The Rise of Villain Era

by Manaal Amir Ahmad 

Is pop psychology just throwing the term ‘self-care’ around to hide all the chaos underneath? Are we sliding into selfish territory or as the trend says, “Entering into our Villiam Era”?

The self-care craze is a hot topic worldwide these days. Research suggests about 80% of individuals have engaged in self-care routines since COVID-19. The mental health industry coupled with TikTok and Instagram is witnessing a blow-up like never before. Terms like ‘toxicity’, ‘setting boundaries’ and ‘taking a break’ are being thrown around a lot lately. But let’s keep an eye on how these values are making their way into our homes and shaping our behaviours.

Is this well-being boom a boost for us in reality, or is it slowly eclipsing our virtues?

A study by PlushCare last November found that a whopping 83.7% of mental health advice on TikTok globally might not be reliable. Also, approximately 14.2% of the videos carry content that could be harmful.

This is concerning as many youths take advice from TikTok and Instagram influencers. According to a February 2023 survey by Hall & Partners, which included 10,000 participants worldwide, more than 59 million Americans turned to TikTok and Instagram influencers for health-related advice.

Here is a list of some common well-being advice that has been going around our daily feed;

  • Dodging the negativity and ‘distancing yourself’ from someone with a ‘negative vibe’
  • ‘Happy and good vibes only’ is a new lifestyle mantra.
  • ‘Speak your Mind” Expressing yourself freely no matter what the circumstances.
  • “Love yourself first” is seen as a first step to spreading love to others.
  • “Walking away” from Toxic relationships and situations.
  • ‘The gentle art of saying rude things, politely’ Short reels on this have been popular too.
  • POV reels nowadays are quite popular too such as “POV: You are a people pleaser”. This is leading to self-diagnosis and research also suggests that people have now started to rely on social media platforms more than their therapists and doctors.
  • Don’t let people mess with your ‘mental peace’; ‘cutting ties’ is a form of self-care.
  • “Take a break” is a common term in our lingo. Similarly, “bed rotting” was a trend worldwide.

You’ve probably got a few examples of your own popping up in your head by now.

These practices have redefined our relationships and categorized them into labels such as, ‘‘good for my mental health’ ‘my safe space’, that’s ‘toxic person’, he has got a very ‘negative vibe’ etc.

Even though these statements might seem all about empowerment and taking control at first, they kind of skate on the edge of being a bit selfish.

Are we subtly engaging in selfishness in the name of self-care? Let’s take a look at both the terms first,

Self-care: is the ability to care for oneself through awareness, self-control, and self-reliance to achieve, maintain, or promote optimal health and well-being.

Selfishness: Selfishness is perceived in ourselves and others when we detect a situation-specific desire to benefit the self that disregards others’ desires and prevailing social expectations for the situation.

Looking at these terms we can see that self-care is internally focused on recognizing the importance of relationships but behind selfishness is disregard for others’ feelings and how our actions might impact them. A book by Psychologist Jeffrey Bernstein called “Why Can’t You Read My Mind” talks about how toxic labelling can lead to a destructive cycle of blame, resentment, and further misunderstandings.

Some of these trends, actually qualify as ‘bad akhlaq’ for us Muslims. We have a concept of ‘Ummah’ which is very different from the individualistic society that we are moving towards, we are taught about numerous Qura’nic verses hadiths since childhood, that contradicts what we are witnessing around the world these days;

  • وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ ٱلَّذِى تَسَآءَلُونَ بِهِۦ وَٱلْأَرْحَامَۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَقِيبًا (Qura’n 4:1) 

“Be mindful of God, in whose name you make requests of one another. Beware of serving the ties of kinship, God is always watching over you.” (Translation – Abdel Haleem)

  • وَٱلَّذِينَ يَنقُضُونَ عَهۡدَ ٱللَّهِ مِنۢ بَعۡدِ مِيثَٰقِهِۦ وَيَقۡطَعُونَ مَآ أَمَرَ ٱللَّهُ بِهِۦٓ أَن يُوصَلَ وَيُفۡسِدُونَ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِۙ أُوْلَٰٓئِكَ لَهُمُ ٱللَّعۡنَةُ وَلَهُمۡ سُوٓءُ ٱلدَّارِ (Quran- 13:25)

But those who break the covenant of Allāh after contracting it and sever that which Allāh has ordered to be joined and spread corruption on earth – for them is the curse, and they will have the worst home. (Translation – Sahih International)

  • Narrated Um Kulthum bint Uqba: That she heard Allah’s Apostle saying,”He who makes peace between the people by inventing good information or saying good things, is not a liar”
  • The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever would like his rizq (provision) to be increased and his life to be extended, should uphold the ties of kinship.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 5986 and Muslim, 2557).
  • فَهَلْ عَسَيْتُمْ إِن تَوَلَّيْتُمْ أَن تُفْسِدُوا۟ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ وَتُقَطِّعُوٓا۟ أَرْحَامَكُمْ.أُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ ٱلَّذِينَ لَعَنَهُمُ ٱللَّهُ فَأَصَمَّهُمْ وَأَعْمَىٰٓ أَبْصَٰرَهُمْ (Qura’n 47:22-23)

(So would you perhaps, if you turned away) meaning, from Jihad and you withdrew from it. (spread corruption on earth, and sever your ties of kinship) which means, would you then go back to your old practices of the time of ignorance: shedding blood and severing kinship ties? These are the ones whom Allah has condemned, deafening them and blinding their eyes. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir)

  • Imam Ahmad recorded from Abu Bakr R.A, may Allah be pleased with him, that Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said: No sin deserves that Allah hasten its punishment in the worldly life, in addition to what He reserves in the Hereafter for those who commit it, more than injustice and severance of the ties of kinship. This was also recorded by Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Majah.
  • In a hadith reported by ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr Al-‘as, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “The person who perfectly maintains the ties of kinship is not the one who does it because he gets recompensed by his relatives (for being kind and good to them), but the one who truly maintains the bonds of kinship is the one who persists in doing so even though the latter has severed the ties of kinship with him.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
  • “He who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain good relations with kins.” (Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim)
  • Abdullah ibn Amr reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The one who keeps good relations with family is not the one who is reciprocated. Rather, the one who keeps good relations with family does so, despite being cut off by them.” Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5991)
  • Imam Ghazali (Allah have mercy upon him) also quotes this in the Ihya. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Overlook the slips of respected people.”[Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad; Abu Dawud; Nasa’i)
  • Ibn Ajiba (Allah have mercy upon him) mentions that making excuses for others returns to the Prophet’s words (peace and blessings be upon him) that, “A believer is a mirror of the believer.” [Abu Dawud]
  • The Prophet said: “Beware of assumptions, for the assumption is the falsest of speech, and do not be inquisitive, and do not spy upon one another, and do not vie with one another, and do not envy one another, and do not hate one another, and do not shun one another; be fellow-brothers and slaves of Allah.” (*Sahih al-Bukhari 6064 Vol 8 Book 78, Hadith 94)

In this delicate dance of keeping your space and keeping those connections alive, one inevitably grapples with the question: where does one draw the line before it begins to take a toll on mental well-being?

One of the most profound Ayahs to reflect upon this subject is from Surah Taghabun, the 64th Surah of the Qur’an, 

“Believers even among your spouses and your children you have some enemies- Beware of them- but if you overlook their offences, forgive them, pardon them, then God is all forgiving, all merciful. Your Wealth and your children are only a test for you. There is great reward with God, be mindful of God as much as you can hear and obey; be charitable- it is for your good. Those who are saved from their own meanness will be prosperous ones;” – (Qur’an 64: 14-16)

The fact that Allah said ‘Be mindful as much as you can’ tells us that it’s a test of our ability to obey and hear him, it’s a test of our Taqwa and Iman. Would we simply just label a person ‘toxic’ and be done with him? Or Will we try to overlook, pardon and forgive, and be the Prosperous ones?

Allah says in the Qur’an, “Every hardship that touches you is from Allah, and Allah expiates our sins.” (6:17)

The Prophet said: “There was an angel with you who was responding to his insults on your behalf.” Then the Prophet said: “Abu Bakr, (keep in mind) three things which are always true, one of which is that whenever a person is subjected to an injustice but leaves the matter to Allah, then Allah will come to his aid… .” (Musnad Ahmad)

Look at the examples of our Prophet Muhammed and Ibrahim A.S, despite being, literarily abused by their kins and friends, they continue to engage with them, striving to convey the truth and provide guidance towards the right path through peaceful discourse.

Allah reminds us to have good conduct multiple times in the Qur’an,

Those who spend in ease and hardship and those who restrain their anger and those who are gentle towards people, and Allah loves those who do good.” (3:134)

“Surely, He does not like the wrongdoers. The retribution for an evil deed is an equivalent evil. Yet, whoever pardons and reconciles, his reward is with God. And whoever endures patiently and forgives—surely this is a resolve to aspire to. As for him who endures patiently and forgives, that is a sign of real resolve.” (40:40-43)

We should also keep in mind that forgiving someone who has hurt us is an immensely challenging journey, and only the person experiencing it truly comprehends its struggles and emotions. Remind yourself, that you are doing it for the sake of Allah. And only Allah can reward you. May Allah make it easy for us and facilitate our matters.

This Ramadan my dear brothers and sisters let us revisit ALL our relationships, reflect upon our behaviour, make the change, seek the pleasures of Our Lord, and be among ٱلۡمُفۡلِحُونَ, the prosperous ones In Sha Allah.

Wrapping things up on a positive note, despite facing challenges such as the casual use of mental health terminology and a preference for quick fixes, this generation has admirably taken the lead and is owning the mental health conversation. Props to them for bringing to light those tough issues that we have been sweeping under the rug.

5 thoughts on “The Rise of Villain Era

  1. Jasmine says:

    Assalamu alaikum wa rahmathullahi wa barakathuhu
    The post on the villian era is apt and invaluable. Alhamdulillah.
    May Allah reward the author and your team. Ameen ya rabb. It helps us to accept people with their faults and trust in Allah what we cannot sometimes do by ourselves. It is not easy to forgive someone who has insulted you(tbe prophet(s. A) forbade that as well) but we find it easier to do because that is what is pleasing to Allah.

  2. Shimlin says:

    Alhumdulillah, I was just talking about this with my teenager daughter yesterday. Thank you so much for putting it in a well organised writing. Allah will forgive us for everything except shirk but as a human we can not accept it. It is a hard journey but we need to accept it and go through the journey and grow in it instead of avoiding it. Mashallah, very good topic to explore at this time!

  3. Olaniyi Aishat says:

    Asalam alaykum, this post is so insightful and beneficial. its serve as a reminder to myself and others that we need to accept no body is perfect, we all have our negative sides. Allah says that He make one person a test to another.

    jazakumallahu khayrah

  4. Sabina Akhtar Qadri says:

    The current trend of preference for self over the wellbeing of others goes against Islamic teachings, and this has been bothering me for some time after gaining counselling training from a completely Eurocentric perspective. The fact that individualistic therapy is the norm in the West is problematic as it disregards the nuances in the feelings of others and making space for difficult conversations, as well as ignoring our precious Islamic heritage of mental wellbeing. But we ignore this at our own peril, as this path leads nowhere but to more selfishness and absorption with our own needs and wants.
    Thank you for putting what I was grappling with into such eloquent terms❤️

  5. Fauzia says:

    Barakallahu feekum, this article so aptly addresses the misuse of mental health terms to justify selfishne.
    Love how you put everything to words beautifully!

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