The Prophetic Approach
Muhammad Abbas Attari Madani, Book Translation Department (Madinah al-Ilmiyyah)
With the arrival of Allah’s Messenger صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, the entire universe was bathed in the brilliance of his light. He liberated humanity from the darkness of disbelief and ushered them towards the illuminating path of Islam and the sunnah. When he found people ensnared in the quagmire of sin, the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم rescued them from this plight with wisdom.
One of the central goals behind his arrival in this world was to improve the human condition, steer humanity towards morality, and bring out the best in every individual. In a time when disbelief, misguidance, immorality, and evil practices were widespread, Allah sent him as a guiding light. He addressed the religious needs of humanity, leading them to the truth, correcting their misdeeds, perfecting their values and ethics, and teaching them good character through his own exemplary conduct.
Allah granted the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم immaculate wisdom, and ordained for him to spread Islam and reform humankind in the most percipient of manners.
اُدۡعُ اِلٰی سَبِیۡلِ رَبِّکَ بِالۡحِکۡمَۃِ وَ الۡمَوۡعِظَۃِ الۡحَسَنَۃِ
Call towards the path of your Lord with sound planning and good advice. 
Allah’s Messenger صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم carried out this divine command to perfection and exhibited the greatest level of wisdom in delivering the message of Islam to non-Muslims. Simultaneously, his wisdom in teaching Muslims correct beliefs and actions was unmatched.
Here are some incidents in which the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم guided and reformed Muslims, with his unique prophetic characteristics.
1. Gently correcting those who did not know
As the Quran was being revealed, so too were divine legislations. People would sometimes err accidently due to being unaware, yet the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم would correct them gently. MuꜤāwiya b. Ḥakam رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ narrates:
I was praying behind the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم when a person sneezed. I replied with, “yarḥamukallāh.” People cast their gazes at me, and I spoke again by asking why they looked upon me. They began to strike their thighs with their hands in a bid to silence me, so I fell silent.
After salah, the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم summoned me. May my mother and father be ransom upon him! I have not seen anybody who taught others in a more excellent fashion. He did not strike or insult me, but instead explained, “This salah; it is not appropriate for anything of human speech to be in it. It is for tasbīḥ, takbīr, and the Quran.”
2. Rectifying people without singling them out
Mentioning an individual without singling them out can be found throughout the Quran. For example:
وَ مِنۡہُمۡ مَّنۡ اِنۡ تَاۡمَنۡہُ بِدِیۡنَارٍ لَّا یُؤَدِّہٖۤ اِلَیۡکَ اِلَّا مَادُمۡتَ عَلَیۡہِ قَآئِمًا ؕ
“Amongst them is the one who, if you entrust him with ˹just˺ one dinar (i.e., a gold coin), so he will not return it to you unless you stand over him (i.e., keep demanding) constantly.”
Another beautiful practice of our Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم was to correct mistakes without mentioning the person who had committed it. This approach allows for the individual to be reformed, the mistake to be corrected, and the person themselves left free from any bad feelings.
As narrated by Lady ꜤĀisha رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْهَا, when news of somebody would reach the Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, he would not say, “You did such and such!” He would say, “What is the matter with people who say such and such?”
The Companion Anas رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ states:
From three Companions ˹who had gathered˺, one of them said, “I will offer salah all night, every night.” The second said, “I will perpetually fast and never stop.” The third added, “I will stay away from women and never marry.”
The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم came to them and said, “Are you those who said such and such? Come to know that by Allah, I am more fearful and mindful of Him than you all. Yet I fast, and ˹sometimes˺ I do not. I offer salah, yet I do sleep. I also marry women. So, he who turned from my sunnah is not from me.”
3. Correcting misconceptions
Misconceptions sometimes arise, due to accidental mistakes or lapses in judgement. When these are uprooted, a person then rectifies himself.
Our Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم had a remarkable ability to address misconceptions and dispel them with eloquence. On one occasion, he appointed someone to collect charity. They returned and said, “That much is for you, and this much has been gifted to me.”
The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم ascended his pulpit. After praising and glorifying Allah, he announced:
What is the matter with an appointed individual who returns to say, “That is yours and this is mine”? He should stay in his parent’s home and see if he is gifted anything. By He Who has power over my soul! Such a person will come forth on the Day of Judgement whilst carrying that thing upon his neck. It shall be bellowing if it is a camel, mooing if it is a cow or bleating if it is a goat.
