Unapologetically Telling The Truth Is A Terrible Thing to Admire

Why do we value “unapologetically telling the truth like it is” so highly? When did this become an actual thing that we lionize and aspire to? Why do we celebrate those who do this?

What’s the point of telling it like it is, even if people hate it? And what does it say about us as a community if this is how sincerity and authenticity is expressed? When did it become some type of significant accomplishment that is lauded by others?

There’s obviously an immediate benefit. You gain notoriety, fans, social media engagement, and maybe even just enough of a following to leverage a career (or presidency) out of it.

I have noticed a trend lately, particularly in discourse about Islamic issues online, where people are being heralded and promoted for telling it like it is.

This culture appears to be an overreaction to another problem (as most extremes often are) – speaking about issues without any principles, or watering down and politicizing them. When something in regards to the religion is watered down, the perception is that this is done from a position of weakness.

By speaking the unapologetic truth harshly, a person may feel they are taking on a task for the community that others are not. They are giving voice to a perspective that may otherwise be silent. They are providing objective and accurate intellectual analysis without any emotion or sugar-coating.

Validation follows. Others encourage them for speaking up and saying the things they are unafraid to say. This makes the person feel they are taking on an important task on behalf of the ummah, and continue to do so. Then they get more fans and comments, and the cycle continues.

This validation loop, particularly online when it is in the form of likes and comments, makes it challenging to engage criticisms of this approach objectively. After all, everyone is telling you this is incredible – why should you listen to the few uptight people who are so focused on tone instead of the unapologetic truth bomb you are dropping on people?

This justification comes from prioritizing the utility of giving a correct point of view over how it is delivered – especially when this point of view is drowned out by all the people with the wrong understanding.

When given real feedback on tone or etiquette, people who pride themselves on being unapologetic or authentic will respond by deflecting this advice. Focus on the intellectual merits of the argument they’ll argue. Or they will deflect it by pointing to some type of bad character on the part of people who hold the opposing viewpoint as them. Don’t worry about my bad attitude, worry about that other person’s character instead. Or they’ll appeal to authority and declare that they already have teachers or mentors that give them advice, so they are free to dismiss comments no matter how legitimate. For people who pride themselves on being objective or intellectual, these are all profoundly childish responses.

What is billed as being authentic or unapologetic is really a mask for laziness and ego.

The Qur’an lays out a model that we’ll refer to as the ‘high-competency’ approach:

By an act of mercy from God, you [Prophet] were gentle in your dealings with them—had you been harsh, or hard-hearted, they would have dispersed and left you—so pardon them and ask forgiveness for them. Consult with them about matters, then, when you have decided on a course of action, put your trust in God: God loves those who put their trust in Him (3:159).

Where in this ayah does it appear that the approach of telling the cold hard truth would fall?

Telling the unapologetic truth without regard for how people take it is the easy way out. Anyone can do that. The problem is that it does not work. It causes people to get turned off. Those who lionize this approach will counter by saying, “so what?” They put the blame on the people who can’t handle the message instead of taking responsibility for how they deliver it.

That’s why it’s lazy. It’s a low competency form of delivering a message. The only people who celebrate it are ones that already agree with it. It does not accomplish the ultimate task of winning hearts and minds or changing someone’s viewpoint.

Instead, it puts the focus on the person giving the message – how courageous, authentic, and direct they are. This makes the communication inherently ego driven because the intended audience is now ignored. The actual content of a person’s message also gets lost as they start to craft their identity around speaking forcefully instead of effectively. They show no concern for the recipient of the message, only in themselves.

The task of winning hearts and minds, or changing someone’s ideological worldview, is not done through a hot take on Facebook. It is done as the ayah above indicates – with kindness in dealings with them.

Giving hot takes on social media builds fans and followings, not relationships. The ultimate irony is that unapologetically speaking the truth actually prevents people from developing the relationships to affect positive change in the community because no one wants to be around them.

“How well you take criticism depends less on the message and more on your relationship with the messenger. It’s surprisingly easy to hear a hard truth when it comes from someone who believes in your potential and cares about your success.” –Adam Grant

It requires the hard work of building relationships with people and building community. True leaders understand that this requires years of investment into people – not all of which will be documented on social media. Success means playing the long game.

It means going to a tyrant like Fir’awn, and still speaking kindly because the ultimate intent is different than to just tell it like it is.

It means that when the young man walks into the masjid of the Prophet (s) and asks permission to commit zina (adultery), that the Prophet (s) takes him and teaches him kindly. He could have easily reminded him about the jurisprudential rulings about adultery, and the prescribed punishment – no doubt that would be unapologetically speaking the truth. But it would not have achieved the intended outcome, so the Prophet (s) had to take the approach that would actually produce results.

