Interpersonal Skills: Convince him of his error so he may accept advice

Some people tend to engage others uselessly by offering excessive unsolicited advice and remarks, which may be solely based on their personal liking.

For instance, after attending a wedding party that you and your wife had planned and organised, an invitee complains to you, “Dear brother, the wedding party was not very appropriate. You tired yourself in vain. I was under the impression that the party would be of a higher standard.”

“How so?” you ask, civilly.

He says, “Dear brother, most of the meat was fried. I personally prefer boiled meat. The salad was sour due to too much lemon, not exactly to my taste. The sweets were all decorated with cream, which made them repulsive.”

He then says, “Generally, most of the people disliked the food. They only ate out of courtesy, or because they had no choice!”

No doubt, you would despise this adviser and avoid him. You would never accept his counsel, because it is only based on personal taste!

You can say the same about someone who advises the next person quite harshly about how to deal with his children, his wife, or how he should have had his house built, or the kind of car he should have bought, purely based on his own personal preferences and opinions.

Always beware that you do not base your advice on your personal preferences. Yes, if someone asks your opinion, do share it with him. But to speak to him as you would advise a person who has erred, then certainly not. Perhaps the one given advice does not feel that he has erred. Therefore, if you are to offer your advice, you must make sure that your argument is strong while advising him aptly.

A Bedouin once sat with a group of righteous people, as they spoke about kindness to parents. While the Bedouin sat and listened, one of them turned to him and said, “O so-and-so! How are you with your mother?”

The Bedouin replied, “I am kind to her.”

He said, “What do you do to show your kindness to her?”

The Bedouin replied, “By Allah! I never hit her with a stick!”

Meaning, if he ever wanted to hit her, he would hit her either with his hand or his turban, but not with a stick out of his extreme kindness towards her! The poor man had no idea about right and wrong. So be soft and kind so that the one you are addressing may be convinced of his mistake.

At the time of the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam), there was a woman who would borrow items from other women and forget to return them. Upon being reminded, she would deny that she had ever borrowed anything. This continued until it became unbearable and the people complained to the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam), who decreed that her hand be cut off.

However, it became agonising for the Quraysh that her hand be severed whilst she was from one of their greatest tribes. They decided to speak to the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) in order to lighten the sentence by giving her another punishment, such as lashing or a fine, etc. Each time a person came to discuss with the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) about this issue, he returned unsuccessfully.

They decided that no one would dare to speak to the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) except Usamah bin Zayd, the most beloved person to the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) and the son of the most beloved to him, for both he and his father were brought up in the house of the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam), such that he considered them his sons. Thus, they spoke to Usamah.

Usamah came to the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam). The Prophet welcomed him and sat with him. Usamah began to speak to the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) about lightening the sentence. He argued that the woman was from the most noble of people. Usamah continued to speak as the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) listened, trying to convince the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) of his view.

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) looked at Usamah as he was discussing and debating with all conviction, not knowing that what he was asking for was actually not possible!

The Prophet’s complexion changed and he became angry. The first thing he did was to explain to him his error, saying “Are you interceding with me to violate one of the legal punishments of Allah?” He was explaining the reason behind his anger towards Usamah, and that none may intercede with regards to Allah’s legal punishments which He has obligated upon His servants to implement.

Usamah realised his mistake and immediately said to the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam), “Seek forgiveness for me, O Messenger of Allah!”

When the evening came, the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) stood up and addressed the people. He praised Allah as He should be praised and said, “To proceed, the people before you were only destroyed because when a noble person from amongst them stole, they left him, and when a weak person stole, they implemented the legal punishment on him. I swear by the One who has my soul in His Hand, if Fatimah the daughter of Muhammad were to steal, I would cut off her hand!”

He then ordered that the woman’s hand be cut off.

‘A’ishah – may Allah be pleased with her – said of this woman, “She sincerely repented thereafter and got married. She used to come to me and I would speak to the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) about her needs.” (al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Usamah bin Zayd – may Allah be pleased with him – had various moments with the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) and all of them are full of examples of mercy and gentle ways of dealing.

Usamah said, “The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) dispatched us to al-Huraqat, a sub-tribe of Juhaynah, so we defeated them and pursued them in their trails. A man from the Ansaar and I came across a man from amongst them. Upon seeing us, he hid behind a tree. When we caught up with him and raised a sword to strike him with, he said, ‘There is no one worthy of worship but Allah!’

“My colleague lowered his sword, but I thought the man was only saying it out of his fear of the sword. Thus, I attacked and killed him. But then, I felt uneasy about it in my heart. So I came to the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) and informed him of what had happened.

“He said to me, ‘He said, ‘There is no one worthy of worship but Allah,’ then you killed him?’

“I said, ‘He did not say it willingly. He only said it out of fear of our weapons’

“But the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) repeated his question, ‘Did he say, ‘There is no god worthy of worship but Allah,’ and you then killed him? Did you cut open his heart to know for certain that he only said it out of his fear of your weapons?!’’’

Usamah remained silent, for he obviously did not cut open his heart. But it was still in the battlefield, and the man he killed was, indeed, a warrior.

Still, the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) kept repeating the criticism, “Did he say ‘There is no god but Allah’, and then you killed him?”

“O Usamah! You killed a man after he had said, ‘There is no god but Allah!’ How would you deal with this testimony – ‘There is no god but Allah’ – on the Day of Resurrection?!”

“He continued to repeat himself until I wished I had only accepted Islam that day”, said Usamah. (al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Contemplate on how he gradually explained to him his fault, convinced him thereof, and then admonished and advised him. In order to convince the one you are advising, try to debate his thoughts and principles however much you can. Try to think from his view point.

Once, while the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) was sitting in his blessed gathering, surrounded by his immaculate Companions, there came a young man into the mosque and began to look right and left as if he was looking for someone. His eyes fell on the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) so he walked towards him.

It was assumed that the young man would sit in the circle and listen to Allah’s remembrance. But he did not. The man simply looked at the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) and the Companions around him, and said with all boldness, “O Messenger of Allah! Allow me to…” seek knowledge? No. This is not what he said. If only he had said that! Nor did he say, “Allow me to make Jihad”. If only he had said that.

Do you know what he said?

He said, “O Messenger of Allah! Allow me to fornicate.”

How astonishing! He asked such a question so frankly!

“Allow me to fornicate!”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) looked at the young man. Although, it was possible for him to admonish him by reciting Quranic verses, or advising him briefly with words that may move his heart, he chose to take a different route.

He said to him gently, “Would you like anyone to fornicate with your mother?”

The young man shook as he thought of someone fornicating with his mother and said, “No. I would never like that for my mother.”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) then said to him gently, “Likewise, the people would not like it for their mothers either.” He then asked him, “Would you like it for your sister?”

The young man was shaken again as he thought of his chaste sister fornicating and instantly said, “No. I would never like it for my sister.”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) replied, “Similarly, the people would not like it for their sisters.” He then asked him, “Would you like it for your paternal aunt? Would you like it for your maternal aunt?”

The young man kept saying, “No… No…”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) then said to him, “Then love for the people what you love for yourself, and dislike for the people what you dislike for yourself.”

The young man then realised he was wrong and said with all humility, “O Messenger of Allah! Pray to Allah to cleanse my heart!”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) then called him, and the young man walked towards him and sat down in front of him. The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) placed his hand on his chest and said, “O Allah! Guide his heart, forgive his sins, and guard his chastity.”

The young man then left saying, “By Allah, I went to the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) while fornication was the most beloved action to me. But as I left his company, fornication was the most hateful action to me.”

Also, take note of his tender treatment when he called him, placed his hand on his chest and prayed for him. He used all possible means to rectify the person he was dealing with. This was after convincing him of the repulsiveness of the action, so that when he abandoned the action, he did so out of his own conviction, and therefore never performed that evil action, either in his presence or absence.

If the wrongdoer realises the despicableness of his wrongdoing, he inevitably becomes convinced that he is in need of advice. He therefore becomes more receptive to, and more convinced of the advice being given.

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