The Missing Ingredients: Compassion and Gentleness


I was attending the Friday prayer at a certain mosque once. In the back corner, I noticed two teenage girls sitting side by side, whispering and giggling throughout most of the khutbah (sermon). It was slightly distracting, but nobody made a fuss about it—except one older woman who was eyeing them with anger the entire time. As soon as the prayer ended, she marched toward them and towered over their small bodies. “YOU CAN’T TALK DURING THE KHUTBAH!!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. You could see the utter humiliation on these girls’ faces, as they lowered their heads and peered at all the spectators observing this embarrassing scene. After that woman’s verbal beating, I knew that immediate damage control was in order if these girls were to ever step foot in the mosque again.

It pains me to see how much aggressive behavior is unleashed on fellow sisters and brothers, all in the name of correcting wrongs, or enjoining good and forbidding evil. Islam is not a religion with a strict code of rules that needs to be imposed upon people. We forget that we are dealing with dignified human beings, who have delicate souls, hearts, emotions, and feelings. They are not inanimate objects on a factory belt, where they can be thrown around, cleansed and polished so the perfect ‘halal’ (appropriate) end product pops out. Each person has a unique life story, and every story has its struggles and difficulties; some people might be converts, or are just starting to learn about their religion. Others might not have had parents who taught them Islam, or parents who imposed religious practices upon them until they felt suffocated and constricted. There are also people who feel lost and are searching for guidance, and there are those who committed major sins and want to repent.

All these people have one thing in common: they want to feel love and acceptance. They don’t want to be humiliated or looked down upon. They want to be dealt with patiently, and they want a secure, nourishing environment to grow in. They want to see warm, inviting smiles that draw them closer to God and to the Muslim community. They want kind words of encouragement and support that inspire them to follow the Prophetic way in their worships, speech and character.  The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) never sugar-coated the truth or stopped calling to the way of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He). Yet, it was his soft, gentle approach that made his message so palatable and soul-satisfying. The Qur’an testifies: “So, by the mercy of Allah [O Muhammad], you were gentle with them—and had you been harsh or hard-hearted, they would have dispersed from around you. So, pardon them, and ask forgiveness for them and consult them about matters…” (Qur’an, 3:159). Look at the beautiful advice of the Prophet ﷺ: “Make matters easy, and do not make them difficult; and give glad tidings and do not turn people away,” [Bukhari]. He ﷺ also made gentleness a beautifying component of everything: “Gentleness is not in something except that it adorns it, and it is not stripped from something except that it ruins it,” [Muslim].

We give gifts to people because we care about them; it is one of the ways we show love, gratitude or appreciation. We also choose gifts that people enjoy or that would improve the quality of their lives. Can you imagine telling someone: “Hey, I have a gift for you,” and then throwing it in their face, leaving them bruised and not wanting anything to do with you or your gift? Think about our da`wah (outreach) efforts and advice as gifts. We want people to love Allah (swt) more and to develop an overwhelming desire in the heart to please Him so they can be successful in this life and the hereafter.  If we want our gifts to be received graciously—if we want people to pray on time, or to gain the full reward of the Friday prayer by listening quietly, or to cover more modestly, or to quit bad habits—we need to present these gifts more gracefully and adorn them with gentleness and a loving tone. If our goal is to please God, and not to flex our knowledge muscles or put people down to boost our egos, it is crucial that we pay as much, if not more, attention to how we say our words as to what we say.

There is another problem on the other side of the spectrum; some people have such a high regard for people’s feelings that they refrain from giving advice completely. They themselves might be afraid of being rejected, causing conflict, or not having adequate knowledge. They could also feel that they are not in a place to start pointing out other’s faults or mistakes because they themselves are sinful Muslims. Here, it is important to remember the Prophet’s ﷺ  words: “Whoever sees something wrong, he should change it with his hand. If he cannot, then [he should speak against it] with his tongue. If he cannot, then [he should dislike it] in his heart—and that is the weakest of faith” [Muslim]. The Qur’an also says that people are in a state of loss, except for those who “believe, and do righteous deeds, and advise one another to the truth, and advise one another to patience,” (Qur’an, 103:3).