But wait, what about all the times in the life of the Prophet (s) when harshness was used? Didn’t he speak the truth clearly? Yes. There are always going to be situations where this is called for strategically as a tool intended for a specific result. The problem we are highlighting is not of speaking the truth clearly, but one of expressing it in a harsh way such that people are turned off. And worse, people who respond to the harshness with cheerleading and zealousness instead of genuine care and concern for the one who is wrong to gain some sense of rectification.

There is something deeper at play here than ego or taking the easy way out. Authenticity.

Authenticity is the buzzword we use to express sincerity. When I tell it like it is, I am being authentic and sincere. Not fake. Not a sell-out.

Authenticity presents a paradox: Do you do what’s effective, or do you do what is true to yourself? We might reach a certain level of success and influence by being a certain way. The challenge is getting to the next level. If that means suddenly changing how I communicate or speaking with what I term to be watered down political jargon, then no thanks. This is the mindset that allows us to morally justify our unapologetic approach, and actually double down on it when told to act otherwise.

Authenticity is a barrier to personal growth. We use this idea of it representing sincerity as an excuse to keep from changing. We have to shift from delivering the information people need to know (low-level) to creating the conditions of increasing learning (high-level).

This requires putting in the work to change our approach and character.

The Prophet (s) said that ‘the two characteristics that led the most people into Paradise were consciousness of Allah and good character’ (Tirmidhi).

Don’t let anyone subvert this in the name of unapologetically speaking the truth.

Low competency individuals are drawn to telling it like it is. High competency individuals are attracted to painting the vision of how things could be – and building the bridge to help and serve people in getting there.

https://www.ibnabeeomar.com/blog/unapologetically-telling-the-truth-is-a-terrible-thing-to-admire

 

he-tells-it-like-it-is-paul-not

How to Acquire Husn Al-Khatimah


11th Safar 1438 AH ~ Friday 11th November 2016

By Hadrat Mawlānā Muhammad Saleem Dhorat hafizahullāh

If we study the lives of the pious servants of Allāh ta‘ālā, i.e. the Ambiyā, Sahābahradhiyallāhu ‘anhum, the Muhaddithūn, Fuqahā, Awliyā, we will find one common factor in their lives, and that is their concern for securing Husn Al-Khātimah so that they are successful in the Court of Allāh ta‘ālā. Despite their lives being full of virtue, they would worry and pray for death in the state of īmān and Islām. 

Allāh ta‘ālā quotes the du‘ā of Yūsuf ‘alayhis salām in the Glorious Qur’ān:

…O Creator of the heavens and the Earth, You are my guardian in this world and the Hereafter. Make me die a Muslim and make me join the righteous. (12:102)

This is because a single word of disbelief at the time of death can erase the benefits of a lifetime of virtue and obedience. On the other hand, a person may live a life of sin and vice, and then be granted the blessing of īmān in the final moments of his life, thereby securing the success of both this world and the Hereafter. Through His infinite Grace and Mercy, Allāhta‘ālā inspired me with six points, which will secure Husn Al-Khātimah and a good death for ourselves, which in turn will result in a good outcome in the Hereafter, Inshā’allāh.

1. Adopt Taqwā (fear of Allāh ta‘ālā). Taqwā holds the power to repel all the forces which weaken one’s īmān and at times snatch it away. This can be understood from the verses wherein Allāh commands the believers to adopt Taqwā. We understand from them that once a person becomes a believer, the method of safeguarding that belief is adopting Taqwā. And Taqwā simply means to create a barrier between disobedience to Allāh and ourselves. Another name for this Taqwā is Istiqāmah (steadfastness), because when a person, after accepting īmān, remains steadfast upon the Commands of Allāh, he will not disobey Him. Allāh ta‘ālā mentions:

Surely, those who have declared: ‘Our Lord is Allāh’, then remained steadfast, on them the angels will descend, saying, ‘Do not fear, and do not grieve; and be happy with the good news of Jannah (Paradise) that you had been promised. We have been your friends in the worldly life, and (will remain as such) in the Hereafter. And for you here is whatever your souls desire, and for you here is whatever you call for.’ (41:30)

So when one accepts īmān by saying, “My Lord is Allāh”, and thereafter safeguards this īmān by remaining steadfast in carrying out the Commands of Allāh and staying away from every disobedience, then Allāh will reward him with a good death, as is indicated in the verse above, that the angels will descend with special mercy at the time of his death. The commentators of the Qur’ān have mentioned that the angels of mercy are always with those who are steadfast on Dīn; however, the special indication given in this verse is that at the time of their death, the angels become visible to them, who give them the glad tidings of Jannah from their Lord.