Commenting on this hadith, Muftī Aḥmad Yār Khān Naʿīmī writes, “This was not actually a gift but bribery instead, as through this, the person eligible to pay zakat would later seek to reduce the amount of zakat he had to pay.”
4. Rectification through examples and wisdom
The Quran utilises examples to explain matters on many an occasion, and the character of our Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم was the Quran. Every action of his is an explanation of the Quran, and one sacred practice of his was to rectify people via wise examples.
A young man once came to him and said, “O Messenger of Allah! Do you permit me to commit adultery?” The Companions began to rebuke the young man, but the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم stopped them, instructed him to draw closer, and asked, “Would you like it if an individual committed adultery with your mother?” The young man said he would not. “People also dislike this for their mothers”, the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم continued.
He further asked, “Would you like it if an individual committed adultery with your daughter?” The young man replied in the negative again. “People also dislike this for their daughters.” He then asked, “Would you like it if an individual committed adultery with your sister?” The young man said no yet again. “People also dislike this for their sisters.”
The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم asked similar questions regarding paternal and maternal aunts. He then beautifully advised, “Dislike for others what you dislike for yourself, and prefer for others what you prefer for yourself.” The young man exclaimed, “Dear Messenger of Allah! Pray to Allah and ask Him to purify my heart.” The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم placed his blessed hand on the young man’s chest and made duʿā as such: “O Allah! Forgive his sins, purify his heart, and protect his chastity.” Thereafter, the young man never had any inclination towards such things again.
5. Reforming word choice
In Islam, words hold great significance, just as intentions do. Alongside rectifying the intentions and actions of people, the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم guided them in how to speak and how to choose their words wisely. As narrated by Lady ꜤĀisha رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْهَا, Allah’s Messenger صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, “None of you should say, ‘My soul has become evil (khabīth).’ Say, ‘My soul is worried’, instead.”
Muftī Aḥmad Yār Khān NaꜤīmī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه explains this in the following manner:
Khubth (corruption/impurity) is also used to mean deviant beliefs. Disbelief and secularism are both khabāthah (atrocities; impurities) by extension. Do not use this word for yourself, as its one connotation then implies you are calling yourself a disbeliever or secularist.”
Lady ꜤĀisha رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْهَا narrates how some Jews came to the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم and disrespectfully said, اَلسَّامُ عَلَیْکُمْ - “May death be upon you.” He replied by saying, “May it be upon you.” Lady ꜤĀisha رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْهَا responded with:
عَلَيْكُمْ، وَلَعَنَكُمُ اللَّهُ، وَغَضِبَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ
May death be upon you, and the curse and wrath of Allah.
The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, “Be calm, ꜤĀisha! Be gentle. Refrain from harshness and untoward speech.” Lady ꜤĀisha رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْهَا asked, “Did your honourable self not hear what they said?” He replied, “Did you not hear what I declared? I returned to them what they said to me. My words were accepted, but their comments about me were not.”
6. Implied and subtle wording
The blessed life of the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم also teaches us that direct wording cannot be used in every scenario, and at times, the use of implicit wording bears far more efficacy. Just as The Companion Ḥakīm b. Ḥizām رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ relates:
I asked for something from the Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, and he granted me what I sought. I asked again, and was given more. I asked yet again, and was again given more. He then declared, “Ḥakīm! This wealth is a fresh garden which appears delightful. He who takes from it without a covetous heart will have blessings in this wealth, and he who takes from it with carnal greed will have no blessings, and shall be akin to someone who eats but is never full. The hand above is better than the hand below.”
Ḥakīm b. Ḥizām رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ said, “O Messenger of Allah! By He who sent you with the truth, I will not ask anyone besides you for anything, until I leave the world!” So when the first Caliph of Islam, Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ wished to give him some wealth, he would always decline it. He did the same when offered wealth by the second Caliph of Islam, ꜤUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ.
7. Rectification with foresight
The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم is the fountain of wisdom. He himself announced:
اَنَا دَارُ الْحِکْمَۃِ
I am the house of wisdom.
Each of his words and actions was brimming with profound wisdom. Additionally, his foresight played a vital role in rectifying and enhancing the well-being of others. The Companion Anas رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ narrates how the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم had a camel driver named Anjasha رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ, who possessed a melodious voice and would sing to camels to move them along. The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم once said “Anjashah! Refrain! Do not break fragile glass.” Qatāda رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ explained the latter refers to women whose hearts are easily influenced.
