Towards the end of his life, the holy Prophet had sent Hazrat M’uad as the Governor of Yemen, and while bidding him farewell in Madinah, he had given him a number of instructions which are mentioned, under various headings, in the compilations of the Traditions. In the above narrative, M’uad has spoken of the same occasion. What he means to convey is that as he was leaving for Yemen, to take up the assignment, the last thing the Prophet told him was to deal gently with its inhabitants.
It needs, however, be remembered that ‘good manners’ do not entail that even hardened criminals and habitual evil-doers who deserved to be dealt with severely – with no other way to reform them than through chastisement – were also to be treated with leniency. It would, on the contrary, amount to the neglect of one’s duty and lending encouragement to sinfulness and wrongdoing.
In any case, it is not against moral goodness, by any code of ethics, to be severe on criminals, of course, within the limits of justice and the God-given law.
Note: The Prophet had also told Hazrat M’uad at that time, thus: “It is quite possible that we do not meet again after this year. It may be that (when you return from Yemen), you will visit my mosque and my grave instead of visiting me.” Since it was not the custom of the Prophet to say such things, M’uad concluded that the death of the Prophet was probably near and he might not be able to see him again. Upon this realization, he began to cry. The Prophet then consoled him saying: “Much closer to me are people who fear God and observe piety, whoever and wherever they may be.” What the Prophet had said to M’uad turned out to be true, and, on his return from Yemen, M’uad did not see him, but his grave.