Empathy – A Higher Level of Compassion

Saad Tasleem


Channel: Saad Tasleem

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My dear brothers and sisters, one of the core concepts of the core aspects, themes in our Deen the religion of loss of data, is the concept of compassion, and mercy. As a matter of fact, alone, this pile of data summarized the sending of the Prophet Mohammed send a long I didn't send them by Mercy as Allahu Allah to Allah said, Well, now Seneca in attending it mean that we haven't said to you except as a mercy to mankind. And that is why we find that not only the Prophet Mohammed said, the longer I didn't send them, but all of the profits of a long island it was Salatu was one of their defining characteristics was the characteristic of compassion, and mercy. And as the Prophet

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sallallahu said, it would continually teach his companions to be merciful. As he told one man, he said, Man, now y'all know your hand, that the one who doesn't show mercy or doesn't show compassion, that they will not be shown compassion to meaning by love is palitana. Meaning if we seek the mercy of a law, and we seek mercy from Allah Subhana Allah, which we are all in need of, then of course, we have to be merciful to other people. But our religion doesn't stop there. Our religion just doesn't stop at mercy and compassion. It goes beyond that. And it teaches us to empathize, not just to sympathize, but to empathize. And there is a difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is

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to simply feel compassion towards another person, or towards someone else. Sympathy is to feel mercy for someone to be merciful towards others. Empathy is to put oneself in the position of another individual. Empathy is to put oneself in the shoes of another individual. And what that does, is that it takes our compassion and mercy to a higher level as the prophets I send them one of the hedges that many of us have memorized of, and we have heard over and over again, when the prophets otherwise hit him. He said, none of you will truly believe now you know, I had to come head to your head, buddy FEMA your head, but enough, see that none of you will truly believe that you won't truly

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attain belief, until you love for your brother, what you love for yourself, is not sympathy. No, that is empathy. That is to say, I would want to treat another individual, just like I would want to be treated. I want to behave with another person, just like I want to, I want people to behave with me. And that really summarizes the issue of compassion and mercy. And it's not and that is why we just spent a month learning sympathy and empathy, empathy, meaning how do other people feel and and how does that affect the way I deal with them. So it is one thing

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to see a person who's hungry and needy, and to say, you know, I feel bad for you. And because I feel bad for you, here, I will want to help you, I will try and help you, I will try and feed you. It's another thing that we see a person who is hungry and starving and suffering. And then we try and recall how it felt for us to taste. No one, no pun intended taste, just a little bit of how that felt. Maybe we recall within ourselves how it felt in the last hour of our day of fasting, the last hour of one of the days of Ramadan, when we were hungry, when we felt like our stomachs are going to cave in, where we said to ourselves, Just one bite of food, just one sip of water, just a piece of a

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date, any of that would mean the world to us right now. And we felt that sense of desperation. And so we look at that individual who has been hungry for who knows how long, who doesn't know where their food is going to come from. And we ignite within ourselves a little bit of how they are feeling. And of course, there's going to be a difference in how we treat that person. And that raises our level of compassion. That is what we mean by empathy. And my brothers and sisters. When I talk about empathy, a lot of times I know a lot of people when they hear that, and they say, Yeah, I can I can be empathetic, you know, I can I can look at another individual and say, you know, how

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would I feel if I was in that situation? And I don't, I don't, you know, I, I'll take that at face value. And most people when they make that claim, I believe them. But I believe that when they say that they're talking about

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they're talking about those people who they already feel some kinship with those people that they would already be merciful and compassionate towards, and then they can bring themselves to a level of empathy, meaning a loved one or a close one. When we see them suffering. We want to help and we can feel for them because we are connected to them. But my question

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Today is can we have empathy for those who don't have a connection with? Can we have empathy for those who don't relate to, because yes, you know, as human beings is easier to be good to people that we like, it is easier to be good to people that are close to us. And that's why if a loved one

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is suffering, if a loved one is having difficulty, then we'll be more likely to help them. But if we see a stranger, then we're obviously going to be less likely to help them and that is where empathy comes into play. So empathizing with someone who, as I said, that we have no connection with but to take it to another level, empathizing with that person, who has some animosity towards us, empathizing with a person who has maybe hatred and anger towards us. And that's why one of the ways in which we justify, as I said, bad behavior towards others, is by something known as other causation. And that is to look at an individual.

