Staying away from Tit-for-Tat

tit for tat

Every one of us, at some point in life, may encounter enemies in the form of envious colleagues, disagreeable supervisors or unreasonable in-law relations. Our heart directs us to treat them the same way they treat us. However, what is the most appropriate way of dealing with such people according to our Deen?

  1. Be the Mohsin

Like always, the Quran holds our hand and guides us to the precise solution. Allah (swt) has said: “The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (the evil) with one which is better…” (Fussilat 41:34) The Arabic word used here is ‘Ahsan’ which is the superlative form of goodness. In the face of negative attitudes, Ihsan melts away hatred and cultivates love. For example, in an exchange of uncomfortable words, Ihsan would be to remain calm and instead, make sincere Dua. Your composure should not be out of powerlessness, so that you sit crying afterwards. It should be voluntary, for the sake of Allah (swt). Nonetheless, this is easier said than done and requires a great deal of forbearance, as stated in the aforementioned verse.

  1. Speak Good or Remain Silent

From the golden, (albeit difficult!) rules of life is to speak good or remain silent. The moment you start answering back, angels forsake you and Shaitan takes their place. Be smart and let the angels do your part in a quipping duel.

  1. Dua can work wonders!

Make earnest Dua for cordial relations and love to develop between you and your rival. Also, recite the Duas taught by Rasulullah (sa) regarding protection from the evil of adversaries. One is stated below. For more, refer to Hisnul Muslim or other Dua books.

“O Allah, we place You before them and we take refuge in You from their evil.”

اللّهُـمَّ إِنا نَجْـعَلُكَ في نُحـورِهِـم، وَنَعـوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شُرورِهـمْ

  1. Spread Smiles and Salam

Smile and Salam are the ice breakers that pave way for reconciliation. That is why it is prohibited for two believers to forsake Salam for more than three days. Muhammad (sa) has said: “It is not lawful for a Muslim to desert his brother beyond three nights, the one turning one way and the other turning to the other way when they meet; the better of the two is the one who is the first to greet the other.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

  1. Be cautious of the real enemy!

Remember! The feelings of animosity and hatred placed by Allah (swt) have a positive direction, too. They belong for you to exercise towards your actual enemies: Shaitan and the enemies of Allah (swt). Don’t exhaust them among your wrongful relatives and colleagues. Save up some for the real enemies. After all, Allah (swt) wants to see us Muslims as ‘severe against disbelievers, and merciful among themselves.’ (Fath 48:29)

A wining situation is not when you defeat your opponent, shun them and quieten them. It is when you are able to overcome the traps of Shaitan and stay firm on the principles of truth, morality, sincerity and Ihsan.

Don’t Give up Too Soon – Advice for Newly Weds

advice for newly weds

She has been sitting for hours, browsing bridal wear and makeup. It has to be the most perfect wedding from catering to dresses, from bridal shower to the actual wedding day, all according to the liking of her mother-in-law, whose appreciation and compliments she seeks. After all, she doesn’t believe in the typical in-law relationships.

The Nikah is only a few weeks away. She is excited about starting a family of her own. She glances at the photo frame on her night stand: her baby picture together with parents. They have always been at her side, excusing her reckless behaviour, encouraging her on her achievements and standing by her each time she stumbled. A tear trickles down her cheeks. Nothing can exceed her parents’ love for her.

*********

It has been a month since her marriage. Henna traces and the facial glow are gone. Honeymoon seems like ages ago. The excitement and fervour of starting a new life have vanished. What went wrong?

She feels unwanted. Her husband, the man with whom she dreamed endless conversations, countless romantic dinners, mutual values and eternal bliss, is the total opposite of what she expected.  Where did love, respect and kindness go?

She needs a break and requests to be dropped her at her parents’ place. Her husband gives a cold nod and grabs the car keys. What? He is not even going to stop her? Is it over already?

*********

She is back at her parents’. She needs peace for thinking it through. The thought of divorce has crossed her mind several times. In the lounge, her parents are praising their son-in-law, for he has allowed their daughter to spend a few nights with them.

She has not thought of what she will tell after the few nights pass. Maybe they will ask her themselves. Maybe he is missing her already and will come back to pick her. She picks up her phone for any missed call or text from him – there’s none.

Her phone does ring, but it’s her old school friend Sara, who is on a visit to Pakistan. They arrange to meet up for lunch.

*********

Sara recognizes her the moment she steps into the restaurant. After formal hugs, Sara shakes her: “Hey! What’s the matter? Why don’t I see the usual newly-wedded glow on your face? It has been only a month since your wedding.

She gazes at her friend blankly. Look at her! She’s beaming with joy even after five years of marriage, while I’ve already realized my wedding was a big mistake.

Sara now softens her tone: “Is something bothering you? Is the new routine overwhelming? I know. I have been married for five years, and every day brings a new surprise for me.”

“Ummm… it’s that… it’s… I don’t know,” she struggles to express herself.

Sara gently rests her palm over Anum’s hand: “When I was getting married, I was so excited about moving abroad and starting a new life. But you know what? Once we had done sight-seeing, dined at the finest restaurants, and shopped till we dropped, it seemed there’s nothing exhilarating in our lives anymore. Yes, I was expecting, and Yasir would routinely take me for appointments, but his frequent phone calls from work decreased. I felt he is not the person that I married. I felt unwanted, dejected and unloved. Thoughts of divorce constantly occupied my mind. I was unable to find my way; then, I did the only thing that I knew.”

Anum corrects her posture and sits upright. What? Did she go for a divorce?

“I woke up for Tahajjhud, laid my prayer mat and stood up in prayer. I cried my heart out to Allah (swt) – my only Wali. Out of self-respect, I didn’t want to share it with anyone. I didn’t want a divorce, but I also didn’t want to live in the same house like a stranger. I wanted a small happy family that went to bed with forgiveness, gentle kisses and sweet lullabies. Even though I didn’t see any visible signs of improvement, I kept praying. And you know what happened?”

“What?” Anum asks.

“After praying,” Sara continues, “I felt very relaxed, as if my worries had been taken care of. Then, one morning, Yasir came down to the breakfast table with his old chirpy, energetic self. He warmly came to me and whispered that my tea was the best in the world. I couldn’t believe my ears! Not only that – after breakfast, Yasir requested me to pack some extra muffins for his lunch, for he liked to show off to his colleagues his wife’s baking skills. From that day onwards, our relationship started to improve. He helped me with the house chores, went on walks with me and had all the time in the world for talking to me.”

“Really? Was prayer that effective?” Anum asked, unbelievingly.

“Yes, Anum. Patience and prayer are the essential ingredients of maintaining your sanity when the entire world is collapsing. You’re a dear friend, Anum. Right now, I want you to go home and get on your prayer mat. Trust me, I’ve been there. Don’t give up so soon.”

Anum gives a faint, sceptical smile: How can it be? Just a prayer and everything is fixed? I don’t think Sara understands me well.

***********

Anum wakes up in the middle of the night well before the Fajr. She is about to go back to sleep, when she realizes that this is the best time for Tahajjhud – that’s what she does. Sitting on the mat, Anum cries, beseeching Allah (swt) to save her home. She begs for forgiveness and seeks guidance.

An hour later, Amma comes to check on her. She kisses Anum, when she finds her reciting the Quran: “Is there anything you would like to talk to me about, Anum? I hope Yasir is kind to you, and your in-laws treat you nicely.”

“Of course, Amma, what made you ask that?” Anum asks politely.

“I don’t see you hopping around the house and fighting with your sisters. I want to be sure that my daughter is fine,” Ama explains herself.

“Could be that your daughter has grown up and become wise?” Anum replies with a smile.

Amma looks at Anum silently, trying to believe her. She asks Anum, what she would like to have for breakfast. Anum hugs her mom and says: “Let me make breakfast for you, guys, today.” As she walks towards kitchen, Anum wonders, where did this sudden burst of positivity come from?

***********

It’s been three days of regular Tahajjhud and the five daily prayers. Still no word from Yasir. The prayer isn’t helping… Anum is exasperated. She asks herself: “Why can’t I call Yasir? Most men, I have heard, lack communication skills.” She dials the number. Yasir picks up immediately, and asks how she has been. Anum is surprised by this unanticipated warmth and love. They speak for a while, and then Yasir says he is coming in the evening to pick Anum up. He misses her.

************

Anum greets her in-laws with respect and love, reminding herself she should neither be judgemental nor impatient. She inquires about their health and well-being.

