Change the way we relate

As I mentioned in my last Khutba, ‘Living in the Revolution’, there are three things that we must change to survive and thrive in the AI Revolution. Change the way we connect with Allahﷻ and Rasoolullahﷺ, change the way we teach, and change the way we relate with one another.  

I have taught and written about leadership now for 40 years. I have trained practically everything that walks on two legs or four. There is one critical lesson that I learnt in all these years, and that is, that your success doesn’t depend on the amount of knowledge you have, or your piety, or your personality, or your lineage, family, race, color, nationality of anything else. It depends only on one thing; your ability to influence people. And that in turn depends on your ability to get along with people. That is because the cardinal principle in sales is, ‘You can only sell to friends.’ The key to influencing anyone is that the other person must like you first. This is the key to success in marriage, employment, business, politics, or anything else.

This applies even more to the biggest of all challenges, to get people to change their belief. Just try getting someone to change the soccer or basketball team they support or to vote for another party and you know what I mean. Rasoolullahﷺ’s challenge was to change who people worshipped. One of Rasoolullahﷺ’s greatest strengths was the ability to get along which enabled him to continue to remain engaged in the most difficult and antagonistic of situations and that in turn was instrumental in changing people like Khalid bin Waleed and Abu Sufyan (RA) to becoming his friends.

The key to getting along is to get along with those we may disagree with. Especially when such people may have strengths and talents that are critical to our own success. I want to remind you that nobody can succeed on his own. Everyone needs someone else to succeed. The key is to help the other person see how they can succeed in their own life goals by supporting you. It is not about deception or smooth talking. It is about helping the other person see what is in it for them. Smooth talking is suicidal to influencing. It destroys credibility and trust. Once people wake up to the fact that they had been deceived, and they always do without exception, then they will distrust everything that comes from you and anyone like you. Permanent and powerful influencing is about desiring the best for others and helping them to achieve it. In that process you achieve your own goals. Allahﷻ said:

وَلَا تَسْتَوِى ٱلْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا ٱلسَّيِّئَةُ ٱدْفَعْ بِٱلَّتِى هِىَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا ٱلَّذِى بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُۥ عَدَٰوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُۥ وَلِىٌّ حَمِيمٌ

Fussilat 41: 34   The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (evil) with one which is better (Allah ordered believers to be patient when angry and to excuse those who treat them badly), then verily! he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend.

This can only happen if we are willing to forgive each other and keep the primacy of the goal in mind i.e., building the relationship. Rasoolullahﷺ set the best example with the people he forgave and what happened thereafter.

The focus on winning friends is even more critical when we are talking about Da’awa of Islam which is get people to look at a belief that goes against whatever they hold to be true. The only way that will happen is when they don’t feel threatened because they see you as a well-wisher and friend.

ٱدْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِٱلْحِكْمَةِ وَٱلْمَوْعِظَةِ ٱلْحَسَنَةِ وَجَـٰدِلْهُم بِٱلَّتِى هِىَ أَحْسَنُ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِۦ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِٱلْمُهْتَدِينَ

Nahl 16: 125   Invite (mankind, O Muhammad) to the Way of your Rabb (Islam) with wisdom and fair preaching and argue with them in a way that is better. Truly, your Rabb knows best who has gone astray from His Path, and He is the Most Aware of those who are guided.

As we can see, wisdom before preaching. And preaching and any discussion that may arise is to be done in the best possible way with the focus being on winning hearts. Islam spread by the winning of hearts. Not by the sword. Anyone who intends to invite people to Islam must have the best manners and develop tons of patience before he says a single word. Otherwise, he will do more damage than good. Sadly, examples of this abound.

Allahﷻ gave us the secret of relationship; to focus on Allahﷻ’s Book.

وَٱعْتَصِمُوا۟ بِحَبْلِ ٱللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا۟ وَٱذْكُرُوا۟ نِعْمَتَ ٱللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَآءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِۦٓ إِخْوَٰنًا وَكُنتُمْ عَلَىٰ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِّنَ ٱلنَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِّنْهَا كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمْ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ

Aal Imraan 3: 103    And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah (Quran), and be not divided amongst yourselves, and remember Allah’s Favor on you, for you were enemies to one another but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His Grace, you became brothers (in Islam), and you were on the brink of a pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus, Allah makes His Ayat (signs, revelations) clear to you, that you may be guided.

What should we do? Always keep focused on the Book of Allahﷻ and its explanation in the teachings of Rasoolullahﷺ (Sunnah wa Seerah) and not get divided into groups and sects. Please note that Allahﷻ didn’t say – La Takhtalifu (do not disagree). There is ample room in Islam for difference of opinion, to dialogue, debate and even agree to disagree. But not for division and enmity. We must learn to disagree without being disagreeable. Analytical reasoning, communicating clearly with compassion, and above and before all these, listening with concern are skills we must learn. In Islam there is no room for condemning, ostracizing, abusing, suspecting, or backbiting others. Allahﷻ warned us and said:

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ إِن جَآءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌۢ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوٓا۟ أَن تُصِيبُوا۟ قَوْمًۢا بِجَهَـٰلَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا۟ عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَـٰدِمِينَ

Hujuraat 49: 6   O you who believe! If a rebellious evil person comes to you with some news, verify it, lest you harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful about what you have done.

