UI – Part 397 – Do Muslims Have Empathy?
This may be the most troubling question for an Islamist. How do they feel about others? How do they feel about their fellow Muslim? Most of this discussion targets the male Muslim.
For centuries men have generally been guarded with respect to their feelings. It was assumed, handed down from father to son, that emotions were to be contained. ‘You are the man of the family!’ Being the man of the family took on certain responsibilities as a provider, a worker, and the strength of the relationship. It was weak to cry or to be less than stoic at difficult times. Sharing feelings was not going to happen. Discussions about relationships fell on deaf ears. Certainly there were and are those too selfish to even maintain a family relationship. Men may enjoy the passion and intercourse, but not the outcome if a baby became the product and love was to be part of the equation. How many movies or plays have depicted the difficulty of a man telling a woman, even one the audience knows he cares for, ‘I love you?’ They stutter, babble, digress, and avoid, or modify the emotion, “I, I, I…la,la, like you more than anything,” may be all they can muster. Certainly, the more burly the man, the perception is the greater the stoicism.
The thin man was seen at the beach, sand tossed, rather kicked, in his face unable to defend himself. Off to an Atlas weight training program, if so incentivized, and with the body redefined now able to amount a proper defense. The bully would be put in his place. But often this man, once being ill-equipped to fight, was more sensitive to those who were as he once was.
Being an intellectual, the boy wearing spectacles, was potentially an attack dummy. Girls may like him because he is sensitive and smart, but the high school quarterback, as the Tarzan in the academic jungle, the handsome athlete, is to have the head cheerleader, the beauty on the squad. At first she relishes an association with the BMOC, but discovers the spectacled lad enjoyable, able to discuss relevant subjects and not grunt at unexpected moments. Intellectual conversations may have been taboo for the manly. It was the brawn, not the brain that mattered. That has changed in most of the world.
So you ask, what is empathy? Empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Feelings – the emotional side of someones character.
The obstacle presents itself. Understanding another’s feelings, how does that come about? Sharing emotions, that too can be a big hurdle. The hurdle’s label is ‘vulnerable.’ Who wants to be vulnerable, or expose a weakness? What are the benefits? If I expose where I am vulnerable, what do I get in return?
Then the issue becomes ‘self.’ Self – is a person’s essential being, a differentiating factor. How high is the wall that separates an individual from others, the protective cover that provides mystery, a prophylactic that contains the truth. Is it ever possible to know your fellow man?
What about a victim? Does the robber have empathy, or the bully towards the one threatened. What if the shoe was on the other foot?
The military for me was a great training experience. I learned the meaning of teamwork. From the platoon, to the company, to the battalion there was a community that was put together from diverse backgrounds (color, religion and regions). The goal was to have them unite and join forces respecting the needs of each other and the benefit of working in a coordinated fashion. The strengths and weaknesses of each individual was exposed. The goal became utilizing the strengths and aiding the weakness. Certain people were stronger in tactics, others in building or where brawn was needed, there were those who could lead, even tell jokes or communicate to bring the team together. Each member discovered they needed the others for without them they were not as effective and unable to accomplish their objective efficiently, in a timely fashion, with fewer errors and successfully. Injuries were reduced. But when a teammate went down, was injured, often emotions came out, the element of caring, loving, and feeling a part of the whole was taken exposing, but without control, the heart of each man or woman. This is empathy.
Does the Saudi leaving his mosque after Friday prayers who then goes to the center where punishments are meted in public to observe beheadings, amputations and stoning have empathy for the victims? Are they attending to cry or to rejoice?
Did the Tunisian crowd assembled in a soccer arena have empathy for the 16 year old girl, having reported being gang raped by 3 Muslims, and then condemned for illegal sexual activities, who was buried in the center of the playing field up to her chest and stoned? And even after she was removed, found alive, was reburied, to have the stoning continue until she died. Was there a twinge of empathy?
What about the 911 suicide bombers who took the lives of thousands. Any empathy there? And those that cheered at the news of this barbaric tragic terrorist act, any emotional feelings towards the victims?
Islam and Feelings Towards One Another
Within the world of Islam there exist numerous disagreements between the interpretation of Islam, none more prominent that between Shiite and Sunni. There are many tribes, clans and families within Islam that do not see eye-to-eye. Have they empathy towards one another? From scenes of killing apostates and heretics, and moderates under the gun of a more fundamental Islamist, is there mutual empathy?
From the website, theIslamicworkplace.com, they provide the following as to empathy:
“In Islam, compassionate leaders enact (several) attributes:
- Are willing to overlook mistakes and failures, and view them as learning opportunities,
- Don’t beat their followers over their head with their mishaps, but rather ask for Allah to forgive them,
- Do not exclude them from shura, but rather will consult them again in the future while putting their trust in Allah (tawakkul), and
- Persevere with sabr (patience) in the path of Allah without any decrement (reduction) in their own Iman and level of taqwa (Surah 32:24)”
But we read about ISIS and the killing of fellow Muslims or warriors for not doing as expected. Certainly those that have doubts about Islam or leave Islam, for them there is no empathy, just a call for death. Death for Apostasy. And then the father who kills his teenage daughter because she loves a man other than one chosen for her by the family or tribe (honor killing). What compassion, empathy has the father (or the mother) for the daughter’s feelings? Honor killing is not empathetic. It is selfish, cruel and lacking any regard for another human. This is Islam.
How long will a wife be a stoic spouse to a mean, barbaric, and demanding Islamic husband?
Love of Neighbor, even if Muslim
Where is the Love? Possessed, more fear than love, a Muslim goes through life afraid of what might happen should they choose a course that is more free, allowing for independent thought leading potentially to a departure from Islam. For the fellow traveller that agrees as to true Islam there is potential for peace, yet the devout, the fundamentalist, is the radical. From the trough of radical Islam many factions feed. Within the Sunni and the Shiite worlds there are many schools that teach ‘true Islam.’ They differ in some ways as to the definition, enough, unfortunately, to cause conflict. Thus the need for more than one school. Conflict, lack of peace, is common to Islam. They are not in accord or civil towards one another even though the warrior and self-proclaimed prophet Muhammad is the example for all and Allah their god. So much for “Allahu Akbar.” Then the concern arises as to an Islamists empathy towards Jews, Christians, atheists, and gays. How much of a caring nature exists in the Islamist group tossing a suspected gay fellow Muslim from a roof-top?
My feelings towards the Muslim is concern, for the moderate it is a concern for their safety. They are no different than a non-believer as either indifferent, apathetic or ignorant of ‘true Islam.’ For the radical it is a concern they have been transformed, brainwashed, into a boil of hatred about to burst upon an unsuspecting third party, an innocent or one that does not agree. More fascist than practical or tolerant they will spew their venom upon those who resist even with a question, especially one for which they have no answer or are made uncomfortable if they tell the truth. May the Muslim world one day awake to abolish laws for apostasy that involve killing another human being. In so doing, however, the Islamists may fear losing their constituency who find independence in traveling a less problematic pathway.
Grace and Peace