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Being a People Pleaser

Hena Zuberi

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Have you ever been pulled in so many directions, so many obligations, invitations, and commitments that you are unable to give any of them their haqq (due)?  You run late for events because you were too busy juggling three projects while making cupcakes from scratch, all so people will think you are ‘so nice’.  You are often snappy with your own parents because you are so exhausted from doing all the work so that you do not disappoint your MSA brothers.  Maybe your intent initially was to please Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) when you started doing the work but somewhere along the way, a darkness crept into your heart and you didn’t even realize it.

The Giving Mother, Wife, Friend

She stood in the hot kitchen wrapped in her niqab while her brothers-in-law and their friends sat at the dining table, painstakingly making another round of tamales for them. Her back ached and she knew she would miss her online Qur’an tajweed class but she kept telling herself that they only come over sometimes and she wanted them to think that she was a nice sister-in-law.

It is essential to be a good host to our guests but are there times when we are setting up other people as ilah alongside Allah?  Do you find yourself hurrying through your salahs or missing your daily dhikr so that you can help a friend decorate for her sister’s wedding or help a brother find a great deal on a car?  Here, you pleased your friend but displeased your Lord.

 

The Overworked Volunteer

He knew he was exhausted but the task needed to be done and since it was the Fundraising Committee head who had asked him, he said yes, knowing that it will mean another sleepless night for him.

Do you always say yes to every event that happens at the masjid? Are you the person who is always working? Everyone else bailed out, so who steps in? You do. Why do you do it?  Is it because you want everyone to like you? Or maybe you start liking being known as the person who is ever ready to do work for the deen?

Being Too Nice To Say No

When volunteering becomes your life, you start enjoying the praise, the admiration. One way to check if you suffer from this disease is if or when you are replaced, do you feel resentment?  If you do, then know that your intention was not to serve Allāh or to please Him but to please others and to feed your own ego.

We are just not that indispensable to Allah – His work will get done. If your efforts for the deen are taking away from your efforts for Allah (i.e. you are missing your salah or not making dua about the work that you are doing) then there is definitely an issue. If you ever start thinking that because you do so much, you are irreplaceable, you definitely have a problem.  Know that you are addicted to the something other than God.

Is the legacy you want to leave behind that you were “masha’Allah, such a nice person”? There is no word for nice in the Arabic language – the closest translation is lateef, which means to be kind, gentle, and aware of feelings but NOT nice.

Definition for the word “nice”:  socially or conventionally correct; refined or virtuous pleasant or pleasing or agreeable in nature or appearance, exhibiting courtesy and politeness.

So what’s wrong with being nice? Just like with anything taken to the extreme, being too nice can hurt you when people take advantage of you and use you because you are too nice to say “NO”.

Rasulullah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “He who displeased Allah for seeking the pleasure of people, Allah is displeased with him and those people are also displeased, for pleasing whom he had earned Allah’s displeasure. And he who pleases Allah, although by it he displeased people, Allah is pleased with him, and also those people whom he had displeased for pleasing Allah become pleased with him. Allah makes him splendid and his speech and acts in the eyes of others beautiful.” [Tabarani]

This hadith is usually discussed in the context of things that are clearly haram or borderline questionable that we may do to please our boss, parents, spouse, society etc. Here, I am talking about those people who are not doing anything forbidden but are overburdening themselves and are hindering themselves from greater deeds because they cannot say no.

Are you a people-pleaser?

Do you believe that others’ needs must come before your own (these are not valid needs like food or shelter but are the extra things that we do)? Do you identify with the following statements?

  • I often do more for other people and often let myself be used so I won’t be rejected for other reasons.
  • I often do a lot for other people because I don’t want to let them down even when I know that their demands are excessive and or unreasonable.
  • I always think of others, especially at the expense of my own health (especially mental health).
  • I often hear people who really care about me tell me, “Learn to say, ‘No.’ You need to stand up for yourself. You are too nice.”

Some of the most common people pleasing behaviors:

  • Putting others’ needs before yours.
  • Keeping your opinion to yourself because you think it will upset others.
  • Saying yes to every request.
  • Feeling guilty when you say no.
  • Feeling selfish when you do something for yourself.
  • Suppressing emotions because you fear that if you express then you will upset others.
  • Feeling that you have no control over your life.
  • Avoiding confrontation.
  • Going out of your way to appease others.
  • Feeling crushed by criticism and disapproval.
  • Thinking that it is your Islamic duty to please others.

If you identified with the above statements and exhibit the common people pleasing behaviors, then you are a people pleaser.  Some may ask:  “What’s wrong in being a people pleaser? Shouldn’t we live our lives on earth trying to make people happy?” Think again. What is the purpose of your life? Does Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) want us to be people pleasers? Or is our maqsad (purpose) in life to please Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)?  If in the course of making Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) happy you are also pleasing people, then it is acceptable, but if you just spent 5 hours cooking food for someone else’s party and then spent 30 minutes complaining about it to your best friend, then the net result is an exhausted body and a depleted soul.

The most destructive among the above common people pleasing behaviors is feeling selfish when you do something for yourself.  Mothers tend to do this a lot. We are willing to spend hours cheering for our children’s soccer games but will feel guilty for slipping out to spend an hour on the treadmill. Many of us will spend hours organizing our husband’s closets but feel guilty going to a halaqah for an hour. We slave away at these relationships, avoiding all conflict and all negative emotions, but they are simmering inside us and will eventually lead to stress and health problems. If you keep continuing in this way, then you will either burst with hostility at some point or will fall into depression.

We put a lot of effort in pleasing others, we think we are fulfilling their rights and then we compromise. We need to understand that if we please Allah, everyone else will be eventually be automatically pleased with us. Many self-help books don’t look at the spiritual aspect of this behavior. I am not saying that all people pleasing behavior is wrong.  Indeed we are told:

“And do not forget to do good to one another.” (2:237)

‘Abdullah b. ‘Umar raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfill his needs; whoever brought his (Muslim) brother out of a discomfort, Allah will bring him out of the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever screened a Muslim, Allah will screen him on the Day of Resurrection.”

And remember how the Prophet was pleased with the man who baked bread for his companions while on a journey.

Really ask yourself:  Why do you do the things that you do? Correct your niyyah at every step. Do what you do solely for the sake of Allah. If you feel like doing it to earn His Pleasure and not for anyone else then alhamdulillah you are on the right track.

Memorize this du`a for Riyaa taught to us by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and recite it often:

“Allahumma innaa na‘udhu bika an-nushrika bika shay’an na‘lamuhu, wa nastagfiruka limaa laa na‘lamuh. [O Allah, we seek refuge in you from committing shirk knowingly, and ask your forgiveness for (the shirk that we may commit unknowingly].”

 

Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She is also a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. She serves on the board of the Aafia Foundation and Words Heal, Inc. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. A mom of four and a Green Muslim, she lives and preaches a whole food, organic life which she believes is closest to Sunnah. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

41 Comments

41 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Tariq Nisar Ahmed

    October 12, 2012 at 3:25 AM

    Jazakumullahu khayran! Could you post the last dua in Arabic, please? Or a link to Arabic text?

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      October 18, 2012 at 3:54 AM

      I will do Br. Tariq InshaAllah

      • Avatar

        yusuf

        July 21, 2016 at 5:16 AM

        dear sister, salamalakum please may Allah help this get to someone who can help-ammenn
        im suffering from low-self-esteem and am at my weakest point its effected my imaan my family my friends and myself
        please allah help me!!!!!!!!! I cant deal with 24/7 stressing about what other people think of me and always trying to please others please Allah cure me from this burden I cant live like this im going off the damb rack because im wasting my time pleasing people when I should be pleasing the almighty thx

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      October 18, 2012 at 3:57 AM

      الَّلهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ أَنْ أُشْرِكَ بِكَ وأَنا أَعلَمُ

      وأَستَغفِرُكَ لما لا أَعلَمُ(Ahmad)

  2. Avatar

    Sadaf

    October 12, 2012 at 6:38 AM

    I do not think that I can thank Allah and then you enough, for writing this immensely beneficial post, Hena. It is a much, much needed reminder, especially for married women and mothers who also do da’wah work!
    May Allah reward you.
    P.S: I am a “selfish” woman. ;)

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      October 18, 2012 at 3:21 AM

      Jazakillah Khayrun and Alhamdulilah. Your sisterhood is so precious and this comment from you means a lot because I know you understand exactly where I am coming from.
      xxoo

    • Avatar

      Kayvee

      January 5, 2014 at 2:26 PM

      Jazakallah khairan for this article

      Unfortunately we are taught from a young age that being “selfish” is wrong

      Thats why its important to differentiate “selfishness” and “self-interest”

      Self-Interest is very important

      We cant help others, if we are struggling ourselves

      We cant give love and support when we are neglecting our own needs of love and support

      During the explanation of safety procedures, we are told to first put the oxygen mask on ourselves and THEN on others

      We need to help ourselves first to be in a place where we can truly give to others.

