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Bullying, Islam and Everything In-Between: Practical Tips

Sarah Sultan, LMHC

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In part one of this short series, we discussed the definition of, ways of identifying, and the effects of bullying.  Here, we will move on to practical tips and possible solutions to assist our children and ourselves in coping with this vice.

 Helping the Oppressor (Bully):

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught us the importance of offering assistance to both those who are being oppressed and those who are the oppressors by ending the cycle of abuse.  In the case of both the victims and the bullies, it is important to acknowledge that anger is a natural emotion and to help the oppressor to use healthy ways to express this anger.

We often worry what we will do if our child is being bullied, but what if  it is our child who is the one doing the bullying?  Here are some ways in which you can help:

  1. Empower your child inside the home by giving him/her choices (i.e. “What do you want for dinner tonight?”  “Let’s plan the annual family trip together.”).  When a child feels empowered by the adults in her life, she won’t seek to overpower her peers through bullying and intimidation.
  2. Get more involved in your child’s life and show genuine interest in what your child does and says.  This makes a child feel important and less likely to seek attention through aggressive means.
  3. Firm limits are imperative for objectionable behaviors; ensure that you are consistent in enforcing consequences for misbehavior.  For example, if your child hits his brother often, set a limit: “If you choose to hit your brother, you choose not to play with the PlayStation over the weekend.  If you choose to play nicely with you brother, you choose to play with the PlayStation over the weekend.”  By phrasing the limit in this way, your child understands that he is in control of his actions and, therefore, the consequences.
  4. Be sure to act as a positive role model for your child.  If your child overhears you    gossiping about a friend over the phone, she  may take this as a green light to start cruel rumors about others in her class at school.  If you physically punish your child for misbehavior, he may view physical harshness as the way to show his power over his classmates.
  5. Teach your children how to express their emotions in non-physical and healthy ways; allow yourself to be a nonjudgmental, understanding presence in whom they can always confide.  Encourage open communication to discuss emotions asking questions like, “Was there a time that you felt angry/ jealous/ competitive/ mean/ frustrated/etc.?”  Help your child to own up to her feelings rather than bottling them up inside and suppressing them; emotions will come out one way or another so we need to try our best to equip our children with healthy methods of self-expression.

Helping the Oppressed (Victim of Bullying):

And now some tips on what to do when it is your child who is the victim of bullying:

  1. The best thing, by far, that you can do for a child who is being bullied is to be an active listener.  It is amazing how healing a listening ear can be.  Each day, ask how school went, hold your child when she cries, and talk things out.  This might not seem like much but it is vital to the healing process.
  1. Allow your home to be a refuge and a sanctuary for your children.  Make it a place where they can be filled with love, support and have a feeling of self-worth.
  1. Talk to siblings about what they can do to help.  Your children might not know what to anticipate in their classrooms from day-to-day but they should be able to expect peace and calmness when they enter your home.  Having a stable foundation to return to on a daily basis can mean the difference between a child being able to handle a bully versus feeling completely unequipped.
  1. Be sure to have a family dinner at least once a week; they provide an excellent time to talk together and encourage dialogue.  I remember my mother insisting that everyone eat at the kitchen table every single day at 6 pm.  It made such a huge difference to know that I would have a venue to express myself each day.
  2. Pay close attention to the way you react in front of your child when he speaks to you about being bullied.  If you begin to weep uncontrollably, you have reversed roles and instead of comforting your child, you are the one who needs to be taken care of.  This may even stop your child from confiding in you since he may worry that it is too overwhelming for you to bear.  Simply respond in a loving way but don’t make your child’s battle into your battle; allow your child a sense of autonomy and empowerment by helping her to find ways to deal with it on her own.  Here, role playing exercises can be very helpful.  Engage with your child by pretending to be the bully and brainstorming responses together.

Find out who is bullying your child, how long this has been going on, how the bullying manifests itself and whether the teacher knows this is happening.  Come up with a plan with your child including strategies she can use.

