al-bukhaari (may allaah have mercy on him) reported that abu dharr said: “there was an argument between me and another man. his mother was a non-arab, and i said something insulting about her. he mentioned this to the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him), who asked me,
‘did you trade insults with so-and-so?’ i said, ‘yes.’ he said, ‘did you say something insulting about his mother?’ i said, ‘yes.’ he said, ‘you are a man who still has something of jaahiliyyah in you.’ i said, ‘i said what i said because i am getting old.’ he said, ‘yes, but they are your brothers. allaah has given you power over them, but whoever is given power over someone, let him feed him as he feeds himself, clothe him as he clothes himself, and not give him more work to do than he is able. if he does give him too much work, let him help him.’ ” (fath, 6050)
in saheeh muslim it is reported that abu dharr (may allaah be pleased with him) said:
“i had an argument with one of my brothers. his mother was non-arab, and i said something insulting to him about his mother. he complained about me to the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him). when the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) met me, he said,
‘o abu dharr, you are a man who still has something of jaahiliyyah in him.’ i said, ‘o messenger of allaah, whoever insults a person, people will insult his father and mother.’ he said, ‘o abu dharr, you are a man who still has something of jaahiliyyah in him. they are your brothers, and allaah has given you power over them, so feed them as you feed yourself and clothe them as you clothe yourself. do not give them more work than they can do, and if you give them too much to do, then help them.’ ” (saheeh muslim, no. 1661).
the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) spoke in this straightforward and open manner to abu dharr because he knew he would accept it. such a blunt approach can be a useful method that saves times and energy, and gets the point across in the easiest manner, but it should only be done when it is appropriate to the situation and the people involved.
this direct approach may be better not used if it will lead to something worse or if it means that a greater interest will not be achieved, for example if the person making the mistake is in a position of power and authority and would not accept such frank comments, or if a direct approach would cause too much embarrassment to the person who is doing wrong. it should also not be used if the person is extra sensitive and is likely to react badly. undoubtedly a direct approach will be too much for a person to take if it is made in a spirit of confrontation and with the aim of causing embarrassment and showing him up at the time when his critic appears superior. similarly it is essential to be cautious about using “indirect” methods whose multiple negative effects may outweigh the benefits of a direct approach, because they may make the wrongdoer think that the one who is advising him thinks he is stupid or that he is playing about, or because they may offend him because he thinks he is making snide remarks. this way of pointing out what is right may not be effective, because what is being said may not be clear to the person addressed, so he will keep on making the mistake. generally speaking, people differ when it comes to accepting advice, and the right approach will differ in each case, but a good attitude in discussing mistakes and guiding people will also have the greatest effect in achieving the desired goal.