Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mirrors for One Another

One of the most commonly misused and misunderstood terms found in daily American street vernacular is the word "hater".  Judging from the evidence gathered and research conducted, that's because people who use the term don't even know what they're talking about. 

Hater is tossed around so excessively these days and is inappropriately uttered so often--regardless of the situation--that I feel it has set the English language back 50 years. Urban Dictionary has a whopping 136 different definitions of hater ranging from the ambiguous to the just plain stupid ("someone who hates on people"). For the sake of brevity I will post the most agreed upon meaning tabulated by most thumbs up votes.

Hater [heyt·er] noun

A person that simply cannot be happy for another person's success. So rather than be happy they make a point of exposing a flaw in that person.  Also can mean a person that is pessimistic and negative and just points out the negative attributes of a person, overlooking any positive qualities the subject of hate may have.

Hating, the result of being a hater, is not exactly jealousy. The hater doesn't really want to be the person he or she hates, rather the hater wants to knock someone else down a notch.

Susan: You know, Kevin from accounting is doing very well. He just bought a house in a very nice part of town.

Jane (hater): If he is doing so well why does he drive that '89 Taurus?

Susan: Wow, you are such a hater.

Muslim Example:

Brother 1: Wow, MashaAllah (God has willed it) Brother Joe has really come a long way with his Islamic studies since converting.

Brother 2 (hater): Yeah, but he's still got a long way to go . His Arabic pronunciation is still a little off and why hasn't he grown a beard yet? He's still highly unqualified to be an Imam (leader) or scholar.

Brother 1: Akhi, why are you being such a hater? He's still working on it. Be happy for what he's accomplished thus far.

So the majority of folks, at least those that frequent urbandictionary.com, believe this to be the proper usage of the term. Unfortunately, this word has been relegated over time through reckless overuse and stale misappropriation (mostly via celebrities and teenagers) to mean this:

A hackneyed term that stuck-up, insecure people use in a negative way against people who point out an attribute of theirs that can be seen as flawed or displeasing.

Susan: Jane, why are you wearing such a tight blouse? Don't you think you're a little overweight for that?

Jane: Wow Susan, you are such a hater. You know I look good. You're just jealous cause you can't pull it off like I can. Go to hell.

Susan: Huh?

Or the classic Muslim example:

Khalil: Hey bro, I don't know how else to break this to you but I saw you the other day smooching with some girl in the hallway. Dude, you know as Muslims we--

Tariq: Yo, just save your breath man, I ain't trying to hear all that hater talk. You're just jealous because I pull more phone numbers than you do.

Khalil: But we're not supposed to date man, I'm just po--

Tariq: Hate, hate, hate! Always with the hatin' man. You ain't got nothing better to do? I'm gone.


Just like how folks take constructive criticism the wrong way and interpret it to be malicious towards their character and as a result label the critic a hater, Muslims are falling into the same category of being those not capable of accepting criticism. We get emotional, defensive and take things personal and end up bashing the person when for the most part, the one criticizing was just trying to help the guy! It truly is spreading through the Muslim communities around the world like a Colorado wildfire.

This fiasco reminds me of the hadith(teaching) where the Prophet (Peace and Blessings be Upon Him) said, 

"A believer is a mirror to another believer. A believer is a brother to another believer. He saves him from losses. He safeguards his interests in his absence."

See that? The Prophet(pbuh) didn't say that the believer is a sword to one another where when one gets the opportunity they chop and julienne that joker up like he's pico de gallo. Not at all! Muslims are to be mirrors to one another. When you stand in front of the mirror and you see some blemishes, a stain left from eating your mama's famous chili, your clothes ruffled up a bit, something stuck in your teeth etc. you're not going to go out in public like that! You clean and straighten yourself up and make yourself look fresh and so clean (clean).

Simply put, it means that as a Muslim, when you see one of your brothers/sisters out there and you notice something undesirable or something that just doesn't seem or look right, you point that out to the person and help him address it. It is your duty to do so. And this isn't just limited to appearance, it has to do with the inward appearance too and how you conduct yourself, your character and how you act, what you say and everything in that category. Plus, its a two way street. If someone sees something ain't right with you, they should come up and tell you without any hesitation or qualms. Or course, this is easier said than done as demonstrated in the example above.

Broken Mirror

In this day and age where everyone is so politically correct, and people are so quick to be offended and are willing to sue and snag millions for emotional damages just because someone said something they didn't want to hear. It's hard to give constructive criticism without getting torched for doing it. This has trickled off into daily life where people are haters for pointing out legitimate behavior flaws and unattractive attributes in a person.

"Uh, I don't think you should be doing that."

If you're not racist, you're sexist. If you're not sexist, you're anti-semitic. If you're not that, you're homophobic. If you're not that, you're anti-something else. You're a dirt bag, you're a meanie meanie bo-beenie. It's just laughable. These words are now weapons: criticism repellent. In the Muslim community, people are getting offended when another Muslim is pointing out an un-Islamic thing that one is doing whether its dating/flirting with the opposite sex, smoking hookah, dressing inappropriately, talking like you just finished watching the Chris Rock special on HBO, backbiting (talking trash behind someone's back). You're trying to follow the practice of the Prophet and your brother won't allow you to without making you feel like a villain. What's the solution?

Maybe it's the approach. Granted, for the most part people usually don't deliver the criticism in the kindest of ways and come off jerky or worst of all, Haram Police-y. Uh-oh here come the sirens.

Haram Police Siren Sound: Astagfirullaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!
UK Version:Bid-ah, bid-ah, bid-ah!

So you have to come up with a better approach, one that isn't tearing the person down but rather, building him/her up. Let the person know that he/she is your brother/sister and you love them for the sake of Allah and let them know you aren't some perfect holier-than-thou saint either but you've noticed (insert displeasing attribute here) and then deliver the knowledge as well as the logic behind why it is displeasing. Also, let them know to not be afraid to come to you if they see you aren't doing something correctly cause we all make mistakes, we all forget and need reminders and a kick in the pants every now and then. Even if nothing comes of it, they at least should show you some respect and not sink their teeth into you.

Other times it's just the person. Whether they have a black heart of sorts or don't have the faith as a strong part of their character, they'll lash out at anyone who dares to point out a flaw. Sometimes they'll defend it and not even see what the problem is. That still shouldn't deter you from approaching them with the concern, love and humility like I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Even if it doesn't go both ways, or is unappreciated from the other party, you at least did your part and were their mirror. After that, the best you can do is make dua(supplication) and hope they get that kick in the butt sooner or later that'll have them wake up.

I will leave with this: Suck it up! Don't be afraid of being labeled a hater when it comes to helping improve the flaws of the brothers and sisters in your Muslim family. To those having trouble taking constructive criticism, refer back to the hadith and the attributes of our beloved Prophet(pbuh) and humble yourselves. Don't take things so personally. Know that the person giving criticism is only trying to improve you and make you look good. In the end, we're all trying to get to the same place and helping your brother/sister is part of what you gotta do to make sure you get there. To the ones that take this hadith to the extreme and go out hunting for flaws, you may just need a magic mirror to take a good look at yourself cause I'm sure that mirror, mirror on the wall doesn't think you're being the fairest of them all.


  1. Another great post. The correct approach is key and knowing that some people won't take your advice. It's not our job to change these people, only Allah can do that but as you said we can give them some advice and make dua that they get together.