The Importance of Being Honest & Approachable
  • Wed, 12/09/2015
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My first experience with a video camera was with a close friend who placed one on front of me and asked me to recite a few verses of the Qur’an. When he played it back, I could not hear my voice. He had set the camera’s volume incorrectly.

When I speak with my friends in private, I am relaxed, but when the camera starts rolling, the studio lights are turned on, and the mics are placed, I become unavoidably tenser. My tone changes. Everything I say is now official. My mood gradually become more natural the longer I speak before the camera. Success requires that I appear to be relaxed and speaking casually with a friend. I cannot look like I am speaking to a camera. I have to imagine that I am speaking to one person and not to the masses.

You are at your most genuine when you speak about how you feel. A long time ago, a wise man said: “It is better for me to express how I feel and be disliked by them, than to express how they feel and be liked by them.”

When Abraham smashed the idols, leaving only the largest one intact, they asked him who had done the deed. He said: “The largest of them, this one here, did it. So question them, if they can speak.” [Sūrah al-Anbiyā’: 63]

When Moses met Muhammad during the Night Journey, and Muhammad informed him that he was commanded to enjoin upon his followers fifty prayers a day, Moses said: “Go back to your Lord and ask for a reduction.”

Muhammad exemplified an easy-going, unpretentious nature. He lived in harmony with the wholesome side of human nature. He once told a man: “Take it easy. I am the son of a woman in Mecca who used to eat dried meat.”

Often he was asked about something and would reply: “I do not know.” He also said: “I do not know what is going to happen to me or to you.”

Likewise, Allah ordered Prophet Muhammad to declare: “I do not ask you for the Qur’an any payment, and I am not one of the pretentious.” [Sūrah Sād: 86]

His Message is revelation from Allah: “And you were not expecting that the Book would be conveyed to you, but it is a mercy from your Lord.” [Sūrah al-Qasas: 86]

That Message in its general meaning and all of its particulars, is a tolerant one that makes things easy for the people. The religion is supposed to be easy. Allah commanded Prophet Muhammad: “Keep to pardon and enjoin kindness, and [simply] turn away from those who are ignorant.” [Sūrah al-A`rāf: 199]

To pardon is to be easy in dealing with people’s manners, as Ibn al-Zubayr said. Some people are courageous while others are cowardly. Some are sociable while others re reclusive. Some are generous while others are stingy. Some are quick-witted while others are distracted.

Prophet Muhammad was commanded to pardon those who wronged him, to give to those who deprived him, reach out to those who shunned him, and show kindness to those who dealt harshly with him.

People become relaxed in their natures when they stop being pretentious, stop trying to be something they are not. True religiousness does not require putting on airs. It is an expression of our inner selves and it varies from person to person. The Prophet once asked a desert dweller about how he beseeched Allah in supplication. The desert-dweller replied “I’m not good at all the muttering that you do and that Mu`ādh does, but I ask Allah for Paradise and seek refuge with Him from Hell.”

The Prophet smiled at him and said: “This is basically what we are muttering about!”

Natural religiousness is superior, and its outcome is the best. It is free form hypocrisy and pretension. It does not cause people to treat others harshly or be overbearing in the name of religion.

Formalism and affectation disappear among good friends. The poet al-Mubarrad said: Where familiarity is found, ostentation disappears.”

One of the chapters of Sahīh al-Bukhārī is entitled: “Preparing food and putting on affected airs for a guest”.

Salman said: “It is forbidden to put on affected airs for a guest.”

You can change things you dislike about your personality or your manners without going overboard. You should not try to obliterate who you are.

It is good to be well-read and well-informed, but you do not have to pretend to people that you know more than you do or speak on matters you know little about.

Ibn al-A`rābī said: “All of knowledge is an admission of ignorance, and all of spirituality is to eschew what is superfluous. Asceticism is to take only what one needs. Dealing with others well requires doing what is best and then what is second best. Contentment is to avoid protesting. Well-being comes when you avoid pretentiousness and then avoid becoming pretentious about your simplicity.”

In other words, be simple and easy-going, but do not make a pretentious show of your simple and easy nature!

There are many issues that consume our time and give us serious headaches, but which really do not matter at all. They are not worthy of our attention. There are many questions debated by people that bring nothing but difficulties in their wake. A lot of things people do in the name of religion and piety undermine the very purpose of the religion. They interfere with people’s good, simple, and tolerant natures.

Part of what it means to be easy-going is to simply worship Allah with a sincere heart and a pure intention. We should ignore misgivings about the validity of our ablutions or the execution of our prayers. Those misgivings just bring disquiet, and ignoring them will not harm us in the least in the Hereafter.

Another aspect of what it means to be easy-going is to take people on face value. Do not accuse them of things or pin labels on them. Do not judge their words and deeds harshly as long as they are trying to do what is right and their actions can be interpreted in a good way.

Be easy-going by keeping away from the clamour of other people’s affairs. Then you will have quiet time alone to focus on yourself and hear what your muffled voice is trying to tell you.