Women were accompanying the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم on this journey. Their hearts were tender and delicate, susceptible to emotions and easily moved by a melodious voice. That is why Anjasha رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ was instructed to stop singing, in order to safeguard them from any potential avenues that could lead to wrongdoing. This refers to all women who were to come until the Day of Judgement, and not those present during this incident, as the female Companions never indulged in immorality or open sin.
This establishes how men should not sing to women and vice versa, as this leads to “love” and corruption in society.
8. Rectifying people according to their rank
People should be dealt with in accordance with their rank and standing. The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم instructed us:
اَنْزِلُوْا النَّاسَ مَنَازِلَہُمْ
Treat people according to their status.
Not everyone is treated in the same manner. For example, asides from hudud crimes, we have been instructed to pardon people of standing. In a hadith: “Forgive the lapses of the honourable, save from the hudud.”
Sayyids, scholars, and honourable people will be granted the lightest discretionary punishment, which is for the judge to say to them, “Did you do such and such?” Simply saying this much to such people is enough for them to rectify their ways.
Our Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم also rectified people in accordance to their status. The Companion Abu MasꜤūd al- Anṣarī رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ mentions the following:
I was physically reprimanding my servant when I heard a voice behind me saying, “Abū MasꜤūd! Remember, Allah has more power over you than you have over this slave.” I turned to find it was none other than Allah’s Messenger صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. I said, “Dear Messenger of Allah! He is free for the sake of Allah.” He said, “If you did not do this, the Fire would burn you,” or he said, “The Fire would reach you.”
A similar incident occurred with the greatest human after the prophets, the first Caliph of Islam, Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ. The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم amended his actions subtly and gently.
Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ was physically rebuking his servant due to a mistake on the latter’s part. The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم saw this and said, “Look at what this one in ihram is doing!”
Islamic law did allow a master to penalise their servant.  However, we learn from the subtlety in these words of the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم that avoiding this is better.
9. Rectification through highlighting the wrongdoing
A person only repents and avoids a wrongdoing when he has knowledge of it. One approach of the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم was to rectify others by highlighting their misgivings. Lady ꜤĀishah رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْهَا mentions, “A woman of short stature came whilst the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم was seated. I indicated with my thumb to him (that this is a short woman) and he said, “You have committed backbiting against her.”
10. Rectifying false beliefs
The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم would also rectify the incorrect beliefs and ideas of people. For example, in the Age of Ignorance people would say solar and lunar eclipses occur due to the death of an esteemed individual. When the Prophet’s beloved son, Ibrāhīm رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ left this world, a solar eclipse occurred and people began to say, “The sun has become eclipsed due to the passing away of Ibrāhīm.”
The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم explained to them, “The sun and moon do not become eclipsed due to someone’s life or death. The sun and moon are two signs from the signs of Allah. Whenever you observe an eclipse, offer salah and supplicate to Him.”
The entire life of our Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم is a light of rectification and guidance. Throughout it, he guided people in their religion, beliefs, views, actions, and characters. His noble life is a source of wisdom for the guidance of mankind and rectification of the ummah. Just a few facets of his profound wisdom have been mentioned here.
We make duʿā to Allah that He grants us the ability to truly follow in the footsteps of His final Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم.
اٰمِیْن بِجَاہِ خاتَمِ النَّبِیّیْن صلَّی اللہ علیہ واٰلہٖ وسلَّم
 Al-Quran, 16:125, Translation from Kanz al-Īmān
 Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, hadith 1199
 Al-Quran, 3:75, Translation from Kanz al-Īmān
 Akhlāq al-Nabi, p. 41, hadith 152
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri, hadith 5063
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri: 7174
 Mirāt al-Manājīḥ, vol. 3, p. 13
 Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim: 1739
 Musnad al-Shāmiyyīn, hadith 1066
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri, hadith 6179
 Mirāt al-Manājīḥ, vol. 6, p. 414
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri: 6030; Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, hadith 5658
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri: 1472
 Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhi: 3744
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri: 6211
 Mirāt al-Manājīḥ, vol. 6, p. 443
 Sunan Abī Dāwūd: 4842
 Sunan Abī Dāwūd: 4375
 Bahār-i-Sharīʿat, vol. 2, p. 404, part 9
 Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim: 4308
 Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Khuzaima: 2679
 Bahār-i-Sharīʿat, vol. 2, p. 403, part 9
 Tafsīr ibn Kathīr, al-Baqarah, under verse no: 197, vol. 1, p. 107
 Shuʿab al-Īmān: 6730
 Sunan al-Nasāi: 1487
 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri: 1043