Words have immense power that can transform everybody in one or the other way. Words need not have to be uttered pointing to the listener to affect. Each one of us speaks 100% of the time to ourselves even before others can hear it. It is said that what we speak is nothing but words spoken to the mental image of another person. What we speak to ourselves and others defines one’s identity.
One of the essential characteristics of being a Muslim is to practice Integrity (Salimayath). There may be many definitions for the word ‘Integrity’ but in the discussion, we will use Wikipedia’s – ‘Is the practice of being honest and showing consistency and uncompromised adherence to moral and ethical principles and values.
Integrity as said is the ‘word’ and word is the identity of the one who utters. There is no going back once committed unless in unavoidable circumstances it has to be recommitted. But the authority remains with the other party to accept or reject the recommitment.
Today’s Muslims are perplexed about what made the community lose its past glory and further what needs to be done to get back the identity that was its core. It all boils down to what each one says to self first is it ‘OK’ for the current state of affairs or ‘NOT OK’. In the earlier, there is still hope, of course correction else it would be to go down the destruction, never to return back.
As a community, Muslims have always been at the forefront of trading and commerce till the recent past. One of the key aspects of business deals is trust among the parties involved. It was not till the latter part of the last century that the prominent names of Muslims in almost all types of businesses. Walk into the old market areas of some of the metro cities of the country, one can find the earlier owners of the business were Muslims. A city Market area in Bangalore, Crawford Market in Mumbai, Chandni Chowk in Delhi, Parrys in Madras, Char Minar in Hyderabad to name a few. But now most of these markets have slipped out of the hands of the community. One of the main reasons is that of imitating unscrupulous fly-by-night players, who believe in ‘When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do’. Building trust takes ages, but to lose, a single transaction will do a disaster.
The highest level of integrity was displayed by our beloved Prophet (SAW) during the Treaty of Hudabiya. Companions were not very pleased with the agreed terms and conditions, Meccans broke the treaty many times, but the Prophet (SAW) did not break his covenant. Islam reached the borders of India even before Muhammad Bin Qasim could arrive on the north-west fronts through trades on the south-west coast.
The arrival and acceptance of Islam in the current Kerala state happened even when the culture, language, and religion between the locals and foreign traders were very different. Similarly, current Muslim majority countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, etc. Did not grab the attention of some Muslim rulers from Central Asia. However, the spread of Islam happened through the trustworthy characters of the traders that enticed not just the citizens, but the ruling clans to accept Islam in hordes.
Today it is becoming very difficult for a Muslim to trust another Muslim due to rampant lies, evil intent, cheating, illegitimate means to earn, and many more. It has become a fashion to swear on Allah (SWT) to make a false deal or give false assurance and commitments that will never be upheld. Such widespread illegitimate means of earning have a huge bearing on the moral downfall of the community as a whole. Some display signs and symbols of piety and righteousness have been heard saying ‘all is fair in business. Allah (SWT) says in the Holy Quran Chapter 6 “O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is with Allâhﷻ that you say that which you do not do”.
A Muslim walks into another Muslim’s store, wishing him Salaam, which is promptly compensated with the blessings of peace from the other side. How can somebody cheat, resort to lying, sell a substandard product, or charge exorbitantly? The two acts are on the opposite ends of the fair deal. It is not just in business, though, it is fashionable to say Insha Allah at the drop of the hat, but the intent is never to fulfill the promise of the beginning. Somebody has to first resolve to fulfill the commitment and seek Allah’s (SWT) help in upholding through completion. People generally are heard saying not to say Insha Allah, but to give a firm commitment in binary, ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It only means that using Allah’s (SWT) name is to find an escape route. Our commitment to meeting or calling somebody is never made to adhere to. On the occasion of marriages, the time of ceremonies and reception are printed in bold and framed fonts but nothing happens on time. The Groom, the Maulana, the family elders, and the attendees, nobody intends to keep up the promise or respects the time. The attendees seek exception as they are not dependent on the proceedings so can enjoy the liberty of turning up at the closing hours. How can an invitation card start with Bismillah Ir Rahman Ir Rahim and be intended to carry information that is never to be kept sacred?
How do we self-talk? Imagine a traffic signal where the indicator is to stop and there seems to be no traffic, should I stop or go? Examination hall and the invigilator happen to be busy getting the attendance sheet updated, ogle at a neighbour’s answer sheet or let go accepting answering? The outcome is not dependent on whether is somebody observing or being recorded on a stealthily placed camera. One has promised by giving an undertaking while applying for a driver’s license or examination that one would abide by the rules of the agency. How could one go exactly opposite to what was promised?
“External is a function of Internal”. “Doing the right thing, even when no one is watching is the effect on the deep-rooted integrity.
Brene Brown says about integrity “Choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them”.
Though the conditions are really horrifying still there are opportunities to mend our ways. It is time for individuals to value their words. Spread respect and values among family and friends. Work towards establishing a community that respects each other not because of the possession or position, but as an individual who is the valuable blessing of the Almighty. We need to become role models for our children and family first and then for society next. It is not an overnight epidemic that can be dealt with fire fighting; a concentrated effort is required both on an individual and collective level to progress the community in the right direction.
It is not uncommon whether in private parlance or public gathering that the members talk in denigrating tone about the community. It may be with a strong case of criticism with noble intent. But still, we should be a little liberal in finding faults within the community. It is not about overlooking but giving some scope for margin of error. Perhaps extend empathy and try to fix the problem amicably.
If we do not respect each other then we cannot expect others to respect us. Behaviour is not the individual and therefore can be changed. Self Image matters both at individual and collective levels.
Every word uttered matters, Narrated Sahl bin Sa`d: Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said, “Whoever can guarantee (the chastity of) what is between his two jaw-bones and what is between his two legs (i.e. his tongue and his private parts), I guarantee Paradise for him.”