Husn udh-dhann finnaas – Having Good Opinion of People

By Naila Naiyyar

husn-udh-dhann-of-people

A lot of problems arise among families, relatives, in-laws, colleagues, and neighbors, simply due to having negative thoughts of them. Allah has clearly stated in the Holy Quran to avoid such negative assumptions, calling it a sin.

“O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is accepting of repentance and Merciful.” (Quran; 49:12)

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tales; and do not look for the others’ faults and do not spy, and do not be jealous of one another, and do not desert (cut your relation with) one another, and do not hate one another; and O Allah’s worshipers! Be brothers (as Allah has ordered you!”) (Bukhari)

Perhaps you see a friend online regularly updating on social media, but isn’t replying to your messages. Instead of jumping to a conclusion like she is ignoring you, fancy the thought that she may be too caught up with things and just needs a gentle reminder to get back to you.

That person who passed by you not replying to your salaams, possibly didn’t hear you.

That colleague who snapped rudely at you might be facing something terribly bad at home.

And even if you don’t know why the driver behind you overtook your car so dangerously, supposing that he might have an emergency to rush to will let you stay calm on the road and give you peace of mind, instead of letting it affect your mood adversely, which you would ultimately take back home or to work.

Developing a positive opinion of people does NOT mean ignoring danger signs or being careless and unguarded; rather, it means not to paint every one with the single brush of negativity; it means to not let stereotypes affect our judgment, and not to let other people’s personal experiences or opinions bleak our sense of rationality.

To put it briefly, having good opinion of people implies:

  • Thinking positive of others
  • Avoiding suspicion and wrong assumptions of others
  • Giving others the benefit of the doubt

 

The first step to eradicating negative thoughts of others is to acknowledge the problem. Next, is to work through it. In order to do that, we need to identify why we think the way we do. What could be the underlying factor for thinking ill of others? Some possible reasons are enlisted below. Identifying which one(s) affect us most would be able to help us in resolving our issues more effectively.

 

Reasons for thinking the worst of others:

1) Polluted heart

The first and foremost reason is having a polluted heart – a heart  low in eeman (faith) and taqwa (fear of Allah). The heart which is not clean will not be able to see nor seek the good in others. Such a heart weakens the eeman and pollutes the mind, with this pollution extending to our everyday-dealings with other people.

2) Stereotypes

We all have our own criteria of thoughts and beliefs based on which we judge people and events around us. However, external factors like family, peers, and society too condition this outlook of ours towards the world. This is where stereotypes come into play. We can reduce harboring bad opinion of people simply by not following stereotypes. Always objectively analyze the person or event in a particular situation before forming opinions. This would help us in being non-judgmental.

For example, a very common stereotype has to do with the mother and daughter-in-law dynamics, wherein a mother in-law is considered to be someone who is always against her daughter in-law. Even though a wife-to-be may not know her mother in-law well enough before marriage, she could step into her new family with preconceived ideas based on all the things she has heard about mothers-in-law in general. In doing so, she fails to realize that her husband’s mother is just like any other mother – including her own, who would only be eager to start a beautiful relationship with her new daughter-in-law.

A wise person will always think reasonably and avoid jumping to conclusions.

3) Lack of empathy

Empathy is a quality that helps us connect with people especially when they are going through tough times, and creates a bond of trust between two people. When we lack empathy we are unable to feel the other person’s situation. This leads to forming bad opinions about them when what they actually need from us is understanding and support.

4) Not being able to accept others’ achievements

This factor has a lot to do with being envious or jealous of others for their achievements. Some strategies to deal with envy are mentioned in our blog post here.

5) Difference of opinions

This refers to considering ill of others because they don’t agree with us in certain instances.

We need to realize that everyone has different approaches to life, and so our view will not necessarily be the same as that of another person. Since we are more prone to form wrong opinions about people when we don’t get along with them, we must be more mindful in such cases.

