Ghazali’s 20 rules for dealing with people Rules 7-8 Dealing with gossip and arguments.
Rule 7: Do not pass on gossip
Ghazali says do not listen to rumours about others and do not pass them on. We need this very sound nugget of advice because we are flooded by rumours, fabrications, lies and fake news.
The Quran and Sunnah gave us the formula for dealing with them. What should you do when you hear a piece of news? Firstly, do not convey it. Secondly, if it needs to be passed on it, check it first. Most of the time, it should not be passed on.
Marital conflicts caused by rumours
One reason for bad marital relations is when one spouse allows themselves to listen to other people’s comments. If you open your ears to other people or are driven by what people say and listen to their bad advice it will create very problems for you, especially when they are ill informed, not qualified and lack wisdom. I have witnessed this mess up people’s marriages.
One way to bring reconciliation is to shut this door and to stop giving an ear to the wrong advice from the wrong people. If they do not have wisdom, simply do not listen to them.
If there is gossip in the office, do not pass it on. If it is about an issue which needs resolving, then first authenticate the information. Many people have a big mouth and like to talk. People cannot control their tongues. For some, being told that they should not tell anyone gives them even more incentive to broadcast it.
Rumours can ruin your life. Stop them as soon as they reach you. Crush them under your shoe. Ghazali’s words are as relevant today as they were in his time. The stories which circulated about Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) and created speculations about her infidelity were started by rumours. A munfiq (hypocrite) began them and as there no borders or guidelines on how to treat them, they spread rapidly through the community. They were so destructive they caused a great deal of pain to Aisha who was innocent and hurt the Prophet (peace be on upon him) himself. Therefore Allah Almighty taught the principles of how to deal with this in Surat Al Nur.
Do not let gossip fill the workplace
When a headteacher or boss opens his office and invites his teachers or employees to come and backbite others, it leads to an evil environment. The gossip is spiced up sprinkled and with even more chillies and pepper and it is a recipe for disaster.
Do not invite others to tell you what is going on in the office. Instead tell your staff you do not want to hear it. Otherwise the office becomes a cell where evil reproduces like a virus, and spreads and attacks the dignity of people. It can ruin any work environment in any organisation – department, hospital, school or office.
If you overhear something, do not pass it on. Do not say ‘I heard you are doing this, is it true?’ This contributes to the evil.
In the very authentic hadith, we were told that the person who spreads gossip will not be admitted to Jannah.
Hudhayfah reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“The talebearer will not enter Paradise.”
“The gossip-monger will not enter Paradise.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
This is not something we can take lightly. Usually we equate the sin that leads of jahannum as kufr, but this shows us the enormity of slandering others. Why does it carry such a huge penalty? Because gossip, backbiting and rumours are fatal weapons, which cannot be detected by any machine. This is why Islam put an end to them. The hadith means that the backbiter/slanderer will not be admitted to Jannah even if they are a believer until they have received their punishment first and the scores are settled.
Even if you end up in Jannah eventually, spending a moment in Jahannam will be excruciating. May Allah protect us all from it. No one wants to be that person.
The Prophet (peace be on him) was deterring people from this because it destroys the community. It only takes a few words and they can spread like poison. This is why it is a very dangerous disease.
You are not permitted to nod and listen to gossip in the office or other situations. You need to politely point out that you cannot be part of such a conversation.
The one who gossips to you will gossip about you
When you allow people to gossip to you, you allow them to carry your comments back to others. Do not open the floodgate to gossips. They will drown you with them. Conversely, if you stand up for those who are being gossiped about, you earn a great deal of reward.
Abu Darda reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Whoever defends the reputation of his brother, Allah will defend his face from the Hellfire on the Day of Resurrection.” (Tirmidhi)
What can you talk about if you don’t gossip?
We have unconsciously fallen into patterns of conversation and we need to revisit and reprogram what we discuss with each other. If gossip is the main chunk of your conversation with others, you need to replace it by good bits of news you have acquired instead. Whether you pass on the good things that you have learned, or that have happened in your life or in your family or in the news, it means you need to look out for this positive pieces of news and store them in your mind to share later.
Imagine the powerful effect this positivity would have on us and society if everyone passed on good news instead of bad news and gossip.
You might be interested in certain hobbies like gardening or cooking. You may ask your mother for recipes, even if you do not plan to make them, just to give them the opportunity to teach you something.
