By Umm Ibrahim
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
Allah mentions: “O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one’s] faith. And whoever does not repent – then it is those who are the wrongdoers. O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.” (Al-Hujurat 49:11-12)
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sa) asked: “Do you know what backbiting is?” The Companions said: “Allah and His Messenger know better.” Thereupon he said: “Backbiting is talking about your (Muslim) brother in a manner which he dislikes.” It was said to him: “What if my (Muslim) brother is as I say.” He said: “If he is actually as you say, then that is backbiting; but if that is not in him, that is slandering.” (Muslim)
In the light of the above, we understand that it is important to steer clear of gossip. However, in everyday life, we often slip and our conversations gradually inch towards discussing people in a negative light. How can we ensure that our conversations remain productive and stay as far away from gossip as humanly possible?
Here are some handy tips:
1- Righteous company
First and foremost, it is important to ensure that our friends and acquaintances with whom we have regular casual conversations are Allah-fearing.
Abu Moosa reported that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “The similitude of good company and bad company is that of the seller of musk and the one blowing bellows (iron-smith); the seller of musk would either offer you some free of charge or you would buy it from him or you would smell its pleasant odour; the one who blows the bellows would either burn your clothes or you shall have to smell its repugnant smell.” (Muslim)
Allah-fearing friends help each other in adhering to the straight path and are likely to exert efforts towards productive conversations. If the conversation goes off-topic and starts delving into gossip, a simple “let’s change the subject” or “let’s talk about something else” is effective in putting a stop to it.
2- Purify your intention
At times, even people who’ve gathered in a religious study circle (halaqah) tend to engage in gossip. Before attending any gathering, even if it may comprise two or three people, purify your intention. Say to yourself that you will try your hardest to keep gossip away from this conversation. Pray to Allah to make you steadfast and help you. It is not an easy task by any means.
3- What to discuss
If we don’t discuss people, what do we talk about? Decide this based on the people in the gathering. If they are knowledgeable, you might want to share something beneficial you have read or watched or learned. In a casual gathering, for instance, at a wedding or any fun gathering, you can even relate positive anecdotes or incidents from your personal life that doesn’t involve maligning anyone.
4- Change the subject
At times, even the best of efforts fail and we start talking ill about individuals. Be vigilant and catch yourself in time. Try to change the subject. One of the best ways to do this is that if someone says something negative about someone, say something positive to counter it. You can even say a du’a (supplication): for instance, “May Allah guide them”. Such conversation ‘brakes’ usually work wonders.
5- Excuse yourself
Use this as your last resort. If every effort to keep the conversation gossip-free fails, politely excuse yourself from the gathering. Allah will reward you for your efforts, inshallah!
May Allah (swt) help us remain steadfast on the straight path. Ameen.
Umm Ibrahim is a freelance writer and editor
© IIPH 2016