Once in the bedroom, Yasir and Anum go through the events of the past few weeks. They admit their mistakes and pledge to communicate with each other openly. They have promised they will live as each other’s clothing that adorns as well as hides each other’s flaws. They will not discuss their private matters with anyone, for help truly comes from Allah (swt) only.

As they turn off the lights, Yasir asks: “But Anum… How did you decide to come back? What made you call me?”

“Prayer and patience,” Anum replies confidently, “…and I would love, if we could both start offering Tahajjhud together as a couple.”

Language That Can Either Build or Break Your Child

language for kids

Imagine that your teenaged son made it to the national cricket team. He was on cloud nine, of course. You felt proud of him and couldn’t stop singing praises. As he headed for his first practice session beaming with eagerness, everything changed unexpectedly. After the match, the coach called him aside to inform him that he was rejected due to inadequate performance.

Your son comes home and tells you the ill-fated incident. As a parent, you try to cope with the bad news. The following are seven typical responses that parents, teachers or adults usually adopt when addressing issues of children:

  1. Denial of feelings

“Oh, come on. You are fretting about nothing. It’s not the end of the world, just because you didn’t make it to the team. Forget about it. It’s not worth your time.”

  1. The philosophical response

“You see dear, that’s what life is all about. It’s never fair. But you have to face it bravely.”

  1. Advice

“You can’t let this failure hold you back! You must try for another team.”

  1. Questions

“Oh, honey, why do you think they dropped you? How did the other players perform? What will you do now?”

  1. Defense of the other person

“Well, the coach does have a tough job. He can only hire the best to create a winning team after all. Try to understand his point of view.”

  1. Pity

“Oh, my baby, after all the hard work you put yourself through, you just weren’t good enough. Imagine! When this news spreads, you will feel so embarrassed in front of your friends.”

  1. Amateur psychoanalysis

“Did you analyze the real reason for this failure? Maybe your heart was just not in it. I believe that on a subconscious level, you never wanted to play cricket, so you messed up deliberately.”

For a minute, try imagining that you were in your son’s shoes and it was your parent telling you any of the above. How would you have felt at that moment? Would any of the above responses console you? Most probably not.

As parents, we might wonder what is wrong with some of the above reactions. Undoubtedly, we mean well for our kids. However, often unknowingly and sometimes purposely, we start building walls around us, rather than bridging the gaps. And it is simply due to the language we speak.

In response to your above reactions, this is how your son might feel about you:

  1. When you deny his feelings, he would think: “Don’t tell me how to feel.”
  2. When you respond philosophically, he would think: “Don’t tell me what to do.”
  3. When you offer advice, he would think: “You will never understand.”
  4. When you begin to interrogate him, he would think: “You know what you can do with your questions!”
  5. When you pick sides, he would think: “You’re taking everybody’s side but mine.”
  6. When you sympathize with him, he would think: “I’m a loser.”
  7. When you take up the role of an amateur psychoanalyst, he would think: “That’s the last time I‘ll ever tell you anything.”

If not all this, then what? What else could you tell your son as a parent? Talk to him in French? No, it’s much simpler: just acknowledge your son’s distress. You could say: “This must have come as a shock and a big disappointment for you.” And let him respond further. If he does, fine. If he doesn’t, don’t pester. If some of us wish to talk about the pain, expecting the other person to listen and understand, then others might prefer to grieve in silence and solitude. A warm hug or holding the hand gently might work better than a speech or worse, a tirade.

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish introduce the above strategy in their book “How to Talk so Kids Can Listen”. They explain what makes perfect sense: “There is a direct connection between how kids feel and how they behave. When kids feel right, they’ll behave right. How do we help them to feel right? By accepting their feelings!”

However, since we are products of the past, as parents, we keep repeating the same script that was read to us. The adults in our life were not sensitive enough about the words they chose for us, thus, naturally we are clueless about their impact on our children.

Consider the following situations, and common responses of parents versus creative ones. Notice, how each one of them produces unique feelings in kids.

No Common response Kid’s feelings Creative response
1. Child: “This book is stupid!”

Parent: “No it isn’t. It’s a classic and very interesting.”

Child: “I hate reading.”

Parent: “No you don’t. You’re a good reader.”

Child: “It has too many words!”

