Beat the Bullies

By Imaani Aslam

Chances are you know someone who is being bullied or that even you yourself have at some time in your life been bullied. A recent report revealed a staggering 69% of young people are bullied. In other words, a shocking 2 out of 3 people [1].

So what can be classed as bullying?

Well, it normally takes the form of emotional or physical harmful behaviour. So this can include pushing, punching, kicking, spitting, teasing, name-calling, mocking, taunting, gossiping, spreading rumours… etc, etc. Basically, anything that makes someone feel uncomfortable, scared, unhappy or unsafe.

A lot of people would like to believe bullying is just limited to the primary school playground, but it isn’t. Bullying is just as common in secondary schools, colleges, universities, in the street, at work, and even in the home.

The Prophet (pbuh) warned us of this behaviour when he said,

"Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tales; and do not look for other’s faults, and do not do spying on one another and do not practice Najsh (ie do not offer a high price for a thing which you do not want to buy in order to deceive the people) and do not be jealous of one another and do not hate one another and do not desert (stop talking to) one another." (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

The bully is often seen as ‘hard’ or ‘tough’ - the truth couldn’t be more different. Those who bully others are weak and cowards, who often put on the whole sweet act when faced with someone capable of putting them in their right place – proving they are anything but tough.

Due to their own inadequacies, they can’t gain any recognition in a normal civilized manner so resort to aggression to get their way, rather like an immature, attention-seeking child. There is absolutely nothing great about someone who has to make others feel like rubbish in order to make themselves feel good. This also applies to the weak sheep who laugh along and encourage the bully, but don’t have the guts to step in and do the right thing and oppose such behaviour.

They may not see it as that big a deal, but in Islam every wrong act will one day be punished. Once the Prophet (pbuh) passed by two graves and said,

"Both of them (persons in the grave) are being tortured, and they are not being tortured for a major sin. This one used not to save himself from being soiled with his urine, and the other used to go about with calumnies (spreading untrue and malicious statements about a person)." (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Strangely, it is often the target of the bullying who is thought of as the weak one and even blamed for being bullied, ‘coz they can’t stick up for themselves’. With bullying so widespread, it is absolutely ridiculous to suggest that over two thirds of all young people are weak or have something wrong with them.

More often than not, there is no reason at all for the bullying, and other times, any difference, be it the colour of someone’s skin, the way they talk, their size or their name are enough for some sad, envious, insecure person or group to start a hate campaign against them.

Maryam, 18, was bullied at school.

"It started when I had a falling out with this girl in my year. Her sister, who was in the year above, found out and from that day onwards she, along with her friends, started bullying me. It was mainly just name-calling and making fun of me, but they still made my life hell. I just didn’t feel like I could speak to anyone about it, coz I felt like such a wimp. My friends did used to stick up for me, but then the girls would start on them as well."

The bullying only ended 2 years later when the girls left school. Only then did Maryam feel she could relax and start enjoying school again. However, she tells me,

"I used to be really bubbly and confident, but I’ve changed a lot. I’m a much more private person now."

Bullying is often dismissed as just a part of growing up. Some people even believe it "toughens" you up or helps you cope better with difficult situations faced later on in life. In fact, the effects of bullying are quite the opposite. Bullying can lead to low self-esteem, lack of confidence, feelings of anger and bitterness, depression, self-harm and even suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Kamran, 20, admits to having been a bully.

"I just hated school and used to get chucked out of lessons all the time for messing about and stuff. I used to give this one guy a real hard time. I used to call him queer and two other guys really beat him up once coz of that. I feel really bad about it now, but back then I didn’t care. All the other guys used to think I was like dead hard and stuff, and in a way that’s why I used to be like that. I ain’t blaming them or anything, but you know if any of them had said to me shut up, I probably would have. But I think they were like I might start on them, so no-one said anything. You know what though, I think I messed up my life more than his, I mean he was quite clever so he’s probably at uni now."

I tell Kamran about Maryam’s experience and how it has affected her character and personality, and how bullying can have serious long-term effects on a person, often leading them to self doubt their ability. Kamran tells me,

"He had a lot going for him – he was the opposite to me - it’s probably why I gave him such a hard time. I just really hope he can move on with his life."

