Escaping Victimhood

Just under a week ago I did a podcast on the evils of victimhood, and I based it on the story of Cain and Abel in the Qur’an.

I admit that the idea was not mine; I got it from Jordan Peterson. He mentioned the story as it is related in the Bible in his discussion with Stefan Molyneux.

For over a decade I was looking for a means of addressing the victim mentality that is so prevalent not only in the Muslim world but amongst Muslims in the west as well, or maybe especially. Cain and Abel seemed like a great place to start.

The story in the Qur’an is not exactly the same but the point about assuming personal responsibility is there. Cain and Abel both offer sacrifices. Cain deals in crops and he offers the worst of what he has. Abel deals in livestock and offers the best of what he has. Abel’s sacrifice is accepted while Cain’s is rejected. Out of jealousy and anger, Cain says to Abel, ‘I will kill you’, to which Abel responds, ‘Allah only accepts from those who are godfearing.’

I based my podcast on one of the Qur’anic commentaries of Imam Wahbah az-Zuhayli, a prolific theologian and jurist from Damascus who died two years ago. (He actually wrote three such commentaries, the longest of which is seventeen volumes. I used his medium-sized version, which is three volumes). He explains Abel’s words as meaning, ‘Don’t blame me for your failings. Rectify yourself.’

This is an immensely powerful message, but sadly it is not a message that we hear often amongst Muslims. ‘Rectify yourself’ means ‘empower yourself’. Take responsibility for your life and the circumstances that you are in. Blaming others for your problems and bearing resentment, bitterness and jealousy towards them is thoroughly incapacitating. It is all harm and no benefit, so what about going further and acting upon that jealousy and bitterness?

Cain was the first human being to commit the crime of murder, but all he had to do to have his sacrifice accepted was to offer his best. That’s the lesson. Do your best. If you fail to do your best, don’t feel sorry for yourself or blame those who do put in the effort.

“Allah never changes a people’s state until they change what is in themselves.” [13:11]