      You are like a cup…..fill yourself with love, support, and goodness…..until your cup overflows and your goodness and love touches others

  3. Avatar

    Libaaxa Leerta

    October 12, 2012 at 7:27 AM

    Jzkumulah kheyran

  4. Avatar

    Sultan Mirza

    October 12, 2012 at 7:41 AM

    Good article Masha Allah. Although I would like to point out that if a person avoids confrontation to prevent a bigger evil from occurring then that would not be classified as people pleasing. Correct me if I am mistaken please.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      October 18, 2012 at 2:27 AM

      Assalam alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu Br Sultan,
      You are absolutely right if the fitnah is bigger and confrontation leads to a greater evil. But that is where you have to use good judgement for often we avoid a short term fitnah but are feeding a long-term problem.
      JazakAllah khayr for reading and commenting.

  5. Avatar

    kasim

    October 12, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    Sorry sister but the article gives an impression that being nice to others is not desirable. I know towards the end you give a kind of a disclaimer but still overall thats the message it carries and emphasizes. I know that is not your intention but it does come across that away. Whatever happened to the terms and teachings about sacrifice and tolerance.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      October 18, 2012 at 2:38 AM

      Assalam alaykum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatahu Br. Kasim,
      JazakAllah khayr for making that constructive criticism. You are not a people-pleaser, see people who suffer from this disease would have had a hard time responding in the negative to anything even a stranger’s blog post because they would have want the author to like them EVEN though they don’t even know them, because they are so scared of rejection.
      You are absolutely right most of our ummah needs to read about sacrifice and tolerance but this post is addressing people-pleasers. If you answered no to most of the tell tale signs that you do not suffer from this disease of the heart, Alhamdulillah.

      Trust me as a recovering people pleaser, I can testify it can kill your soul and I know many people who suffer from the it and each of their issues may be different but the crux of the matter comes down to the need to please others. You destroy your boundaries, try to have a different persona depending on who is around, make yourself into a hypocrite.
      Be gentle, be kind, be thoughtful, be respectful and honorable, be authentic, do ihsan and ikram, be amazing but don’t always try to be ‘nice’ and do it only for Allah not for anyone else.

  6. Avatar

    umm_ismael

    October 12, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    Asslam ualaikum wr wb- very beneficial jk. I am a little confused though- In relationships there are givers and takers- should one not be on the giving side? Next question- small children disrupt ibadah and daily acts of worship- how does one become selfish in that

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      October 18, 2012 at 3:48 AM

      Assalam alaykum Sis,
      Bismillah
      Yes, in every relationship there should be giver and takers and we should be able to play both roles. It is not a balanced relationship if one person, man or woman, volunteer or organization, mother or child is always giving without any reciprocation. We teach people how to treat us, we show them what is acceptable to us and what is not.

      However, if you have reached that level of wisdom that you do everything for Allah sake and expect nothing from anyone except HIm then Alhamdulilah but unfortunately many of us have not reached that level of spiritual development, we are weak and so are our spouses , children, friends, relatives, parents, communities. We need to get something back to keep going. #realtalk
      Organizations need to give feedback, recognition, motivation, promotions to its volunteers.

      That’s a great question. Your raising of your children is ibadah if you make your niyyah everyday that I am raising this soul for the sake of Allah as He gave it to me in my custody to take care of, I do not own him/her, s/he is Allah’s amanah and I am just taking care of it. This will greatly change your way of parenting, you will not see them as interruption as they are masoom, even their interruptions could not occur without Allah’s permission.
      Take care of their needs and come back to your salah.
      Take care of your ibadah when they are sleeping or busy with something.
      Plan out an activity for them while you are praying.
      Dhikr or Quran is easy to do even while nursing or holding your child( I dont know you children’s ages so excuse me if they are older).
      You can also make them pray with you so it is natural for them to be a part of your worship.

      I hope that helped anything beneficail I said is from Allah swt and if I said anything wrong it is from my own nafs.

  7. Avatar

    Umm Ibraheem

    October 12, 2012 at 2:49 PM

    As long as our intention is correct, helping people is a means to get closer to Allah. I have the opposite problem where I don’t do enough for others and am too absorbed in myself, I would love to be that first lady in your example, making sure my occasional guests are well fed and hounored in my home , even if it means missing my Quran lesson which I can reschedule later.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      October 18, 2012 at 3:18 AM

      Assalam alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu Sister,
      MashaAllah, may Allah swt grant you that noble wish. You hit the nail on the head as long as our intention is correct. See the lady in my first example would not just do it for one day, Today it is her brother in law, tomorrow it will be her cousin, the next day her child’s teacher, and then next her friends from over seas. It never ends for her, she is constant all the time saying yes to yet another request and that rescheduled Qur’an class never happens!
      Believe me sister it is a disease and until one recognizes and tries to fix themselves or they will burn up all their deeds in gheebah, keenah or hypocrisy and stand empty handed in front of Allah swt on the Day of Reckoning.
      I mainly write to remind myself first and foremost.
      JazakAllah Khayr and may Allah swt help you serve others for His Sake.

