Hold the stick from the middle

“You are beautiful. Your house is in order. I don’t deny that the children are tiring you out. However, if only you could look after their clothes more.”

“Thank you very much for deciding to teach as a career. Allah has gifted you with a flair for teaching.Your students love you very much. However, I wish that you would not turn up late for work in the morning.”

This is how a righteous person behaves with the people. He mentions the good points first and then brings his attention to the faults, in order to be balanced in his approach.

When you criticise, try to mention where the person is right before mentioning where he is wrong. Always try to give the impression that you have a positive view of him. When you caution him over his errors, this does not mean that you are belittling him, or that you have forgotten his good deeds, or that you should only mention his wrongs.

On the contrary, you should make him realise that your criticisms of him are insignificant in comparison to his good deeds.

The Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) was very beloved amongst his Companions. He would employ great techniques whilst dealing with them.

Once he stood with his Companions and gazed at the sky, as if he was contemplating or looking for something. He then said, “This is the season where knowledge will be snatched away from people, until they would not possess any of it”; meaning, the people would turn away from the Quran, its teachings and the Sacred Knowledge. They would not show any eagerness to attain it, nor would they understand it.

“…snatched away from them…” meaning it would be taken away from them.

Upon hearing this, a noble Companion stood up – he was Ziyad bin Labid al-Ansari – and said with all zeal, “O Messenger of Allah, how can it be snatched away from us? We have read the Quran! By Allah, we will continue to read it! We will make our wives and children read it!”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) looked at him and found him to be a young man full of zeal and enthusiasm for religion. He then decided to correct his understanding, thus he said, “May your mother be bereaved, O Ziyad! Even though, I surely consider you from the jurists of the people of Madinah!” This was a praise of Ziyad, for the Messenger of Allah to say to him in front of people that he was from the jurists of Madinah. This is from the positive and bright pages from Ziyad’s life.

He (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) then said, ‘The Jews and the Christians have the Torah and the Gospel. How has it benefited them?” [Sahih – narrated by al-Tirmidhi and al-Hakim]

Meaning, it is not the presence of the Quran that matters. What matters is its recitation, the knowledge of its meanings, and then acting on its rulings. This is how great the way the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) dealt with the people was.

On another occasion, the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) went to some of the Arab tribes calling them to Islam. He would choose the most beautiful words to encourage them to respond to his call and enter the fold of Islam.

One of the tribes he went to was known as Banu ‘Abdullah. When the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) called them to Allah and presented his message to them, he said, “O Banu ‘Abdullah! Allah has chosen a beautiful name for your father!”; meaning, you are not Banu ‘Abd al-Izza, or Banu ‘Abd al-Laat. Rather, you are Banu ‘Abdullah. Thankfully, there is no paganism involved in your name, and therefore, you should enter into Islam.

In fact, he was so proficient in his ways that he would send indirect messages to people, showing his amazement with them, and that he wanted good for them. When such indirect messages reach those intended, then perhaps they may affect them more than direct messages.

Khalid bin al-Walid – may Allah be pleased with him – was a hero. He was not just any hero, but a courageous one. The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) would wish that he embrace Islam. But how could he? For he was eager to take part in every battle against the Muslims. In fact, he was the greatest reason for the Muslim defeat in the battle of Uhud.

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) once said of him, “If he were to come to us, we would truly honour him and prefer him over others”. How did this have an effect on him?

Let us cite the story from the beginning. Khalid was from the severest of the disbelievers and one of their leaders. He would never miss an opportunity to fight the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) or ambush him. When the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) came to al-Hudaybiyyah with the Muslims with the intention of performing ‘Umrah, Khalid along with other pagan knights set out and met the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) and his Companions at a place called ‘Asfaan. Khalid stood close to them just waiting for an opportunity to attack the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) with an arrow or a sword. Thus, he began to wait for an ambush.

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) prayed the dawn prayers with his Companions as the enemies watched. They wanted to attack him, but they did not find it feasible.The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) realized their intent and therefore prayed the ‘Asr prayer with his Companions as the prayer of fear; meaning, he grouped his Companions into two. A group prayed with him whilst the other group stood guard. This really affected Khalid and his Companions. He said to himself, “The man has been prevented from us”, meaning, there are those who would protect him and defend him against harm.

Then the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam), along with his Companions, departed taking a route on the right in order to avoid Khalid and his companions. He reached al-Hudaybiyyah, signed a treaty with the Quraysh that he would perform ‘Umrah next year, and returned to Madinah.

Khalid noticed that that Quraysh were becoming weaker and weaker as days went by. He thought to himself, “What is left? Where shall I go? To Negus? I cannot, because even he follows Muhammad, whose followers are living under his protection. Perhaps, I should go to Heraclius? No. How can I leave my faith for Christianity, or Judaism, and live amongst non-Arabs?”

Whilst Khalid was contemplating what to do, as the days and months passed him by until a whole year had elapsed, there came the opportunity for the Muslims to perform ‘Umrah. Thus, they headed for Makkah.

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) entered Makkah, but Khalid was not able to bear seeing the Muslims in a state of Ihram. He left Makkah and disappeared for four days – the days the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) spent in Makkah. The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) performed his ‘Umrah and began to gaze at the pathways and houses of Makkah, to recollect memories. He remembered the brave man, Khalid bin al-Walid, so he turned to al-Walid bin al-Walid, who was Khalid’s brother. Al-Walid was a Muslim who came with the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) to perform ‘Umrah.

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) decided to send an indirect message to Khalid, encouraging him to enter into Islam. The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said to al-Walid, “Where is Khalid?”

