Bang! Tears were rolling down her cheeks as she slammed the door of communication and walked out of the room.
“Don’t they see this is wrong?” Amelia thought. After an argument with her dad, she felt so guilty. All she wanted was to bring him closer to God, instead, she had pushed him farther away.
As reverts and born Muslims alike, we are tested daily in our relationships with others. How can we find a way to communicate that is directly linked to our bond with Allah, the Most High?
Oftentimes, we seem to know better and forget even the simplest etiquette of communicating with others. Was Amelia winning the point? Had she failed at getting her point across?
For a good reason, it is said: “If you try to win the battle, you might lose the war.”
One of Allah the Almighty’s beautiful instructions to Muslims is to:
Invite (all) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and kind advice, and only debate with them in ways that are best and most gracious. (Quran, 16:125)
What are we doing when we argue? Each person is trying to change the opinion of the other, but in reality, the only individual we can change is ourselves.
Reflect for a moment. How many times have you expected others to see the world through your eyes? And how many times were they able to do so?
More often than not, people just don’t see things from our perspective, and we end up hurt by our expectations.
Another question: Did you really ‘win’ if your victory depends on the other person’s defeat?
What is the ideal way to communicate that would, in turn, please our Creator and better serve our relationships?
What’s More Important: Being Kind or Being Right?
Here is an action plan based on the advice of Allah, the Most High, on how to invite others and how to ‘argue’.
1. Be Wise (Use Hikmah)
Count to ten and ask yourself: What is my goal? Whatever I am going to say, will it draw that person closer to the truth?
2. Avoid Being Harsh and Speak Gently
We all know how gentle the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was with others, and how even his enemies could not deny this. Did you ever beg Allah, the Most High, to have such manners? Supplicate to Allah, the Almighty daily to help you to be a good communicator.
3. In Times of Disagreement, Try Your Best to Be Kind
Allah, the Most High, says: “Debate with them in ways that are ‘ahsan’”, which is the superlative of ‘hasan’ which means good. Supplicate for ‘ihsan’ (excellence) in dealing with your daily debates or arguments.
Instead of always trying to ‘win’ arguments, ask yourself, would you want people to feel judged, or that you care for them?
If you choose to be addressed as “Mr.” or “Mrs.”, rather than by your given name, know that it is likely to make people feel uneasy or tense when they’re around you. Is it worth it?
Focus – it is your responsibility as a believer when inviting others to the way of Allah the Almighty. It will be hard to fulfill if those you are addressing have closed themselves off to you.
Being kind is more important than being right.
Who is the Person in the Mirror?
In another verse, Allah the Most High, says:
Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining Al-Ma’ruf (monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (polytheism and disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden). And it is they who are the successful. (Quran, 3:104)
Firstly, internalize that inviting those who don’t believe in the way of Allah the Almighty, is a personal duty, instructed by your Lord. This means it should be a part of your daily life, one way or another. Remember, kindness is the key.
Secondly, internalize that another duty incumbent upon us as Muslims is to inspire those who already believe to continue on the straight path. And there are actual etiquettes for doing so. Shouting at someone that something is haram is not proper etiquette in communication.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used a beautiful metaphor to advise us:
A believer is the mirror of his brother. When he sees a fault in it, he should correct it. (Al Adab Al Mufrad)
Each one of us is like a mirror to one another and we should protect one another’s rights, whether they are present or absent.
So How Can You be Like a Mirror to Others?
1. Don’t Point Out and Look for the Weaknesses of Others
A mirror reflects the truth and doesn’t seek defects. A mirror doesn’t magnify or diminish any features. Sometimes we feel better by bringing others down. Ask Allah, the Most High, to protect you from disparaging actions.
2. Don’t Criticize Someone in Their Absence
Can a mirror reflect someone who isn’t there? No. It’s not upon a believer to criticize others while they are not present to defend themselves or explain their side.
Tip: Do you know there is an actual dua’ to make for someone you insulted? The Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) said:
Allahumma fa-ayyuhuma mu’min sababtuhu, fa-j’al dhâlika lahu qurbatan ilayka yawma-l-qiyâmati. (O Allah, to any believer whom I have insulted, let that be a cause to draw him near You on the Day of Resurrection.) (Al Bukhari, Muslim)
3. If You Do Criticize, Do it for the Sake of Allah
Before criticizing something or someone, ask yourself: what is my motive? Is it to make myself or someone else look better? Is it for worldly gain? Beware of ulterior motives (it’s so easy to fall into Shaytan’s trap, justifying the way we criticize others).
Remember, a mirror does not entertain any revenge or grudge.
4. Criticize Sincerely, From Genuine Concern and Love
When you only advise someone because you are concerned about their ultimate accountability in the Hereafter, most bitterness caused by criticism is removed. Ask Allah, the Most High, to help you use wisdom and kindness to balance when criticism is needed and how to convey it.
O Allah, make us of those who call others to and advise others on Your way and aid us with communication skills that are most pleasing to You.