Last week we introduced and briefly discussed the notion of neuroplasticity. There’s no doubt that traumatic events impact our ability to think, act or talk. However, the experience of hardship or trauma shouldn’t define us, but empower us to do better for ourselves and others around us.
Imagine walking down a familiar street where you feel comfortable, until you hear, “Oi! Go back to where you came from!”
How many times have we seen verbal abuse hurled towards someone on the street and did nothing?
Imagine being assaulted due to your race, gender or beliefs…
How many times have we seen videos of abuse in schools/workplaces or the home and not taken a stand against it?
Does our inability mean that we condone or tolerate abuse and its effects?
People react to threat or danger with a system of biological, cognitive and behavioural responses. These responses involve a cascade of interdependent chemical changes in different parts of our brain and body, which in turn influence our thinking and behaviour. This does not mean that we cannot control our responses and change.
We can be the change that we want to see by being conscious of our actions and any abuse around us – yes, patience is great but we are also commanded to change something if it is within our ability to do so.
On the authority of Abu Saeed al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say, “Whoever of you sees an evil must then change it with his hand. If he is not able to do so, then (he must change it) with his tongue. And if he is not able to do so, then (he must change it) with his heart. And that is the slightest (effect of) faith.”
It is clear that removing, or wanting to remove evil is an essential characteristic of Islam. If there is an obvious evil that Muslims are witnessing, then it is obligatory upon them to change it if they have the ability to do so. Additionally, many scholars also cite evidences that supports the notion that even if a person doesn’t see the evil, but knows it to be occurring, they should strive to remove it.
Depending on one’s capability, removal should be done by the hand, if at all possible, and if not, then by the tongue or speech. If neither of these is possible, then the last option is to hate the action with one’s heart. Consequently, we should remember that the heart is definitely affected by what it witnesses and what it becomes willing to accept. One of the downsides of modern media is that Muslims are constantly witnessing things that are not right or fair, or even outrightly forbidden. But when we continue watching these events, we start to become desensitised, and are no longer shocked by them. We may even begin to accept such abuse and trauma as ‘normal’. This not only limits us, but the future generations as well in helping to change the narrative against tolerating all forms of abuse.