Empathy

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And to Allah belong the east and the west, so wherever you turn yourselves or your faces there is the face of Allah (and He is High above, over His Throne). Surely! Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures needs, All-Knowing.
( سورة البقرة , Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #115)

There seems to be a lack of many good qualities in society these days. My experience with seeing a lack of empathy has been so evident in some people who do not bother to take note of other people’s circumstances. Empathy should make us a better human being – a caring person who is able to understand another’s situation.

A simple way is to put yourself in another’s shoes.

 Why is there such a lack of this?

I am not a physcologist to diagnose why certain people may behave this way  but I can think of many scenarios that show a lack of empathy towards others. I have seen in certain cultures where the society can display selfishness and where everyone is for themselves. No need to care about your fellow human being unless he has more money than you so that any relations would pay off something for you. No one cares about just lending an ear. No word of sympathy or hope. Some people have no common courtesy. We have all experienced frustration and pain. When the need to be understood takes precedence over mutuality in social situations, social interchanges can feel like a one-way street patrolled by an angry police officer. The need for recognition and understanding can be so intense that it may be experienced by others as demanding and self-centered.

It seems obvious. If a person is sad you’d try to make them feel better. Realistically empathy is not always something easy to show and I think that if one has never been in a situation like yours there is no clear understanding how a person should react. On the other hand, I strongly believe that children can be taught empathy because the adults I have deassociated with are clueless. However, with children it is a big job but it can be achieved. To develop empathy, children can be encouraged to become aware of other’s feelings and to see situations from an alternate point of view.  For example, making connections in what I have been reading in some of these hadiths has given me the idea of sharing the general idea of what the Prophet (PBUH) has taught us by trying to build an appreciation and understanding in my child. My favorite hadith that has given me a clear meaning of how complete Islam is represented in every aspect of our lives is mentioned in  the following hadith:

Jabir (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Never a Muslim plants a tree, but he has the reward of charity for him, for what is eaten out of that is charity; what is stolen out of that, what the beasts eat out of that, what the birds eat out of that is charity for him. (In short) none incurs a los! k to him but it becomes a charity on his part.  (Book #010, Hadith 3764)

It is amazing how the Quran and hadith correlate so beautifully with our daily lives and decisions we make for ourselves and to help others.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Assalaamu Alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu sister,

    Yeah, empathy is sorely lacking today. I think I grew up being taught empathy.My mother, brother and oldest sister are very empathetic. So, they instilled the trait into me. I think it has to happen as you mentioned from childhood.

    Reply

  2. Posted by adikbongsu on July 25, 2007 at 3:32 am

    Salam,

    indeed, empathy, social responsibilities among society are sorely lacking. People these days are more materialistics and very selfish. Whenever something happens, they will ask whether by helping will benefit them or not. If it does not, they will just look the other way. Very sad indeed.

    Total agree with you that the teaching of empathy should start from young. Thks sis for this wonderful article.

    Reply

  3. So true, AdikBongsu, nowadays people first ask themselves, ‘whats in it for me?’ before doing even the smallest act of kindness. And as long as others are not dropping dead and corpses are falling from the sky unto their heads, people cannot relate with the ongoing sufferings in the world around.

    And UmmAbdulRahman, it’s easier said than done, like you wrote. A lot of us would want others to be more emphatetic yet have we really asked ourselves if we are emphatic enough. We think the problem is wiht others, we see their own faults easily while remain blinded to ours. Well, if we make the efforts to change, may Allah assist us. May it not be that we are afflicted with suffering before we realize and start to notice the not so priviledged around us.

    Ma Salam.

    Reply

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