  8. Avatar

    Yasmin

    October 12, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    Jazakallah khair for this great post!

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      October 18, 2012 at 3:25 AM

      Wa iyyakum Sisiter Yasmin, you are one of our most loyal readers, may Allah swt bless you and your loved one here and in the Akhira.

  9. Avatar

    IA

    October 13, 2012 at 7:38 AM

    Jazakallahu khair, a very beneficial article.
    -“And do not forget to do good to one another.” (2:238)-
    Should this be (2:237)?

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      October 18, 2012 at 3:29 AM

      JazakAllah khayr you are right, I will fix it, inshaAllah

  10. Avatar

    RCHOUDH

    October 14, 2012 at 2:37 AM

    Jazakillah ul khair for this much needed reminder. I think what helps to make sure that not just one person takes on most of the responsibilities within an organization, is to actively delegate responsibilities towards others, especially if they have certain skills that can be useful towards those responsibilities. So for example, even if your organization has board members, it’s good to ask the wider community for help in taking on smaller responsibilities so that board members don’t feel unnecessarily overburdened.
    Also I would like to add to your post that no one should take on responsibilities that they know they can’t handle. For example, if you know you’re not good at accounting, don’t become a treasurer for an organization, even if no one else is available to take it on. Also try to always keep time available for yourself and your family. I know that sometimes for mothers who homeschool, we may organize too many activities for each other, that take time away from us making time for just ourselves, our husbands and kids (and other relatives if we live nearby them like parents, brothers/sisters, etc).

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      October 18, 2012 at 3:07 AM

      Assalam alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu Sister,
      YOur comments are always a great addition to the site, MAshaAllah.

      Jazakillah Khayr for making those points. Indeed our masajids and other non-profits have severe issues. We should all be doing these roles with the most ihsan even more than the jobs we are paid for since we are doing it for Allah, but ihsan means doing it in the best way and if we aren’t qualified that not the best way is it- Please check out Muslim Strategic Initiative, a great site on way to help run Muslim organization in the best way possible.

      Generally for daees and volunteers:
      Our bodies, our spouses, our homes all have rights over us and if the da’wah effort is sucking up all our energy until we have none left for the other important things in our lives. that can lead to trouble. Keep the balance. I know many daees whose own children are neglected while they are seen at every masjid fundraiser or at every jawla.

      • Avatar

        RCHOUDH

        October 19, 2012 at 4:21 PM

        Jazakillah ul khair for letting me know about the initiative, I’ll be sure to check it out Insha’Allah.

  11. Avatar

    Ismail Kamdar

    October 14, 2012 at 3:28 AM

    Jazakallah Khair for this important reminder, I find myself falling into this trap too often.

    I would like to add, from experience, that never saying ‘no’ and always trying to please others does lead to fatigue, burnout, stress and anxiety as one becomes stretched very thinly and many of one’s personal needs go unfulfilled.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      October 18, 2012 at 3:53 AM

      Assalam alaiaykum Br Ismail,
      Alhamdulillah as a Caller to Islam, with all your different duties, I can imagine how pressed you are for time. Keep my family and I in you duas.
      JazakAllah khayr

  12. Avatar

    Abu Mus'ab

    October 14, 2012 at 2:10 PM

    This is one of the cogent reasons I am an avid reader of MM, until recently. I miss the blue background home page. MM used to have. It reminds me of the good old articles. Here on MM, we talk about things the Ummah needs to talk about but for some reasons (which I can’t rally fathom) are not BRAVE ENOUGH to discuss it. Thanks Hena Zuberi for being BRAVE ENOUGH as usual.

  13. Avatar

    Salima

    October 18, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    Assalamualaikum Sr. Hena,
    MashaAllaah. An article that I can really relate to.

    I feel that we sould do istikhara everyday for the journey of that day, so Allaah may help us making the right decisions throughout the day. This way inshaAllaah we would know to sort out our priorities including ibadah, family, community, choice of words, etc. for the sake of Allaah.
    Jazak Allaah Khayr. Keep writing inshaAllaah.
    Salima Rahman

  14. Avatar

    Shiney

    October 18, 2012 at 9:35 PM

    Sr. Hena, i can’t express how beneficial this article was! it really affirmed some of the notions i had of how/when one should put themselves first and when they should put their families first. a lot of times, culture teaches women that the path to becoming a good daughter, a good wife, or a good mother or even just a good person is to always put others before yourself, even if it means cutting your prayers short or missing reading Qur’an that day. i always struggled to live up to this standard when i was in high school, because i wanted to take the advice given to me but I didn’t think it was right to compromise ‘ibadah. but now Alhamdulillah, I think I have achieved a good balance. overall, i loved the article and i hope to read more from you :)

  15. Avatar

    umm-e-abubakr

    October 20, 2012 at 6:24 AM

    BISMI RABBI

    Respected Sister

    Assalaamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah!

