by Muzafar m alidina
We all know someone who is “religious”. For some a religious person is one who attends mosque regularly, for others it is someone who has a vey sincere and humble presentation of themselves, and the list goes on. We’ve all heard it from time to time, your parents or elderly relatives rambling on about how so-and-so is so religious because of how they behave, or how they interact. Quite often, this sends us further away from our intended path, our Siratul-mustakeem (the right path).
When this happens, it could be a result of two things. Naturally, one would expect that if someone does something earnest in the pleasure of Allah (S.W.T), any sincere fellow Muslim would appreciate it for what it really is, or hold off any doubts and commit to Husnu dhan (“a good opinion”). At this junction, if one does not appreciate the sincerity of the act of another, it either means that one cannot uphold Islamic values such as Husnu dhan or that there is something inherently wrong with the other persons’/groups’ actions. The norm in our society, or at least the way I as a youth see it, is the second. Psychologists call it the Fundamental attribution error – a tendency to over-value your explanations of any observed behavior of someone else and under-value the situational circumstances of that perceived behavior. In layman’s terms, it is when you and I are more likely to blame the “other” person/group for what they do rather than trying to understand their circumstances wholly. Believe it or not, current research shows that this inherent need to blame the person rather than fully evaluating the scenario is representative of a highly individualistic society, one that is predominant in the West today. 
With the influence of Western culture, we as Muslims have accepted a lot of it because for better or for worse, it has been easier. Surprisingly, our “old” and “backward” cultures also have values that are compatible with our religion. According to the study cited here, and many others, collective societies, do not make the fundamental attribution error as much as Western societies. However, this doesn’t imply that we should not search for evidence, that we should just drop the search for what is going on. The judgment should hold “innocent until proven guilty”, rather than the other way round.
What baffles me sometimes, and hopefully other people, is that relationships, societies, groups of any kind, could have such a great impact if only they sort out their differences; if only they would drop their suspicion, and their continuous negligence. This isn’t true of every society, or of every group – don’t get me wrong. But as a youth living in the modern day, this fragmentation of people seems to plague a number of our communities.
Today our communities need to move forward by catering for the youth. The elderly sometimes rightfully see it as religious apathy. However, at times undeserving praise and disproportionate suspicion presented to many youth results in a more estranged community.
It is our responsibility, as Muslims to uphold the values of the Prophet and his family. It is our responsibility to create an inclusive community and foster to the needs of our future leaders. Spreading rumors and developing suspicions are representative of planting seeds of discord for future generations. Lastly, it reduces our faith and takes us off the path that we have to continue voyaging on.
As Ja’far al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) puts it:
“When a believer accuses his brother, faith in his heart is melted in the same way that salt is melted in water.”
 Miller, J. G. (1984). “Culture and the development of everyday social explanation”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology46 (5): 961–978.