  • Move seat or switch classes, you may even go as far as switching schools.  This might seem extreme but your child’s psychological and emotional health, as well as self-esteem is on the line.
  • Stay with a friend or group of friends during recess, at the bus stop, in the cafeteria or wherever bullying is apt to happen.
  • Bullying is no longer limited to face-to-face interactions.  If cyber bullying is occurring, get off of Facebook and other social networks or at least block the people who are bullying her.
  • Come up with a safety plan for your child.  A good one can be found here.

Enduring bullying is an incredibly humiliating experience for a child.  She may be afraid that you will be disappointed, that you won’t understand her experiences, that you might worry too much, or even that you might side with the bully.  It is imperative to show your child that you are nonjudgmental and to allow him/her to come to you with anything that happens at school.  Ask questions that can lead your child to open up.  Introducing these questions in the third person makes them less personal and may allow your child to feel better equipped to discuss them.

  • When a boy wants to be mean, what does he do?
  • When a girl wants to be mean, what does she do?
  • Does the teacher notice?  What does she do?
  • Do people ever start rumors?
  • Can friends be mean to each other?  How?

Bullying can have a devastating effect on a child’s self-esteem, social skills and ability to trust others.  Here are some ways to counteract this negativity:

  • Encourage your child to join groups/clubs/teams inside and outside of school.  Make sure that these are places where contributions are valued and where other members are disconnected from the bullying she experiences in the classroom.  Get your child a membership at a local YMCA, bring her to masjid activities, help her choose a hobby and connect with others with the same interest.  This will give your child a support system and help her to understand that the bullying has nothing to do with her since she will see that others accept her just as she is.
  • Get therapy for your child if you notice she is becoming overwhelmed with what is happening.  This can be an excellent measure to prevent the issues from escalating into depression or an anxiety disorder.
  • Speak to the school counselor or teacher after consulting with your child.  Please make sure that this is a step that she wants to take.  Be sure to stay calm when discussing the situation with them; it means a lot to your child to see that you are being a strong, firm advocate for them and that you are not overwhelmed.

A United Methodist pastor in rural Tennessee, named Brad Smith, said something beautiful: “God of all people, all shapes and all sizes, all races and all nationalities, all orientations and identities, and all abilities, I pray for all those who will struggle this year as victims of bullying. I pray for those who will be teased relentlessly verbally and online. I pray for those who will be physically assaulted because they are different. I pray for those who have to change in the locker room. I pray for those who think they are alone. They are not. I pray for those who think hope is gone. It is not. I pray for those who think suicide is the only escape. It gets better. I pray for the parents of the bullied who feel helpless to protect their child. God help them. Strengthen them. Show them your love. Let them feel your hope.  Not only this, but I also pray for those who engage in bullying. I pray for those whose self-worth and self-esteem seems tied to making others hurt. I pray for the parents of bullies who ignore the signs and think their child could never do this. I pray for the teachers who stand up for kids and for the teachers who ignore the problem. I pray for those who think this is just a rite of passage. It is not. I pray that not one child this year decides that suicide is the answer. I pray for those who succumbed to hopelessness. I pray that we can all learn from the mistakes and tragedies of the past and that we can protect our children and let every child know they are of great worth.”

Ameen.

 

Sarah Sultan is a licensed Mental Health Counselor and has a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, graduating Summa Cum Laude. She has experience in a variety of therapeutic interventions and has worked with several age groups including children with special needs, adolescents with emotional and behavioral issues, families undergoing difficulties and survivors of trauma and domestic violence. Sarah is currently working as a therapist at a residential treatment center for teens in crisis, where she works with adolescents dealing with suicidality, trauma, self-harming behaviors, aggression and a variety of other issues. She is also an instructor with Mishkah University, where she teaches a course about the intersection between Islam, psychology and counseling. She has been actively involved in serving the Muslim community over the course of the past 10 years through providing lectures, halaqas and workshops.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Heather Harrison

    May 7, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    There used to be a time
    when you could get away from bullying. But it’s not that way anymore. For kids
    that are being bullied, it now follows them home and everywhere because so much
    of the bullying happens online. Lots of kids turn to drastic measures to either
    protect themselves or hurt themselves. It is so tragic. I talk about online
    bullying and suicide here:

    http://www.themommypsychologist.com/2012/05/02/online-bullying-and-teenage-suicide/

    • Avatar

      Sarah Sultan

      May 9, 2012 at 4:16 PM

      I completely agree with you, Heather.  Our homes are no longer safe for our children due to the increase in cyber bullying.  We have to be so careful in monitoring our children’s online access since so much can happen there.  Thank you very much for sharing your post- you provided a very insightful reflection on such a tragic occurrence. 