Bullies often have their own issues. I mean, no normal person goes around deliberately trying to ruin other people’s lives. Maybe they aren’t getting the attention they deserve by other means, or their home life is far from perfect, or maybe they’ve even been bullied themselves.

No matter what the problem, bullying others doesn’t solve anything. It may get them the attention they crave or people may do as they want, but let’s not fool anybody, it’s definitely not because they are liked or respected by their peers. It’s just to shut them up and get them off their back.

Uzma, 18, often missed school to escape her bullies.

"I used to cry myself to sleep every night knowing that tomorrow I’d have to go to school and face them all over again. I was fed up with them treating me like crap everyday - the only way I could stop it was by not going to school. I’d just tell my mum I was feeling ill, if I thought she was getting tired of my excuses I’d take headache tablets in front of her to convince her. A few times when that didn’t work, I forced myself to throw up just to prove to her I really was ill. Sitting at home, I just got more and more depressed, knowing that I was ruining my chances of making something of myself. I totally hated myself for allowing them to ruin my life."

Like Uzma, many others too fake illnesses or skip lessons to escape being bullied. 20,000 young people truant every day because of bullying, which means a third of all truancies are actually down to bullying [2]. Why should the one being bullied be the one to miss out on an education when it’s the bully who’s in the wrong? Why let the bullies ruin your opportunities in life and not let you reach your potential? They may be ruining things for you at the moment, but that doesn’t mean you have to let them ruin your whole life.

So what should you do if you are being bullied?

  • The most important thing to do is to believe in yourself. YOU are NOT the problem. The bully is. Nobody has the right to make you feel insecure about yourself. If you’re different in any way, be proud of it.
  • Don’t ignore the bullying – it WON’T go away. The bully wants a reaction, so if you ignore it, the bully will only think of different ways to get a response from you. The best thing to do is to keep a record of the bullying, noting down the exact details of things said and done to you. Also, save any abusive or threatening texts or emails you receive.
  • Then… tell someone you trust about what is happening. This can be anyone you feel comfortable talking to, so a teacher, a parent, another member of your family or a friend’s parent. A lot of people find it really difficult to speak to someone they know, that’s why there are various organisations you can contact to speak to someone about what you’re going through – they are there to help you and listen to you so give them a call. Thousands upon thousands of young people contact them knowing that everything they say will be in confidence.

Most important of all…DON’T LOSE FAITH!!

Let me guess that you have often thought, "Why me? What have I done to deserve this? If God cared about me, then He wouldn’t let this happen." Well let me tell you, Allah (swt) DOES care about you. There isn’t a single person in this world who isn’t tested by Him – Muslims believe that is the whole purpose of this life. Only, we’re all tested according to our ability… yes, that’s right – you CAN overcome this. Allah (swt) won’t ever burden you with more than you can bear.

Shazia, 20, struggled to deal with being bullied.

"I feel embarrassed to say it, but at the time I felt like I needed someone to blame and I couldn’t think of anyone better than God Himself. I just felt so hurt and so angry. I remember thinking about committing suicide. They just made me hate myself and my life that much. The worse things got, the more I moved away from Islam."

Even after the bullying had stopped, Shazia still struggled to get on with her life, still bitter about what had happened. She says,

"The thing is, I didn’t know that much about Islam in the first place and I think that had a lot to do with all the hate. I remember telling myself sarcastically that I would try things God’s way – I mean I had tried everything else. It wasn’t like everything changed overnight or anything, actually it was nothing like that, just slowly I started learning about Islam, and actually, I’m still learning."

I ask Shazia what she thinks about the girls who made her want to kill herself.

"I honestly don’t think anything about them. I really don’t. I trust in Allah (swt) enough to know He’ll take care of it – we’re all going to have to answer to Him one day. This is about me… my life. And I’m going to make the most of it."

Bullying of any sort is WRONG. It is NEVER justifiable and nobody ever deserves or ‘asks for it’.

"None of you truly believes (in Allah (swt) and His religion) until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

As Muslims we are instructed to treat others how we desire to be treated ourselves.

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