    Sharing some humble observations for your kind consideration.

    Alhamdulillah your article seems good enough except for a few parts like:

    “Feeling selfish when you do something for yourself. Mothers tend to do this a lot. We are willing to spend hours cheering for our children’s soccer games but will feel guilty for slipping out to spend an hour on the treadmill.”

    The idea behind your article is to point out the absurdity of extra-meticulous details in everything we do (for others usually). These details consume most of our time, attention and energy, they overburden us and thus become a source of hindering us from GREATER DEEDS or acts of Ibadah. But the lines quoted above do not refer to any greater deed rather it may lead the reader into SELF PITY esp. the women in their roles as mothers, wives, daughters and sisters. This same thought / idea lead to the concept and movement of “Women Emancipation” in the west i.e. their liberation from religious, legal, economic, and sexual oppression / bondings and their escape from narrow gender roles.

    The sunnah of Rasul Allah s.a.w is the most moderate and desirable for us all (men & women):

    “I asked ‘Aisha r.a. what did the Prophet use to do at home. She replied. “He used to keep himself busy serving his family and when it was time for the prayer, he would get up for prayer.” (Bukhari)

    …..no self pity involved in Rasul Allah s.a.w’s example. He s.a.w gave rights of people when it was time to do so and gave rights of The Creator when it was time to do so. And while giving rights of people his s.a.w’s niyah was to Please Allah SWT.

    ——————-

    secondly the lines quoted in the article:

    “I often hear people who really care about me tell me, “Learn to say, ‘No.’ You need to stand up for yourself. You are too nice.”

    … again seem to clash with a hadith in which Rasul Allah s.a.w forbade a man who was chiding his Muslim brother for being over courteous and over nice all the time and Rasul Allah s.a.w. said that “الحیاء کلہ خیر” (roughly translated it means: Decency {courtesy} always brings goodness).

    If we try a little more intelligently, we can easily enhance our skills of time management, prioritizing & delegating tasks, multi-tasking, over coming extra doses of sleep, food, baseless talks (face to face or via phone or chat), or pursuits like window shopping, net surfing etc. This will surely help us save time, resources and energies to perform lots of Greater Deeds amongst which one is to bring comfort (big or small) to fellow Muslims.

    rest of the article seems superb

    and truly Allah SWT knows best

    Loads of duas for all
    Wassalaam

  16. Avatar

    Hafeez

    October 24, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    jazakAlaahu khair for the article especially the dua at the very end is very beneficial and important. May Allaah azza wajal make your matters easy in every aspect of your life and your family life.

  17. Avatar

    Omar

    October 30, 2012 at 6:30 PM

    Masha Allaah. May Allaah give us all such a great understanding of deen. A great topic covered well BUT I fear some of the points will be greatly misunderstood by many who may go to the extreme trying to avoid what this article points out as people pleasing behaviour which actually leads to more harm, Satan is an open enemy to us!

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  24. Avatar

    Aisha

    December 3, 2015 at 6:17 PM

    How amazing!
    I am a person with natural empathy for people. It makes me feel good when I do good for people. I feel I am pleasing my lord. Then when I don’t get the same treatment back I feel used. This showed me that I need to correct my intention and do only what I can for his sake without giving my own needs. That way I will have reward both here and herafter.

    Jzkallah

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  26. Avatar

    Raziah

    October 11, 2016 at 7:43 AM

    slm alaikum

    i am really a people pleaser all my life right up until now. my son is getting married and because my 2 sisters cannot make it for the reception, it has become a problem. Unfortunately this was the first time i could not please them, because this is how my future daughter in law has planned the day. I did explain to my sisters that it is not in my hands now because if i intervene then it can become a problem between me and my daughter in law. Kindly advise.

  27. Avatar

    drfaiza

    October 22, 2016 at 8:57 PM

    im v thankful fr tis article
    in indian cultures tis is a v common upbringing aspect
    vv been brought up sayin its gud being nice n flawless
    suc articles r a breaktru n eyeopeners
    v useful
    may Allah reward u
    hope to get suc articles more in d future
    jazakumullahu khairan

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#Life

Raising A Child Between Ages 2-7 | Dr Hatem Al Haj

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D

Published

on

children drawing crayons

This is called a pre-operational period by Jean Piaget who was focused on cognitive development.

Children this age have difficulty reconciling between different dimensions or seemingly contradictory concepts. One dimension will dominate and the other will be ignored. This applies in the physical and abstract realms. For example, the water in the longer cup must be more than that in the shorter one, no matter how wide each cup is. Length dominates over width in his/her mind.

