The Joy of Putting Others Down

By Ferdousy Akhter Tani

bullying

He smirked, feeling a sense of vicious satisfaction. That must have been the umpteenth time he managed to intimidate the weird boy – the weird, weak boy.

Bullying is a distinctive pattern of harming and humiliating others, specifically those who are in some way smaller, weaker, and younger or in any way more vulnerable than the bully.

Bullying is real.

Most of us, if not all, have witnessed or heard about someone getting bullied. As the word ‘bullying’ may seem rather nasty, we often inadvertently label it elsehow while overlooking the dangers it poses towards the people actually being bullied. It may happen around us while we turn a blind eye to it – either because it’s easy to ignore, or because the bully is our relative, a friend, sibling, or maybe even one’s boss.

It does feel good to win an argument, to defeat rather than being defeated. But we need to understand that bullying is much more than just winning an argument. It is the urge to put others down, emotionally or physically, and enjoying ourselves while at it. It is a badly-masked attempt to hide one’s insecurity; an insecurity which stems from poor control over one’s mind and actions. A bully somehow feels worthier after preying on his victim. However, close inspection reveals that the need to devalue others actually leads back to his depraved sense of self-worth. He feels the drive to increase his value by lowering someone else’s. He feels victorious as he sees his victim overpowered. But is it really a victory?

When you put someone down by using intimidation, snide remarks or any other misconduct, you are causing great harm to the person’s mental health. The one being bullied may become increasingly less confident, anxious and eventually fall into depression. A moment of joy for you may become the cause for prolonged agony for someone else. What may have been an excuse for entertainment for you may be a cause of anguish for another. An attack on someone’s physical appearance, financial status or racial background may leave a mark deeper than what you see. You cause fear, hurt and humiliation, all in one go! So is it really worth it? Is it worth inflicting pain on others just because you can? Is it worth seeing someone withering away mentally for a few seconds of amusement for yourself?

With instances of bullying, it is not only the victim who is affected but also the bully himself who brings about his own harm. His incessant need to control and put others down affects his relationship with others; he may become increasingly abusive to those around him; verbal abuse may follow physical abuse in no time; and all of this would lead to cause a greater harm for himself in the long run. Before he knows it, it could be his tranquility – and not just the victim’s – that will be destroyed. The momentary feeling of victory may lead to a greater and permanent loss for himself when his abusive nature pushes him towards violence, and he ends up doing something atrocious and irreversible.

From an Islamic viewpoint, bullying can be easily rebuked if we look at the statement of the Prophet ﷺ:

‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin Al-‘as (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hands the Muslims are safe;… “.

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

If people had followed just this one hadith, most of society’s problems would disappear overnight. Rasulullah ﷺ put a qualifier for those who wish to be Muslims. They are those who will try their best not to harm another Muslim, neither by words nor actions.

Even though the hadith mentions only Muslims, Islam teaches us to not wrong the non-Muslims as well.

The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “If anyone wrongs a mu‘aahid (a non-Muslim living under Muslim rule), detracts from his rights, burdens him with more work than he is able to do or takes something from him without his consent, I will plead for him (the mu‘aahid) on the Day of Resurrection.” [Abu Dawood; authentic]

One can clearly see that bullying has no place in Islam. There is no room for it in our deen to make others feel inferior just to show one’s superiority. It is deplorable to hurt one’s feelings only because he seems in some way weaker than oneself.

 

What to do to stop bullying?

 

  1. Recognize

Recognize bullying for what it is. When you see someone being put down, do not take it lightly. Make a mental note of doing something about the situation.

  1. Help

Get involved (depending on the scope you have) and offer help. Talk to the person being bullied. Highlight some positive things about them. Try to make them feel more confident about themselves. Take help from the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ.

Ibn Mas`ud climbed a tree and they started laughing at the thinness of his legs, whereupon the Prophet ﷺsaid: “I swear that they shall be heavier in the Balance than Mount Uhud.”(Ahmad; authentic)

  1. Stop it

Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand [by taking action]; if he cannot, then with his tongue [by speaking out]; and if he cannot, then with his heart [by hating it] – and that is the weakest of faith” (Muslim)

A teacher may stop his students, a parent may stop his children, and a friend may stop his friends from engaging in bullying.

  1. Talk to the bully

Anas reported: “The Messenger of Allah said: ‘Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or is oppressed.’ A man asked: ‘O Messenger of Allah! I (know how to) help him when he is oppressed, but how can I help him when he is an oppressor?’ He said: ‘You can restrain him from committing oppression. That will be your help to him.’” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Tell them that their actions are wrong and let them know about the consequences of their actions; it could be that they are unaware of the damage they are causing to their victims.

A bully should know that it is a loss to let one’s emotions and actions go unchecked to the point that it leaves a permanent scar on the people who become prey to his bullying. It is a loss to send someone crying to bed. It is a loss greater for himself than those whom he thinks he has defeated.

Putting others down is not what he considers to be a victory. It’s a loss.

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