Part of being one Ummah (community) is to care about our brothers’ and sisters’ relationship with our Creator, and to support them in their religious and spiritual growth. Also, the basics of the religion are known, so it does not require much knowledge to encourage good deeds.1  Our beloved Prophet ﷺ advised: “Convey on my behalf, even if (just) one verse,” [Bukhari]. There is no denying that actively calling to Allah’s way is difficult. People are generally insecure about their shortcomings, and they do not enjoy having a mirror put in front of them that highlights their blemishes. People might respond to our advice rudely or even harshly, making us feel belittled or dismissed at times. That is a common theme, though, with people who devote their lives to the calling. Look at the stories of the prophets and messengers, and how they endured their people’s criticisms and rejection. They were mocked, ridiculed and physically attacked, but they never quit. The value of conveying the message outweighed the physical or emotional pains that any of them experienced individually.

The key in advising people is to strike a balance. Encouraging God-consciousness and piety is praiseworthy, but it must be adorned with tact, kindness and humility. People need to feel that we care about them and are not just being judgmental or critical. For people to feel that positive, loving energy, we need to be sincerely aiming to please God and wanting the best for His servant-worshippers. It is important to remember that guidance ultimately comes from God. If we plant the seeds in people gently, we never know if and when God will cause these seeds to sprout and eventually bear fruit. The value remains, though, in planting the seeds irrespective of the results. If God utilizes us to bring people closer to His path, and we succeed in treating people with gentleness, mercy and compassion, our reward is secured with God, by His will.


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  1. It should be noted that if there is a legitimate, legal difference of opinion among scholars about a certain matter, we cannot rebuke others for following an opinion different from our own. []

20 Comments

  1. zamrud says:

    Assalamualaikum :)
    Just wanted to say thank you for sharing this post. It affected me a great deal because I was once scolded for entering masjid without covering my hair. And that one experience made me ‘fear’ the sense of rejection whenever I wanted to go masjid to perform the sholat. I certainly did not feel welcomed nor accepted… so i can imagine it is worst for my sisters who are jus starting to learn more about Islam…

  2. Yaqub says:

    As’salaamolaikum. You’ve shared great points, examples and reminders in the article; particularly the gift analogy…jazakhAllah! We as Muslims should remember there should be a great deal of tact and patience with approaching both Muslims and non-Muslims alike (that is the way of Islam and what it represents).

    Within our ummah; whether one is a convert/revert, or was raised as a Muslim their whole life…it does NOT matter…a Muslim is a Muslim. Within the context of non-Muslims; gentleness, patience, example and respect should be shown; because one day (only Allah SWT knows)…that very example may be the door that opens to the truth of what Islam really is and what it truly means to be a Muslim.

  3. Shazia Ahmad says:

    as salaamu alaykum,

    That was lovely. Jazaki Allahu khayran Sr. Naiyerah!

    • Nurhayati says:

      Women attending Friday prayers are not common from the place am coming from. So, the potential scenario would be boys behaving like girls, gigling and whispering during friday sermon. The act potentially to some, show disrespect to the mosque. In return to such behaviour, received agressive warning from another peer (verbally). The end obviuosly, doesnt justify the means. Brutal act noted unfortunately the message not.

  4. salih says:

    Excellent article!

  5. Rabia H. says:

    SubhanaAllah.. Addinu Nashihah.. Shukron lak! BarakaAllahu fik!

  6. Wan says:

    I felt very touched reading this.

    You see, I was born as a hot-tempered person, not many people can handle me, but those who can – they really saw through me and believe that I’m not as bad as I may look.

    Sometimes, we tend to look at things from a very generalized point of view, forgetting that each human being is unique and different, each needed different ways of approach.

    Whilst certain people think it is very important to be identically good – they too forgot that there are millions of ways to be good, not in their ways.

    Sometimes I do feel that we tend to overlook the unique personality of a person – especially when given that she/he is different from others.

    For an example, Umar al-Khattab used to be a very hot-tempered person before he became a muslim, yet he is one brave, firm, kind and indeed one of the mu’min guaranteed for a place in Paradise.

    I’m not trying to defend myself, nor am I trying to say that I’m right. Just trying to make a point that I’m not always wrong.

    It hurts when you get abandoned, or perhaps stared at for just being different.

    Thank you very much for this. I needed it very badly.

  7. Sabina says:

    That was really well written, masha’Allah.
    Thanks

  8. Excellent reminders – just what the family and I were looking for on a talk for Kindness. The Prophet, peace be upon him, was sent to perfect Character, and those with the best of character make the best Muslims.

    Woot. Insha-Allah.

    Peace + eco-jihad,
    Zaufishan, UK.