Throughout most of this stage, a child’s thinking is self-centered (egocentric). This is why preschool children have a problem with sharing.

In this stage, language develops very quickly, and by two years of age, kids should be combining words, and by three years, they should be speaking in sentences.

Erik Erikson, who looked at development from a social perspective, felt that the child finishes the period of autonomy vs. shame by 3 years of age and moves on to the period of initiative vs. guilt which will dominate the psycho-social development until age 6. In this period, children assert themselves as leaders and initiative takers. They plan and initiate activities with others. If encouraged, they will become leaders and initiative takers.

Based on the above, here are some recommendations:

In this stage, faith would be more caught than taught and felt than understood. The serene, compassionate home environment and the warm and welcoming masjid environment are vital.

Recognition through association: The best way of raising your kid’s love of Allah and His Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is by association. If you buy him ice cream, take the opportunity to tell them it is Allah who provided for you; the same applies to seeing a beautiful rose that s/he likes, tell them it is Allah who made it. Tell them stories about Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Statements like: “Prophet Muhammad was kinder to kids than all of us”; “Prophet Muhammad was kind to animals”; ” Prophet Muhammad loved sweets”; ” Prophet Muhammad helped the weak and old,” etc. will increase your child’s love for our most beloved ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Faith through affiliation: The child will think, “This is what WE do, and how WE pray, and where WE go for worship.” In other words, it is a time of connecting with a religious fraternity, which is why the more positive the child’s interactions with that fraternity are, the more attached to it and its faith he/she will become.

Teach these 2-7 kids in simple terms. You may be able to firmly insert in them non-controversial concepts of right and wrong (categorical imperatives) in simple one-dimensional language. Smoking is ḥarâm. No opinions. NO NUANCES. No “even though.” They ate not ready yet for “in them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people.”

Promote their language development by speaking to them a lot and reading them books, particularly such books that provoke curiosity and open discussions to enhance their expressive language. Encourage them to be bilingual as learning two languages at once does not harm a child’s cognitive abilities, rather it enhances them.

This is despite an initial stage of confusion and mixing that will resolve by 24 to 30 months of age. By 36 months of age, they will be fluent bilingual speakers. Introduce Islamic vocabulary, such as Allah, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), masjid, Muslim, brothers, salaat, in-sha’a-Allah, al-Hamdulillah, subhana-Allah, etc. (Don’t underestimate the effect of language; it does a lot more than simply denoting and identifying things.)

In this pre-operational period, their ability of understanding problem solving and analysis is limited. They can memorize though. However, the focus on memorization should still be moderate. The better age for finishing the memorization of the Quran is 10-15.

Use illustrated books and field trips.

Encourage creativity and initiative-taking but set reasonable limits for their safety. They should also realize that their freedom is not without limits.

Between 3-6 years, kids have a focus on their private parts, according to Freud. Don’t get frustrated; tell them gently it is not appropriate to touch them in public.

Don’t get frustrated with their selfishness; help them gently to overcome this tendency, which is part of this stage.

Parenting: Raising a Child from Age 0 to 2 | Dr. Hatem Al Haj

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Who Can We Trust?

Danish Qasim

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Spiritual abusers are con-artists, and if they were easy to spot then they would be far less successful. That is why you must exercise vigilance and your own judgment above that of public opinion. Never let the person’s position make you trust them more than you would without it.

Spiritual abusers work covertly, present themselves well, and use their service as a cover beneath which to operate. The way to avoid them is to recognize their tactics and avoid being caught by them.

Blurring Lines

Spiritual abuse often begins with hard-to-spot precursors, with manipulators exploiting grey areas and blurring boundaries to confuse targets. For example, when setting someone up for illicit relations or secret marriage, teachers may begin with inappropriate jokes that lower boundaries.

They may touch others in ways that confuse the person touched as to permissibility, for example, men touching women on their hijabs rather than direct skin. They may inappropriately touch someone in ways that leave him/her wondering whether or not it was intentional.

There may be frivolous texting while the premise of engagement is ‘work only’. Boundaries may be blurred by adding flirtatious content, sending articles praising polygamy, or mentioning dreams about getting married. The recipient may struggle to pinpoint what’s wrong with any of this, but the bottom line is that they don’t have to.

While these tactics may be hard to prove, you don’t need to prove that you don’t want to be communicated with in this way and that you will not tolerate it. You can withdraw from the situation on the basis of your own boundaries.

One of the key challenges in standing up to spiritual abuse is the lack of confidence in calling out bad behavior or the need for validation for wrongs. We may be afraid to a question a teacher who is more knowledgeable than us when he is doing clear haram. However, halal and haram are defined by Allah and no human has the right to amend them. If a religious leader claims exemption to the rules for themselves or their students, that’s a big, bright, red flag.

Beware of Bullying

When you witness or experience bullying, understand that a Muslim’s dignity is sacred and don’t accept justifications of ‘tarbiyah’ (spiritual edification/character reformation) or breaking someone’s nafs (ego). If you didn’t sign up for spiritual edification, don’t accept any volunteer spiritual guides.

If you did sign up, pay attention as to whether these harsh rebukes are having a positive or negative effect. If they are having a negative emotional, mental, or physical effect on you, then this is clearly not tarbiyah, which is meant to build you up.

When abuse in the name of tarbiyah happens, it is the shaykh himself or the shaykha herself who needs character reformation. When such behavior goes unchecked, students become outlets of unchecked anger and are left with trauma and PTSD. This type of bullying is very common in women’s groups.

Trust Built and Trust Destroyed

There are different levels of trust, and as it relates to religious leaders, one does not need to investigate individuals or build trust for a perfunctory relationship. You do not need a high degree of trust if you are just attending someone’s general lectures and not establishing any personal relationship.

If you want to study something with an Islamic teacher, do so as you would with a school-teacher, understanding that their position does not make that person either exceptionally safe nor exceptionally harmful. Treat religious figures as religious consultants who are there to answer questions based on their knowledge. Give every teacher a clean slate, don’t have baseless suspicions, but if behavior becomes manipulative, exploitative, cultish, or otherwise abusive, don’t justify it either.

Personal accountability is a cornerstone of the Islamic faith and we have to take responsibility for our own faith and actions. There is no need to be suspicious without reason, but nor is there a justification for blind trust in someone you don’t know, just because they lead prayers or have a degree of religious education.

It is natural to ask ourselves whether people can be trusted after experiencing or learning about spiritual abuse. The answer is yes – you can trust yourself. You can also trust others in ways that are appropriate for the relationship. If you know someone well and they have proven over a long period of time to be trustworthy, keep secrets, and do not use you or take advantage of you, then it makes sense to trust that person more than a stranger or someone who has outward uprightness that you do not know well. That level of trust is earned through long-time demonstration of its characteristics.

Seeing someone on stage for years or relying on testimony of people impressed by someone should not convince you to lower your guard. Even if you do believe someone is pious, you still never drop your better judgment, because even saints are fallible.

Don’t Fall for Reputation

Never take other respected leaders praising or working alongside an individual as proof of his or her trustworthiness. It is possible that the teachers you trust are unaware of any wrongdoing. It’s not a reasonable expectation, nor is it a responsibility for them to boycott or disassociate themselves from another religious figure even if they are aware of them being abusive.

Furthermore, skilled manipulators often gain favor from respected teachers both overseas and domestically to gain credibility.

If one shaykh praises another shaykh, but you witness abusive behavior, don’t doubt yourself based on this praise. The praise may have been true at one time or may have been true in the experience of the one giving the praise, but no one knows another person’s current spiritual state as spiritual states can change.

Even if the abusive individual was previously recognized to be a great wali (saint), understand that there are saints who have lost their sainthood as they do not have isma (divine protection from sin or leaving Islam) like the prophets (upon them be peace) do. What was true yesterday, may not be true today.

Often praises of integrity, courage, and inclusiveness are heaped on men who support influential female figures. However, men who are praised as ‘allies,’ and thanked for ‘using their privilege’ to support female scholarship and the participation of women in religious organizations and events are no more trustworthy than those who don’t.

Abusers are often very image-conscious and may be acting to improve their own image and brand strength. Influential male and female religious figures also help one another with mutual praising and social-proofing. That is how the misdoings of men who are supportive of women are ignored, as long as they support the right politicized causes such as inclusive spaces and diverse panels.

Don’t be tricked into trust through a person’s credentials. An ijazah (license) to be a shaykh of a tariqa is purportedly the highest credential. It’s a credential that allegedly has a chain that goes all the way back to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), but that does not impart any of the Prophet’s character or trustworthiness in and of itself. A shaykh has to continuously live up to the ijaza and position. The position does not justify behavior outside of the sharia or any form of abuse. Scholars are inheritors of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) only to the degree to which they embody his character.

When a teacher who hasn’t spent adequate time with righteous shayukh abuses, they are said to lack suhba (companionship of the pious), and that is why they are abusive.

The truth is many of the worst abusers in traditional circles are highly certified, have spent adequate time with shayukh, are valid representatives of them, and are able to abuse because the previously mentioned credentials lead to blind trust.