  2. Avatar

    Shahzad

    May 7, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    The way we used to deal with bullying in the playground when we were kids was with our fists. Cowering away and looking weak just gives the bully what he craves which is power and control and perpetuates the cycle of intimidation. Standing up to the bully puts power in your hands. It’s not violence I’m advocating but resilience. 

    Bullying is not just happening on the playground, but even in the adult world. The type of Islamophobia we see where any attempt by Muslims to empower themselves is met with opposition is a type of bullying. As a community we need to be strong in terms of our confidence, compassion, patience and yes, power. Bullying is human nature unfortunately.

    • Avatar

      Sarah Sultan

      May 9, 2012 at 4:19 PM

      Thank you very much for your perspective, Shahzad.  I agree that we must build resilience in ourselves, our children and our community as a whole.  However, I don’t believe that physically fighting back solves any issues.  I have found that they usually actually escalate problems and creates a cycle of violence that is very difficult to end.  I think that building relationships between children, keeping vigilant in spotting bullying and addressing it immediately, and teaching children how to express themselves in emotionally appropriate ways are the best ways to address these issues because they provide long-term solutions.

  3. Avatar

    Lwehner

    May 7, 2012 at 6:13 PM

    As a teacher, I would NOT recommend parents asking the child if it was okay to tell the teacher or school. As a parent it is your responsibility to do what is right for your child, and what is right is to immediately notify the school administrators and counselors of what is happening. Children need to know that there are just some things in life that you have to do..and protecting them is your number one priority. Do not leave the school in the dark as to such unacceptable behavior. We need to know what is going on so that we may take steps to stop the behavior from occurring. No child should ever feel afraid to be at school because of another. We need to work together. Do not give your child a choice on this. Be the parent and take action.

    • Avatar

      Sarah Sultan

      May 9, 2012 at 4:24 PM

      Thank you very much for providing your perspective, Lwehner.  It is always wonderful to hear about topics like this from a viewpoint that is different from my own!  

      I personally find that consulting children empowers them; after all, this is their lives that we are impacting by talking to teachers, counselors and/or school administrators.  I think giving choices is appropriate at any age but in the case of bullying, very young children may not be able to make a choice regarding such a big issue.  In the case of younger children, I think providing a choice of whether to discuss the bullying situation with the teacher OR the counselor is appropriate.  Being bullied results in such a blow to one’s self-esteem, so consulting children regarding how to deal with the situation can be an empowering and therapeutic way to help.

  4. Avatar

    Sarah Sultan

    May 9, 2012 at 4:14 PM

    Walaikum asalam wa Rahmatullah.  That is a very interesting question, Br. Abu Yusuf.  I’m not sure if there is any research regarding the link between genetics and bullying but I’d definitely be interested in exploring that.  If a father/mother acts like a bully, that can definitely impact a child because parents are our first role models… children tend to imitate what they see, which is why it is so critical that parents provide exemplary examples for their children in terms of interaction with others.

