The following is a summarized transcription of Shaykh Husain Abdul Sattar's December 2, 2011 talk - FROM MISTAKES COME OPPORTUNITIES.
Allah Ta'aala provides us with opportunities in the deen and one of the things that we have to appreciate is that every opportunity generally comes at the cost of another person or the cost of another circumstance; this is something that is very subtle.
One very, very special things that a believer can do is to overlook the mistakes of another person. In fact, not only to overlook those mistakes but to conceal those mistakes.
We know from many ahadeeth that the Prophet encouraged us to overlook the mistakes and shortcomings of others and in other ahadeeth the Prophet encouraged us to hide the mistakes of other believers.
If you are going to overlook the shortcomings of another person and you are going to hide the mistakes of another person - the only way you can do that is if there is a person that makes a mistake.
How can it be that you are going to hide the shortcoming of a person without there being a shortcoming in that person? So, the opportunity for us to forgive and the opportunity for us to conceal the mistakes of others requires that somebody be there to make a mistake otherwise that circumstance wouldn't arise.
Many opportunities within our deen arise because of a circumstance in which another person has to undergo some difficulty.
Example 1: A person came to me, very upset, said that they need to talk about a situation where they have been giving zakat to the same person for many years; however, the person they give zakat to doesn't manage their money well.
I looked at the person and said: "That's exactly why you should give them zakat... if he managed money the way you manage money, then he wouldn't be in a situation that he needed zakat. If everybody was as smart as you, then there would be nobody in the world that needed zakat because if he was so smart and good at managing his money then there wouldn't be a need to give him zakat - he would be careful. The whole point is that the people who need zakat are in some hardship because they can't control what's going on around them or they are the types of people who don't know how to manage their money and that's why they need the zakat or sadaqah or whatever it might be."
So, a lot of times, the opportunities that are provided for us don't exist until there is another person that is going to make a mistake on the other end.
Example 2: At the time of Rasulullah (s.a.w), there was a woman who committed zina. She came to Rasulullah and explained that she had committed zina. The Prophet didn't even want to hear it - he turned away. Then she explained it again - he turned away. She explained it again - he turned away. Until finally he was forced to listen to what she was saying and she wanted to be punished because she felt very guilty and she felt that the only way to redeem herself would be to accept the punishment of the shariah.
In this case, the punishment of the shariah happened to be stoning. So, when it came time for this to occur, the whole community gathered and the punishment was delivered.
While the punishment was being delivered, either the blood or something from the woman landed near one of the people who was applying the punishment. That person made the comment that "this is very disgusting" - he wanted to keep himself far from it because he saw it as something impure. The Prophet explained that this woman's tawbah is so powerful that were it to be distributed among the entire community, it would suffice every individual. That's how powerful her tawbah was.
Now, sahaba gained a great lesson from that because they learned and we learned (because this is embedded in hadeeth and is read until the Day of Judgment) the power of Allah Ta'aala's ability to forgive. If a person comes with repentance, even such an extreme deed can be forgiven.
Now, we all took benefit from that circumstance and the companions took benefit from that circumstance because they learned a mechanism of tawbah for a particular circumstance.
Our benefit came at a cost. It came at a cost to that particular individual who happened to fall into that circumstance and then sought Allah Ta'aala's tawbah.
In fact, it is a very interesting principle within our scholars that the sahabah, generally speaking, were mahfoo, meaning they were protected from mistakes. Another part of that principle is that they had the ability to make mistakes but, when they made a mistake, they immediately sought to repent for that mistake.
Ulema explain that the mistakes of the sahabah occurred in a certain manner only to teach the community how to remove themselves from that circumstance. So, the mistakes of the sahabah were generated in order to teach the community how to absolve themselves from the mistakes that they would make in the future. The cost came to who? The cost came to the sahabah. The benefit came to who? The benefit came to the remainder of the community.
This type of circumstance always exists.
Example 3: When a mother's child dies, there is a huge reward in going and giving your condolences to that individual - very big reward to support that individual.
Now, that opportunity to go and give condolences and earn an immense reward comes at a price. At who's price? It comes at the price on the other end which is: that person had to lose a child. Until that person can lose a child, the circumstance is not created for the whole community.
Generally speaking then, our opportunities, when they arise, come at the cost of something else.
Lesson: When we see that someone makes a mistake, we shouldn't look down upon that person - we should see it as an opportunity for ourselves.