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And to cancel out any sense of empathy, to say, this person, they are other than me, or what is called dehumanization, right? When we look at an individual, and we say, they don't deserve my mercy and my compassion.

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They don't deserve to be treated in a way that normal human beings would have to be treated. And you know, it seems like an alien idea. It seems like something that we would never take part in. But we do it all the time.

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I'll give you an example of something that may relate to you.

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When you're driving on the road, and someone cuts you off, or someone drives in a way that you may think is erratic, what happens in your mind? Well, a lot of times we act out, a lot of times, we have road rage, right, we get angry and upset. And we may act in a way that we normally don't act.

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And that is why a lot of times when when kids, they see bad behavior from their parents, it may not be an everyday thing, it may be a situation that was triggered. So a lot of times kid when kids when they witnessed bad behavior from their parents, and maybe in the car, so someone cuts off their parent on the road.

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And the parent, they they act out. And in their mind, this is a justified behavior. Why? Because this person doesn't the person who's cut us off on the highway, the person who almost killed us, or the person who almost ran us off, or they're driving crazy to the driving too fast. They don't deserve our mercy. They don't deserve our compassion. They don't deserve for us to be patient towards them. And what are we doing here? We're practice. We're practicing, dehumanize dehumanization, we're practicing the concept of other realisation because now there's a big disconnect between us and this person. And I remembers Pavlov, I'll share a personal story with you.

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I was once driving in the car.

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And there was a car driving in front of me and I was in I was in the left lane, you know, the fast lane. And if you don't know, this is a public service announcement. It's all the data. The left lane is a fast lane, if you're trying to drive slow move to the right lane, right.

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I was in the left lane. And one of my biggest pet peeves is the issue of the fast lane, the slow lane I look, you know, because you know, I travel a lot, and other countries around the world, they all seem to have this problem, like everyone understands that there's a fast lane, and they're just slowly, especially in Europe, and so on and so forth. But it just seems that Americans have this issue where we don't understand the concept of a fast lane. And slowly so one of my pet peeves is somebody's driving, like, exceedingly slow in like the left lane. So I was driving and there's a car in front of me driving slow. And you know, my friend of mine was sitting next to me. And he could

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see me getting getting visually agitated, and annoyed and upset. I said anything yet my body language probably spoke to him. And he said, You know what's wrong? I said, Can you believe this, like this person? You know, in the left line, I can't believe people still do this. And he said, let me ask you a question. He said, I know you're feeling upset. And this is one of my mentors and someone that I look up to. He said, I know you're feeling upset, and you're feeling annoyed right now. But how would you feel? If you were to find out that it was your mother in that car in front of you? You know, maybe your mother maybe a little bit elderly, older, right? How would you behave? If

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you found out that was your mother and she was struggling to drive and you know, she's trying to figure out what's happening.

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And that as soon as he said those words, it just brought a sense of calm over me. And I immediately backed off and I wanted not only was I not upset, I wanted to help the person. I wanted to guard that car from other cars. Why? Because it's my mom now. Right? What is that? That is empathy.

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And if we just treated people in the way that we would want to be treated, it would drastically change the way we

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We just need to drastically change our behavior. Right? How often do we see someone doing something that makes us upset? And we say to ourselves, how would I, what if what if I was in that situation, or making excuses for someone, giving someone the benefit of the doubt and you know, one of the goals of this and fun, by the way, is to block off giving people the benefit of the doubt, you know, this concept of Sue have been, right giving people or thinking evil or bad people, this goes against our morals as Muslims, that the default as a Muslim is that we give people the benefit of the doubt, unless we're absolutely positive, we're sure that they that they intended something bad or evil for

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us. And also the concept of understanding that some people are simply ignorant. Some people are ignorant, some people just don't know. And so someone comes in they they behave with us in a way that we don't like? Well, one of the things that we remind ourselves of is that this person may just simply be ignorant,

