Islam is based on a relationship with Allah (swt), with its creations, and with the world we live in. As soon as we come together, a potential conflict exists. But conflict is not unnatural. Of course, with Allah (swt) there is no conflict, as He is Al-Aziz (The Mighty One) and Al-Jabbar (the Omnipotent One). Whatever He decides will be. However, between humans there exist differences. Allah (swt) wants us to take the best out of these differences. It is Allah (swt) Who has planted the seed of difference in our existence with regard to other human beings, be it our colour of skin, our nations or our tribes.
We live in a community and were not sent to live in a monastery or on top of a mountain. It was narrated that Ibn ‘Umar (rtam) said: The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “The believer who mixes with people and bears their annoyance with patience will have a greater reward than the one who does not mix with people and does not put up with their annoyance.” (Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah) Hence, the preferable way for the believer is to deal with conflicts positively, as it contains good. But as soon as we utter the word ‘conflict’, we think negative. We are trained to think that ‘we should avoid it and block it, as it is bad’. Circumstances without it are better.
The issue is: are we able to identify the good in the conflict? The following might just alter your perspective. When we go through conflict, it:
- Facilitates change. Conflicts provide just that. When we change from what we were doing to something different, it highlights that our previous way of handling something was wrong. It shows a conflict between what we were doing versus the best way to do something. This spells the need for us to change, which is beneficial for all.
- Motivates us. Conflicts motivate us to do better. Otherwise, we are complacent and lazy about the way things are. Things either improve or degrade. The idea of going at one pace with no ups and downs is impossible. That is not life. That is the life of a stone. Living creatures experience change, whether it is a caterpillar changing into a butterfly or a child growing up to be an adult. Allah (swt) states: “Verily, We have created man in toil.” (Al-Balad 90:4) Struggle is a result of conflict. Gravity tells us to lie down but struggle tells us to roll over. Gravity tells us to stay where we are. Struggle tells us to move, and eventually we start walking. Struggle and conflict are part of our own development.
- Increases awareness of issues. Pain in life is important for us to know that things are not going in the right direction in life. Those patients, who due to a damaged nervous system are unable to feel pain, self-destruct themselves. Pain lets us know, where our problem exists; otherwise, we would bleed and bruise to death. Similarly, conflicts identify where issues need to be corrected, so we can repair and improve.
- Improves decision-making. Conflicts also cause decisions to be sought out more carefully. Through conflicts some careful decision-making is reached, more precautions are taken and secure analysis is done.
- Gives opportunity for self-assessment. It helps us to understand what we are really like. We might think of ourselves as someone very calm and understanding, but as the heat turns on, our voices raise. It exposes our weakness. It is under conflict that we can take benefit for personal change to correct shortcomings that we are not normally aware of.
- Defuses greater conflicts by means of smaller conflicts. If we can deal with certain issues by catching them at an earlier stage we are then able to prevent greater harm at a later stage. It is nipped in the bud.
- Becomes an amusement if not taken seriously. Differences can be put in place. If we have the ability to handle them in a non-serious manner, we can laugh about them. We all argue and later look back and laugh at it, realizing that it was nothing to be uptight about.
- Makes us aware that with every evil, good exists. Can we capitalize on the positive and not become overwhelmed and overcome by conflicts? Allah (swt) does not cause any harm, evil or bad to occur, unless there is a good side to it. Allah (swt) didn’t create Satan to commit evil. Likewise, Allah (swt) didn’t create Adam to disobey. But He did provide them with the opportunity to ask for forgiveness later. The template for life is: repentance must follow error and sin. And the power of repentance is so great that the Prophet (sa) said: “One who repents from sins is like one who never sinned.” (Ibn Majah) Repentance is a higher level of worship. It is the reason for creation of sin.
- Becomes a means to get to know others. When we face a problem, we should work vigorously to deal with the problem and not the person. Also, we must understand that asking others and their listening to us doesn’t equate to agreeing and to obeying. We confuse ourselves when we say something and assume that others are in agreement. We need to ensure first if the other person accepts it or not.
- Develops Husn-e-Zan. In the course of a dialogue, words have impact. If in the discussion we accuse: “You said or you thought, or you did…” it works like fuel on the fire. You are taking it right to the person. Instead, you may say: “I thought or it was my interpretation, or I understood…” This does not sound confrontational. You are defusing the problem. Hence, beware of using ‘you’ and ‘your’. Always give the benefit of the doubt to others by assuming the best interpretation they meant. To have assumed the worst, when in fact it wasn’t intended at all, is bad.
It is for us to take the good out of conflicts, when they occur in families, whether it is between spouses, parents and their children or siblings. We need to look at the glass that is half full. Islam always talks about positivity. Muslims recite the chapter of Fatihah seventeen times daily. What is it? It teaches gratefulness. The attitude of gratitude is the most powerful attribute after believing in Allah (swt). Whenever you feel frustrated, distressed or in the middle of a conflict, make Sujood-as-Shukr. This is the best cure. It was the Prophet’s (sa) regular practice. Sujood-as-Shukr keeps us in touch with the positive side of reality.
Ingratitude is so dangerous that the Prophet (sa) said that the majority of women will be in hellfire, as they are quick to deny good. It’s an alarming practice with horrible consequences. It is important for us to be grateful to Allah (swt) and then to our fellow beings. The Prophet (sa) said that whoever is not thankful to people is not thankful to Allah (swt). If the wives do not appreciate their husbands for what they have done, they are not thanking Allah (swt) either. Similarly, for men big displays of gratitude to Allah (swt) mean little, if they mistreat their wives.
Some conflicts end in depression. Depression is the inability to recognize good. Hundreds of people are killing themselves due to it. Psychologists consider offering gratitude to be the best remedy for dealing with depression. As a general principle, when resolving family conflicts, this needs to be considered carefully. This is a huge topic. We can apply this principle to virtually all circumstances.
In any conflict, ask Allah (swt) what good does He want to bring forth? Then develop strategies. Difference in needs, values and beliefs are the reasons that result in conflicts among people. Though Pakistan has mostly a homogenous community, still there are some unique familial, tribal customs and values people carry with them, as they come together in marriage. These are some foundations of conflict, but Allah (swt) commands us to resolve them.
In families, the biggest problem is communication breakdown. Marriage psychologists especially highlight this challenge. Men usually do not like to talk. Women always like to talk. There are different ways people deal with their troubles. We must keep the dialogue going. We need to ask ourselves a very vital question: “Would I rather be happy or would I rather be right?” What if you actually give up, when you have an opportunity to further go into conflict?
The Prophet (sa) states: “I guarantee a house in Jannah for the one who gives up arguing, even if he is right.” (Abu Dawood) Some people insist that they will fight for their right, but actually it is not always wise to be right and have the last say. One must analyze the situation. What is the greater good of the situation? Greater good is in happiness. Allah (swt) has put a husband and a wife together for them to be in a state of love, comfort and happiness. Do not let smaller issues be blown out of proportion.
Transcribed for “Hiba” by Rana Rais Khan, Editor, “Hiba”.