The one who is an example is warned by Allah from acting contrary to his speech
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لِمَ تَقُولُونَ مَا لا تَفْعَلُونَ كَبُرَ مَقْتاً عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَنْ تَقُولُوا مَا لا تَفْعَلُونَ – الصف:2-3
“O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is with Allah that you say that which you do not do.” Parents must always be careful to behave well and follow right-guidance, especially in front of children. That is because children see the contradictions and notice how principles are broken by their elders and parents, “They tell me to do something and do the opposite themselves. So what kind of example are they?” Ibn Al-Jawzi (رحمه الله) said in his book, Talbees Iblees, “How can the advice of a person to another be correct when he does not take the advice himself?”
Take the example in this hadeeth:
عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَامِرٍ أَنَّهُ قَالَ دَعَتْنِي أُمِّي يَوْمًا وَرَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَاعِدٌ فِي بَيْتِنَا فَقَالَتْ هَا تَعَالَ أُعْطِيكَ . فَقَالَ لَهَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ” وَمَا أَرَدْتِ أَنْ تُعْطِيهِ ” . قَالَتْ أُعْطِيهِ تَمْرًا . فَقَالَ لَهَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ” أَمَا إِنَّكِ لَوْ لَمْ تُعْطِيهِ شَيْئًا كُتِبَتْ عَلَيْكِ كِذْبَةٌ ”
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Āmir narrated: My mother called me one day when the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was sitting in our house. She said to me: “Come here, and I will give you something (in reward).” The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) asked her: “What did you intend to give him?” She replied: “I intended to give him some dates.” The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “If you were not to give him anything, a lie would be recorded against you.” (Abu Dawood, no. 4991, declared hasan by Al-Albāni) This prohibition contains a warning from setting a poor example to one’s children; that a parent promises something to her child, and then does not give what she promised. A child may grow up thinking that lying or deception is acceptable behaviour in the adult world.
Young Muslims should be taught very early on that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) is the most beautiful example to be followed. And even if adults make mistakes, then that can happen as we are human, and Allah “created humans with weaknesses”. So we try and rectify ourselves, move on and avoid repeating mistakes. However, the standard that we measure people by, and we aim for ourselves, is the character of Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم), as he said in an authentic hadeeth to a man who had his garments below his ankles, “Do you not have in Allah’s Messenger a fine example.” (Shamā’il of At-Tirmidhi). After the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) the ones we emulate first and foremost are Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, as the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) stated:
اقْتَدُوا بِاللَّذَيْنِ مِنْ بَعْدِي أَبِي بَكْرٍ وَعُمَرَ
“You should follow these two after me: Abu Bakr and ‘Umar.” (Tirmidhi, 3662. Authenticated by Ibn Hibbān, 6902, and Al-Albāni) He said this because they were the best two men who walked the earth after the Prophets. Then after these two, Uthmān and ‘Alī, and then the rest of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all). The Messenger left for us, examples to be followed after him such as righteous scholars who follow the Sunnah and those who are steadfast upon the Deen.