By Sadia Dehlvi
Aug 10, 2016
Prophet Muhammad explained that part of having faith in Allah required people not to engage in what does not concern them. Commenting on this, some scholars have said that minding one’s own business constitutes half of religion. The Sufis say that when God is displeased with you, he engages you with that which does not concern you. In reminding us of how to take care of our own souls, the Quran advises not engaging with the ignorant.
This does not mean that one should not care about the state of affairs around us. Of course, one should feel the pain and suffering of others and contribute in positive ways, but unnecessary engagement with other people’s affairs must be avoided. Many of us are prone to discussing how other people live, their clothes, cars, fame, money and other worldly possessions. Most of this results from unnecessary curiosity and plain gossip. Even if malice is not intended, it is easy to fall prey to making comments that will eventually hurt our souls.
We have to be careful what we speak, and keep a vigil on our tongues. It is so easy to gossip about others, point fingers at them, badmouth people, unveil their faults and accuse them of wrongdoing. Prophet Muhammad said, “If you fault someone with something that is not true, Allah will hold you in hellfire till you bring proof of it.”
The tongue can be a source of both evil and immense good for the soul. If we use it to spread discord and cause tribulations, it taints the soul. If we use our words to spread peace, it nourishes the soul. Peace is a state of mind; it is also preventing harm to others and extending benefit to others. Prophet Muhammad famously said that even a smile and speaking kind words are forms of charity.
Sufis say the jurisprudence of speech is that one should abstain from saying something about a person that they would not like to hear about them; even if the concerned person is absent from the conversation. Backbiting is a serious sin and requires repentance from God. If the person knows that you spoke ill of him/her, then you need to apologise to that person.
When caught up in a group that is indulging in gossip, it is best to defend the person who is not there to clarify his position. In Islamic belief, those who veil the sins of others in this world, God veils their sins in the hereafter.