I wrote this for IslamicEvents.sg.
We’re all in a variety of relationships whether we like it or not. Even a hermit is in a relationship with himself and with God. It’s as inescapable as your own shadow.
Islam itself has many communal aspects to it – such as prayer, fasting, zakah, and Hajj. So for our own sake it would make sense to try and find that contentment (rida) in our relationships, wouldn’t it?
Connection with others is a test in itself. We don’t always get along with all our relatives, but Islam places a high value on it, so much so that it is said:
“The one who severs ties of kinship will not enter the Garden.” [Adab al-Mufrad]
We might not like our neighbours, but that does not mean we are allowed to harm them or make them feel unwelcome. It was narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“Jibra’il kept enjoining good treatment of neighbours until I thought he would make neighbours heirs.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
Marriage, perhaps, is one of the more complex bonds we form. It is an exercise of patience and compromise at many stages.
Throughout life we will come across a variety of bonds, each requiring a different sort of emotional and physical investment in order to nurture it and reap rewards through it for the akhira. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. It takes hard work to maintain these relationships, let alone find rida in them! However, there are some basic precepts we can keep to in any social interaction.
For instance, don’t hand over control of your heart and mind to anyone but Allah. Remember that your sense of self-worth should not be tied to any other human being. Your interaction is to learn and grow, and also help the other person do the same, but you’re happy with or without them.
This tip is specifically for those who are easily disappointed when so-and-so didn’t appreciate what they did, or nobody liked their photo on Instagram, or the boss didn’t like the idea that they were excited to present, etc. This is not a license, for example, for you to act against your conscience and disobey your parents for the sake of your own happiness.
When you are happy with yourself without depending on another to act as a buoy, you’re able to bring much more to the table and give yourself as well as others a positive experience. Your life isn’t ruined just because someone doesn’t like you.
Furthermore, people respect a person who has confidence in himself and isn’t acting too needy or clingy. You carry yourself with an air of authenticity when you’re not trying hard to be liked, but rather to value your positive traits and blessings for what they are. Lack of confidence, on the other hand, conveys itself to the other person and you can be misunderstood as a fishy or unreliable person. So chin up and hold your ground!
Whenever the insecurities rear their heads, remind yourself that you don’t need another person’s approval or permission to feel good about yourself. Over time, you become so good at batting away this dragon that it stops coming to get you. To make it even easier, you can call some back up by reciting Surah An-Nas, which is loosely translated as:
“Say: ‘I seek refuge with Allah, the Lord of mankind, the King of mankind the God of mankind, from the evil of the whispers of the Devil, who whispers in the hearts of men.”
Realise that the whispers of insecurity are coming from the enemy. So seek refuge in Allah from him.
“And whoever is blinded from remembrance of the Most Merciful – We appoint for him a devil, and he is to him a companion.” [Surah Az-Zukhruf, 43:36]
When dealing with people, try not to take bad behavior personally. Their bad behavior may not be directed as you. Sometimes that’s the only way they know to behave, or they don’t realize their behaving badly. We have different upbringings even within the same community, so what’s taboo in your household may not be so in the next household.
Even if their bad behavior was intentional, remember that they’re harming themselves more than they’re harming you. That’s one of the beautiful things about being Muslim – you know Allah is fair and He will balance our deeds with justice.
Be open and treat every interaction as a learning experience. Look for the lesson or blessing in every relationship encounter. This way, insha Allah, you will always have contentment in your social interactions, no matter who it is with.