  5. Avatar

    bullied

    December 30, 2012 at 6:11 AM

    bismillah wassalamu alaykum wa rahmatullah
    wa jazakum Allah khayran for the article.
    Remember, the teacher can be the one doing the bullying.
    Wa alaykumu salam wa rahmatullah

  6. Avatar

    bullied

    December 30, 2012 at 6:31 AM

    bismillah
    thinking of a certain incident from the self-biography book “Malcolm X”
    understand why it hurt so much to read his (rhm) memories from the ground school, when he expressed wish to be a lawyer (if I remember it correctly)
    teacher’s putting him down was nothing else but bulling; a scarf on the child’s soul. see, there are teachers like that, teachers who hate a certain kind of ppl and bully their kids on a daily basis. as a muslim pupil in a serbian class i used to be bullied by the (only!) teacher, along with other 4 muslim kids in the class, from age 6 to the age of 10. Kazimira Ljubicic was her name, may she burn in hell forever, ameen. She used to systematically bully the muslim kids, and she could do that since she used to be the only teacher. Kids were from 6 to 10 yrs old.
    This was in the 1970’s Yugoslavia, more specifically in Bosnia – where the muslims were subjected to ethic cleansing (genicude). Teachers like trend setters.

    Just be there for your kids, advize them to be patient and not answer back with the same evil, and tell them that Allah sees everything, and that He is with the patient ones. Tell them, everything, good and bad, in this life, has an end, and they should be working towards the Pleasure of Allah ‘azza wa jall.

    Wa jazakum Allah khayran.

  7. Avatar

    Mustafa

    April 8, 2013 at 6:35 AM

    For the parents of the shy kids about bullying from peers.

    Most important thing is to understand the disposition of your child when not in the house. Your kid can be a boisterous loudmouth at home who drives you crazy but an extremely shy introverted at school. Many parents don’t find out until its too late, and Muslims with their foibles of honor and shame most kids keep it a secret. The same goes the opposite because more often than not you think your kid is an angel and quiet but in reality you wouldn’t recognize what he’s like at school or online and on reddit.

    If you have a son teach him to defend himself physically because the world is going to s**t on him. Specifically go beyond the parables, and nice little stories and prepare them for the reality people are going to mock their beliefs, are going to challenge them, are going to threaten them with violence. I grew up with the whole Allah watches and be patient like the boy in that one story and whatever, not very useful in teenage years when everybody else is not necessarily Muslim and seem to blurt out whatever they think and aggression is super high and empathy super low. Tell them belief has nothing to do with respect, if some one mocks you for example for believing in God what they say shouldn’t matter but how they say it. After all people disagree all the time. They should know when to engage in discussion with someone and when to realize their being pulled for a ride. I’m not advocating making your kids into fighters who throw fists at disagreement but understand that young men are very aggressive far more than you can imagine and a Muslim raised with fear of hell and belief of God watching them and of shy disposition may end up being the person that holds it in more than they should and thus gets walked all over because they over think.

    Lastly see your child’s friends or lack thereof. People talk about girls always having cliques or whatever but I’d say boys form tribes. If your child is a fish out of water pay attention to this, it might be because you moved somewhere new, or the school is different or living in another culture, or your kid is too smart, hes too introspective, hes weird etc. Immigrant parents raise their kids to be respectful and good students and committed to religion when the reality of high school is its all about acting stupid and hormones and your kid is a fish out of the water. You can either equip them to overlook such differences in morals or ethics for basic virtues and strength or you can try to insulate them in such a way that the shock will be greater and they wont be prepared (I’m looking at you Muslims who only know other Muslims and whose kids are fundamentalists). If your son is a loner see why and don’t think he isn’t because hes social at home and with family friends and what not. Its one thing with ‘the community’ quite another n the ‘real world’.

    • Avatar

      Berserk Hijabi

      August 6, 2013 at 9:52 PM

      Thank you so much. words like “empowerment” and “choices” and “talking it out” are nice and have their importance,but you have to realize that bullying can be vicious. I’m talking about girls here,I don’t know bout guys, but the are so many ways and so many opportunities for another girl to cut down your teenage daughter. I’m not saying you need to be verbally harsh,but parents have to realize that sometimes u do have to be kind of rude to stop people from walking all over you,and although telling an adult helps it wil not solve the problem completely.You need to let your daughter know that it is ok to stop being mr.nice guy-well,girl-if anybody ever,ever puts them down,even if it is followed up with an “I’m just kidding”. Tell them not to over think it and go ahead and say whatever they want to say. People say that it’s better to stay quiet and take it than open your mouth and say something that could come off as rude.Thats not true.The worst,worst thing u can do is not say anything at all.

