The comments section of this site is open to members to post their thoughts and articles. The views expressed here are solely those of the authors and are not necessary shared by all other members or administators of the site:

On this page (2) :

My brothers's flesh on the menue?: Farid Esack
and more to come...

6.My brothers flesh on the menue?

By: Farid Esack

Much of the preceding pages deal with our relationships with those
close to us or for whose needs we feel some sympathy. What about those
who we just do not like, have difficulty "stomaching" or with whom we
bitterly disagree?

Yes, it is OK to dislike certain attitudes in people and to avoid, and
even oppose, those who display annoying, abominable or bullying
behaviour. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) told Sa'ad ibn Abi Waqqas
(May Allah be pleased with him), one of his companions: "I am hoping
that you will be a source of benefit for some people and of trouble
for others". South Africa has taught many of us to be wary of the
"love your enemy" language that blunts the anger of the oppressed and
is usually little more than a tool in the hands of the powerful
intended to perpetuate their domination. I am, however, equally wary
of those who spit venom at others at the drop of a pin and then seek
refuge in a hadith referring to "love for Allah and anger for Allah."
I have heard this hadith invoked far too often as a weapon of personal
and / or organizational warfare.

For the moment though, I would like to focus on the way we relate to
those who we just personally dislike. 

To maintain the sanctity of those who we dislike is a rather
difficult. It is a task that often escapes those who, in general
terms, are otherwise observant of the requirements of Islamic
behaviour. I remember an incident that occurred at a friend's place
when I was still at school. Ashiek and I were merrily and mercilessly
dissecting the characters of two other friends until the time for
prayers approached. We asked his younger brother, Fasiegh, then just
entering his teens and going through his own questioning of religion
and the presence of Allah in a pain-filled world, to join us. (Ashiek
and I were supposedly the guys who were going to ensure that the
younger brother stayed on the "straight path"). After completing our
prayers, Fasiegh casually remarked: "Right, now that we are finished
speaking to Allah, we can continue eating the flesh of our brothers."
We were silent. (If only the silence could have lasted!)

Imam Ghazali narrates a story of Jesus (Peace be upon him) who
counseled his disciples by asking them how they would act if they were
to see a companion sleeping and the wind blowing his clothes off. They
replied that they would screen him and cover him up. Jesus then asked
if they would rather "lay bare his private parts?" When they replied
that it is unthinkable that they would do thus, he told them that
similar was the behaviour of one "who listens to gossip about his
fellow person, then adds to it and passes it on having added some
spice to it."

Some years ago during the month of Ramadan I was in Pretoria where I
offered my late evening prayers (tarawih). Sitting in one of the
centre rows, I noticed a man in front talking to the imam, moving back
to discuss something with someone else, and again with the imam before
he eventually sat down. I did not think anything unusual about this.
After about twenty prayer units (raka'at) had been completed, I left
for the ablution area and returned. Having forfeited my place in the
centre rows, I slid into the back row. Upon the completion of prayers,
I was stopped by three people outside the mosque. They politely
inquired about the permissibility according to Imam Idris ibn
al-Shafi' (May Allah's mercy be upon him), a key Muslim jurist, of
reading a brief English summary of the qur'anic text before the
commencement of prayer. I pointed out that Imam al-Shafi did not have
an opinion about this sort of thing and that, on the face of it, there
was nothing wrong with it. One of the three objected vehemently to my
opinion and I, realizing that a pointless argument generating lots of
heat and little clarity was about to start, made some excuse and left
with Iqbal, my host.

When I returned to that area after a week the story had taken several
new twists. The new version was that I had been involved in a dispute
with the imam, staged a walk out, got embroiled in a bitter argument
outside the mosque, which led to me being hit with a brick and leaving
the place covered in blood!

While the story with its growing tail is a rather innocent one, at its
core is a very serious issue: the rubbishing of people and of groups
who we do not like or who differ with us in regard to our
understanding of Islam.

The challenge to the Muslim who desires honesty is to differ with
others in their perception of Islam and to hold their persons sacred,
and not to resort to seeing their different perspectives as an
extension of "their hang-ups", "hunger for fame'" ad nauseam; to
firstly look again at our programs when things go wrong and not to
blame them on the real or imaginary maneuvers of others, or to their
being paid Jewish agents. Crediting our opponents with intellectual
clarity will force us to grow and labeling whoever disagrees with us
as "confused" or "vindictive" will entrench a smugness which at best
contribute to our own stagnation and could even contribute to our
destruction and that of our programs.

Our unkindness in passing judgment on others is often a reflection of
our harshness towards ourselves and our willingness to find the
shortcomings of others often a reflection of our fears that those
shortcomings may be in us. An Arabic proverb says: "Al-mar'u yaqisu
ala nafisihi" (As a person is himself, so does he perceive others to
be.) The point here is not whether that particular fault is really in
that person or not, but the reason for our awareness of it, the
motivation for our exposing it and the manner in which it is done. An
honest examination of these three factors will uncover a wealth of
information about us. The despised other is, more often than not, a
reflection of the feared and unrecognized self.