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right, instead of authorizing the person, and the irony of other people, is that sometimes we end up treating people in a way in which we are blaming them for so someone is racist towards us, or someone is

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Islamophobic towards us. Right? And that, what does that do to us? Well, we get angry, we get upset, we have resentment that may be built up. And now we believe that it is okay to treat this person in a bad way. Because we have been treated in that way. And we resort to the same behavior that they are behaving in. And as a Muslim, we're supposed to be above that. We're supposed to understand that yes, not to justify people's bad behavior. And obviously, as Muslims, we stand for truth and for justice, and if someone is behaving wrong, then obviously we will stand for what is correct. But to turn around and treat a person in the way that they're treating us. Well, that's simply not okay.

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And if we really want to bring about change, we will really want to see people's behavior change, then simply treating them in a bad way, because they're treating us in a bad way, that's not going to solve anything. And you know, what, all this negativity that we have right now, whether it be the political, the social climate, or whether it be you know, us as Muslims in America, and all the hostility and the negativity that we face almost on a daily basis, it's easy to become cynical, it's easy to lose hope in people and say, You know what, these people just hate us. And that's it. And there may be people who just hate us. But how many people are there that don't hate us and people

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who are simply ignorant, people who simply don't know different people who have been this is all they have learned this all they have been exposed to 24 hours a day, and they say this person is acting, acting in an ignorant way.

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They are being harsh towards me, and so on and so forth. But in the end of the day, they are a human being. So can I find some humanity within them that I can connect with? And if that is possible, then perhaps change is possible. Perhaps I can have an effect on this person. But if we just take a whole group of people and say they are the enemy, they're on the other side, they have nothing to do with me. But how are we ever going to bring about change? How are we ever going to bring about how are we ever going to win the hearts of people? You know, lunch? How do we get out I said to the profits of a lot is no, no come default vanilla leave, and then felt dumb and Helmick that if you

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were harsh and hard hearted, then the people would run away from you. And this is the Prophet of Allah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. And if you look at all of our leaders of the past, starting with the prophets of Allah, he was taught to sit down, and even other people, you always found that they had amazing character, the way they treated people. And even till today, if you want to look at, you know, our scholars and our teachers, one of the identifying factors of our scholars and our teachers, those who we should be taking knowledge from, is their character. Right? Yes, knowledge is important, and their training and their understanding of the deen and so on and so forth. But what I

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want the most telling signs of an individual and their connection with the last kind of data is how they treat their fellow human beings, not just their fellow human beings, but those who may oppose them.

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Are they do they have compassion and mercy to those who oppose them? Are they generous with those who oppose them? That is a sign of a person who has a true understanding understanding of how the how the stuff

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handled laughable. I mean, are Salatu was Salam ala? l mursaleen. novena will say, you know, I don't even know Mohammed.

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I'm speaking about empathy today. and building a sense of empathy starting with those people who are close to us, those people who we have a kinship with, and then those people

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Who we don't have a connection with, but they don't oppose us. And going all the way to people who may oppose us, people who dislike us to try and develop a sense of empathy with them. So I want to give you four things, inshallah, out of that you can do four things to build a sense of empathy to try and develop empathy. Number one, when it comes to building empathy is

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to try and understand the individual to try and take some perspective. Meaning me as an individual, I have my truth, and I have my understanding, and I have what I believe to be right and wrong. But when we want to build empathy, we have to take a step back and look at the person and try and understand their truth. Not to agree with like I said, developing empathy doesn't mean that you have to agree with a person's perspective. But it is to try and first of all, recognize what their perspective is, what their truth is. Number two, if we want to build empathy, then we have to stay out of judgment, at least in that initial phase, right. So someone behaves in a certain way, instead

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of jumping to judgment, because that's the easiest way out, right? And judgment leads to anger, anger, leads to resentment, and all that leads to a barrier between us and this individual. So at least when we start off, number one, we try and understand their perspective, trying to understand their truth. Number two, we stay out of judgment, at least in this end, this is not to say that there's no right and wrong and it's No, that's not what I'm saying. I'm not saying you know, don't judge anyone, and so on and so forth. And that's the other extreme, I'm saying if we're trying to build empathy, in that process, at least in the beginning of that process, we have to stay out of

