What do the scholars and muftis of the mighty Shari’ah say regarding the following matter, what does Islam have to say about bullying? Please give some guidance on this important matter.
Questioner: Hamza from UK
All praises belong to Allāh, the Creator Most Sublime Who is Uncreated, the One Who has created us from a single male and female and made us peoples and tribes that we may know one another. Peace and blessings of Allāh be upon the final Prophet, Our Master, Muḥammad ﷺ, upon his purified family, his esteemed companions, and whomsoever follows in his blessed footsteps until the last day.
As-Salāmu ‘Alaykum wa-Raḥmatu’Llāh
In language, words can often express a totally different context from what they were originally coined to mean. The word ‘bully’ was initially a term of endearment used to express love. The meaning deteriorated in the 17c. from an expression of positivity to one with negative connotations.
Bullying is either the physical, verbal, mental or in the contemporary era, cyber oppression of another individual. Bullying can severely affect individuals in the short and long-term and have both an emotional and social impact.
The adult mental health consequences of childhood maltreatment are well researched and documented. The negative experiences during childhood hold a significant influence upon the adults’ mindsets, including how they perceive themselves and others.
Anyone who is suffering the evil of bullying must speak to responsible adults and those in authority and not suffer in silence. Remaining silent will not dissipate the problem but rather quickly and dangerously exacerbate it. The bullying may not be isolated, but others may also be suffering. Speaking out will prevent other individuals from being bullied.
Remember Allāh ﷻ has said:
فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا
“For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.” [94:5]
And furthermore, Allāh ﷻ has said:
لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ
“Do not despair of the Mercy of Allāh.” [39:53]
For adults it is necessary to ensure a healthy relationship with children whereby they feel ease in communicating and sharing their problems. An adult must be vigilant for any tell-tale signs that the child is being bullied. Some signs are (but not limited to):
• damage to personal property,
• unexplained bruises and injuries,
• complaints regarding bodily aches and pains,
• a decline in academic achievement,
• a noticeable change in character,
• a noticeable change in sleeping or eating habits.
Although the focus of prevention and interventions are often on victims of bullying, it is necessary to also provide support to the ones bullying.
The Prophet ﷺ said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor, or he is an oppressed one.” The people said: “O Messenger of Allāh ﷺ, it is right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” He ﷺ replied: “By preventing him from oppressing others.” [Ṣahīh al-Bukhāri, 3:624]
The one who bullies is often depicted as a disturbed individual who receives gratification through the pain of others. This may be the case in some circumstances, but research studies have found that bullies can have a wide array of mental illnesses which cause them to exhibit behavioural issues. Bullies often have an extremely weak nature and suffer from depression and low-self esteem as a result of their up-bringing or circumstances. The act of bullying at times is a compensation for their weakness and an attempt to present themselves as ‘superior’ before individuals whom they feel threatened by.
From the aforementioned ḥadīth, we learn it is vital to help those who are oppressed, but more profoundly, there is a need to assist the one oppressing by preventing them from committing this infringement on the rights of others. The prevention does not solely encompass a short-term solution but to enrich their character with Islamic values.
The one bullying needs to be made aware that all creation differ only upon cognisance of Allāh. For Allāh ﷻ has said:
إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ
“The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allāh that you may receive mercy.” [49:10]
Furthermore, Allāh ﷻ has said:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا يَسْخَرْ قَوْمٌ مِّن قَوْمٍ عَسَىٰ أَن يَكُونُوا خَيْرًا مِّنْهُمْ وَلَا نِسَاءٌ مِّن نِّسَاءٍ عَسَىٰ أَن يَكُنَّ خَيْرًا مِّنْهُنَّ ۖ وَلَا تَلْمِزُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَلَا تَنَابَزُوا بِالْأَلْقَابِ ۖ بِئْسَ الِاسْمُ الْفُسُوقُ بَعْدَ الْإِيمَانِ ۚ وَمَن لَّمْ يَتُبْ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ
“O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one’s] faith. And whoever does not repent – then it is those who are the wrongdoers.” [49:11]
One of the greatest aims of Satan is to instil resentment and enmity amongst Muslims and mankind in general.
The Prophet of Allāh ﷺ said: “There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm.” [Sunan ibn Majah, 3:2340]
This statement is an important principle in Islām and a foundational legal maxim within the Islamic law. The Prophet of Allāh ﷺ further said: “The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand the people are safe, and the believer is the one from whom the people’s lives and wealth are safe.” [Sunan an-Nasa’I 6:4998]
When looking at the blessed life of the Prophet ﷺ, his purified family and that of his esteemed companions, it is evident how they were oppressed and bullied by those who felt threatened as a result their purity and message. Those oppressors who didn’t repent from their ways met an abysmal fate, whilst those who sincerely rectified themselves became the inheritors of the Prophet ﷺ.
The Prophet ﷺ said: “Whoever harms others, then Allāh will harm him. Whoever is harsh with others, then Allāh will be harsh with him.”
[Sunan Al-Tirmidhi 1940]
For adults it is necessary to be vigilant for any tell-tale signs that the child is bullying others. Some signs are (but not limited to):
• aggressive and threatening behaviour,
• refuse to take responsibilities for their actions,
• lack of empathy,
• need to control,
• intolerance to a difference of opinion,
• often getting into trouble by adults,
• unexplained new belongings or extra money,
• desire for attention,
• pride and arrogance.
If an adult perceives that their child may be exhibiting one or more of the above signs it would be advised to address your concerns and discuss it with the child. The adult should then help the child devise a structured plan in order to implement changes within their behaviour. The adult should listen to the child’s perspective and correct it accordingly whilst making the child aware that there will be consequences for bullying.
If it is known that the child is bullying, it is necessary for the adult to immediately deal with the situation in a calm but firm manner.
The adult should further raise any concerns with the child’s respective teachers or other concerned adults who may be able to facilitate in any safeguarding.
In summary, one of the fundamental characteristics of Islām is to protect people from harm and evil. It is our duty to ensure that we treat people well whilst neither harming nor reciprocating harm.
And Allaah knows best.
Answered by Ustadh Asid Shafait
Checked by Shaykh Naveed Jameel
Read more answers written by Ustadh Asid Shafait: