what i had known. we stayed like that for fifty days. as for my two companions, they resigned themselves and stayed in their homes, weeping, but i was the youngest and the most determined, so i used to go out and attend the prayers with the muslims and go around in the market places, and no one would speak to me. i would come to the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) whilst he was in a gathering after prayer, and greet him with salaam, asking myself whether he had moved his lips in response or not. i would pray near him, stealing glances at him. when i would turn to pray, he would turn towards me, and when i would turn towards him, he would turn away from me. when the people’s harshness had gone on too long for me, i went away and climbed over the wall of the garden of abu qutaadah, who was my cousin [son of my paternal uncle] and the dearest of people to me. i greeted him with salaam, but by allaah he did not answer me. i said, ‘o abu qutaadah, i ask you by allaah, do you not know that i love allaah and his messenger?’ he remained silent, so i repeated what i had said, pleading with him, but he remained silent. i repeated it again, pleading with him, and he said, ‘allaah and his messenger know best.’ my eyes filled with tears and i turned away and went and climbed back over the wall…
when fifty nights had passed since the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) had forbidden anyone to talk to us, after i had prayed fajr on the morning of the fiftieth day, and i was on the roof of our house, whilst i was sitting as allaah has described, with my own self constrained to me and the earth, vast as it is, constrained to me [cf. al-tawbah 9:118], i heard the sound of someone shouting from the mountain of sal’ at the top of his voice: ‘o ka’b ibn maalik, rejoice!’” (fath, 4418).
we learn many great lessons from this story, which should not be ignored in any way. we read about some of them in the scholars’ commentaries on this story, as in zaad al-ma’aad and fath al-baari.
another indication that the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) used this method was narrated by al-tirmidhi from ‘aa`ishah , who said: “no behaviour was more hateful to the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) than lying. if a man told lies in the presence of the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him), he would remain upset about it until he knew that he had repented from that.” (abu ‘eesa said: this is a hasan hadeeth. sunan al-tirmidhi, no. 1973).
according to a report narrated by ahmad: “ … he would remain upset with him…” (al-musnad, 6/152)
according to another report: “if it happened that one of the members of his household told a lie, he would keep turning away from him until he repented.” (reported by al-haakim. saheeh al-jaami’, 4675).
it is clear from the reports mentioned above that turning away from the person who is making a mistake until he gives it up is an effective educational method, but in order for it to be effective, the person who is forsaking and turning away from the other must have some status in the eyes of the latter, otherwise it will not have a positive effect, and may even give the person something to be happy about.