You’d be hard pressed to find a book with a more shallow title than Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People.’ It sounds like a great way to boost your self-esteem and learn some manipulative business tricks that Carnegie himself used to get rich. It’s an interesting book written by a prolific personal development author and it’s especially interesting to read its concrete pointers through a ‘Muhammedan’ lens. A book about desirable personal traits is unnecessary to validate what the Prophet taught in terms of perfecting human conduct. It is, instead, fascinating to reflect on how eternal these noble qualities are – a book written in 1936 is the basis of corporate training programs to this day, and the seerah, of the Prophet, the best how-to-guide anyone could ask for, holds weight to this day, and will until the end of time.
Carnegie talks about things we can do to show we actually care about people. He describes our names as the sweetest sound to our ears. If you know people like hearing their names, isn’t it worth expending some effort to remember them of the people we meet? The Prophet’s love for people was so explicit that literally everyone thought they were closest to him. When Carnegie paints the picture of an ideal listener, I bet a Muslim’s first thought is the habit of the Prophet, who would turn his entire body towards those he was listening to. It’s a difficult practice given the amount of distractions we have, but it would be near impossible for the person who is talking to feel like they’re not being heard. Carnegie retold an incident in which he was sure a friend had mistaken a Shakespeare quote for a Bible passage, and was sure of this error, but was advised to not correct his friend in public. The Prophet explicitly described the value of relationships between people, advising against oppressing, humiliating, or looking down upon anyone.
It’s hard to swallow when others dismiss Islam as an archaic (read: ‘non-Western’) way of life. Islam is moral uprightness and impeccable character that was personified by the Prophet, whose example is timeless. It is what could unite endlessly feuding tribes in 7th century Arabia, and is also what can make anyone the coolest kid in school. Not the jerks that stuff kids into lockers (does that actually happen outside of 90’s teen sitcoms?), but the ones who are thoughtful enough to sit with the new kid at lunch. We have only the time of our short lives to treat people well, and to wait for the day to drink from the Prophet’s hands, inshAllah. But rest assured, his legacy lives on in all of the positive attributes we see in people. What mattered most to him still holds all the meaning in the world today, and that’s a connection we can forge with God through him until the day we die.