Parent: “Now you’re being silly. The words are all easy.”

Child: “It’s too hard.”

Parent: “You’re not even trying. You’re just being lazy.”

When a child’s feelings are denied, he can easily become discouraged. Child: “This book is stupid!”

Parent: “There’s something about it you don’t like.”

Child: “It’s boring. Who cares about Tom Sawyer?”

Parent: “Oh, the character doesn’t interest you.”

Child: “No, I liked the last story we read: the one about the horse and dog.”

Parent: “Sounds as if you prefer books about animals.”

Child: “Yeah… I guess. After I finish this, I’m going to get    another book about dogs.”

Parent: “Okay, I’ll help you look for one on our next trip to the library.”

2. Child: “I lost my watch.”

Parent: “Again! Where was it?”

Child: “Right here in my pocket!”

Parent: “No wonder. I told you last time that your watch needs to be on your wrist not in your pocket.”

The child stares silently.

Parent: “You need to be more responsible about your belongings.”

Child: “I try to.”

Parent: “Well, try harder. Money doesn’t grow on trees that we can buy you a new watch every other day. You better be careful in future, young man.”

Child thinking to himself: “I am dumb and cannot be trusted.”

When a child is bombarded with criticism and advice, he finds it difficult to think about his problem or take responsibility for it. Child: “I lost my watch.”

Parent: “Oh, no!”

Child: “I had it right here in my pocket!”

Parent: “Mmm…”

Child: “It must have fallen out in the bus maybe.”

Parent: “You think so?”

The child stares silently.

The parent consoles him by patting at the back. “So, what are you going to do?”

Child: “I’ll call the bus driver to check.”

Parent: “Seems like a good idea. What about next time?”

Child: “I’m not taking it off.”

Parent: “That will be very responsible of you.”

3. Parent: “Hurry up! Get changed!”

Child: “I am.”

Parent: “No, you’re not. You’re just sitting there. Let’s go! We are visiting Aunt Sakina today.”

Child: “I don’t feel good.”

Parent: “That’s what you always say, when we visit her. She is our relative.”

Child: “It’s too boring at her house.”

Parent: “It’s not boring for others. Now, get going or we’ll be late.”

Child: “I’m feeling sick.”

Parent: “Oh! Quit making excuses. How do you expect to learn social skills, if you remain cooped up in your room all day?”

It’s frustrating when a child refuses to respond to reasoning. Is there a better way to help children overcome their resistance to a task?

 

Parent: “We’re leaving in 15 minutes.”

Child: “I know but I just don’t feel good.”

Parent: “I’ll bet that you wish we were going anywhere but to Aunt Sakina’s.”

Child: “It was so boring last time at her house.”

Parent: “I remember there wasn’t anyone your age.”

Child: “I’ll be dozing off right in the middle of the party.”

Parent: “Wouldn’t it be great that Aunt Sakina actually threw a slumber party and you could just crawl into one of the beds there and drift off to sleep!”

Child: “Right mom! Well, I’d better change.”

4. “That’s mine!” 1st child. “No mine!” 2nd child. Parent: “Wait a minute, you two, that’s not nice! Samiya, give the pencil back to Ali this moment. And wait for your turn.”

 

It’s hard for children to change their behaviour, when their feelings are completely ignored. “That’s mine!” 1st child. “No mine!” 2nd child.

Parent: “Samiya, I can see how much you want to use the pencil. Right now it’s Ali’s turn to write. I’ll give it to you after five minutes. And your time starts now.”

If we want to free our children’s minds for thinking and learning, then we have to deal respectfully with their emotions. Most importantly, if we want our kids to be caring individuals, we have to deal with them in more caring ways. The point is you don’t teach swimming to a drowning person. With the right intentions, we generally opt for the wrong language and bad timing. As parents, we have to learn to handle them with dignity and acknowledge their feelings. Sermons and lectures make children more irresponsible.

Look how the Prophet (sa) dealt with people. He did so in few, crisp and clear words. Whether it was a teenager seeking permission to commit Zina or an infant urinating on the Prophet’s (sa) lap, or the rowdy youngsters of Taif pelting stones at him, the Prophet (sa) never verbally abused children. As parents, teachers and adults, we are answerable for using foul or inappropriate language, or belittling and demeaning the emotions of children.