Pain is often an instigator of change. Pain works as one method to break people out of their cycles or mindsets.
Look at the story of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him. In Mecca, before he became Muslim, he was one of the toughest on the Muslims.
One of his relatives, Umm Abdullah, prepared to leave for Habasha. He asked “where are you going?” and she said “To Habasha. I’m leaving Mecca because of the tightening you’ve put on us.” And he said “may you travel in peace.”
She was shocked. Remember, he (radiallahu ‘an) was one of THE TOUGHEST on the Muslims. So she told her relative “I think he’ll become Muslim” and his relative said “his donkey will become Muslim before hiim”. THat’s how tough he was against the Muslims.
His pain reached threshold–his own relatives leaving, families broken, and he didn’t want it to continue. He went to kill the Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم). On the way there, someone stopped him and said “your sister is Muslim, take care of your own family first.”
So he went to his sisters house, and heard her reciting. He slapped her, saw her bleeding, felt bad, calmed down, and asked if he could recite. He recited from Surah Taha. He went to the Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم).
Some of the companions with the Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) saw ‘Umar coming–one of the toughest, bravest, and fiercest warriors–and said “If he’s coming to kill you, we’ll kill him with his own sword.” And the Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) said “this is between me and him.”
When ‘Umar (radiallahu ‘an) approached, the Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) said “Hasn’t the time come for you to become Muslim ya ‘Umar.” And ‘Umar replied “I came for that reason. Ashudla ila ha illallah.”
If you use this technique for Islamic work, be very, very careful with it. Always make sure your intentions are 100% correct, and stick to your limits. And in general, brothers respond well to being dissed–they excell. Don’t try it on sisters. (In general, you can always try other techniques–like competing in good deeds.) Wallahu ‘alim.
Muhammad Alshareef. Lecture. AlMaghrib. Conquest: History of the Khulafa. University of Toronto, Toronto. November 2005.