When looking at the history of the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) and his immaculate family (pbut) we see how much they were oppressed and bullied by others who were jealous of their position and status. People sought to usurp the divinely ordained position from them but failed to realize that God places His blessings wherever He wills.

“They want to put out the light of God with their mouths, but God will certainly make His light shine forever – even though the disbelievers may dislike this.”1

This negative attribute of bullying is very prevalent in society today. There are very alarming statistics about bullying which say that 1 out of every 3 students report being bullied throughout the school year in the United States.2

Bullying occurs in many different forms: physical, verbal, mental and cyber. Some of the reasons reported most often by students include physical appearance, race/ethnicity, disability, and religion.

Bullying does not just stop when school is over, but now often continues via social media platforms. The percentages of individuals who have experienced cyberbullying at some point in their lifetimes have nearly doubled (18% to 34%) from 2007-2016.3 This continual bullying can leave one feeling hopeless and that there is no escape from the constant onslaught of attacks. Often, this constant harassment leads people to commit suicide.

Statistics say that only about 20 to 30% of students who are bullied notify adults about it.4 This means that 70 to 80% percent of the students who were victims of this behavior never even reported it. This could be due to fear or to not having anyone that they feel they can trust.

What is also frightening is that approximately 30% of young people admit to bullying others.5 We must understand the dangerous effects of bullying others and be aware of the rights and duties that we owe each other as human beings. We can find honorable teachings of mutual respect for humanity and the rights of many things in books such as the Treatise of Rights by the fourth Imam Ali Zayn al-Abideen (p).

The statistics have also shown that 57% of the instances where bullying was taking place stopped when bystanders intervened.6 This shows us how powerful our teachings about enjoining what is good (al-amr bi al-maroof) and forbidding what is wrong (al-nahi an al-munkar) are when put into practice. “Let there be a group among you who will invite others to do good deeds, command them to obey the Law, and prohibit them from committing sins. These people will have eternal happiness.”7  We should strive to help stop oppression and injustice when we are able to. Another way of support is to let those who are being bullied know that we are there for them.

Bullying has a very negative effect on its victims. Students who reported that they were frequently victimized scored lower in reading, mathematics, and science than their peers who reported that they were never victimized or that they were sometimes or rarely victimized.8

What does the Quran say about making fun of others?

“Believers, let not a group of you mock another. Perhaps they are better than you. Let not women mock each other; perhaps one is better than the other. Let not one of you find faults in another nor let anyone of you defame another. How terrible is the defamation after having true faith. Those who do not repent are certainly unjust.”9

God clearly lays out instructions for us not to ridicule and defame one another. This verse prohibits verbal abuse, which is a form of bullying.

Bullying is a form of oppression, which is a weakness, because the one oppressing is either doing so out of need of something or out of ignorance. Oppressors think that they are strong and overpowering others, but, they are doing so out of a deficiency in their own selves.

We also find that some people try to lay the blame on God for the oppression happening in the world. This doubt has led many down a dark path towards atheism. However, God is incapable of doing injustice, because it is contradictory to His Essence. Let us take a closer look at why injustice happens so that we have a better understanding to clear this doubt. Injustice happens for one of the following reasons:

  1. We commit injustice while being ignorant of the harmful effects of that sin, while God is incapable of ignorance.
  2. Someone forces us to commit injustice, while it is impossible for anyone to force God to do anything.
  3. We commit injustice to someone out of need for something that they have, while God is free from need (al-Ghani) and He is the Creator of all things.
  4. We commit injustice for the pleasure of that deed, while God is not in need of seeking pleasure and does not have emotional states that change, like we humans do.

So, we see that all the above reasons are deficiencies, and it is impossible for God to have deficiencies or be unjust to His servants. Injustice is from man himself misusing the favors that God has bestowed upon him.

“God does not do the least bit of injustice to anyone but people wrong themselves.”10

How did the noble family of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp) deal with bullying?

Upon declaring his prophethood, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh&hp) was treated very badly by the rest of the Arabs, and even some of his own relatives turned against him. People were constantly taunting him, ridiculing him, and were even physically abusive to him and his followers. Despite all the odds against him, he overcame all obstacles through patience and having a strong connection to God.

“Help yourselves (in your affairs) with patience and prayer. It is a difficult task indeed, but not for the humble ones who are certain of their meeting with their Lord and their return to Him.”11

“Believers, help yourselves (in your affairs) through patience and prayer; God is with those who have patience.”12

“After every difficulty there is relief. Certainly, after every difficulty there comes relief.”13

One of the prayers guaranteed to be answered is the prayer of the oppressed as we find in a prophetic narration: “O Ali, the prayers of four classes of people are never refuted: the just rulers, fathers when they pray for their sons, people who pray for their brothers secretly, and the oppressed. God says: By My glory and majesty I take the oath, I will give triumph to the oppressed even if a long time passes.”14

Some first steps to take regarding bullying

If you are facing bullying behavior, here are some things you can do (as a start):

  • If you are in danger of being harmed or your life is at risk, call the authorities (911) immediately.
  • Don’t keep it a secret, let family members, trusted friends, and loved ones know about what’s happening and seek help. Fatimah al-Zahra (p) spoke out when her rights were usurped.
  • Tell those who are bullying you  to stop and walk away without lowering yourself to their level, as God states in the Holy Quran “(Among) the servants of the Beneficent God are those who walk gently on the earth and when addressed by the ignorant ones, their only response is, ‘Peace be with you.’”15
  • Don’t let words get to you and remain calm. Perhaps the bully has issues and is lashing out at others. Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p) is reported to have said, “One who loses control of his anger loses his power of reason.”16
  • Don’t give up or despair, there is always hope. Persist in letting others know about what you are facing and trust in God to help bring about a change in the situation.

If you observe bullying behavior, here are some things to do:

  • If you see someone being physical harmed, notify the authorities (911).
  • If you are in school, notify teachers, school counselors, and or principals. This may not be an isolated case and you could be helping many others.
  • Aid those who are oppressed by supporting them in telling the bully to stop.
  • Give kind words to the oppressed, ask them if they need any help and check in on them frequently in the days and weeks that follow. The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) is reported to have said, “Of the most beloved deeds [in the sight of] God, the Most Majestic, the Most Holy, is bringing joy to the heart of a believer.”17
  • Never join the laughter at the expense of others. The sixth Imam (p) is reported to have said, “One [who acts] unjustly, his supporter, and one who agrees with such acts, are [all] partners [in sin of the same offense].”18

1. Quran 61:8.
2. https://www.stopbullying.gov/media/facts/index.html#stats.
3. https://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/stats.asp.
4. https://www.stopbullying.gov/media/facts/index.html#stats.
5. https://www.stopbullying.gov/media/facts/index.html#stats.
6. https://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/stats.asp.
7. Quran 3:104.
8. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2017/2017064.pdf.
9. Quran 49:11.
10. Quran 10:44.
11. Quran 2:45-46.
12. Quran 2:153.
13. Quran 94:4-5.
14. Shaykh al-Sudooq, al-Mawaidh, p. 62
15. Quran 26:63.
16. Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 2, p 246.
17. Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 2, p 162.
18. Shaykh al-Kulayni, Al-kafi, vol. 2, p 266.

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