Effective Listening Part 4: Why did the people of Hud (a) and Shu’ayb (a) say they did not understand the messages of their Prophets?
Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lfjc9n4ijBI
The previous three weeks have discussed various elements of ‘Effective Listening.’ Week One looked at why the people of Salih (a) ‘did not love to receive good advice’ (Qur’an 7:79). Week Two looked those who put their fingers in their ears (71:7) and how to improve our listening.
Last week saw that the communities of Prophet’s Hud (a) and Shu’ayb (a) claimed ‘We do not understand the Message’ (11:91) and ‘The Message isn’t clear’ (11:53). This is because there was a wilful impediment that stopped them from understanding the simple and divine message.
The first reason was because they did Tahreef, or distortion of the words that reached them. When we don’t like a message, we take its content out of context or purposefully misunderstand what is being said. This is a reason for not being able to understand a divine message. The Prophet (s) warned that there would be two groups of Muslims: Those who upheld truth and knowledge, and those who purposefully distorted the knowledge that came to them saying, “This knowledge will be carried in each generation by upright, just people. They’ll repudiate the misquotations of extremists; (out of context). Plagiarisms of people trying to falsify, interpretations of zealots.”
يحمل هذا العلم من كل قرن عدوله ينفون عنه تحريف الغالين وانتحال المبطلين وتأويل الجاهلين
This week we will look at the other reason as to why the people of Hud (a) and Shu’ayb (a) would say, ‘We don’t understand your message’ and that is what they held on to in their hearts became the impediment. It was a false assumption that they did not allow to be challenged, and so whatever came to them was dismissed by their faulty assumptions.
In the case of the people of Hud (a), they believed that their gods had struck him with evil and so his Message was considered to be just ravings. They said, “We cannot say anything but that some of our gods have smitten you with evil” (11:54). No matter what Hud (a) said to them, it was not listened to because of this false assumption.
In the case of Shu’ayb (a), the elites considered their power to be greater than his and so dismissed what came from him, saying: “O Shu’ayb! We do not understand much of what you say and most surely we see you to be weak among us” (11:91).
This tells us that a person may not listen to another because of what they harbour in their hearts either a) about the person, b) about the message or c) a false assumption that they will not challenge. Any of these three things will be causes of not listening to another person fairly.
This affected Waleed bin ‘Aqabah in the last hours of his life. A’qabah had once spat upon the face of the Prophet (s) in Mecca. He had joined the Quraysh in the battle of Badr. When defeated, Aqabah was brought before the Prophet (s), who ordered Imam Ali (a) to put him to death.
Consequently, his son Waleed, who had been appointed the governor of Kufah during the caliphate of U’thman, always harboured malice towards Imam Ali (a) and continued to abuse him.
When Waleed fell ill, Imam Hasan (a) paid him a visit. He opened his eyes and witnessing Imam (a) said: I am repentant of all my past deeds and seek God’s forgiveness for them, except the abuses which I hurled at your father, for which I am not repentant. The Imam (a) said: My father had killed your father and had punished you (for consuming wine) and this is the reason of your animosity towards him.”
Due to this malice in his heart he was unable to listen to whatever treasures came from Imam Ali (a). In reality this impediment in Waleed’s heart did not affect anyone but himself. Imam Ali (a) said, “One who harbours evil feelings [and ill will] for others has actually harmed himself.”
مَنْ أضْمَرَ الشَّـرَّ لِغَيْرِهِ فَقدْ بَدَأَ بِهِ نَفْسَهُ (Ghurar al-Hikam)