 

Benefits of having good opinion of people

1) The heart remains pure and free from wrong assumptions, malice, or rancor, instead is full of love for others.

2) It breeds positivity, promotes unity, and fosters love and respect for fellow human beings.

3) We are more concerned about improving our lives, instead of making others miserable.

4) We earn the Pleasure of Allah.

 

How to develop good opinion of people

1) Ask Allah to purify your heart. Raise your prayers to the One who answers.

2) Be constant in focusing on yourself and how you can improve your own life. It is not befitting of a Muslim to be unnecessarily concerned with others’ lives, following their every move.

As mentioned in the hadith, “Part of a person’s being a good Muslim is leaving alone that which does not concern him.” (Tirmidhi)

3) Be open-minded and try to understand each person’s situation.  Get more clarity into the situation by looking at it through different angles.

4) Feel happy for others achievements. Force it, if you have to. Allah will rush to your help when you put in your efforts, and soon the feelings of happiness would come to you naturally.

5) Always give others the benefit of the doubt. Give him/her a chance to put forward his opinion too. We need to keep in mind that no one is free from making mistakes. Hence, it is not fair to ignore the good deeds and focus only something they erred on.

6) Filter the information you get before forming an opinion. Instead of creating stories in your head, it is better to directly communicate with the other person in a civilized manner.

7) Understand and respect the differences of other people.

8) Always put yourself in the other’s situation and ask yourself how you would feel if people have prejudice in their hearts against you.

Why, when you heard it, did not the believing men and believing women think good of one another and say, “This is an obvious falsehood”? (Quran; 24:12)

 

Good opinion about kids in the home and at school

Having good opinion of children is crucial to help build their self-confidence. When adults have a good opinion of them, they feel good about themselves they will tend to perform well in all areas of life. But if adults assume that they are ‘just kids’ and so won’t be able to complete even a simple task then they are already setting the child up for failure. The same is the case with teachers. If a teacher believes that a student is and will always remain a C-grade student, then that’s just how the student will perform. Instead, when the student is given the confidence of excelling, s/he will actually begin to strive for it.

 

Final Notes

On the flip side, it is also important for us to be very clear and open about our own actions, and avoid things that will raise suspicion among those around us either through our facial and body gestures, or our actions.  We should be careful not to leave room for conceivable suspicion from others. A very beautiful example can be found in the following hadith:

Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) wife Safiyya visited him one night when he was observing I’tikaf. When it was time for her to leave, he stood up to bid her goodbye. During this time two men passed by them. When they saw Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) with a female they began to walk away swiftly. So he (peace be upon him) said, “Walk calmly, she is Safiyya, daughter of Huyyay.” Both of them said: “Messenger, Praise be to Allah. We cannot conceive of anything doubtful even in the remotest corners of our minds.” He (peace be upon him) said: “Satan circulates in the body of man like the circulation of blood and I was afraid lest it should instill any evil in your heart or anything.” (Muslim)

Of Selfies, Grades, and Nose Surgeries – My Self Esteem

By Khalida Jalil

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Taking about 200 selfies every day, a teenage boy almost killed himself due to his addiction.

When she did not earn grades high enough to attend her first-choice university, a smart teen took her life.

While undergoing surgery for beauty purposes, Iranians most commonly choose to do a nose surgery. If that is not surprising enough, Iran is one of the top 10 countries in the world for performing plastic surgeries.

 

These are all three different stories, but they have one commonality: Self-esteem.

When we post a selfie on social media, we often expect viewers to ‘Like’ the picture and/or ‘Comment’ on it. However, it becomes destructive when we begin to crave that ‘Like’ and ‘Comment’. We claim that our self-esteem is not built up on people’s praises, but still have an unhealthy attachment to praise.

How do we react when someone comments, “You look alright,” or “You are ugly”? Does that shatter us? Does that make us doubt ourselves?

Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that taking selfies indicates having a low self-esteem. The problem is not with taking selfies; the problem is with our intentions and objectives behind taking them. Do we take selfies so people can praise us, or is it for some other reason?