  9. Lucy says:

    I once saw a man erupt in anger because a little 2 year old boy came trotting into the prayer hall in little shoes. The man was so livid, I wondered if the father and mother of that child would ever come back. Muslims, we are our own worst enemies sometimes.

  10. Ummchile says:

    Well, in the masjid al haram, if you are seen by the guards doing something they disapproved, you would get pushed or even beaten. How merciful in comparison to that elder women verbal abused?

  11. Maryam says:

    jazaki Allahu khayran Naiyerah! Have been thinking so much about you and then saw this article. Beautifully written mashaAllah, filled with ayaat and ahadith in an engaging and easy way to follow. may Allah bless and reward you <3

  12. Mahmud says:

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmtullahi wa barakatuh

    I would just like to say, while I agree with the message it needs to be said-we can’t be extreme.

    Christians are like this. Disobey every rule and there is a smile on the face and “God loves you!”.

    You’re going through Burger King and “God loves you!”

    You’re purchasing porn and “God loves you!”

    You enter a bar and “God loves you!”

    And we can’t fall into that trap.

    There is one extreme in being too harsh.

    And another in being too lenient.

    It’s good to invite with warmth and compassion. But with that warmth and compassion or a little bit afterwards, people should be commanded to give up the bad habit/wrong deed or to perform the necessary obligatory deed kindly, gently and FIRMLY. Excessive tolerance and excessive intolerance are what those before us did. We need to strike the right ground Allah would have us strike.

    Else we’ll have some mosques throwing tea in pregnant girls faces(it happened to Christians so it has to happen to us as well) and others telling the girl “Allah loves you Allah loves you”.

  13. svend says:

    A wonderful piece, mA. I think musalla partitions are just as big a problem.

  14. ann says:

    Thank you for your words. I am a christian woman and upon reading your words have found myself agreeing with you. No matter where we come from in this life we all have feelings and all experience the same things. We christians also feel a lot like the women you speak of. We are often ashamed of our choices and dont want a mirror put in our faces to reflect those choices. There are people in our churches who judge us and speak badly of us. We just want to please God also and that is a hard task to accomplish. We should all treat one another with respect being careful of others feelings and realizing each has his or her own spiritual journey.

  15. Noor says:

    I am a Muslim sister who loves to attend the Friday Khutbah as I find the atmosphere so calm and peaceful with thoughts of Allah, but when there are chidren crying or people talking, it breaks the concentration. At my masjid there are posters that remind the jama’ah how to behave and now there are sisters who are appointed to make sure rules are observed. In cases like this after the Khutba the girls should be told but not to humiliate them,as an example of the Prophet’s leniency:
    As was Narrated Anas bin Malik:

    A bedouin urinated in the mosque and the people ran to (beat) him. Allah’s Apostle said, “Do not interrupt his urination (i.e. let him finish).” Then the Prophet asked for a tumbler of water and poured the water over the place of urine. [Bukhari]

  16. Ismail says:

    BarakAllah feek. Ameen. Great Article. Well written. Great Reminder.

    “The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) never sugar-coated the truth or stopped calling to the way of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He). Yet, it was his soft, gentle approach that made his message so palatable and soul-satisfying.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  17. Dar says:

    asalamualaikum..thank you for the wonderful words..it lighten my head and soften my heart…masyaallah..

  18. Joseph Funk says:

    This is truly amazing. People are either wired this way or they are not ,, I say this because I was a gentle kind child not a wuss grew up with much dysfunction. Had a daughter she too had these traits. She and I had a great sense of humor and love of humanity. On 2/20/06 she was murdered @17 yrs old. Very much like Christian doctrine
    I am aware that it can be learned behavior as well
    Thank you Joey Britt’s Dad

  19. Sharifat says:

    A salamu aleikum wa rahmatullah.

    It is always importent to speak in a nice way to eachother. But I do not agree with everything also.

    One example:

    If I am going to pray, there are many rules as to how I have to do this so that my prayer will be accepted.

    So if I have decided to go to masjid for Jumu’a prayer is it not a good idea to first learn the rules for behaviour in masjid.

    We are not allowed to speak during the khutbah,we are not allowed to stop others from speaking during the khutbah, we are not allowed to stand up and offer our seat to others, you sit where you sit. In fiqh and sunnah there are some much on this subject. And in respect of the others and the Imam who is talking one should not come there to sit and talk and giggle. Then I ask, why where you coming then? What was your intention when you only come to disturb others?

    I am not angry but sometimes we excuse others to much som that in the end there is no ahlaq left.

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