Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
From the moment we first look at a person, we’re already forming some ideas about his or her personality, character, and appearance. We are psychologically programmed to do this because we don’t have a clue how to behave when we meet someone we’ve never seen before.
The image we form of other people, what they’re like, very much defines how we behave with them. This will seem evident to you and me if we try to analyze our emotions towards others. Why do we get angry at a certain person? Because we have formed a certain image of that person in our mind. Perhaps we imagine them as being stupid, or malicious, or aggressive.
Now we need to ask ourselves a very crucial question– how much do these images that we have formed of others actually match the real person and how much is just pure imagination on our part? If we think that we know everything about a person just by looking at them or talking to them— that we can read their minds— then we’re in reality thinking that we know the unseen.
Yes, it’s very easy to talk, but how do we stop this process of image formation? If you and I have realized the fact that our imagined model of the other person’s inside reality is perhaps only 0-5% true, then we have taken a big step towards stopping this bad habit. Here are a few things which we can further do in sha Allah.
- Remember that it is a grave sin. Allah Azza wa Jall said (translation):
O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. [Quran, 49:12]
Further, the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam said:
Avoid suspicion, for suspicion is the gravest lie in talk and do not be inquisitive about one another and do not spy upon one another and do not feel envy with the other, and nurse no malice, and nurse no aversion and hostility against one another. And be fellow-brothers and servants of Allah. [ Sahih Muslim 2563]
- Transform your thinking process with this simple key:
Instead of thinking, “Fulan is behaving like this because he has such and such a trait,” tell yourself, “If I were in Fulan’s position, I would behave like this because of such and such a trait.”
So for example, instead of thinking, “Sarah is shouting at me because she feels she is inferior to me,” say, “If I were in Sarah’s place, I would shout because I had an inferiority complex” (and that doesn’t necessarily mean that she is shouting for the same reason).
- The most straightforward way of avoiding passing judgment: find a way of proving it. For example, Sarah and her husband are in the car, and her husband is silent. So Sarah starts thinking, he is not talking to me because he is angry at me. Instead of letting that thought make her miserable, why not ask him straight out: “Are you angry at me?”