2. Love the pious and spend time in their company. The pious people are the people of Taqwā. The effect of loving them will create in one the desire to spend time in their company, and in doing so the effect of their taqwā will rub onto one’s self. Allāh ta‘ālāmentions: 

O you who believe, adopt taqwā, and be in the company of the truthful. (9:119)

We need to firstly accept īmān, which alhamdulillāh we all do, and thereafter safeguard our īmān by adopting Taqwā, which can be acquired by staying in the company of those who already have it. The term ‘The Truthful’ used here is another name for those who have Taqwā, as mentioned in another place in the Qur’ān:

…Those are the ones who are truthful, and those are the God-fearing. (2:177)

Similarly the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam states in a hadīth:

On the Day of Judgement, a person will be with whom he loved. (At-Tirmidhī)

If a person entertains love for the pious, he will be with them in the Hereafter, and the pious people will be granted entry into Jannah, for which īmān is a prerequisite. Thus, we can deduce that such a person will die in the state of īmān.

3. Giving in charity. Spending in the path of Allāh ta‘ālā cools the Anger of Allāh. If Allāhta‘ālā is angry with a person, what chance is there for him to have a good death? Therefore, charity paves the way for one to die in the state of īmān, as indicated by the Prophetsallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam: 

Sadaqah (charity) extinguishes the anger of the Lord and prevents an unpleasant death. (At-Tirmidhī)

An unpleasant death could either mean death without īmān or death in an undesirable state, i.e. as a victim of a tsunami, hurricane, or earthquake. Inshā’allāh, a person will be saved from both types of death.

4. Carrying out acts upon which the intercession of the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallamis guaranteed. In various narrations, the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam has encouraged carrying out certain good acts, the virtue of which is that the intercession of the Prophetsallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam will become incumbent for the doer. One should inquire about and learn such acts from reliable, authentic sources and act upon them. The intercession of the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam is of two types. The first being that on the Day of Judgement, when every human will be gathered in the Plain of Resurrection, every soul will be in a state of extreme worry and fear regarding its fate in the court of Allāh ta‘ālā. At this tense moment, the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam will intercede on behalf of the whole humankind and request Allāh ta‘ālā to begin the reckoning. The reckoning will thus begin, and this is known as the ‘general intercession’. Thereafter, once the process of reckoning begins, the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam will specifically intercede on behalf of many individuals of his ummah, with the permission of Allāh. Only a person who dies in the state of īmān will be worthy of receiving this ‘special intercession’ of the Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam. The glad tidings of intercession upon various good actions is this ‘special intercession’ which is exclusively for people with īmān. It can be therefore understood that those carrying out these good acts will die with īmān, as only they will be worthy of this ‘special intercession’. One example of such an act is reciting the du‘ā after the adhān.

5. Repeatedly thank Allāh ta‘ālā for the great bounty of īmān, for Allāh ta‘ālā promises: 

If you express gratitude, I shall certainly give you more. (14:7) 

It should be kept in mind that gratitude should be expressed in 3 ways:

  • By acknowledging and contemplating over this great bounty in one’s heart and mind that Allāh has granted this to me through His Grace only without my deserving it.
  •  By verbally expressing one’s gratitude.
  • By fulfilling the Commands of Allāh in regards to this bounty.

If we acknowledge the bounty of īmān with our heart and mind, express praise for Allāh verbally and carry out the demands of this ni‘mah (blessing), i.e. adopt Taqwā, then Allāh will increase this ni‘mah of ours inshā’allāh.

6. Make du‘ā for a good death and for a pleasant abode in the Hereafter. You may do this in your own words or by using supplications from the Qur’ān and ahādīth, for example: 

O Allāh, forgive our living and our dead, those present from among us and those absent, our young and our old, our males and our females, O Allāh whoever you keep alive from among us, keep him alive on Islām, and whoever you give death to, give him death upon īmān. (Ahmad)

Allāh ta‘ālā mentions the supplication of the knowledgeable people: “Our Lord, do not let our hearts deviate from the right path after You have given us guidance, and bestow upon us mercy from your own.” (2:8)

If we strive to do the above and ask Allāh ta‘ālā sincerely, then inshā’allāh, He will grant us this great bounty of death in the state of īmān.

May Allāh ta‘ālā grant us the true understanding of the reality of the Hereafter and grant us the tawfīq to adequately prepare for it. Āmīn.

© Riyādul Jannah (Vol. 21 No. 2, Feb 2012)


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