AVOIDING MISUNDERSTANDINGS

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan I Principles of Life

Towards the end of his commentary on the verse of the Quran entitled “The Night Journey” or “The Children of Israel”, Ibn Kathir has related the following incident:

“An idolator heard the Prophet supplicating God by His names Rahman (The Beneficent) and Rahim (The Merciful). ‘I thought that he called on only one God,’ the man commented. ‘Yet, here he is, calling on two.’”

From this incident one can see how doubts and suspicions stem from a mere lack of understanding. God is One in His essence, but He has multiple names or attributes. Prophet Mohammad used to call upon his Lord by these names. He was supplicating One God but using different names to do so. The Arab idolater considered multiplicity of attributes to be an indication of multiplicity of being. He thought that the Prophet was calling on several gods, whereas in fact he was calling on only One God. His lack of understanding led him to think of a mono­theist as a polytheist, like himself.

Man is a tremendously complex being. His life has innumerable, interrelated aspects. That is why it is extremely difficult to form a correct opinion about someone. There is an equal chance of coming to the wrong conclusion. For this reason, one should be careful in forming opinions about others. It does not matter if one is hasty in forming a good opinion about someone. One should be meti­culously careful, though, in forming bad opinions. First, one must look at every aspect of the situation, and then come to a reasoned and sober conclusion on the basis of all the available information.

Whenever a person forms an opinion, he does so within the arena of his own knowledge. The bounds of reality, however, are much more extensive than the bounds of any single person’s knowledge. An individual may easily consider an opinion correct within the context of the limited information available to him; while, in the context of wider realities, that opinion may prove to be quite wrong. For this reason, one should be highly generous in forming good opinions, and equally sparing in jumping to incorrect conclusions. This is both the common-sense and the God-fearing way of making a just evaluation of one’s fellow men.