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26 July 2011

Practical Tips to Stop Wasting Time in Gossip

What’s gossiping?

Have you ever met someone guilty of cannibalism? Probably not, yet if many of us who gossiped were to go by any name – it would be this. This is the way backbiting is described in Islam and many of us know it.

Allah warns us: O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear God, verily, God is the one who accepts repentance, Most Merciful.(Quran 49: 12)

As the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) informed us, backbiting is “to say something about your brother that he would dislike.” Someone asked him: “But what if what I say is true?” The Messenger of Allah said: “If what you say about him is true, you are backbiting him, but if it is not true then you have slandered him.”

Why do people gossip?

When someone loves to gossip, it is usually for one or more of the following reasons:
  • Ignorance
  • Low Self-Confidence
  • Envy
  • Boredom/Wasting time
  • Trying to impress you
  • Low faith
What to do when people gossip?

Sometimes we feel we have been dragged into it and really want to avoid situations where gossip takes place, and though we really want to do it, we don’t know how toget out of the conversation let alone put a stop to it. Here are some tips to help you out insha’Allah:

1. Praise the person being talked about 
Witness your imaan increase up as you defend them as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
whoever defends his brother’s honour, Allah will protect his face from the Fire of the Day of Resurrection.” (Tirmidhi)
There may be that moment just before speaking up in which you hesitate, but muster up some courage: once you get the first few words out, you will feel good about doing the right thing and people will realize that they are engaging in wasteful talk.

2. Invite truth from each other
Though it might be quite an outrageous act at first, you could ask the one who is gossiping to actually come with you and check the truth about what they are saying in the presence of the one they talked about! You don’t really need to go and verify but this is an action which is really part of the Sunnah, for we should prevent lying about one another and tarnishing people’s reputation especially if it is based on rumours.

3. Explain it’s none of your concern
This is probably the hardest part we stumble upon when a group of friends slip into gossip, however we should imply that it‘s none of the gossiper’s business to discuss other people affairs unless it is in a permissible manner. If you can encourage someone to not speak about others badly, then you can also tell them that it does not interest you or is irrelevant to you – instead find a mutual topic of interest to discuss other than people!

Al Hasan Al Basri said: “A sign that Allah has turned away from a servant is that He makes him busy with matters that are of no concern to him.”

4. Put yourself in their shoes
Asking the person gossiping( or even ourselves for that matter) the question: “How would I feel if this vicious rumour was said about me?” should make one regain some sense of integrity and put himself in the position of the one he just spoke against, hopefully repelling him/her from talking about another.

5. Change the topic
If you’ve tried the steps above and still find someone engaging in gossip about useless matters, find something else to talk about; take the lead in bringing up a subject you know they are interested in, or ask them to tell you about themselves.

6. Leave
If all else fails and you’ve tried to pull out all of the above tips– simply excuse yourself and leave the gathering. For Allah has advised us in the Quran:

When you see men engaged in vain discourse about Our Signs, turn away from them unless they turn to a different theme. If Satan ever makes you forget, then after recollection, do not sit in the company of those who do wrong.” [Quran 6:68]

How to stop yourself from gossiping?

What about if it’s you who’s responsible for the vain talk?

Hold your breath and recall these tips before saying a word.

1. Remember - backbiting is a major sin in Islam and is one of the causes for entering the Hellfire.

2. Ask yourself, - “Would the person I am about to speak of like what I’m going to say? Would I say it if the person was present? Will I feel good about myself after saying it?

You can save yourself some guilt ridden apologies later by simply asking these questions to yourself. In addition, you can try to think about how you felt the last time you found out that people were speaking badly or falsely about you.

3. Is it useful for anyone to know? - Allah Most High has said: 

Successful are the believers, who are humble in their prayers, and who turn away from pointless talk” [Quran 23:1-3] 

"And 'Those who do not bear witness to what is false, but when they pass by pointless talk, pass by with dignity' ” [Quran 25:72], 

When they hear pointless talk, they turn away from it” [Quran 28:55]

These verses describe the characteristics we should embody in speech. A top tip to help you is to cut short telephone conversations and keeping chat to essential things.

4. Is it necessary for anyone to know? - Even if it is, does it require your intervention? Often it is the trick of shaytan when we indulge in backbiting, as we seem to feel better about ourselves if we downgrade others. Instead ask yourself how we can improve our own character and lives.

5. Imagine - that the person you are talking about can hear everything you are saying. However, know that Allah Ta’ala is The All-Seeing, All-Hearing, and All-Knowing. We should not forget about Day on which we will be held accountable for our deeds. Remember backbiting is a bad reflection on your own character.

6. Be mindful of the company you keep - Keep away from people who usually turn to gossip. Recall the times in which you usually find yourself gossiping and keep yourself busy during that time with other tasks or even better – invite friends to learn about the grave consequences of gossiping!

7. Are you 100% sure about it? - Spreading false information is slander as it is creating discord and problems between Muslims. As we are told in the Quran:

Why, when you heard it, did not the believing men and believing women think good of themselves [i.e. one another] and say: ‘This is an obvious falsehood’?” [Quran 24:12]

8. Rejoice at the time and reward you’ll gain by stopping this nasty habit not to mention the good deeds you will accumulate to efface the bad ones. You‘ll be surprised about the time, energy, and faith boost you will gain in this life, and the reward that awaits you in the akhirah insha’Allah.

9. Look for positive qualities in people. If you really have to talk about someone who’s not there, talk about how great, hardworking, funny, humble they are instead of deficiencies; as I often say ‘we are always quick to find imperfections in others but not ourselves’.

10. If you feel you have to say it to someone and that you can’t keep the news for yourself - write it in your diary or on a private piece of a paper. Reread it after a couple of days and evaluate if you still want to let the world know you are not trustworthy enough to keep a confidential fact to yourself! Discard of the paper, and of the thought in your mind – disciplining your thoughts to be good of others should be instilled instead.

11. Repent and make the intention to stop, you could keep the verses and ahadith about the punishment of this sin on your wallpaper or screen to remind you at work (where people politics can enter!). Lastly make dua’a to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala)to help you and while it takes effort, don’t give up:

Whosoever believes in Allaah and the Last Day, then let him speak good or remain silent.” [Al-Bukhari]
And the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) was asked: “O Messenger of Allah, which of the Muslims is best?” He (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “He whose tongue and hand the Muslims are safe from.” [Al Bukhari and Muslim]

What about if someone is gossiping about you?

Send them a gift. They are providing you with rewards!

Someone was told: “So-and-so has gossiped about you” so he sent him a dish of dates, with the message: “I heard that you had given me your rewards as a gift, and I want to return the favour; please excuse me for not being able to pay back in full!”

Whilst this is amusing, it bears great dignity for one to befriend the one who has backbitten him
To conclude, make the intention to purify your heart today by applying these practical tips to stop wasting your life on a grave act. Share other tips you have here below!

About the Author- Sister Jihan Anwar is a university student and a journalist working at the National Yemen Newspaper
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