For example, if there is an individual in need and they need zakat, then we should see it as an opportunity rather than looking down on that person. Because, there has to be someone who needs zakat and they have to be in a circumstance of poverty otherwise, where would zakat be distributed?
Its not that we need to now blame them and somehow claim that if they were as good as I then the circumstance would not exist. We should take advantage of those circumstances and we should be thankful that Allah Ta'aala has created the imbalances that create opportunities for us and we should ask Allah Ta'aala that we always be the ones that have the upper hand.
You know the famous hadeeth: the upper hand is better than the lower hand. Meaning, if there are 2 circumstances and one person is deprived and another person is in excess, it is always better to be the one with the upper hand.
If somebody wrongs you, it is always better to be the one that forgives. Its always better to be the one that is on top. Of course, such a circumstance can't exist unless there is someone beneath.
So, if we see someone make a mistake, its not an excuse to go and somehow criticize that individual. Instead, it is an opportunity for us to forgive and to conceal. Why? Because then, on the Day of Judgment, if we forgive and conceal today, then the hope is that Allah Ta'aala will forgive and conceal another day - which is when we stand before Allah Ta'aala and our sins are revealed.
The greater the circumstance of forgiving and concealing, the better it is. Sometimes it is easy if there is some small person in a corner and nobody knows them and they make a mistake - to forgive and conceal. But, sometimes there is a big person in the community who everybody knows and then that's the time that everybody wants to speak but that's the exact circumstance - when there is a tremendous drive in human beings to actually go and expose something - that's the exact circumstance to maximize on that opportunity.
Similarly, there is somebody in need and we want to expose what they're doing or expose them because they're not as perfect as we are but that's just the nature of the person.
Now, if there is a person that is purposely a crook and they're stealing from the community - that's a different story - I'm not talking about that.
However, there are some very naive people they don't know how to balance their budget, they don't know when to spend and when not to spend, they get caught up like the rest of the community - especially the community out here running from store-to-store after sale-after-sale, buying things that they don't need. That's what the vast majority of the people do in this society.
The point is that, that is human nature. They are being taken advantage of by this monster advertising and this whole creation of these types of holidays and sales and these types of things but that's human nature - there's nothing we can do about that except to advise people.
So, we shouldn't look down upon the circumstances that create opportunities for us. We should be very careful and we should be very quiet about it. And we should think to ourselves: " if today I'm thinking that I gave this person 'x' amount of money and they're mismanaging it, then what's going to happen on the Day of Judgment when Allah Ta'aala takes me to account for my whole salary and asks me if I managed it properly or if I mismanage it?" Don't you think that its going to just be a big list of mismanagement? We're all mismanaging. We're all big mismanagers: we spend on things we don't need; We create goals and aspirations in this life that don't mean anything; and, we fail to invest for ourselves in the hereafter. We're all mismanaging. So, if we don't forgive the one who mismanages today, then how can we expect to be forgiven for our mismanagement on that day when we stand before our Lord?
We should enter these circumstances with humility.
Example 4: a brother was complaining that somebody threw something in the street and it was disturbing the people that were trying to cross the street. While it is true that people shouldn't throw things in the street and create problems for others, at the same time, we know from hadeeth that one of the branches of imaan is removing something from the street that causes a disturbance to other people. How is that thing going to end up there? Somebody has to have put it there. Yes, on occasion, a tree will break and a branch will fall on the street but the vast majority of the time, when there is something in the way, it means that somebody must have put it there. If there is a bunch of cans in front of the masjid door, then somebody must have left those cans there. So, if somebody leaves them there, that's the only way for the opportunity will arise for us to pick them up and earn a reward of fulfilling that sunnah - a branch of our deen.
Almost every circumstance arises because somebody else is going to do something wrong. The whole ability of us to guide others to good is because there is evil. If there wasn't shaytaan misguiding people, then the opportunity for us to guide people to something else wouldn't be there.
That's the way Allah Ta'aala created creation - that's the balance.
Its not an opportunity for us to say "look at how dirty these people are - they left their cans in front of the masjid door." That's not the opportunity. The opportunity is to pick it up and to say:
This is the attitude of the believer. Its not going to arise unless there is an imbalance in our deeds. So again, we're not people that look down upon others; we are people that seek opportunities and recognize that they must have been created by the mistake of another person - and its OK. In fact, we make mistakes all the time.
May Allah Ta'aala give us the tawfeeq to be among those who take advantage of such opportunities and may He make us among those who convert those opportunities as mechanisms to obtain forgiveness for our own mistakes in the hereafter and in this life. Ameen.