Don’t let certifications about spiritual abuse, ethical leadership, or the like mean anything to you. Skilled narcissists will be the first to get such certifications and take courses because they know this will make people trust them more. You will see courses on ‘healthy leadership’ and ‘spiritual abuse prevention’ being taught and designed by them. There is a false premise behind such certifications that if religious leaders knew how abuse occurs and the damage it causes victims they wouldn’t do it. The fact is they know how abuse works, know how damaging it is, and don’t care. In a way, it’s good to have lessons on spiritual abuse from purveyors of abuse, just as learning theft prevention from a thief might be the most beneficial.

Don’t judge by rhetoric

Don’t look at the rhetoric of groups or individuals to see how seriously they take abuse. Spiritual abuse occurs in all groups. It is common for members of one group to call out abuse that they see in another group while ignoring abuse occurring within their own group.

Sufis who will talk about the importance of sharia, label others as ‘goofy-Sufis,’ and insist that real Sufis follow sharia, will very often abuse in private and use the same justifications as the other Sufi groups they publicly deride.

Many imams and religious leaders will talk publicly about the importance of justice, having zero-tolerance for abuse, and the importance of building safe spaces, while they themselves are participating in the abuse.

Furthermore, female religious leaders will often cover up secret marriages, and other abuses for such men and help them to ostracize and destroy the credibility of their victims as long as their political views align. Muslim mental health providers often incorporate religious figures when they do programs, and in some cases they involve known abusers if it helps their cause.

In some cases, the organization does not know of any abuse. Abusive individuals use partnerships with Muslim mental health organizations to enhance their image as a “safe person.” This is especially dangerous due to the vulnerability of those struggling with mental illness and spiritual issues, who may then be exploited by the abuser. It is a community responsibility to ensure the safety of these vulnerable individuals and to ensure that they do have access to resources that can actually help them.

Don’t judge by fame

One false assumption is that the local-unknown teacher is sincere while the famous preacher is insincere and just wants to amass followers. This contrast is baseless although rhetorically catchy.

The fact is, many unknown teachers desire fame and work towards it more than those who are famous. Other times the unknown and famous teacher may have the same love of leadership, but one is more skilled than the other. They both may also be incredibly sincere.

Ultimately, we cannot judge what is in someone’s heart but must look at their actions, and if their actions are abusive, they are a danger to the community. Both famous and non-famous teachers are equally capable of spiritual abuse.

Look for a procedure

Before being involved in an organization, look for a code of conduct. There is no accountability without one in non-criminal matters. Never depend on people, look at the procedures and ensure that the procedure calls for transparency, such as the one we at In Shaykh’s Clothing published and made free for the public to use.

Procedure also applies to an organizations’ financials. Do not donate money to organizations based on personalities, instead demand financial transparency and accountability for the money spent. There is great incentive for spiritual abusers to win the trust of crowds when it means they can raise money without any financial accountability.

But what about Husne-Zann? Thinking well of others?

Allah tells us يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ

O You who believe, leave much suspicion, indeed some suspicions are sinful” (Quran 49:12).

From this verse, we see that some – not all negative opinions are sinful. The prohibition is partitive, meaning some bad opinions are permissible.

If someone punches you, it is not hunse-zann to assume that person just happened to stretch with a closed fist and did not see your face was in the way. This kind of delusion will lead to you getting punched more. To be wary of their fist isn’t a sinful level of suspicion.

Part of why spiritual abuse is difficult to detect is that its purveyors have a reputation for outward uprightness. They are thought well of in the community, and in many cases they are its pillars and have decades of positive service to their defense. Assuming that someone cannot be abusive simply because they have been a teacher or leader for a long time is not husne-zann. When facts are brought to light- like a fist to the face – it is delusional to assume they didn’t mean it that way.

If someone does something that warrants suspicion, then put your guard up and don’t make excuses for those actions. Start with a general guard and be procedural about things which require a procedure.  For example, if you are going to loan someone money, don’t just take their word that they will pay you back but insist on a written record. If they say they are offended, just say “it’s my standard procedure to avoid any confusion later on.” A reasonable person won’t have an issue with that. If someone mentions on the phone they will pay you $100 for your work, write an email to confirm what was said on the phone so there’s a record for it.

Lastly, and most importantly, never leave your child alone with a teacher where you or others cannot see them. Many cases of child sexual assault can be prevented if we never allow children to study alone with adults. There should never be an exception to this, and parents much uphold this as a matter of policy. Precaution is not an accusation, and this is a professional and standard no one should reject.

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Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure

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How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?

If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.

My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.

On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.

I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.

When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand.  Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?

I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.

That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.

I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:

Host an open house

Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.

Expand your circle

Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.

Delegate

You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.

Squeeze in

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.

Outsource Eid Fun

If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.

Flock together

It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend.  If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.

Give gifts

The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا‏ “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.

Get out of your comfort zone

If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.

Try, try, try again…

Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.

While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.

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