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Peace and Tranquility is Possible by Avoiding Presumptions

The exact information based on evidence is called “fact”, while the information, which is not based on any definite evidence, is called “presumption”. Human beings are, not saddened by the realities of life, more than their presumptions.

The Final Testament “O you who have attained to faith! Avoid most guesswork [about one another)” (Qur’an 49 :12) invites us to think and act with evidence. However, most of us upset each other and ourselves in the hands of presumptions.

Let me start by giving some examples from my work as a spiritual advisor in prison. Behind the walls, prisoners blame themselves for being guilty and for not being free. What really upsets them is not that they are behind bars, but because of their assumption that they would be happier and more peaceful if they were out. This may sometimes be true, but not always. I also heard that some inmates committed suicide after going out, and they lost their lives due to drug addiction and overdose. However, they were fine when they were in the prison. Yes, our assumption may not always be true.

Another example; a person is divorced or separated from the love of his life. If he's obsessed with this just because of the thought that he would be better and happier if they were together then he cannot realize that this assumption may not always be true. In America, a sane Muslim businessman killed his wife as a result of a family fight. Everyone was shocked by his action. He seemed like a reasonable person who was highly respected by his community. Therefore, our presumptions often mislead us.

We became sad when our relatives passed away, which is normal. However, some of us make our life miserable about it. We think that we would be happier if our relatives have lived.

Sometimes university or college students get very upset for not being able to get accepted from the universities they wanted. However, there are many students who were accepted, by the universities they wanted but still, they are not happy or successful now.

People often get angry because they assume, they have been insulted. However, it is not always so. Years later, when the parties reconcile, they understand that they have misunderstood each other in the past. From time to time we judge people for the reasons we set in our mind. I have often found that my former professor very irritable, and I could not match his reactions to such an enlightened person. But when I experienced firsthand the same kind of bigoted behaviors that was done against the people close to me, I was able to understand why he reacted in such ways.

Imagine that what is upsetting you is not that fact, but merely your presumption. Since there is a possibility that you may have misunderstood the situation, you might want to think that you do not know what happened to your interlocutor in the past.

When I listen to the inmates, I find myself empathizing with them because of the environment they had to live in, although I do not see their crimes as legitimate. We get scared, and angry if someone honks in traffic. However, we do not know the mood of the person behind the wheel; what he has experienced that day, whether he was fired from his job or he lost a loved one. Therefore, we need to consider managing our anger at the time for these reasons. I hope we can start thinking in a way that we become somehow a bit more tolerant to wrong doers.

Albert Ellis was an influential psychologist who developed rational emotive behavior therapy. REBT is focused on helping clients change irrational beliefs. According to Ellis, "people are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things." The fundamental assertion of rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is that the way people feel is largely influenced by how they think. When people hold irrational beliefs about themselves or the world, problems can result. Because of this, the goal of REBT is to help people alter illogical beliefs and negative thinking patterns in order to overcome psychological problems and mental distress.

Sometimes it makes us sad to see people on the wrong track. The way to get rid of this sadness is to change our opinion on that issue and we might start a new way of thinking. Such as; perhaps if this brother of ours realizes what he did wrong, most probably he will experience the evil of that wrong first hand and understand the sin better than me. It may upset us to have a convicted relative, but if he will find his true self in a metamorphosis of events, would we be happier for him.

In this case, if a person feels upset about what he loses, he should say: “Nothing happens without a reason. Maybe I'm going to come across something that will give me many feelings of thankfulness in return all that I've lost so far.” I have heard many prisoners who have become Muslim in prison have said that they were glad to end up in prison. Peace is possible by getting rid of the judgments that we carry like assumptions of others.

Let us remember that what upsets us is not the facts we live in, but our own assumption.

-Bilgin Erdoğan
Islamic Chaplain


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