Part Seven: Spreading Muck
In order to get through life with ease, the early Muslims (salaf) focused on certain key ways of living that would make it spiritually and practically easier and more fruitful. They coined a term for the variegated rules that they lived by, a term that summarized the system of living for the Hereafter. They called it zuhd: detachment from this world. Other terms to describe zuhd are indifference towards worldly matters or simple or minimal living. This is the seventh article from a series of articles and podcasts by SeekersGuidance scholar, Shaykh Farid Dingle.
Sin is an offense to Allah, thus one should not talk, chat or gossip about sinful matters. In this chapter, Imam Waki discusses this concept and mentions the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the early Muslims concerning the concealing of sins, be it one’s own or someone else’s.
Privacy is a very important right in Islam. Privacy in marital issues, finances, and what one knows of others’ faults is something inviolable. Without it, no one can trust anyone else, and the fabric of society cannot be fixed.
For this reason, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,
“Whenever you sit together, the assumption is that everything said should be kept private.”
Ikrima, one of Ibn Abbas’ foremost students, said, “Whoever eavesdrops on a group of people, lead will be poured into his ears on the Day of Rising.” It is unlikely that he would just say this off the top of his head—he most likely heard it from Ibn Abbas, who likewise heard it from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) himself.
Talking about the immoral is an offense to Allah—and talking about someone else’s immoral acts is even worse. One of the early Muslims said, “Whoever hears of vile and immoral deeds and then talks about it to everyone is just as bad as the person who did it to begin with.” This is a profound statement and extremely relevant to us today.
We love to gossip about people’s love lives and the crazy crimes that people commit, and we love to share such stories and images on social media. We do these things to the extent that we believe it is our right to know about which football player slept with which model, for example. All of this is disgraceful, base and unIslamic.
Part of speaking of the immoral is simply backbiting. We believe psychologically that by putting people down, we put ourselves up, and we get an emotional kick out of it. Ibn Sirin said,
“It is unfair to your brother that you only mention his worst points and hide his good points.”
Another one of the early Muslims said, “Three things are catastrophic: a ruler who never appreciates any good and never forgives errors, a neighbor who buries any good done to him yet tells everyone about every bad thing he sees, and a wife who is rude when you are present and who spends your money and cheats on you when you are absent.”
Even one’s own faults should be concealed. Imam Waki narrates that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “If Allah conceals your sins, then do not expose them.”
There is absolutely no need, no benefit, and no right to talk about one’s past sins nor to confess to anyone unless someone else’s rights are involved.
Committing adultery, drinking alcohol, lying, showing off, or any other sin that no one needs to know about should not be shared or spoken about. One should only talk about one’s sins in order to get help getting over them, and this should only be with someone who has the knowledge or experience to help one.
One of the prophetic Companions encouraged an adulterer to confess in court. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “If you have covered him over with your very clothes it would have been better than doing this!” That is to say, it is not recommended to go to court to confess. If one owes someone any money because of past sins, one may give it back to them however possible. It is also not the right of one’s partner to tell them that one cheated on them, or what forbidden (haram) sexual acts one did before marriage.
A general of the early Muslims told his soldiers, “Listen, you have come to a place where there is drink and women. If any of you sins (in either of these two ways), let him come and confess to us so that we may purify him.” This reached Umar ibn al-Khattab [and it annoyed him greatly], so he wrote to him saying, “May you lose your mother! You command a people whose sins Allah has covered over to rip Allah’s cover off them!” He was annoyed because the command the general gave was wrong. It is worth noting that although it is not recommended to go and confess in court, it is nevertheless legally binding upon the court to apply the law and enforce the fixed Shari’a penalty (hadd).
About the Author
Shaykh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to crafts lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language which can be found here.
The corresponding podcast is due for release soon.