Where does your intention really lie?

As Muslims, a lot of us have grown up with the word ‘niyyah’ (intention). We’re told we need to make it before fasting, before praying, before ghusl, before commencing hajj, giving charity and essentially every act that we do for the sake of Allah (swt). ‘Umar b. al-Khattab narrated that the Prophet said: Deeds are [a result] only of the intentions [of the actor], and an individual is [rewarded] only according to that which he intends.”

So it follows then that we must check our intention before communicating too. Most people are taught from birth to think and communicate in terms of what is “right” and what is “wrong” with people. Communicating this way is what leads to a lot of what you see in the comments sections of Facebook posts, YouTube videos and Instagram photos these days. It is really distressing to see young women communicate with one another in a way that, at best, can be described as violent.

Several comments, that are responses to posts made by prominent female Muslim fashion bloggers, smack of judgment, demands and diagnosis for what individuals think is wrong or right with the post. You have to wonder, where does her intention really lie?

Here are some common comments, comebacks to people that correct them, common misconceptions that others have and my suggestions for better communication:

1. This is not hijab. Are you even Muslim?

It always upsets me to read comments like this in particular because statements like these demonstrate that the person has seen the post and, surprised at its content, has proceeded to write a comment that involves very little or no thought because we are only sensing our own feelings, our own understanding of hijab and being Muslim and our own need to express our opinion. Where is the niyyah here? The niyyah may be “Her hijab is all wrong, and I must enjoin the good and forbid evil and inform her of this immediately as a sister in Islam.” The resulting action however is misplaced. Sense others’ feelings and needs and recognise that everyone is at a different place in their spiritual journey. Simply say to yourself – Alhamdullilah for where I am in my spiritual journey and inshaAllah if Eiman really is doing something wrong, Allah please guide her. You have then done your duty as a Muslim. To proceed further with comments that have the potential to hurt another Muslim will do you no good.

2. Don’t bother telling her what she is doing is wrong, she clearly doesn’t care

I see this a lot when followers have commented on posts and told the blogger that they disapprove of what she is doing and she continues to do it. Most people, myself included, believe that only Allah judges us. The sad reality is that people around us tend to do it for Him and communicate it so badly that inevitably others see it as criticism. When people hear anything that sounds like criticism, they immediately focus their energies in self-defence or a counterattack. If you expect others to be compassionate and listen to your needs (which, lets face it, a fashion blogger who gives you free fashion advice is under NO obligation to do), check your niyyah and again, make dua’a for them and accept that Allah (swt) is the only Judge.

3. I’m not being judgmental, I’m simply expressing my opinion like everyone else is on here

A judgment is an expression that reflects your own needs sometimes. Often, people are just letting Shaytaan take over and they post nasty things that they would never say in person. Other times, the judgment is a disguised expression of your own unmet needs. If in your personal or professional life you often feel unheard or undervalued you will often use social networks as an outlet to make yourself heard (I speak from experience) Consider your niyyah. Are you really just ‘expressing your opinion?’ If so, is it useful, it is necessary and is it 100% true? If you doubt anyone of those things, stop typing and move on.

4. But if I don’t say something, other sisters and non-Muslims will think this is the right way to dress and it just isn’t! I can’t let that happen!

Something I’ve learnt, the hard way I must admit, is that you cannot change or control everything and that if you try to, it will make you a very unhappy human being. While your intention may be good, is this really the way to correct someone else? Can you really hold fashion bloggers responsible for how some people dress? Those come down to our own insecurities and also us underestimating our young Muslim sisters. When we were growing up, loads of things that were wholly inappropriate for young Muslim girls were everywhere! Afra and I were exposed to it when we went to mall, when we watched TV, when we saw other Muslim girls doing it. Of course we wanted to try things that we saw our peers doing and I will give credit where it is due – our mother did a brilliant job of allowing us to do certain things and learn for ourselves that they weren’t that appealing and drawing the line outright at things that when we have children we will probably do as well. So trust that some people need to learn from their experiences and that Allah sees all.

5. I have to respond to people who type these nasty comments; they can’t possibly be allowed to get away with it!

That’s not helping either. Emotionally charged comebacks even to those who may have typed things that are really nasty do not help the situation. Understand that even if you do comment back that you need to be gentle and kind because if someone is expressing himself or herself that way, chances are they probably have grown up with violent communication and it is all they know. You barking abuse back at them doesn’t help them. Check your niyyah again and remember that sometimes it just isn’t your problem. The blogger can choose to respond or not respond and at the end of the day it is their problem not yours.

If you know a comment is hurtful, i.e. – I’m sorry but that outfit is fugly! please just refrain from saying it. It’s not ‘freedom of expression’ you are just being really mean. The fact that you have to say “I’m sorry but…” means you already know that what you are about to say warrants an apology! Also ladies, please stop swearing and calling each other whores and bitches and slags, not only is it very unIslamic, it is also really unbecoming for a woman to be throwing that kind of language around left right and centre. It isn’t classy or ladylike, not classy at all.

We tend to notice what is wrong rather than what is right – it is human nature. Let us instead express appreciation for others and practice love and kindness the best way we know how, all the while checking our niyyah. After all, it is Allah (swt) that we want to be pleased with us, not people. May we all be more patient, loving and kind to one another inshaAllah and may Allah accept the best of our deeds now and always.

Eiman Ahmed for Mohajababes

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