  8. Avatar

    Usman

    May 19, 2015 at 11:25 AM

    My dad is the bully, I’m 34, married with kids & he’s still my bully, what can I do? He has destroyed my confidence, I have been unable to progress career wise and have no means to leave the house which hurts my wife

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#Life

Jannah Wall Art | MuslimKidsMatter

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Assalam Alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh

Jannah Wall Art

We thought long and hard about what to focus on this Ramadan. We decided it would be motivation! The desire to do pray has to spring from motivation. Being obedient to parents has to spring from motivation. Racing to do any good deed has to spring from motivation. Children love rewards and what better reward and motivator to focus on, than Jannah itself, the best and ultimate reward.

Each day in Ramadan, the challenge is to read a description or two of Jannah, cut out a petal, and write the description in a few words on the petal. Children then need to stick the petals next to each other to make a flower. By the end of Ramadan, the children will have made a beautiful flower containing the descriptions of Jannah to hang up on their walls to remind them why they need to pray, be good to their parents, give charity and accumulate as many good deeds as possible.

Everything has been provided for you including the descriptions of Jannah, the petal template, a sample of what the flower should look like and step by step instructions. You just need to print and execute!

GET YOUR FREE RESOURCE NOW

https://ilmburst.lpages.co/ilm-burst-ramadan-treat

May Allah allow us all to witness Ramadan and make us from those who excel in worship throughout the blessed month.

Wassalam Alaykum
The Ilmburst Family

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#Society

MuslimARC Releases Guide for White Muslims By White Muslims

The author of the MuslimARC Guide writes an introduction

Bill Chambers

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“As people who are both white and Muslim, we straddle two identities -one privileged in society and the other, not. We experience Islamophobia to varying degrees, sometimes more overtly depending on how we physically present, and at the same time we have been socialized as white people in a society where white people hold more social power than People of Color (POC). The focus of the toolkit is to provide resources and information that will help guide us toward good practices and behaviours, and away from harmful ones, as we challenge racism within the Muslim community (ummah) and in society at large.” MuslimARC Guide 

As part of our mission to provide education and resources to advance racial justice within the Muslim community, the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) is producing a series of community-specific guides to be a resource for those who want to engage in anti-racism work within Muslim communities.

The first in this series, the Anti-Racism Guide for White Muslims, has been written specifically for white Muslims, by white Muslims under the guidance of the anti-racist principles of MuslimARC. While white Muslims know that Islamically we are required to stand for justice, growing up in a society that is so racially unequal has meant that unless we seek to actively educate ourselves, we typically have not been provided the tools to effectively talk about and address racism.

The Anti-Racism Guide for White Muslims is a tool and resource that speaks to specific needs of white Muslims who are navigating the process of deepening their understanding of racism and looking for concrete examples of how, from their specific social location, they can contribute to advancing anti-racism in Muslim communities. The Guide also addresses views and practices that inadvertently maintain the status quo of racial injustice or can actually reproduce harm, which we must tackle in ourselves and in our community in order to effectively contribute to uprooting racism.

The Guide was developed by two white Muslim members of MuslimARC, myself (Bill Chambers) and Lindsay Angelow. The experiences, approaches, recommendations, and resources are based upon our own experiences, those of other white Muslims we have encountered or spoken to, and research and analysis by others who have been cited in the Guide.

As white people, we are not always aware when we say or write something that reflects our often narrow analysis of racism and need to be open to feedback from Muslims of Color. My own personal process of helping to develop this Guide made me aware of the many times I was in discussions with Muslims of Color, especially women, when I had reflect better upon the privilege I experience as a white person and also the white male privilege that comes with it. It is difficult not to feel defensive when you realize you may have said too much and listened too little on a topic that is really not about you.

