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On Self- Criticism

The Day I Felt Defeated (True Story)

If the value of humans does not lie in good conduct and nobleness, humans are of no value.

This is because education and wealth contribute nothing to one’s merit unless accompanied by exemplary manners. The very purpose of education is frustrated when it fails to equip knowledge-seekers with discipline and decency. And wealth, on the other hand, has no use if it brings chaos and anxiety in society.

In today’s world, humans have gone far in educating themselves and achieving material prosperity, yet they lag behind in moral values and nobler attitudes. In the context of the contemporary Muslim world, this is especially evident. Endless debates on why the Muslim Ummah is plagued with backwardness can perhaps be spared if the big culprit within ourselves is admitted, and corrected.

The catastrophe should not be denied, however embarrassing it might be. Many Muslims are fiery speakers in public but complete failures in private. They love to discuss big issues like Islamic politics, Shariah law, da’wah (call to Islam), etc, but their personal lives are full of turmoil because of unpleasant manners and bad habits.

Some on the other hand are purely corrupt, both in public and private. If we contemplate on the wisdom of Islamic teachings, the Prophet (peace be upon him) fourteen hundred years ago said;

Nothing will be heavier on the Day of Resurrection in the scale of the believer than good manners. God hates one who utters foul or coarse language.” [At-Tirmidhi].

“I guarantee a house in Jannah for one who gives up arguing, even if he is in the right; and I guarantee a home in the middle of Jannah for one who abandons lying even for the sake of fun; and I guarantee a house in the highest part of Jannah for one who has good manners.” [Abu Dawud].

“The dearest and nearest among you to me on the Day of Resurrection will be one who is the best of you in manners; and the most abhorrent among you to me and the farthest of you from me will be the pompous, the garrulous, and Al-Mutafaihiqun.” The Companions asked him: “O Messenger of God! We know about the pompous and the garrulous, but we do not know who Al-Mutafaihiqun are.” He replied: “The arrogant people.” [At-Tirmidhi].

In and Out

There are many more such prophetic hadiths which are surprisingly often overlooked or ignored by Muslims. They remain theoretical, with no place in real life. This phenomenon has caused many Muslims especially the young generation, deep frustration and made them turn away from Islam.

Besides giving up trying to remain righteous, some young Muslims go as far as migrating to a western country because they find life Islamically and morally impossible in their own lands.

Some adopt a different ideology and lifestyle after seeing no clear solution Muslims can offer. Rampant corruption, bribery, lack of common sense, and bad habits seen every day in many Muslim societies, in contrast with their western counterparts, give a wrong subliminal impression that manners are of no importance among many Muslims.

As long as Muslims are beset by this chronic disease, we are losing another battle, the moral one.  Forget about economic and political defeat we have been suffering for centuries, to be at least morally sound is no difficult task.

It only needs common sense. One does not need a PhD to understand that littering is bad, a shocking habit found in some Muslim countries. And one surely knows, without having to go to school, that driving recklessly and swearing on the road is unethical – another habit found among many Muslims. It is a big irony when a Muslim prays to God five times a day, fasts, and gives charity in His name but fails to show kindness, or maintain good relations with fellow humans.

And This is My Experience

I would like to share a very interesting experience I had, two years ago, which made me realize how important manners are; and how deep the impact could be. It was an ordinary afternoon and I was driving home half asleep, after completing a 36-hour non-stop on call duty in the hospital.

No surprise, I crashed into a four-wheel-drive in front of me, while trying to avoid a car. Right after smashing into it, I was speechless and motionless.

Frozen in the driver’s seat, I had no idea what to do, or what excuse to give. And I was more than sure that I would be horribly cursed, if not beaten. This was the most common and usual reaction of any driver in big cities. When a road traffic accident occurs, always expect the drivers to shout and swear at each other first before coming to the technical part. That is, if they are not dead.

Taking a deep breath, I dragged myself out of the car. My hands were trembling, for two reasons; first, I had not slept for more than twenty four hours and second, it was entirely my fault. Both our vehicles were badly damaged though I thanked God no one was injured.

A plump, stylish-looking woman with short hair and sunglasses came out and stared at me. I tried to avoid her eyes. Guilt and embarrassment never felt before attacked me.  I felt like crying.

  • Woman: I hope you were not talking on the phone or texting just now.
  • Me: No, no. I was falling asleep. I was so tired.
  • Woman:  Falling asleep? What happened? What do you do?

    I crashed into a four-wheel-drive in front of me, while trying to avoid a car. Right after smashing into it, I was speechless and motionless.

    I crashed into a four-wheel-drive in front of me, while trying to avoid a car. Right after smashing into it, I was speechless and motionless.

  • Me: I.. am.. really.. sorry. I’m a doctor. I just..
  • Woman: Did you just come back from a long night duty?
  • Me: Y..yes..
  • Woman: Oh, it must have been difficult. You must have had a bad day, didn’t you?
  • Me:  Yes
  • Woman: Okay now, please don’t feel bad. Is that your baby’s picture on your phone’s screen?
  • Me: Yes
  • Woman: You must miss her. Go home, take a shower and spend time with her. Come and let me give you a hug.

At that point I burst into uncontrollable tears. We hugged tight and I cried on her shoulder like a baby. Never in my life had I received so much compassion and understanding from a complete stranger.

She gave me her visiting card. She was from Denmark and had come to Kuala Lumpur for a conference. She was not a Muslim, but she had acted more Muslim than any other Muslim I had known in my life. I smashed her car and she hugged me in return. I learnt how to be a Muslim that day.

The incident took me into a long and deep contemplation.  Someone who never believed in the Qur’an brought me to analyze these verses:

“Those who patiently persevere, seeking the countenance of their Lord; establish regular prayers; spend out of (the gifts) We have bestowed for their sustenance, secretly and openly; and turn off evil with good: for such there is the final attainment of the (Eternal) Home.”( 13:22)

“Repel evil with that which is best: We are well-acquainted with the things they say.”( 23:96)

“Twice will they be given their reward, for that they have persevered, that they avert evil with good, and that they spend (in charity) out of what We have given them.”( 28:54)

“The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God: for (God) Loves not those who do wrong.”( 42:40)

Had all Muslims shown such high morality, we would surely not be in the current impoverished condition.

Islam would stand supreme, for knowledge wins the mind but attitude wins the heart. I am writing this merely as a reminder to myself, and lesson for others.

If I were in that Danish woman’s shoe, perhaps I would not have been able to act so graciously. Who knows, I might have shouted and sworn.

The incident was highly significant to me, for I was taught how to be a Muslim by someone who did not believe in Islam. It was the day I felt defeated.


About Raudah Mohd Yunus
Raudah Mohd Yunus is a researcher, writer and social activist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Her research interests include aging, elder abuse, human trafficking and refugees health. She is the editor of two books; ‘Tales of Mothers: Of courage and love’ and ‘Displaced and Forgotten: Memoirs of refugees.’