Bullying has become an epidemic. As a child, I was the recipient (you could say “victim”) of bullying. This was perhaps because I was a minority at my public school. It may have also been because of the fact that I was quite overweight. Who knows, maybe it was something else. Regardless, I didn’t enjoy it. As an educator and religious director, I have noticed that things have grown steadily worse. I attribute much of this to the fact that we no longer have the chivalry and courage that exited once upon a time. Standing up for the oppressed was the right thing to do, and people did it. Our Qur’an orders it,
O you who believe, be supporters of justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it is against yourselves…. (Qur’an 4:135)
Equally as important, being a human being mandates it. The biblical golden rule rings true for everyone:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Matt 7:12)
And while this may be from the Bible, we know the Prophet (ﷺ) mentioned,
Wisdom is the lost property of the believer, so wherever he finds it he has a right to it. (Tirmidhi)
Unfortunately, with the growth of technology, the introduction of avatars, the propagation of screen names and false identities, people have become cowardly and are willing to bully from behind their screens. And as much as children are victimized, I have also noticed adults are targeted.
Everyone loves to belong. And everyone loves to promote their sense of belonging. As a former wrestler, I have noticed that anytime I meet a wrestler we converse as if we are childhood friends. That is how human beings are. We love to belong and we love to promote our fraternities. However, there is a line that has to be maintained — a line between sharing and compelling, a line between promoting and forcing. This is where adults are bullied.
In classical Islamic scholarship, people did not push their opinions on others, nor did they correct others unless they knew 1) the school of thought (مذهب) the person followed and 2) the level of understanding of that person. In many cases, some scholars would not correct a person if they knew there was any valid opinion that supported an act. Thus, if a person, for example, prayed with his hands above the navel or below the navel, that position was not corrected because there are valid opinions that support both positions. Or, for example, if a person raised her hands (رفع يدين) during the prayers versus a person who only raised her hands at the beginning of the prayer, that act was also not corrected as there are valid opinions that support both acts. However, with the growth of technology, classical Islamic scholarship has had to step aside to Internet Islam. People now read online legal verdicts (فتاوى), listen to YouTube lectures, research articles, and have feel comfortable passing judgment and giving rulings. However, knowledge was always disseminated from heart to heart, as interaction with the teacher taught etiquette (أدب) and forbearance (حلم). This has been lost today, and we are now repeat the weeds of our negligence.
When Malik bin Anas (may Allah ﷻ have mercy on him) was leaving to study, his mother instructed him, “Take from his (the teacher) forbearance before you take from his knowledge.” However, when there is no teacher or no teacher that has been properly trained or authorized, then there is no wisdom, forbearance, sympathy, love, and more to take from. This results in what we have today. A group of individuals who claim that pants above the ankles are the most important principle of the religion, a group of individuals who explicitly or implicitly state following a he school of thought (مذهب) is not following the Qur’an or Sunnah, and a group of people who have turned countless people away from the religion (دين). Our tradition is that of love, of education, and of humility, not of bullying, of hate, and vitriol. However, we have created religious bullies who are kinder to people outside of our faith than those in our faith. While Islam encourages us to be good to everyone, in particular the Qur’an describes Muslims as those who,
…merciful amongst themselves…. (Qur’an 48:29)
By removing this characteristic, we have become adult bullies, and we will only know the harm of our acts on the Day of Judgment, when people who have left Islam or their practice of the religion due to us will stand up and bear witness against us — may Allah (ﷻ) protect us from this end. My advice to everyone is if you do not know the difference of opinion, please stay quiet. Do not tell others what they are doing is wrong unless you know everyone opinion that exists. You may think you are right, but centuries of scholarship may also prove the other person being correct. Please note, I did not say your opinion is stronger. Due to the principles of derivation (أصول) within our religion, we can have two people who are equally as correct. If you do not know what I am referring to, it is OK, but it is also a sign that perhaps we aren’t ready to tell people they are wrong.
Finally, I want to end with a beautiful description of Allah (ﷻ) of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ),
And We have not sent you except as a mercy to the worlds. (Qur’an 21:107)