Talking about racism is a hard topic and we anticipate that for many white Muslims reading the Guide, there may be a feeling of defensiveness and having difficulty learning from the examples given because you feel that the examples don’t apply to you. You may feel the need to call to attention the various forms of injustice you feel you have experienced in your life, for example where you felt like an outsider as a convert in Muslim community. Our advice is to recognize that those reactions are related to living in a society where we are very much shielded from having to deeply understand racism and examining our role in it. In the spirit of knowledge seeking, critical thinking, and the call to justice communicated to us in the Qur’an as expectations that Allah has of Muslims, we must push past those reactions and approach the subject matter in the spirit of knowledge, skill-seeking, and growth.

“People, We have created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should get to know one another (49:13).” One of our most important purposes is to really “get to know” one another, build just and loving communities together, all the time knowing we all come from the same source and will return together. If this Guide does anything, let it inspire a deeper understanding of our unique identity as white Muslims and how to use it to advance a more just society.

You can find the  #AntiRacismGuide for White Muslims at http://www.muslimarc.org/whitemuslimguide

Further reading:

White Activism Is Crucial In The Wake of Right-Wing Terrorism

Beyond Muslim Diversity to Racial Equity

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#Culture

Emotional Intelligence: A Tool for Change  

Imam Mikaeel Smith

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Why do we consider emotional intelligence to be half of the Prophetic intellect? The answer lies in the word “messenger.” Messengers of Allah are tasked with the divine responsibility of conveying to humanity the keys to their salvation. They are not only tasked with passing on the message but also with being a living example of that message.

When ʿĀʾishah, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, was asked to explain the character of the blessed Prophet ﷺ, her reply was, “His character was the Qurʾān.[1]” We are giving emotional intelligence a place of primacy in the construct of Prophetic intelligence because it seems implausible that Allah would send a messenger without providing that messenger with the means necessary to exemplify and transmit the message to others. If the Prophets of Allah did not have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to successfully pass on the message to the next generation, the argument would be incomplete. People could easily excuse themselves of all accountability because the message was never conveyed.

We also see clear examples in the Qur’ān that this knowledge was being perpetually perfected in the character of the Prophet ﷺ. Slight slips in his Emotional Intelligence were rare, but when they did occur, Allah gently addressed the mistake by means of revelation. Allah says in the Qurʾān, “If you (O Muḥammad) were harsh and hardhearted, then the people would flee from you.” This verse clearly placed the burden of keeping an audience upon the shoulders of the Prophet ﷺ. What this means is that the Prophet ﷺ had to be aware of what would push people away; he had to know what would create cognitive and emotional barriers to receptivity. When we study the shamāʾil (books about his character), we find that he was beyond exceptional in his ability to make people receptive. He took great care in studying the people around him and deeply understanding them. Only after the Prophet ﷺ had exhausted all the means of removing barriers to receptivity would the responsibility to affirm the message be shifted to those called to it.

Another example of this Prophetic responsibility can be found in the story of Prophet Mūsa when he was commissioned to call Pharaoh and the children of Israel to Allah. When Allah informed him of the task he was chosen for, he immediately attempted to excuse himself because he had a slight speech impediment. He knew that his speech impediment could potentially affect the receptivity of people to the message. He felt that this disqualified him from being a Prophet. He also felt that the act of manslaughter he committed might come between the people and guidance. All of these examples show that Allah’s Prophets understood that many factors can affect a person’s receptivity to learning something new, especially when the implications of that new information call into question almost every aspect of a person’s identity. History tells us that initially, people did not accept the message of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ; they completely rejected him and accused him of being a liar.

One particular incident shows very clearly that he ﷺ understood how necessary it was for him to remove any cognitive or emotional barriers that existed between him and his community. When the people of his hometown of Makkah had almost completely rejected him, he felt that it was time to turn his attention to a neighboring town. The city of Ṭā’if was a major city and the Prophet ﷺ was hopeful that perhaps they would be receptive to the message. Unfortunately, they completely rejected him and refused to even listen to what he had to say. They chased him out of town, throwing stones at him until his injuries left him completely covered in blood. Barely making it outside the city, the Prophet ﷺ collapsed. Too weak to move, he turned his attention to his Lord and made one of the most powerful supplications made by a Prophet of Allah.

اللهم إليك أشكو ضعف قوتي، وقلة حيلتي، وهواني على الناس، يا أرحم الراحمين، أنت أنت رب المستضعفين وأنت ربي، إلى من تكلني؟ إلى عدو يتجهمني؟ أو إلى قريب ملكته أمري؟ إن لم يكن بك علي غضب فلا أبالي، غير أن عافيتك أوسع لي، أعوذ بنور وجهك الذي أشرقت له الظلمات، وصلح عليه أمر الدنيا والآخرة، من أن ينزل بي غضبك، أو يحل علي سخطك، لك العتبى حتى ترضى، ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بك”

“Oh Allah, only to You do I complain about my lack of strength, my insufficient strategies, and lowliness in the sight of the people. You are my Lord. To whom do you turn me over? Someone distant from me who will forsake me? Or have you placed my affair in the hands of my enemy? [2]

The Prophet ﷺ felt that he was the reason why the people were not accepting the message. His concern that “my low status in the eyes of the people,” informs us that he understood that people naturally judge the seriousness of a message based on the stature of the message bearer. The people of Ṭā’if were extremely ignorant, so much that they adamantly refused to enter into any dialogue. In reality, this was not due to any shortcoming of the Prophet ﷺ; he demonstrated the best of character and displayed extreme patience in the face of such ignorance. But the beginning of the supplication teaches us what he was focused on: making sure that he was not the reason why someone did not accept the message.

Because his message was not geographically restricted like that of other Prophets, those who inherited the message would have the extra burden of transferring the message to a people with whom they were unfamiliar. The intelligence needed to pass the message of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ around the world included an understanding of the cultural differences that occur between people. Without this understanding effective communication and passing on of his message would be impossible.

A sharp Emotional Intelligence is built upon the development of both intra- and interpersonal intelligence. These intelligences are the backbone of EQ and they provide a person with emotional awareness and understanding of his or her own self, an empathic understanding of others, and the ability needed to communicate effectively and cause change. Emotional Intelligence by itself is not sufficient for individual reform or societal reform; instead, it is only one part of the puzzle. The ʿaql or intellect that is referenced repeatedly in the Qurʾān is a more comprehensive tool that not only recognizes how to understand the psychological and emotional aspects of people but recognizes morally upright and sound behavior. After that this intellect, if healthy and mature, forces a person to conform to that standard. Therefore, we understand the ʿaql to be a comprehensive collection of intelligences analogous to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory.

Taking into consideration the extreme diversity found within Western Muslim communities, we see how both Moral Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence are needed. Fostering and nurturing healthy communities requires that we understand how people receive our messages. This is the interpersonal intelligence aspect of EQ. Without grounding the moral component of our community, diversity can lead to what some contemporary moral theorists call moral plasticity, a phenomenon where concrete understandings of good and evil, right and wrong, are lost. Moral Education (Moral Education, which will be discussed throughout the book, is the process of building a Morally Intelligent heart) focuses on correcting the message that we are communicating to the world; in other words, Moral Intelligence helps us maintain our ideals and live by them, while Emotional Intelligence ensures that the message is effectively communicated to others.

My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.”

Interpersonal understanding is the core of emotional intelligence. My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.” From the perspective of Emotional Intelligence, this statement is very accurate. The way we interpret words, body language, verbal inflections, and facial expressions is based on many different factors. The subtle power of this book lies in the simple fact that your emotional intelligence is the primary agent of change and thus the most powerful force you have. You must understand how people perceive what you are communicating to them. What is missing from my father’s statement is the primacy of Moral Intelligence. Throughout this book, I attempt to show how the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ demonstrated a level of perfection of both of these intelligences.

*With the Heart in Mind is available for pre-order at https://www.qalam.foundation/qalambooks/with-the-heart-in-mind

[1]Bayhaqī, Shuʿb al-ʾĪmān, vol. 3, p. 23.

[2] Ibn Kathir, al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, vol. 3, p. 136.

 

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