Not Confronting People Directly with their Mistakes and Addressing the issue in General
anas ibn maalik said:
“the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) said, ‘what is the matter with some people who raise their gaze to the heavens whilst they are praying?’ he spoke so harshly about them that he said, ‘they should stop doing that, or else allaah will take away their sight.’” (reported by al-bukhaari, fath, hadeeth no. 750).
when ‘aa`ishah wanted to buy a slave-woman whose name was bareerah, her owners refused to sell her except with the condition that she would still be connected to them. when the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) found out about this, he stood up to address the people, praised and thanked allaah, then said,
“what is wrong with men who impose conditions which are not mentioned in the book of allaah? there is no condition that is not mentioned in the book of allaah but it is invalid, even if there were one hundred such conditions. the decree of allaah is more true, the conditions laid down by allaah are more binding, and wala’ (connection, loyalty, allegiance) is to the one who sets the slave free.” (reported by al-bukhaari (may allaah have mercy on him) in numerous places in his saheeh. see fath, 5636).
‘aa`ishah (may allaah be pleased with her) said:
“the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) did something and made it permissible, but some people felt that they were above doing that. news of this reached the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him), so he addressed the people. he praised and thanked allaah, then he said, ‘what is the matter with people who think themselves above doing the things that i do? by allaah, i know more about allaah than they do, and i fear him more than they do.’” (fath, 6101).
abu hurayrah reported that the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) saw sputum in the qiblah of the mosque, so he turned to the people and said,
“what is wrong with one of you that he stands facing his lord and spits in front of him? would any of you like someone to face him and spit in his face? if any one of you wants to spit, let him spit towards his left, under his feet, and if he cannot do this, let him do this” – and al-qaasim described how he spat on his garment and rubbed one part of it against another part. (saheeh muslim, no. 550).
al-nisaa`i reported in his sunan that the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) prayed salaat al-subh and recited soorat al-room, but got mixed up in his recitation. when he had finished praying, he said,
“what is the matter with people who pray with us but do not purify themselves properly? such people are the ones who make us get mixed up when we recite qur`aan.” (sunan al-nisaa`i, al-mujtabaa, 2/156. its men are thiqaat, but al-haafiz said about ‘abd al-malik ibn ‘umayr that he was thiqah but his memory changed and he may have fabricated reports).
ahmad (may allaah have mercy on him) reported that abu rawh al-kalaa’i said:
“the messenger of allaah (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) led us in prayer and recited soorat al-room, but he got mixed up in part of the recitation. he said, ‘the shaytaan made us get mixed up in our recitation, because of some people who come to the prayer without wudoo’. when you come to pray, do wudoo’ properly.’”
he also reported from shu’bah from ‘abd al-malik ibn ‘umayr, who said: “i heard shabeeb abu rawh narrating from a man from among the companions of the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) who said that the prophet (peace and blessings of allaah be upon him) prayed salaat al-subh and recited soorat al-room, and got mixed up, and he narrated (the same hadeeth).” (it was also reported from zaa’idah and sufyaan from ‘abd al-malik. al-musnad, 3/473).
there are many examples, all of which indicate that the identity of the person who has made the mistake need not be exposed. this indirect approach and avoiding a direct confrontation has a number of benefits, including the following:
1. it avoids a negative reaction on the part of the person who has made the mistake, and prevents him from being tempted by the shaytaan to avenge himself or defend himself.
2. it is more acceptable to people and is more effective.
3. it conceals the person’s mistake in front of other people.
4. it increases the status of the educator and makes the advisor more beloved.
it must be pointed out that this method of using hints to convey a ruling to a person who has made a mistake, without exposing him and causing him embarrassment, is only to be used when what he has done is not known to the majority of people. if most of the people do know what he has done, and he knows that they know, then this method would be more in the nature of a rebuke and scolding, and exposing him in the most hurtful manner. the one who has made a mistake would most likely rather be confronted directly than be dealt with in this manner. among the factors that can make a difference are: who is giving the advice, in the presence of whom the advice is being given, and whether the advice is given in a provocative and aggressive manner, or in a kindly and gentle manner.
indirect methods of teaching people may be of benefit to the one who has made the mistake and to others, if they are used wisely.