Al-Walid was surprised by the question. He replied, “Allah will bring him, O Messenger of Allah.”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) then said, “Someone like him cannot be ignorant of Islam! If he were to have reserved his ability to inflict damage and harshness for the cause of the Muslims, it would have been better for him.”

He then said, “If he were to come to us, we would certainly have honoured him, and preferred him over others.”

Al-Walid became happy and began to search for Khalid in Makkah, but couldn’t find him. When they finally decided to return to Madinah, he wrote a letter for his brother, saying:

“In the name of Allah, the most Gracious the most Merciful. To proceed”

I have not seen anything as amazing as your aversion from Islam, knowing your intellectual capacity! Can anyone be ignorant of something like Islam? The Messenger of Allah asked me about you and said, ‘Where is Khalid?’

I said to him, ‘Allah will surely bring him.’

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) then said, ‘Someone like him cannot be ignorant of Islam! If he were to have reserved his ability to inflict damage and harshness for the cause of the Muslims, it would have been better for him. If he were to have come to us, we would certainly have honoured him, and preferred him over others.’

Catch up, dear brother, with all the good opportunities you have missed out on.”

Khalid said, “When the letter reached me, I decided to go. It increased my interest in Islam. I was pleased that the Messenger of Allah had asked about me. I saw in a dream that I was in a restricted and barren land, which I then left for a green and vast land.”

I said to myself, “This has to be a true dream.”

When I finally prepared to go to the Messenger of Allah – may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, I thought to myself, “Who can I accompany and go to the Messenger of Allah – may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him?” I then met Safwan bin Umayyah and said to him, “O Ibn Wahb, don’t you realise what we are in? We are like molar teeth crushing against each other. On the other hand, Muhammad seems to have overpowered the Arabs and the non-Arabs. If we were to join Muhammad and follow him, then surely, his honour would be our honour?”

However, Safwan strongly disagreed and said, “If there was none left but me, I would never follow him!” We then departed.

I said to myself, “This man has been hurt. His brother and father were killed at the battle of Badr.”

I then met ‘Ikrimah bin Abi Jahl and said to him what I had said to Safwan bin Umayyah, but he also said to me in response what Safwan bin Umayyah had said to me.

I then said to myself, “I will discreetly go to Muhammad without mentioning it to anyone.”

Thus, I went to my house, took my ride and set off, until I met ‘Uthman bin Talhah.

I said to myself, “He is a friend of mine. What if I tell him my plans?”

I then thought about the killing of his relatives in our wars against the Muslims, so I didn’t want to remind him of that.

I then thought to myself, “It doesn’t matter if I inform him, since I am leaving right now!”

So I mentioned to him what I thought had become of Quraysh. I said, “We are like a fox hiding in its burrow. If only a portion of water was poured into the burrow, it would come out.” He hastily responded to me and decided to come with me to Madinah.

I said to him, “I actually decided to leave today for Madinah. This is my ride, already prepared for me.”

We then promised to meet up at a place called Ya’juj. If he were to reach their first, he would stay there and wait for me. If I were to reach there first, I would stay there and wait for him.

I then left my house in the last hours of the night, in fear that the Quraysh may find out about our departure. Hence, we met at Ya’juj before dawn and set off until we reached al-Hada to find ‘Amr bin al-‘Aas on his riding beast.

He said to us, “Welcome! Where are you headed?”

We said, “And what has made you come out?”

He asked us in reply, “Well, what has made you come out?”

“Our desire to enter into Islam and to follow Muhammad”, we replied.

He said, “Well, this is also what made me leave.”

Thus, we accompanied each other until we entered Madinah. We made our rides kneel down in a stony area. The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) was then informed about us. He became joyful upon hearing the news.

I then wore the best clothes I had and made my way to the Messenger of Allah – may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him. On my way, my brother met me and said, “Hurry up! For the Messenger of Allah has been informed about you and he is very happy at your advent. He is waiting for you.”

We began to walk fast. I saw the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) and walked towards him. When he saw me from a distance, he smiled. He continued smiling at me until I finally reached him. I then greeted him and he greeted me back very cheerfully.

I said, “I bear witness that there is no one worthy of worship but Allah, and that you are the Messenger of Allah.”

He said, “Praise be to Allah Who has guided you. I always knew you were intelligent. I had always wished that your intelligence would lead you to your own good.”

I said, “O Messenger of Allah, I know that I used to take part in all the hardships you had to endure, as I was stubbornly against the truth. Pray to Allah that He forgives me!”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) replied, “Islam wipes out all that precedes it.”

I said, “O Messenger of Allah, in that case, please, ask for my forgiveness.”

He (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) then prayed for me, “O Allah! Forgive Khalid bin al-Walid for all his wrongdoings, in diverting people away from Allah’s path!’”

Thereafter, Khalid became one of the heads of this religion. Yet, his acceptance of Islam was due to an indirect message that reached him from the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam). How persevering and wise he was! Let us then adopt these skills in affecting people.

If you were to see a person selling cigarettes in his shop and you wanted to caution him, praise his shop and its cleanliness first, and pray for increased blessings in his profit.Then you should caution him with respect to earning halaal income, so that he realises that you did not look at him negatively. Rather, you held the stick from the middle.

Be clever! Look for whatever good you can find in a person in comparison to which his bad would seem insignificant. Think good of others, until they recognize your sense of justice towards them and love you more.

In brief…
When people realize that we pay attention to their good actions just as we pay attention to their bad actions, they appreciate our advice.


Taken from “Enjoy your Life”, by: Dr. Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Rahman al-‘Arifi

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