There are two kinds of people: Those who enjoy getting called on in class, and love taking part in group projects; something about the external stimuli allows for them to thrive and be ultra productive. The other group of people is those who might sink in their seats when their name is called, even if it is just to take attendance. Group projects are alright, as long as the social interaction is limited. They might even take home the project and finish it because the internal stimuli in the comfort of their room enables them to flourish and exude creativity.
These were all things I did – and that is when I realised I am an introvert. It was not that I was not a people person. In reality, my productivity reached its peak when I was in a comfortable setting that was shared with me, myself, and I.
Although introverts have always been in existence, the term ‘introversion’ was first used by Carl Jung in the 20s, to define psychological preferences. While terms such as ‘shy’ or ‘reclusive’ are often used, even in dictionaries, to describe a quiet person who finds difficulty in interacting with others, they are not fundamentally synonymous with introversion. On the contrary, it is more about where a person derives their energy, drive, and motivation. While extroverts thrive on external factors, introverts look within themselves in order to obtain the stimuli they are in need of. It was proven by the Myers-Briggs Test that introversion is not unnatural and is a preference that allows for a person to obtain their energy.
Introverts face many issues, due to the stereotypes that label them. Since there are many people who are uninformed as to what introverts actually are, introverts are looked down upon in society. When they are in a group, it can be difficult to feel accommodated or comfortable unless the subject is interesting and worthy of discussing. Introverts enjoy a healthy debate filled with meaningful conversation. But small talk can make them feel both exhausted and suffocated. This silence and discomfort of introverts is often deemed weird, arrogant, antisocial and so on. They are also considered weak, shy, or lacking in personality for simply not being expressive or “open” enough. In addition, Introverts have the tendency to listen more than they speak. While this is a well-appreciated quality, they are often labeled as ‘foolish’, ‘weak-willed’ or ‘non-committed’ or even ‘disrespectful’ towards other people in a gathering.
These issues affect the productivity of introverts because it causes them to not be favored by society. Their rational and creativity are not given proper space to develop. While introverts can flourish in the correct atmosphere, this pushes them to demean themselves or even reach the level of depression. However, when we align the characteristics of an introvert with Islamic principles, it can help introverts feel comfortable with their preferred style of working, and with these thoughts in mind, can work to maximise your productivity.
Habits of introverts encouraged in Islam
While the Qur’an does not divide people based on their level of introversion or extroversion, certain qualities that introverts possess are praised.
1. Haya (modesty)
As Muslims, we are told to be modest both externally and internally. Though external modesty is easier to adopt, internal modesty requires time, effort, patience, and perseverance. For an introvert, developing internal modesty is relatively easier as they are modest in speech and not too proud or confident (before they accept themselves).
“O children of Adam, We have bestowed upon you clothing to conceal your private parts and as adornment. But the clothing of righteousness – that is best. That is from the signs of Allah that perhaps they will remember.” [Qur’an: Chapter 7, Verse 26]
2. Tadabbur (reflection)
Introverts have a desire to reflect and spend time on their own thinking. Reflecting promotes intellectual thoughts and wisdom. The Prophet Muhammad said:
“There is no wisdom like reflection, and no honor like good manners.” [Darussalam]
In order to reflect productively, it is helpful to be in a calming atmosphere. Thinking ahead and having an organized schedule, an updated to-do list, and a tidy room before reflecting makes the experience relaxing, beneficial, and fruitful.
3. Keeping away from idle talks and asking questions
Introverts are gifted with the tendency to keep away from small talk, which can prove to be quite a blessing. Having a strong desire to have meaningful conversations means that insignificant talk is often deemed unnecessary and avoided.
The Prophet said, “… And Allah dislikes idle talk, to ask too many questions (for things which will be of no benefit to one)…” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
From this, we can understand that it is good to ask questions, but the questions should serve a purpose. Whether an introvert, an ambivert, or an extrovert, keeping this in mind helps one develop the attitude of focusing on asking significant questions appropriately.
4. Quietness and reticence
While it is seen as a flaw to be quiet, Prophet Muhammad actually encouraged it. Known for his quiet laugh and nights spent in quite worship in i’tikaf, he thought before he spoke and encouraged his sahabah to do so as well. He said:
“Whoever is silent, he is saved.” [Darussalam]
When we make an intention to have a quiet nature to follow the sunnah, your natural character will be rewarded in sha Allah.
Listening is a strong quality to be blessed with. It is proven to be valuable in the Qur’an, in ahadith, and in quotes of wisdom meant to benefit the reader. It is found evident here, as Allah says:
“Indeed in that is a reminder for whoever has a heart or who listens while he is present [in mind]” [Qur’an: Chapter 50, Verse 37]
Listening with an intention to understand [listen – take notice – while present in mind] rather than to reply is the key to becoming an effective listener.
Silence implies humility and intelligence. When an introvert is silent in front of someone, it is because they are listening. When they are silent on their own, it is simply because they are reflecting.
Susan Cain, author of “Quiet” proves that being silent does not imply disrespect or foolishness. In her words, “It’s a very powerful thing to be quiet and collect your thoughts.” The Prophet said,
“He who believes in Allah and the Last Day must either speak good or remain silent.” [Muslim]
He also said:
“Do not indulge in excessive talk except when remembering Allah . Excessive talking without the Remembrance of Allah hardens the heart, and those who are the farthest from Allah are those whose hearts are hard.” [At-Tirmidhi]
Habits of introverts strictly discouraged in Islam
As we mentioned earlier, Allah does not divide people based on the modern terms ‘introvert’ or ‘extrovert’. By the modern understanding of the word ‘introvert’, there may be some characteristics that would be disliked in Islam, and would actually hinder your productivity.
1. Keeping away from guests
Introverts limit how often they are in a noisy and people filled environment where small talk is required. Remaining silent and quiet is considered disrespectful, in situations where you may be visiting family or other Muslims. Prophet said, “… and let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day be generous to his guest.” [Al-Bukhari]
There is a duty upon Muslims to serve guests and be hospitable. It is considered a noble deed when a person makes even the slightest effort to make his/her guests comfortable, and is a great source of barakah for the host. This means that an introvert may need to step out of their comfort zone in order to please Allah by serving your guests.
2. Not paying visits to relatives and friends
The Messenger of Allah related,
“An angel visited a man while he was going to meet his brother only because he loved his brother for the sake of Allah . The angel informed him that he was a messenger from Allah and Allah loved that man as he loved his brother for His sake. “[Muslim]
It is important to make it a habit to visit relatives and friends at least one day per week in order to spend quality time with them. Having regular, though small, visits allow for bonds to be developed and strengthened, making it easy to interact with them as there will be a warm level of comfort and acceptance. You just have to convince your mind and maintain endurance for the sake of Allah . Behaviors are to be learned and they can be unlearned too. Remember, there is a great reward for keeping family ties, and the one who breaks family ties in danger of committing a major sin.
3. Isolating oneself from people
“The believer who mixes with people and bears their annoyance with patience will have a greater reward than the believer who does not mix with people and does not put up with their annoyance.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
Introverts look for depth in their conversations, making it a bit more challenging to tolerate ‘annoying’ or trivial interactions. However, even these conversations are sometimes unavoidable and inevitably have to be dealt with politely in order to please Allah . If your is starting to become drained, the best solution is to take a deep breath, renew intentions, and say ‘Bismillah.’ Remembering that it is for the sake of Allah makes it much easier to cope with.
In the book, The Productive Muslim, Br. Mohammed Faris, an introvert himself, tells us how his productivity dropped when he started working alone more often, showing that, even though his productivity increased being alone, there comes a point where it starts to become a hindrance. Coming to terms with and accepting this, helped him enhance his productivity, with interactions like phoning to a friend, visiting a potential new client and, having online meetings with his team. These routines made him immediately feel excited to work again. Even introverts are in need of an adequate amount of social energy to keep them going.
So there you have it! If you consider yourself an introvert, you can boost your productivity by accepting your character traits, whilst being able to step out of your comfort zone once in a while. Combine that with a firm intention to please Allah , and in sha Allah you will be productive and rewarded no matter what your personality is like.
Are you an introvert? What are your tips to develop the pros and mitigate the cons of being an introvert? Share your views with us in the comments section below!