A healthy and stable society is comprised of psychologically healthy individuals. For such a society to flourish, the relations and communication between individuals should be solid and vivid, and the clashes in communication should be dealt with appropriately.
We can define a clash as a disagreement between people who have different ideas, feelings, needs and desires. We are frequently exposed to clashes in the family and in society. These clashes can make us feel nervous and they may harm our relations with others and or even cause us to cut off relations with them completely. Sometimes these clashes cause such damage to both parties that it almost destroys their lives.
Comfort and peace are possible only when we get rid of these clashes, yet it is impossible to remove all clashes totally from our lives. The different temperaments of people who have different ideas and emotions will necessarily result in tensions. However, even if we can’t obliterate all clashes totally, there are ways in which we can minimize them. A healthy family or society is not one which never experiences clashes, but rather one which minimizes them.
To minimize the clashes, we need to educate ourselves on how to deal with clashing situations, remove communication problems, turn the clashes into reconciliation and receive assistance from others. Now, let us briefly shed light on these methods for minimizing the clashes:
- SIGNIFICANCE OF EDUCATION IN REMOVING THE CLASHES
The first condition for decreasing the clashes is education. Since “education is to change the ideas and behaviours of people”, we can remove or minimize the moral malfunctions of people which cause clashes in human relations and we can instill the good behaviours which will enable people to love and get along with each other by taking advantage of education.
The human spirit is like a field which contains seeds of both good and evil. The bad behaviours such as arrogance, disdain, self-conceit, self-interestedness, jealousy, distrust, gossip and slander are like evil seeds and the good behaviours such as friendliness, modesty, love, tenderness, respect and generosity are like good seeds. Evil seeds set people at odds with each other and the good seeds provide them with friendship and togetherness. Whichever you care for, water and fertilize will grow and bear fruit.
It is possible to remove bad seeds and plants and grow the good ones through education. This is the goal of the education of the spirit in Islamic culture. Briefly, through a qualified education we can hope to remove or minimize the clashes between humans.
- LACK OF COMMUNICATION
Judging people without listening to them and without researching the truth leads us into mistakes. The husband of a pregnant woman had died, and one day she found an injured stoat in the countryside and began to look after it. In this way, she was trying to get rid of her loneliness. Though the stoat is not a domestic animal naturally, it became quite tamed and used to the woman.
After a couple of months, the woman gave birth, and many months later one day she had to leave her house for a little while leaving her child alone with stoat. When the mother returned home she saw that the stoat’s mouth was bloody. She frantically attacked the stoat and killed it. Then she heard the voice of the baby coming from inside the house, and as she got into the room, she saw the baby in the cradle and a snake whose head had been cut off close to cradle.
Thus we see that making a judgement about something too swiftly without getting a comprehensive knowledge about it will inevitably lead us to make mistakes.
Biased and pedantic people and those who do not feel they need to listen to other people think that they know everything already and cannot bear to listen to their interlocutor, and this is one of the reasons that clashes occur between people.
The best way of decreasing these clashes is to have respect for people and to listen to them and try to understand them without bias, and in that way to turn the clashes into reconciliation.
- DIFFERENCES IN PERCEPTION
Imagine that you are looking at a picture which contains ducks and rabbits on a farm. What do you really see in the picture? Are they ducks or rabbits? If you think that you see the ducks and some others think that they see the rabbits, do you blame the others for seeing the wrong objects and try to correct them? Seeing the rabbits in the picture is as correct as seeing the ducks.
In the same way, sometimes when a truth is perceived in different ways by different people in community life that may cause conflicts among individuals. If one of the parties who perceive a truth differently claims that what he believes is right and blames the other side for being wrong and tries to impose his understanding, dissent and clashes will arise. Arguments like these are unnecessary, futile and threatening to friendship.
