Fostering Selflessness (Ithar): Changing Society

This is the fourth article in a series dealing with parental education of children. It was taken from the  seminar: What Your Child Needs: A Parent’s Guide to Islamic Education.

When thinking back to how one grew up and looking at the current state, one may notice the occurrence of a paradigm shift in character, the etiquette of society, the general culture of society, and the general moral compass of society.

There is a definite shift away from certain things that one was accustomed to. An example of this could be people caring for their own interests without regard for the well-being of another. An example of this is when someone could drive along an area they were not supposed to, almost hitting someone with their car, just to get to an interview or a meeting.

Lost Courtesy

Some people may view themselves as the center of the world and no matter what happens they deserve everyone else to move in order to accomplish their needs, regardless of the harm it causes to others or what rules need to be changed or bent to fit oneself.

This sense of entitlement may well be in our community and society. It may be seen in sports and with athletes where they only think about themselves. Their only concern is themselves and not the team or the city they play for. It is the feeling that you have the right to do or have what you want without having to work for it or to deserve it just because of who you are. 

This behavior can even be seen when driving. One example is people not signaling to thank another when they have been given way. That courtesy has been lost. When was the last time someone opened up a door for another and the other person said thank you? There are articles about how mean people have become.

The Path of Entitlement 

One may have been used to getting up and giving one’s seat to older people or people with children but one may notice that this is no longer how it used to be. Some people may place their bag on an empty seat and still not move it for another person.

That is the general direction that our society is going down: The path of entitlement. There is a mixture of selfishness in there too, as well as a mixture of arrogance and narcissism. Children are affected by this. If they do not live in a community where they can see what courtesy, selflessness, and generosity look like then they are going to believe subconsciously that they have to be like this.

If they see no one waving when someone lets them in whilst they drive, they are not going to wave either. It is a learned thing. They are not going to say thank you when they are let through the door if enough people do not do so when they hold the door open. It will not be in their mind. This will then become the norm.

Those who are now elderly may be able to tell you how they did not see that sense of entitlement when they were growing up. That is not how society worked. We have a lot to de-plug.

The Religion 

Our religion is a religion of selflessness. Our religion is about preferring others above oneself. We drill this into our children by our own actions. If we do not give way or if we do not say thank you then we will be responsible for teaching our children some learned behaviors. 

Even if no one does it, we should continue to do it because it is a faith issue. When someone has altruism it means that they have selfless acts done for other people’s benefit, in spite of oneself. This is something that is a humanitarian endeavor that has always been part of societies and communities. 

Some of the great scholars like Imam Mawardi and Imam Nawawi have said if one day all of the hadith of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was lost and only one statement remained it would satisfy the community and the believers until the Day of Judgement. That one statement is:

“None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.”

This is embedded within all of the Sunnas of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). It is the principle and the underlying factor of our faith and of our relationship with each other. Loving for others what you love for yourself and preferring others over yourself is selflessness.


When was the last time you went for a job and someone else was vying for the same job and you dropped out because that person deserves it more? That does not happen. 

In Damascus, there were scholars who if another scholar was present, would not want to speak. It was not for show but it was part of them and their selflessness. It was a moral characteristic that they had that we do not have. In our society, if you do not fight for yourself, demand for yourself, talk for yourself, and promote yourself.

If you do not have a LinkedIn and tell everyone everything you did you are not getting an offer. To give and not to speak is our religion. To not promote ourselves and our actions is our religion.