Reflection No. 227 on Q 49:11 – Mocking Others
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا يَسْخَرْ قَوْمٌ مِنْ قَوْمٍ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَكُونُوا خَيْرًا مِنْهُمْ
Yā-ayyuhlladhīna āmanū lā yaskhar qawmun min qawmin ‘asā an yakūnū khayran minhum
O believers, let no group make fun of another, for they may be better than them.
(Sūratul Hujurāt, No. 49, Āyat 11)
In this verse Almighty Allah warns people from mocking others. Looking down on others and making fun of them stems from the dangerous disease of pride and arrogance. Islam does not tolerate this type of egoism and is firm about believers staying away from such behavior.
According to Tafsīr al-Mīzān the word sakhara often translated as mocking means to say something which degrades someone and puts them down. It could be verbal or a subtle indication or could even be imitation. The aim is to ridicule and make others laugh at the person.
The second part of the above verse counters the disease of pride – it says that the people being mocked may actually be better than the ones mocking them. No one knows who is higher in status, especially in the eyes of Allah. The true criteria of respect and greatness of human beings lies in taqwā (Q 49:13), a quality often hidden from others. Most sincere believers will not make a display of their piety, modesty, integrity, etc. By mocking others we may actually be looking down at one of God’s special people.
Those who constantly mock others hoping to make others laugh through it must ask themselves why they do it. Is it because of an inadequacy they see in themselves? Do they wish to deflect attention from themselves? Is it that they don’t feel so good about themselves and can only soothe that through putting others down? Do they think they can gain popularity and respect from others by putting people down? Such are the ignoble motives lurking behind mockery.
Mocking others is a disease and like all diseases it is an unnatural twist of human nature. It needs a cure. That can only happen when the one mocking realizes the seriousness of his actions and questions his motives. Scholars have compared mocking others to putting a knife through their soul, and murdering their morale and confidence. Just as doing that to the body would be deemed extremely serious, such assaults on the soul must also not be taken lightly. It is not a joke when someone is degraded through mocking and ridicule. Imam Sajjād (a) says: From among the sins that bring down the wrath of Allah are oppression done by one who is aware, trampling on the rights of others, and mocking and ridiculing others. (Ma‘āni al-Akhbār, p. 270 taken from tebyan.net).
Use this verse to remind you of the seriousness of mocking others. Recite it in a gathering where someone is being ridiculed and make sure you are not party to it. You may choose to defend the person being mocked, deflect attention from him, or just leave the gathering, whatever is possible for you.
It is also a good practice to recite regularly Du‘ās for the Days of the Week taught by Imam Ali Zaynul ‘Ābidīn (a) collected in Sahifa Sajjādiyya. If you cannot recite the entire Du‘ā, then at least recite select passages to remind yourself of your duties towards the Almighty Creator and His creatures. Here below is a passage which the Imam used to recite on Mondays ensuring that he did not overlook the rights of fellow human beings.
O Allah . . . I ask You concerning the complaints of Your servants against me: If there is a male or female servant from among Your servants, who has against me a complaint because I have wronged him in respect to himself [or herself], his reputation, his property, his wife or his child, evil words I have spoken about him in his absence, an imposition through inclination, caprice, scorn, zeal, false show, bigotry, whether he be absent or present, alive or dead, such that my hand has fallen short any my capacity has been too narrow to make restitution to him or to annual my obligation to him/her.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (editor), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā‘ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; http://www.tebyan.net/newindex.aspx?pid=178171; http://www.al-islam.org/sahifa-al-kamilah-sajjadiyya-imam-zain-ul-abideen/supplications-days-week#supplication-monday