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  • Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Managing Negativity

Often people are in the habit of complaining about things or people. This is a very lethal habit. This is because research has shown that if you complain often, you train your brain in this habit. Then even when there is no reason to complain, the brain will prompt you to complain even when there’s nothing to complain about. The habit of complaining and developing negativity is completely discouraged in Islam.

If you face an unpleasant experience from someone, you tend to develop acrimony and ill will toward him. But allowing these negative feelings to grow in your heart is not a simple matter. A natural consequence of this psychology is that your spirituality would weaken, because your mind would be seized by a jungle of negative thoughts. This negative mindset is very detrimental to our spiritual development.

The Prophet of Islam has said that a person should have some moments in the day when he comes so close to God that he begins whispering with God. But negativity renders us incapable of being in this state. The nature of negativity is such that it completely overpowers your mind and you keep dwelling on it. You are angry, you think of ways to take revenge and returning injustice with equal if not greater injustice. In this state, how can one come close to God, the source of all purity and positivity? The Quran says that God is As-Salam, the Fount of Peace. How can you come close to this being when your mind is deeply embedded in hatred and bitterness?

On the other hand, if you become temporarily annoyed, even angered, by someone’s behavior. But after reflection you repent and consciously erase feelings of resentment from your heart. This attitude will help you to nurture emotions of love and well-wishing for those who have committed excesses against him. This is not a simple act. Rather, it develops special feelings of spirituality in you. Your heart will be illuminated with sublime thoughts. You can experience it every time. It gives you a kind of solace which nothing else gives you. Rising above the negative situation and not stooping to the level of the person who behaved badly with you, gives immense peace to the heart. This is when you are capable of saying words of prayer to God. You may say O God I forgive this person in this world, You do forgive my mistakes and sins in the world Hereafter.

He would become capable of saying noble words of prayer, which would directly reach God and earn him a place in God’s neighborhood in the world Hereafter.

This is also the reason why the Prophet of Islam never called down curses on people. It is said that he was once asked to invoke God’s curse on the tribes of Thaqeef and Daws, but he refused. Instead he prayed to God to give them guidance. The Prophet clearly said that he had not been sent to curse people, rather he had been sent as a mercy for mankind. The Prophet was a true well-wisher for people and his concern was to instill in them consciousness of God, inform them of the realities of life and make them spiritually awakened. All this could be done only if he remained positive, compassionate and merciful toward them even in the face of their disobedience, atrocities and harmful actions.

Often people ask if the Prophet is relevant to today’s age. If you closely read the Prophet’s teachings, you will realize that he was not only providing religious teaching to us, rather his parallel concern was to train our minds to think in the right direction, or to cultivate the right approach to thinking. So in the context of what I just said, I was reading yesterday something very remarkable about the human body. As you know all our cells have chromosomes, which contain the DNA, all the genetic information about us. There are certain ends of the chromosomes called telomeres. These keep reducing in length as we grow old and when they are no more, our cells die making us prone to diseases and age-related conditions.

These influence aging. It has been suggested that there are certain behavioral patterns which reduce the length of the telomeres and so accelerate our aging. The lesser the length as you age, the more you have a tendency to age early. One of the behaviors which are directly linked to reducing the length of these telomeres is thinking about past negative experiences, rehashing them in your mind and making them fresh again.

So when the Prophet set the example of being positive even in the midst of negativity, he was actually training us about the kind of thinking we need to develop. We need to be positive thinkers, convert our negativity into positivity. For our own sake we need to foster this way of thinking: to become more productive and efficient at anything we do.

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