Guest post by Andale Seaworne
A few years ago during Quran Tafseer (interpretation) classes in Ramadan, the teacher was going through an ayat (verse) and there was one statement she said that really made me take a step back, “Don’t hate bad people, hate the bad that they did.”
This was a new statement that I came across which was poking at me in a strange way so I thought I’d ponder over it because it sounded right but the way it was said seemed confusing and took a while for me to internalize in my mind.
When I heard this, I automatically thought, “Wait, doesn’t doing bad things make one a bad person? I mean isn’t a person defined by their actions?” but then if that’s so then we’d all be bad people, right? After all, we’re not perfect. We lie, cheat, make fun of others, backbite, harbor envy, judge others based on appearance, disrespect our family, etc.
A lot of these actions could be intentional in order to achieve one’s personal desires and they could be simply uncontrolled slips of the tongue, hands or limbs; but they happen so we’re exceptions, right? The good people? However, the question is, how do we determine if others are bad or not? Or perhaps an even more important question, how do we determine if we’re bad people or not?
Does a multitude of bad deeds constitute a bad person, or does one simple shameless act whose knowledge spreads to others like wildfire make up a bad person? In either case, once such deeds of say a criminal are known, their reputation and sometimes their lives are at stake and anything else they had done in their lives is forgotten at that moment. However, if someone is convicted for their crime, who’s really put on trial, the person or his evil deeds?
For someone who’s done bad deeds but isn’t necessarily a criminal, it’s hard to tell. One reason is that the people who do wrong could be a part of your family. Your mother could be discriminating against others based on their appearances, your brother could be making lewd comments in public, your sister could be a thief and your father could be a gambling addict. So does that make them bad? Not necessarily.
Your mother could also be a therapist helping the mentally ill patients, your brother could also always be there without hesitation or laziness if anyone in the house needed help in cooking orcleaning., your sister could be a headstrong advocate for human rights and your father could also be spending buck-loads of money in charity and supporting his less well-off family members. You’d know this because you’ve known them since you were little so you could be stuck in a dilemma.
I believe you can’t say people are bad, because ‘bad’ is the huge umbrella you simple cover on a person, putting a label on him that he’s bad. Once you do that, you shine light upon everything bad but discredit everything honorable that he stood for. His good deeds are worthless because they’re clouded by the aura of one simple wrong deed which can be highly unfair. You’ve compared his righteous side and evil side on the same scale while forgetting that each action, speech and thought of his weighs differently from each other and that they can’t all be compared on the same scale.
If that is so, shouldn’t one also be given the label of ‘good’ in the exact same way? A person having done a multitude of horrendous deeds could do one simple righteous deed that is known to all and he can wear the holy crown of nobility? That doesn’t sound practical either because you don’t know the value of that one deed as compared to hundreds of others.
Hence, I believe no person is bad and no person is good; only Allah knows what lies in people’s hearts, but some of his deeds are without a doubt good and some are without a doubt bad so when you break down a person into a collection of deeds, you can consider each of them separately and realize it isn’t clear as black or white. In order to be a just person, you need to judge on the basis of each action. You don’t hate the person, you hate what a terrible crime he did.
You don’t hate Firoun (Pharoah), you hate how he wanted a ladder to climb to the sky and talk to Allah, or how he harbored slaves.
You don’t hate the Quraish, you hate that they persecuted, tortured and murdered innocent Muslims.
You don’t hate the brothers of Yusuf (A.S) (Joseph), you hate that they stooped to so low a level that they attempted to murder their brother and lied about it to his father.
You don’t hate the corrupt dictators and politicians of your country, you hate that they suck out the wealth of the nation for their own musings.
You don’t hate your friend, you hate that she’s selfish and rude to her maid and people she doesn’t know.
You don’t hate your mother, you hate that she shared your secrets in a family gathering.
You don’t hate your life, you hate that it isn’t flowing through time by your commands and your standards.
You don’t hate yourself, you hate not having done enough in one or two areas of your life.
Apart from the parts on the tip of the iceberg that you resent, there is an entire being remaining that you do not know of or you don’t choose to know. That entire human being could have an enormous amount of exceptional deeds that you gave no importance to so it’s essential that you do not generalise an entire living, breathing human on the basis of one deed but that one deed alone stands firm like a tower and cannot be compensated for and cannot nullify another deed. You need to give each deed its due importance.
If a saint beats his worker, you need to admonish him for that deed. If a known, manipulative fruit seller made sure your daughter returned home from school safely, his gracious act of kindness should be commended; who they are otherwise is irrelevant in that moment. However in the end, Allah knows best and will judge everyone with justice and fairness; I’m simply an imperfect human trying to eradicate the bad in me.
Andale Seaworne is a regular 21 year old Muslim Pakistani girl navigating through life while sharing knowledge and opinions related to different topics. This includes basic moral values with relevance to Islamic teachings, travelling, books, food, personal experiences, observations, interpretations and anything that comes to her mind.
You can read more of her work on her blogand follow her on Facebook!