When we look at the differences in the schools of law of Islam, we see that there are a lot of different kinds of perceptions like these. However, these different perceptions in the schools of law do not lead to conflicts and enmity among them. Spreading this understanding of tolerance found in the schools of laws among individuals would also remove a lot of conflicts.
- REACTIONS TO THE CLASHES
It may be said that people have three ways of coping with clashes. These are:
a. Avoiding the clashes
b. Having an aggressive reaction
c. Solving the problem positively
Now let’s look at these points more closely:
- a. Avoiding the clashes
When a controversial problem arises, people who are in the same environment, but have different ideas and feelings, sometimes avoid getting into any conflict since they are afraid that their relationship will be ruined. They repress their rage, keep their distance and just continue their relationship on a formal level. If the problems are ignored, they may be forgotten over time. But sometimes these repressed feelings build up and eventually they may burst out with more terrible consequences. Considering these possible results, while it is better not to get involved with conflicts with people, on the other hand, ignoring the situation may sometimes make things worse.
- b. An aggressive reaction
In most conflicts both parties think that they are right and that their interlocutors are wrong. The proofs that they put forward for their arguments indicate that they are right and their opponent is wrong. Both parties are far from being objective and fair. Both parties ignore their own mistakes and the points where their opponents are right because in these kinds of conflicts challenging the opponent and defeating him have become a goal.
If both parties are equal there may be no solution in aggressive reaction conflicts. Furthermore, the problem may grow. If one of the parties is in authority and has power, he will win the argument and the other side will be doomed to lose.
In these kinds of arguments whatever the results are, the problems will not be solved but will grow. The conflict will cause the relationship to deteriorate, and both sides will get more furious and hold grudges against each other. Even if one side wins the argument, both sides stand to lose, as after this argument, the relationship between them will never be the same again.
If the problem is resolved positively, both sides will benefit and their relationship will be improved.
- c. Solving the problem positively
In these clashes, it is not important who is right and who is not, but rather the important thing is to find a solution without offending both sides. In the previous item, the parties were focusing on who was right, but in this item the point of focus is not the problem, but rather the solution. Those who focus on the problem may get angry, complain and criticize, but they can’t solve the problem. The problem will only be solved by those who are focused on the solution, not on the problem.
In order to solve the problem positively, both sides should have respect for each other, be considerate and willing to find a solution. That’s how it is:
The conflicts stem from the different needs and demands of both sides. If the demand of person A is met, then the demand of person B is not met and vice versa… Yet it is possible to approach the issue in a way that both sides may accept. Person A may say, ‘I have a demand/need and you also have a demand/need. If what you want is met, my demand will not be met and vice versa. I don’t want to offend and upset you and I also don’t want to be offended and upset. What I wish is to find a solution which you and I can accept together. That should be a solution which can make both of us winners and allow our relationship to continue.
With this formula, if both the parties approach each other with understanding, many conflicts may be resolved and friendships may be strengthened.
To find a common solution based on reconciliation, both parties need to consider the following points:
- What is the problem?
- What are some likely solutions which both sides can accept?
- Which one is the best?
We do not say that it is possible to solve all clashes by applying said the above, but it may be possible to prevent and resolve some clashes through these methods.
- RECONCILING PEOPLE
When the conflicting people cannot reach an agreement, third parties should step in and help to reconcile them. As is said in the verse, “The believers are but brothers, so make peace between your brothers” (Hujurat, 49; 10), it is commanded to reconcile disagreements between Muslims in many Qur’anic verses and also in hadiths.
Those who are to reconcile the conflicting people should pay attention to the following points:
1. The reconciling people should be those who are loved and respected and whose advice should be followed by both parties.
2. The reconciling people should be serious about wanting to bring about reconciliation and they should not act recklessly or in an offhand manner. It is stated in the Qur’an as follows: “And if you fear that a breach might occur between a couple, appoint an arbiter from among his people and an arbiter from among her people. If they both want to set things right, Allah will bring about reconciliation between them.” (Nisa, 4; 35) Notice that in the verse it is said about the arbiters that if they wish set things right Allah (SWT) will provide them with reconciliation.
Imam Umar (ra) sent a man to reconcile a conflicting couple. The man returned a while later without reconciling the couple. Imam Umar got angry with him and said, “Allah says in His book ‘If arbiters want to set things aright, Allah will bring about reconciliation between them’ (that means you did not want to reconcile them).” The man revised and corrected his intention and treated them softly and reconciled them. (See Ihya V.2)
3. Our Prophet (PBUH) said, “People are equal like the teeth of a comb”, “If my daughter Fatima was to commit theft, I would cut off her hand”. In the light of these hadiths, those who do not get on well with each other should be treated equally and fairly and a balance should be established between them. Showing love and compassion for one side and getting angry and blaming the other side may make things worse.
4. The conflicting people should be listened to properly and a decree should not be pronounced without both sides being listened to. The Prophet (PBUH) said once to Imam Ali (ra), “When you sit before two defendants on a matter as a judge, do not issue a verdict without listening to the second one as well as you listened to the first one! This will help you to come to the right verdict.”
5. The reconciling people should be able to differentiate between the mistakes in perception and interpretation, ill-will, exaggeration or underestimates of the truth which come to light after the both parties have been listened to .
6. The parties to the disagreement should not remain in suspense, and the disagreement should be brought to a swift conclusion.
Both sides should be counselled in the way that Imam Bediuzzaman Said Nursi relates in the treatise of Ukhuwwat (fraternity). It is as follows:
Imam Nursi says to the imaginary person who is offended by a brother that he should not totally blame his brother for the evil that has happened to him, and he enumerates four points to encourage him to give up the disagreement between them and to become reconciled. These are fate; expecting that the opponent will be regretful; noticing his own mistakes and forgiving. Let’s look at them more closely:
Imam Nursi says in many places in his collection that “human beings act unjustly, but fate applies justice”. In everything that happens to us both the fate and human beings have their share. For example, let’s imagine that a man who had not committed any kind of theft was blamed for having stolen something (and this man had committed a murder that nobody was aware of). After prosecution the judge finds him guilty and sentences him for committing theft. In this way, the judge treated him unfairly, since he convicted him of a crime that he did not commit. However fate bringing him into the courtroom and sentencing him to prison applies the justice for the unknown murder. Considering that point what has happened to man is justice.
Imam Nursi continues as follows, drawing attention to the justice of fate: “Fate is also responsible for what happened to you. Considering that point, you need to comply with that verdict of fate.” That means because of one of your previous faults, that man bothers you as an agent of fate. Do see the justice of fate, not the injustice of a human being. The one who imposes it on you because of your mistake is Allah. Thus, you do not have the right to get furious with that man.
- EXPECTING THAT THE OPPONENT WILL BE REGRETFUL
Considering that man is deceived by Satan and his evil desires, we should not feel animosity towards the opponent, but should have mercy and expect him to be regretful for his deeds.
- NOTICING OUR OWN MISTAKES
Are we never at fault in these conflicting relations? People do not want to recognize their faults, since we all love our own selves. Even if we do realize we are at fault, we make up lots of excuses for ourselves. It is possible to see our own faults in any disagreement if we can evaluate the situation objectively. Nursi says, “Accept your own fault which you try to ignore in that disagreement. Do not always accuse your opponent!”
As for the small share which then remains, if you respond with forgiveness, pardon, and magnanimity, in such a way as to conquer your enemy swiftly and safely, then you will have escaped all sin and harm. But if, like some drunken and crazed merchant who buys up fragments of glass and ice as if they were diamonds, you respond to the worthless, transient, temporary, and insignificant happenings of this world with violent enmity, permanent rancour, and perpetual hostility, as if you were going to remain in the world with your enemy for all eternity, it would equate to extreme transgression, sinfulness, drunkenness, and lunacy.