Do not offend your opponent [6:109]

blog Apr 05, 2024

Do not revile those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they should revile God out of enmity, ignorance. [Quran 6:109]

This verse from Sura Anam cautions believers not to turn to offence and aggression in the midst of an argument, especially on matters of faith. It also provides a solid reason why it is not a good idea to do so: because such behaviour will most likely lead to a retaliation of like for like.

When we are in the midst of an argument, it can be easy to become triggered and angry. If we sense we are losing an argument, we can become aggressive, attacking that which is most sacred to the other in an effort to prove our point, hurt the other or to defend ourselves.

Such tactics never work. Behaviour like this will lead to a tit for tat competition that will only increase anger, bitterness and hostility between the arguing parties.

A verbal assault has the same impact on our physiology that a physical attack does. When human beings are thus attacked, their rational brain goes offline and they regress to their most primitive instincts of fight or flight. When human beings are attacked, they will either attack the other or defend themselves using whatever means they have in their power. Often, they will resort to attacking our most vulnerable areas or our most sacred beliefs.

In other words, once we resort to attacking what is sacred to the other, the outcome of such a conversation or discussion cannot be good. It will leave both parties feeling angry, aggressive and hostile towards the other.

This verse is a powerful reminder in our personal, spiritual and political lives when we find ourselves in a midst of a dispute. Let us maintain respect for each other and mind our words, using logic and reason rather than hate or aggression to make our points.

As believers, we are expected to show the highest level of decorum and behaviour towards friends and opponents alike.

This is more true today than ever before. When we watch the atrocities happening in real time, our humanity reviles and we want to lash out. At the same time, we watch arguments on social media disintegrate to hateful and offensive comments as people hide behind the screen to say things that they would not have the guts to say to others in person.

Whether we like it or not, fair or not, reality is that the whole is judged by its part. Every single one of us is an ambassador and those that wish us ill are purposely baiting and triggering us, waiting for us to fail, to slip up, to display aggression. And when that happens, they will use it to confirm what they accuse us of. We cannot afford to let our personal slips become fuel for their agenda. Let us use this verse to remind ourselves not to fall for these traps.

How can we do this?
We do not need to engage or respond right away, especially on social media. We can give ourselves the grace of time and gather our thoughts before responding. Pause, breathe and pause again. We can remind ourselves of the larger goal, and that none of this is personal. We can remind ourselves that every word we speak has to be in service of the greater good, the fight for justice and resistance against oppression.

And we can practice practice practice!


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