As humans, we enjoy being praised because in the instances that we are praised, our brain releases dopamine, a pleasure hormone in the brain. Although it is generally important for our bodily functions, excessive dopamine levels do play a role in forming addictions (read: 200 selfies per day story!). So it clearly isn’t healthy to base our self-esteem on people’s praises or criticisms.

It is important, however, to be realistic.

We may not look like celebrities on a daily basis, but guess what! They themselves wish that they looked like that. Why, you ask?

Because the beauty standards on the media are not real. The images are all fictitious facades hiding flaws through Adobe, Photoshop, filters, make-up, and even surgery in some cases.

We may not be as “beautiful” as some people we see, but we are beautiful in our own way. Imagine a world where everyone looked the same. Wouldn’t that be boring? I think so.

Through the media, we also see posts by “successful” people who have the “best” careers, the “perfect” families, and the “happiest” lives.

 

How can we possibly develop and maintain a positive self-esteem amidst all the standards that the media, our families, and our cultures set for us?

Well, self-esteem consists of how we view ourselves and others. And how we view ourselves includes how we value, respect, and trust ourselves (e.g. trusting our ability to learn, judge, and/or decide); it also includes our competence in handling life’s challenges.

Do not worry – Developing a good self-esteem is a gradual, dynamic process. It takes both effort and time. So take it slowly.

The best way to nurture a healthy self-esteem, in my opinion, is to understand the Quran as if it is addressing us – which, it is. We often do not think that the Quran teaches us about confidence and how to have a good self-image, but it does.

 

In the Quran, we learn that we have value and are honorable simply because we were created by Allah:

“…وَلَقَدْ كَرَّمْنَا بَنِي آدَمَ…”

And We have definitely honored the son of Adam (al-Israa; 17: 70)

Our value and honor are not dependent on what people think of us, how we look, what grades we earn, the job we hold, our salary, or where we are from.

Our worth and honor are based on how God views us. Our value is in how God-conscious we are, that is, how we conduct ourselves based on God’s words.

 

“The father of the self-esteem movement” Dr. Nathaniel Branden, says in his book The Power of Self-Esteem, “We cannot work on self-esteem directly, neither our own nor anyone else’s, because self-esteem is a consequencea product of internally generated practices — such as that of living consciously, responsibly, purposefully, and with integrity”.

And subhanAllah, we have been taught all this in the Quran:

Allah tells us why He created us so that we live our lives with that purpose in mind. He reminds us to have taqwa – to follow Allah’s commands and stay away from His prohibitions to protect ourselves from His punishment – which essentially requires us to live consciously and responsibly.

Living consciously helps us to assess ourselves realistically, rather than negatively. It teaches us to exert our utmost effort into anything we do, but to then leave its results to Allah. If we do not reach the perfection we aimed for, we do not pressure ourselves because we know that we invested our best effort into it.

This subsequently teaches us to accept ourselves as we are, even if there is a characteristic in us that we do not like. We then learn to acknowledge our strengths, accept our mistakes as learning opportunities, and aim for improvement. We do not obsess about our “flaws”; instead, we correct ourselves to the best of our abilities and work on what we can change.

Allah also informs us how to live a life of integrity: He commands us to stand up for truth and justice, and to not tolerate oppression and dishonesty, besides calling us to other exhortations.

By living consciously, responsibly, purposefully, and with integrity, we naturally value, respect, and trust ourselves. We would then begin to live in a way where we can best cope with life’s challenges and interact with others in a healthy manner.

Let us always remember that while we should beautify ourselves outwardly, we should not forget to beautify our soul and character too, both of which are the main foundations for a positive self-esteem and success in both worlds.

 

Disclaimer: In this article, I am not referring to surgeries needed for health reasons; I am talking about surgeries people undergo solely for “beauty” purposes. I believe in feeling comfortable in the body God created us with.