Some people who make mistakes try to offer made-up, unacceptable excuses, especially when they are caught red-handed. Indeed, some of them may appear to be stammering when they give their flimsy excuses, especially those who are not good at lying because they are basically good at heart. How should the educator act when he comes across a situation like this? The following story demonstrates the brilliant attitude of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) when dealing with one of his Companions in a situation of this nature. The story also shows us how the educator should persistently follow up until the person gives up his wrong attitude.
Khuwwaat ibn Jubayr (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “We made camp with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) at Mar al-Zahraan (a place near Makkah). I came out of my tent and saw some women talking amongst themselves. I liked them, so I went back, got out my trunk and took out a hillah (a suit of clothes). I put it on and came and sat with them. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came out and said, ‘O Abu ‘Abd-Allaah!!” (i.e., he was reprimanding him for sitting with those non-mahrem women). When I saw the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), I got scared and started stammering (trying to come up with an excuse). I said, “O Messenger of Allaah, my camel got lost and I am looking for a rope to restrain it” (i.e., he came up with a false excuse to justify what he had done). He left, and I followed him. He threw his cloak at me and went in among some araak trees – and it is as if I can see the whiteness of his back against the greenness of the araak trees. He answered the call of nature and did wudoo’, and turned (to me) with the water dripping from his beard onto his chest, and said: “O Abu ‘Abd-Allaah, what happened to your lost camel?” Then we continued on our journey, and whenever he caught up with me, he would say, “Assalaamu aleika Abu ‘Abd-Allaah. What happened to that lost camel?” When I realized this, I hastened on to Madeenah and avoided the mosque and gatherings where the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was present. When this had gone on for a long time, I tried to go to the mosque when no one else was around. I went to the mosque and started to pray, but the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came out of one of his apartments and started to pray two short rak’ahs. I made my prayer long, hoping that he would go away and leave me. He said, ‘Make it as long as you like, O Abu ‘Abd-Allaah, for I am not leaving until you finish.’ I said to myself, ‘By Allaah, I should apologize to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and make him happy.’ When I had finished, he said, ‘Al-salaamu ‘alayka, O Abu ‘Abd-Allaah. What happened to your lost camel?’ I said, ‘By the One Who sent you with the truth, that camel has never gotten lost since the time I became a Muslim.’ He said, ‘May Allaah have mercy on you’ three times, then he never mentioned it again.” (Al-Haythami said: al-Tabaraani reported it with two isnaads. The men of one of them are all saheeh apart from al-Jarraah ibn Mukhallad, who is thiqah. Al-Majma’, 9/401. Upon referring to al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer by al-Tabaraani, 4/203, it becomes clear that the report from Zayd ibn Aslam is talking about Khuwwaat ibn Jubayr, who said, ‘We made camp …’ In the biography of Khuwwaat (may Allaah be pleased with him) in al-Tahdheeb it says: Zayd ibn Aslam reported mursal from him. In al-Isaabah it says that Khuwwaat died in 40 or 42 AH, and in al-Siyar it says that Zayd ibn Aslam died in 136 AH; on this basis there is a break in the isnaad).
This is a brilliant study in training and the use of wise strategies to achieve the desired result. We may also learn the following points from this story:
1. A person who has committed a sin will feel shy of a respected leader when he catches him out.
2. The way the educator looks at and questions a person – even though it may be very brief – will have a great impact on him.
3. Not discussing a false excuse at the time of hearing it – even though it is clearly made up – and turning away from the person may be enough to make him realize that his excuse is not acceptable, which will motivate him to repent and apologize. This is what we understand from the phrase “he left.”
4. The good educator is the one who makes the person who has made a mistake feel too shy of him, so that he tries to hide away from him, but at the same time, his need for him makes him want to come to him. Then the latter takes precedence over the former.
5. The change of attitude towards the wrongdoer is based – in this case – on the wrongdoer’s admission that he was wrong and his giving up the thing he had done.
If the educator or leader is held in high esteem by his companions, then if he rebukes one of them or tells him that he has made a mistake, this will have an effect on him. The leader should pay attention to the interests of others when rebuking one of his companions, so that all may benefit from it. However, this should not mean that he should ignore any negative effect on that particular individual. That can be dealt with and its effects limited in many ways, even though a third party, as al-Mugheerah did when he asked ‘Umar to be a mediator whilst at the same time explaining the situation and affirming how highly the leader thinks of the follower.