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judgment. Because as I said, judgment is the easy way out, because judgment meetings means having everyone play by our rules, right. And the reality is that every single person, or every single person sitting here in this room today, we all have different life experiences, we've been through different things, we're affected by way by it by matters in different ways, even to people who have been brought up in the same household, they have different perspectives. And that's the reality. And you know, those of you have siblings, and so on and so forth, you know, that sometimes you may disagree with a sibling. Why because their experiences, even though you've been brought up in the

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same household, their experiences may be different, evens out a lot. There's studies on like, the firstborn child and the second born child and how, you know, their psychology difference, because the experience of the firstborn child versus the second born child may differ, right? So judgment is saying, No, you have to play by my rules, right? This is, this is my truth. And this is my understanding, because you don't fit it, you're wrong, and you're bad, and so on, and so forth, and put them you know, dehumanize them otherwise, but to stay out of judgment and say, Look, this is who you are. And this is who your truth is, and this is why you are acting in this way. This is why you

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are behaving in this way. And this is not true, by the way, as I said, not to justify or to rather than say, you know, their behavior is okay, that's not what we're talking about today, we're standing to try and understand someone's behavior. So we can try to empathize with them. So we can try and deal with them with mercy and compassion.

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And then recognizing, number three, recognizing what this person is feeling, and just trying to understand what they're feeling. You know, a lot of times when when a person is in an argument with someone, we do this, right, we authorize the person, right? We say you're wrong, and I don't agree with your perspective, and so on and so forth. And we fail to recognize what they're feeling regardless of whether they're right or they're wrong. Sometimes in an argument, a person's sole reason for being in disagreement was up with us because they feel hurt. Right? And that's a feeling there's no right and wrong when it comes to feelings. Right, you cannot force someone to change the

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way they feel the person feels hurt, they're hurt. That's what it is. And so number four, is to try and find that feeling within ourselves. So if I'm having an argument with someone, and I say, look, you know, I, you know, I understand this person has come to this place. And even though they're wrong, this is why they came to this conclusion, and so on and so forth. And what feeling, how would they feel they feel hurt. And even though I don't agree with it, how would I want to be treated if I felt hurt?

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Right. And at that point, when we were able to recognize that emotion within ourself, then at that point, our behavior with that person changes. And feelings, by the way, is a human connection. That is regardless of gender, regardless of age, regardless of race, regardless of religion, social status doesn't matter. We can recognize feelings and other people because they are universal. That's a human thing to say, this person feels a certain way and how would I want to be

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Treating if I felt that way. So this is a four step process inshallah doubt that regardless of whether it may be your spouse, whether it may be a your child, whether it be a colleague, whether it be a friend, whoever it may be, or even an enemy, as I said, this can even work with somebody who views us as your enemy. And that is what can elevate our behavior when it comes to those who may oppose us. And I believe in Shaolin and tiada, that these coming years these are, these are this is a telling time for us as Muslims, that how did we behave? When we were treated badly? When we were dealing with a son biphobia? Did we resort to the same behavior that was expected from us? Or do we

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try to treat people the way they were treating us? Or did we treat people the way that we would want to be treated? And did we take the higher road and glad tidings and allow someone to handle it enough that so far, I believe, we are passing the test and Ulster County knows best. So far, what we have seen from Muslims, is that as we are faced with this assembly, phobia, and hatred or whatever it may be, more more more often than not, we take the higher road, but it is in moments like this, that we need to help one another. Or what they're also the subject right, we have to help one another with patience, right upon the truth. And, as I said, not only with our enemies, but also

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with those who are close to us, and those who we find a kinship with as well. And a lot of Pamela tiada knows best. We asked him what kind of data to unite our hearts as believers we asked the last round of data to give us patience, and allow us to be grateful servants of Allah whose panel the data will not go to Ireland. Some hadn't come up and will be handed a shadow