Overcoming Ill Opinion of Others Through Looking with Faith, Love, and Mercy

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Assalam alaykum,

I have a problem of forming a bad opinion of people when I witness them committing wrongs; for example, when someone tries to engage me in backbiting others I usually formulate a bad opinion of him mentally.

Can you please advise what I can do to treat this problem?

Answer: Wa alaykum assalam,

I hope you’re doing well, insha’ Allah..

There are four key to this:

One. Look right. To re-focus how one views others, in general. As believers, we affirm with certitude that Allah Most High is the creator of all that exists—all people, all actions, all events, all things. Allah Most High affirms unequivocally, “Allah is the creator of all things, and He is the Guardian over all things.” [Qur’an, 39.62]

Given that Allah is the creator of all things, we have no objection to His Destiny as it unfolds. This is how we look at things, with the eye of faith (nadhar al-iman).

Two. Look with love and mercy. The basis of our looking at all created things—especially all people—is that they are Allah’s. We love them out of our love of Allah, and we seek Allah’s mercy by striving to uphold mercy towards them.

Three. Look with responsibility. As responsible, needy servants of God, we look at ourselves with respect to all circumstances with the eye of responsibility (nadhar al-taklif). We ask ourselves: How am I called upon by Allah to respond to this situation or action (such as the wrong actions of another)—in a matter acceptable, or pleasing, or beloved to Allah Most High? (Another way of asking this is to consider: How would the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him and his folk) respond to this situation?

Thus, we do not respond to what others do by “looking at them.” Rather, we look with the two balancing eyes: (1) the eye of faith, seeing all as being from Allah and being completely content with it, within; and (2) with the eye of responsiblity, seeing what Allah has made us responsible for, in a manner pleasing to Him.

Four. Act for Mercy, with Mercy. Given the above, our response to the actions of others—and to all matters—should be (1) an act of faith, (2) a seeking of Divine Mercy, (3) in a manner embodying and expressing mercy. This is the way of the Messenger of Mercy (peace and blessings be upon him and his folk).

What About Ill Thoughts?

As for ill thoughts about others, return to the above through reflection (fikr) coupled with and illumined by remembrance (dhikr) of Allah Most High.

This is one of the many benefits of the counsel of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), “Keep your tongue moist with the remembrance of Allah.” [Tirmidhi] Remembrance reminds. It reminds us of our faith, our responsibility, and of the way of beauty, love, and mercy that is the way of the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him & his folk).

Brief Reflection on the Lasting Reminders of Righteousness (al-Baqiyat al-Salihat)

One way is to repeat the the “lasting good deeds” (al-baqiyat al-salihat) mentioned in the Qur’an, which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) explained as being to say: Subhana’l Llah; Alhamdu li’l Llah; la ilaha illa’l Llah; and Allahu Akbar. While it is encouraged to say these at any time, they are particularly powerful reminders when circumstances cloud the way we are looking at people, actions, and events.

When we say Subhana’l Llah, Glory be to Allah, we are affirming our wonder: Allah Most High is absolutely exalted and transcendent beyond all limits, possessed of all Perfection, Beauty, Majesty, and Glory.

When we say Alhamdu li’l Llah, Praise is Allah’s, we are affirming that the reality of praise—all good mention for all perfection, beauty, and excellence—belongs fully, completely, and absolutely to Allah.

When we say La ilaha illa’l Llah, there is no god but God, we affirm that there is none absolutely free of need of any other, whom all are in absolute need of, except Allah Most High.

When we say Allahu Akbar, God is Great, we affirm that Allah Most High is absolutely great—beyond even our affirmation of His Greatness, beyond our imagination, beyond our capacity to comprehend—in His Beauty and Majesty, in His Entity, His Attributes, and His Actions.

The Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him and his folk) was “in remembrance of Allah in all his moments,” as his beloved wife Sayyida A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) described. [Muslim]

And Allah alone gives success.

[Shaykh] Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani is a scholar and researcher of Islamic law and translator of several Arabic works to the English language. After ten years overseas, Shaykh Faraz returned to Canada in the Summer of 2007. In May 2008 he founded SeekersGuidance to deal with the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge—both online and on the ground—in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner.