Islamic scholars teach us that as Muslims we should focus on our utterances. What we utter can be placed in our balance of either good or bad deeds. Many Muslims tend to forget a Hadeeth by the Prophet (sa): “It is part of the excellence of a person’s Islam that he should discard that which is of no concern to him.” (At-Tirmidhi) It is significant for the health of our Iman to practice this golden rule.

On many occasions, when we are around people, we get caught up in conversations. These conversations can be of two kinds: one – a mere waste of time, because it does not benefit you in any way. It is probably wiser to stay away from such conversations. We want deeds that make a difference in determining whether we go to Paradise or the Hellfire, and deeds such as these do not make any difference at all. Two – such conversations can lead you towards backbiting or conjecturing about things which are none of your business. Hence, they fill up a page in your book of bad deeds. You can definitely do without such conversations.

Indulging in what is of no benefit or concern to us comes in many forms. Let’s look at a few examples to elaborate:

A person has come back from a trip. Someone asks that person: “How was your trip?” A person could answer: “It was a beautiful place. I saw such-and-such landmarks. They have such traditions and customs there. Their scholars are mostly concerned with…” If you add to people’s knowledge, then you will be rewarded; if not, then it is neither added onto your good deeds nor bad. At times, such a question can lead a person to brag, emphasize areas for effect and exaggerate to make things look grander.

Another example that scholars warn us against is indulging in other people’s concerns by asking them too many questions. It is said that once a wise man saw Prophet Dawood (as) making one of the lightweight vests for war. The man had never seen anything like it. He wanted to ask, what it was, but his wisdom prevented him. When Prophet Dawood (as) finished, he said: “Blessed is the vest for battle.” The wise man smiled and said: “Silence is wisdom, and very few practice it.” He got the information he needed without asking a single question, but rather by being patient.

So, what do we need to do to avoid committing this atrocity of the tongue?

  • Know that you have a fixed balance of inhalation and exhalations in your lifetime. Make sure you spend them well.
  • Silence, in many instances, proves to be the best. Your utterances are either for you or against you, or make no difference at all in the Hereafter. Let them make a difference by making them in remembrance of Allah (swt); or asking out of fear and obedience to Allah (swt); or asking for knowledge to bring you closer to Allah (swt).
  • I am not asking you to isolate yourself, as it is against our Deen. But if you are currently around people who waste time by idle chatter, alert them to the fact and suggest ways for improvement. If you cannot change them, save yourself and join others that are meeting to please Allah (swt). It is your time and your life. Take charge.

Also, don’t forget that keeping in touch with people and asking about them is important. Making small talk with the people you care about and want to show affection to, like your parents, kin, seniors, kids, friends, neighbours etc., is vital. The intention of this small talk is to please Allah (swt). It connects people, builds bridges and strengthens bonds. Let this be your intention, without transgressing the boundaries set by Islam. These in moderation for the sake of Allah (swt) – not so that people say you are good person – are always required.

Adapted from a lecture by Islamic scholar Umar Abdul Kafy