Yes, even when we boast of our own achievements or possessions while
seemingly denigrating those of others we actually only succeed in
revealing our own insecurities. We feel safe in the knowledge of the
wrongs, "sins" or inadequacies of others because it allows us to be
blind to ours for a while. And so, desperate as we are to relish the
shortcomings of others, we must turn towards ourselves. It is only a
caring and gentle self-esteem that is going to enable us to truly
grow, and thereby change our perception of the disliked other even
when we cannot change his or her behaviour.

We need to try to understand what is at the heart of our resentment
and anger toward particular people and to be aware that often the
resentment we drag along with us in our lives is actually pretty
damaging to us. There was this neat little wall display in a Catholic
Minor Seminary in Karachi which said: "Bitterness is like acid; it
does more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to the object
on which it is poured." (OK, OK. I know that they make sophisticated
vessels these days; people still come in the old shape though!) 

Idris Shah tells an interesting story about misdirected venom in The
Magic Monastery.

A dervish was sitting by the roadside when a rather pompous courtier
passed by with his retinue riding pass in the opposite direction. For
no apparent reason, the courtier struck the dervish with a cane
shouting: "Out of the way, you miserable wretch!" When they swept
past, the dervish rose and called after them" "May you attain all you
desire in the world, even to its highest ranks!"

A bystander, much impressed by this scene, approached the devout man
and said to him: "Please tell me whether your words were motivated by
generosity of spirit, or because the desires of the world will
undoubtedly corrupt that man even more?"

"O Man of bright countenance," said the dervish. "has it not occurred
to you that I said what I did because people who attain their real
desires would not need to ride about striking dervishes?"

Often in our own weakness we are tempted to build our security on the
insecurity of others.  We then forget that we don't go up by pushing
others down and that it is not possible to tear at someone's face
without oneself being diminished in the process. Mu'adh ibn Jabal (may
Allah be pleased with him) once came to the Prophet and asked him how
he, Mu'adh, could cultivate purity of intention and achieve salvation.
The Prophet said:

Follow me, even if you fall somewhat short in what you do. O Mu'adh,
guard your tongue from slandering your fellows [...] Attribute your
errors to yourself and not to them; do not justify yourself and blame
them; do not exalt yourself above them. [...] Do not tear to pieces
people's characters so that on the Day of Judgment the dogs of hell
tear you to pieces.[...]

The discovery of faults in others is easy and understanding the "whys"
extremely difficult. We are so ignorant of the experiences that have
gone into the shaping, and sometimes breaking, of the other person,
that we must withhold judgment of that person although not necessarily
of the action. Indeed, we have no guarantee that, had we been
subjected to similar experiences, we would not have had the same
hang-ups or have been more unpleasant than those whom we seek to
condemn. An old Native American prayer asks: "Great Spirit, grant that
I not condemn my fellow person until I have walked a mile in his/her
hunting shoes."

There is this story about a gossipmonger that I heard from Shaikh
Fa'ik Gamieldien: The gossipmonger, relished speaking ill of others.
Being of noble conscience, it nevertheless troubled him and so he went
to speak to a wise shaikh (not Fa'ik!) about it. After listening
patiently, the shaikh instructed him to get a bag of feathers and take
it to the highest tower in the town. On a very windy day the man was
to empty the bag and then return to the shaikh. After some time the
gossipmonger returned to the shaikh to report that he had completed
the task as instructed. The shaikh then asked him to return and to go
and recover every single feather from wherever the wind had carried
it; in every corner of the town, the gutters, the treetops, the
chimneys, the drains etc. The astonished gossipmonger stared at the
shaikh in disbelief and the latter cautioned him saying "This, my
brother, is the gravity of your problem here and in the hereafter". In
one of his many brilliant strokes of logic, Imam Ghazali advises the
potential slanderer:

If you examine yourself to see whether there is any open or hidden
vice in you and whether you are committing a sin, secretly or publicly
and find some, then be sure that the other person's inability to free
himself from what you attribute to him is similar to your inability,
and his excuse.  Just as you'd dislike being openly condemned, so he
dislikes it.  If you veil him, Allah will veil your faults and if you
expose him, then know that Allah will expose your faults on the Day of
Judgment. If, however, on examining your outer and inner life, you do
not come across any vice, any imperfection, you may be sure that your
ignorance of your inadequacies is the worst kind of folly, and no
inadequacy is greater than folly. If, on the other hand, you are
correct in your opinion, thank Allah for it and do not corrupt your
perfection by slandering people, for that is the worst of vices.

If this one doesn't work, I can only say: "Wow! What a tough skin,
more akin to hide!"

Click here to go back to page one

You can send your own submissions by clickin on and writing to the link below: