Picture Credit: Google
Byline: Brooke Benoit takes a moment to ponder why people concern themselves with other’s choices.
Pullquote: “…misjudging people leads to serious social ills, such as rejecting suitable people for jobs, marriage, positions in decision making processes and so on.”
“He converted for you?” they ask Aisha. With their eye-brows raised and heads tilted it’s hard for Aisha to believe that her sisters are just being naturally curious about this unique phenomenon. Her sisters think that they know many women convert for men, but it’s rare for a man to convert for a woman. Aisha has heard the whispers: these kinds of conversions are insincere, the converts aren’t really Muslim, their marriage is haram, he/she will soon enough leave their spouse and Islam all together.
I see how hurt Aisha is by these assumptions and judgments, and I try to dismiss them with a Muslim maxim, “Only Allah can judge you.” My words ring hollow, but I remain steadfast in my insistence that people’s judgments don’t bother me. “Sticks and Stones” sounds off quietly in my head. A few days later when someone angrily accused me of judging them I was flummoxed, but this time I saw that I am an need of a better understanding of why some of my sisters are so upset by perceiving that they have been judged, or worse misjudged. I wondered, What’s the big deal about what someone thinks about me? We can’t control each other’s thoughts… We can’t control each other’s actions either, but that’s one of the many problems with erroneously judging others; judgments then become actions.
For Aisha and her husband there are innumerous examples of how being misjudged effects their lives. Minimally they are both seen as “lesser” Muslims, though some may go as far to see them as deviants or even non-Muslims since they believe Aisha’s husband converted only to marry her and therefore he is not a true Muslim and neither is she because she is married to a non-Muslim. Aisha and her husband are often left out of mosque functions, including decision-making processes and educational resources thereby effectively blocking their local access to the deen. They are largely left feeling alienated from their community and frequently hurt by other Muslims’ harshness, assumptions, and ignorance about their personal lives.
Misjudgments in general can have lasting impacts on people’s lives. I now recognize that is was from a position of great privilege that I was able to so easily disregard how people may judge me. As a white female I am often misjudged or judged to my benefit. I am sometimes judged for various lifestyle choices I make (home-birthing, home-educating, converting, etc.) but these are usually superficial interactions that don’t have a lasting impact on my life aside from occasionally feeding my insecurities or fueling my determinacy. Misjudgments are often steeped in stereotyping and can lead to various forms of exclusion and ultimately forms of oppression. Aside from how Aisha’s family is excluded from her community, misjudging people leads to serious social ills, such as rejecting suitable people for jobs, marriage, positions in decision making processes and so on.
The harm to the judges
Judging others is also harmful to the one doing the judging, it prevents personal growth and can be or lead to sinning.
• Judging others is a distraction technique. We busy ourselves with casting judgment on others rather than to look out our own problems. Or as author Jarl Forsman explains, “Most judgments of others are ego strategies to avoid uncomfortable feelings. However, if you lack the awareness of where they come from, they can lead to even more discomfort down the line.” Next time you judge someone, think of the judgment as a mirror and ponder what is going on in that area in your own life. Perhaps some of these people who judge Aisha and her husband have insecurities about their own sincerity in their faith.
• Judging other’s actions can stem from envy. There may be some aspect of the other person’s choices that the judge is jealous that they are not able to act on themselves. Are Aisha’s judges jealous that she was able to marry a man they never would have been able to consider based on personal, familial or cultural taboos?
• Similarly, we may judge other’s from a position of intolerance, which is when we only accept our own personal values and are not accepting and respectful of other’s values. We can be bothered by other people’s lifestyle choices because again a mirror has been placed in front of us in providing an opportunity to reconsider our own ideals, but often we rather do the easier work of condemning than contemplating.
• Misjudging others is essentially making an assumption about them based on an interpretation of superficial information. This practice is so dangerous, that Allah (SWT) warns us not to heedlessly judge each other:
“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.” (Qur’an 49:12)
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (SAW) as saying: “Avoid suspicion, for suspicion is the gravest lie in talk and do not be inquisitive about one another and do not spy upon one another and do not feel envy with the other, and nurse no malice, and nurse no aversion and hostility against one another. And be fellow-brothers and servants of Allah.” [Muslim Hadith 6214]
• Breeding negativity: notice in the above hadith we are not only warned about suspicion, but also not to harbor negative feelings for each other, such as malice, aversion and hostility. SISTERS’ own Positive Psychologist Saiyyidah Zaidi-Stone explains that “Negative thinking drains your energy for positivity. Being negative becomes a habit. This rut results in individuals being unable to grow and develop themselves as positive individuals. If you consciously decide to have a positive mindset it does wonders for your psychological and emotional development, the same is true of negative mindset so be aware which one you focus your energy and attention on.” Ultimately, negative thinking is a projection of our own discontent.
Of course there is always the possibility that these sorts of questions are being asked earnestly to make small talk, which can be a good and necessary tool to help establish commonality. The trick to help discern your intention is to listen to your own inner voice’s responses to your queries; if your responses are couched in negativity- then perhaps it is better to follow the sunnah of remaining silent until you get that under control.
I now have great empathy for Aisha’s family and the adversity they face due to people’s false judgments of them. While there isn’t much I can do for Aisha, other than reminding her that people are just projecting their own problems onto her, I am more conscience now when I hear my own inner critique lashing out at people. I can now stop and ponder, what am I actually saying about myself?
Bio: Brooke Benoit is an artist, mama to six, writer, editor, Islamic fiction champion, and frequent baker living a greenish life in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
P.Feauxzar ‘s thoughts : The couple has recently divorced. Maybe it was the qadr of Allah but I also believe that this poor couple was victim of evil eye. This is sad. I pray that each party stays on siratal mustaqim-the straight path, amiin. I also pray that they find their way and heal, amiin.