Respond rather than react [41:34]

blog Apr 05, 2024

We have explored this verse from Sura Fussilat from many different aspects. Today’s exploration will be in line with our theme of using verses from the Quran to guide us when we find ourselves in the midst of an argument.

Despite our best intentions, things can get heated when we are in the midst of a conflict. It is hard to hear things that go against our belief system. It is so easy to take things personally. Others can say things in a way that triggers us and potentially make us lose our emotional balance.

This verse from Sura Fussilat advices us to not react when others fall short of respectful conduct.

Repel [evil] with what is best. [If you do so,] behold, he between whom and you was enmity, will be as though he were a sympathetic friend [Quran 41:34].

Scholars explain that the absence of a direct object after repel in the above verse means that the verse is open to many meanings and possibilities: we can repel anger with patience, error with truth, ignorance with clemency, and the commission of evil with pardon.

In other words, instead of reacting to people’s behavior out of anger, we can practice responding in a way that is aligned to our own value system.

As this verse explains, when we do this, it gives the other person a chance to calm down, it diffuses the tension and the aggression and allows the conversation to get back on track. A practice of repelling evil [or communication triggers and mistakes] with good [responsive and worthy communication] can lead to reconciliation, love, and (re)connection.

We need to pause enough so that we can remind ourselves of the gifts Allah [swt] has given us in order to repel evil with good. If we encounter a trigger and pause long enough to engage our human brain, we create a space. And in that space we can use tools or gifts from our human tool box.

These gifts are the gift of imagination [I can imagine myself repelling evil with good], of self-control [I am capable of using self-control to stop myself from saying and doing things which are not in line with the greater good, of will power [I have will power to practice living according to Divinely guided values] and the gift of conscience [I have an internal moral compass that guides to towards the greater good].

When we gift ourselves the gift of pausing, we are able to separate trigger from reaction and use the tools in our human tool box.

It is only when we use some or all of these gifts that we can respond based on our own values rather than react to poor behaviour on the part of another.



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