Allahﷻ told us to beware of rumor mongers and to make peace between our brothers and to support the one who seeks peace:

وَإِن طَآئِفَتَانِ مِنَ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ ٱقْتَتَلُوا۟ فَأَصْلِحُوا۟ بَيْنَهُمَا فَإِنۢ بَغَتْ إِحْدَىٰهُمَا عَلَى ٱلْأُخْرَىٰ فَقَـٰتِلُوا۟ ٱلَّتِى تَبْغِى حَتَّىٰ تَفِىٓءَ إِلَىٰٓ أَمْرِ ٱللَّهِ فَإِن فَآءَتْ فَأَصْلِحُوا۟ بَيْنَهُمَا بِٱلْعَدْلِ وَأَقْسِطُوٓا۟ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُقْسِطِينَ

Hujuraat 49: 9   And if two parties or groups among the believers fall to fighting, then make peace between them both, but if one of them rebels against the other, then fight you (all) against the one that which rebels till it complies with the Command of Allah; then if (the group) complies, then make reconciliation between them justly, and be equitable. Verily! Allah loves those who are equitable.

And He said:

إِنَّمَا ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا۟ بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

Hujuraat 49: 10   The believers are nothing but brothers (in Islam). So, make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allah, that you may receive mercy.

Allahﷻ warned us against mocking, insulting each other and using offensive nicknames.

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لَا يَسْخَرْ قَوْمٌ مِّن قَوْمٍ عَسَىٰٓ أَن يَكُونُوا۟ خَيْرًا مِّنْهُمْ وَلَا نِسَآءٌ مِّن نِّسَآءٍ عَسَىٰٓ أَن يَكُنَّ خَيْرًا مِّنْهُنَّ وَلَا تَلْمِزُوٓا۟ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَلَا تَنَابَزُوا۟ بِٱلْأَلْقَـٰبِ بِئْسَ ٱلِٱسْمُ ٱلْفُسُوقُ بَعْدَ ٱلْإِيمَـٰنِ وَمَن لَّمْ يَتُبْ فَأُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلظَّـٰلِمُونَ

Hujuraat 49: 11   O you who believe! Let not a group mock another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former; nor let (some) women mock other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former, nor defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. How bad is it, to insult one’s brother after having Faith [by offensive nicknames]. And whosoever does not repent, then such are indeed Zalimun (wrong doers, etc.).

Finally, Allahﷻ warned us against suspecting, spying, and backbiting:

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ٱجْتَنِبُوا۟ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا۟ وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ

Hujuraat 49: 12    O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, indeed some suspicion is sin. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One Who accepts repentance, Most Merciful.

Suspecting leads to spying and that to backbiting, which is like termites in wood. You don’t see them until they have completely eaten the structure from within and it collapses. Backbiting in the cancer of our Ummah. Backbiting transfers our good deeds into the book of the one who we are maligning. How ironic and tragic that we give our good deeds to someone we don’t even like. Suspecting, spying, and backbiting destroy brotherhood and we are seeing the effects of that all over our communities.

Finally, Allahﷻ warned us about the games Shaytaan plays and said:

وَقُل لِّعِبَادِي يَقُولُواْ الَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ يَنزَغُ بَيْنَهُمْ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ كَانَ لِلإِنْسَانِ عَدُوًّا مُّبِينًا

Al-Isra 17: 53.      And say to My slaves (Muslims) that they should (only) say those words that are the best. Verily Shaytaan verily, sows disagreements among them. Surely, Shaytaan is a clear enemy of mankind.

Abu Hurairah said that Rasoolullah said, “Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the greatest falsehood. Do not try to find fault with each other, do not spy on one another, do not vie with one another, do not envy one another, do not be angry with one another, do not turn away from one another, and be slaves of Allah, brothers to one another, as you have been enjoined.”

“A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim, he does him no wrong, nor does he let him down, nor does he despise him. Fear of Allah  is here, fear of Allah is here (and he pointed to his chest). It is evil enough that a Muslim should look down on his brother. For every Muslim is sacred to one another: his blood, his honor, and his property. Allah does not look at your bodies or your forms, or your deeds, but He looks at your hearts.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

Abdullah Ibn Amr (R) reported that Rasoolullah said: “Be merciful to others and you will receive mercy. Forgive others and Allah will forgive you.” [Ahmad]

Abu Hurairah (R) reported that Rasoolullah  said, “It is not lawful for a Muslim to forsake his (Muslim) brother beyond three days; and whosoever does so for more than three days, and then dies, will certainly enter Jahannam.”[Abu Dawud]

My brothers and sisters, the key is to practice all these things. Make friends, use wisdom before speaking, win hearts, forgive each other, conciliate between people. Don’t mock, curse, use profanity, suspect, spread rumors, spy on, or backbite one another. And don’t listen to Shaytaan. Good manners pay rich dividends. May Allahﷻ protect us from Shaytaan, ourselves and our ego.