Rule 8: Do not be estranged for more than three days when you have an argument with your brother
Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) said:
وعن أنس رضي الله عنه قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : “لا تقاطعوا ولا تدابروا، ولا تباغضوا، ولا تحاسدوا، وكونوا عباد الله إخوانًا، ولا يحل لمسلم أن يهجر أخاه فوق ثلاث” ((متفق عليه)).
“Do not desert (stop talking to) one another, do not nurse hatred towards one another, do not be jealous of one another, and become as fellow brothers and slaves of Allah. It is not lawful for a Muslim to stop talking to his brother (Muslim) for more than three days.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
When you fall out with your brother and you have a disagreement, you are not allowed to avoid him for more than 3 days.
In another narration, Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) stated that Allah’s Messenger (peace be on him) said:
“Whoever accepts back what he sold to a Muslim, Allah will forgive his fault.” (Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah)
The original hadith is referring to a financial transaction, where one person goes back on a deal, for instance, a customer insists on returning something he agreed to buy, the hadith tells us that the salesman would be pardoned for taking the goods back, and he would have Allah’s pardon when he needs it the most.
In a more general sense, it means if you forgive the mistakes of others, Allah will forgive yours.
Abdullah ibn al-‘As reported that the Prophet (peace be on him) said:
“Show mercy and you will be shown mercy. Forgive and Allah will forgive you. (Musnad Ahmad and Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad.)
Three days to cool down
I have always been intrigued by the fact Allah gave us 3 days to recover from an argument. I would love it if someone carried out research on the physiological and psychological changes that occur during these days. When someone has an argument, it would be interesting to observe what happens to their mind, nervous system, hormones and blood pressure, heart etc over three days. I am sure there is deep wisdom in this timing.
The three days puts a maximum limit on how much one can wallow in anger, sadness and self-pity. If there was no limit, we could continue feeling aggrieved ad infinitum. Some people do not forgive those who wrong them even after 3 years or 30 years. However, Allah Almighty has not told us to recover instantly but given us a grace period to cool down, regulate and re-stabilise our emotional state. It is not in our interests to let our anger and hurt linger. This is why we have been given limits. Sometimes we work better with a deadline.
Forgiving liberates you
Those who dwell on their hurt, even when it happened decades ago, are prolonging their own suffering. They would have been much better off if they had started a new page. It would have brought them relief. When you cannot forgive others, you torture yourself. When you forgive you set yourself free. You are no longer shackled by history. The crying has to stop. When the hereafter becomes more of a reality the dunya issues become petty. Otherwise the peace you try so hard to create within yourself can be knocked out by just one word from someone.
In a sad, angry state you are vulnerable and make mistakes
The shaytan hunts you in two states – when you are very angry and when you are very sad. This is when your defences are down and your immunity to shaytan plummets to its lowest level.
Just recall how you are when you are in this mode. I am sure that it is a time when we all make mistakes – either in our assumptions or in our words and actions. This is why it is very important to not allow anger to consume you and take over. If you need the time to lick your wounds and process the hurt, take it, but after 3 days, pick yourself up. Forgive. Forget. Move on.
If someone wronged you but then comes and apologises and they sincerely regret what they did, forgive them. Do not refuse because you are still hurt, angry and bruised.
Be the first to end the dispute
This is why we given incentives and encouragement to move on. Whether you pick up the phone or go round and clear the air, Allah loves the one who ends the dispute.
“It is not permissible for a person to desert his fellow brother for more than three days while they continue to meet and turn their backs to each other. And the best of them is the first to say Salam”.
The incentive of akhirah reduces the pain in dunya
In any dispute it is important to keep reminding ourselves of the akhirah. When we link our dunya with our akhirah, it puts everything in perspective. Remember the most painful scenario is the day of resurrection, that is when you need relief. Where will that relief come from? From the occasions you relieved people in dunya Allah. For that, Allah will relieve you in akhirah.
3 days lets the one who was in the wrong see his mistake
The three days give space to both parties whose judgement may be clouded by the anger hormones which have flooded them. It minimises the harm they can inflict on each other during this time which they might regret.
If the person approaches the one he offended when he is still upset his apology may not be well received. He is still not ready for it.
They may realise they were were hasty and should have taken more time and they can learn from it, so they are better next time. The 3 days is therefore an important time for both sides.
We often forget that in the 3 days that both parties have after the dispute, it gives them both a chance to see where they were wrong and realise their mistake and admit it. We don’t usually think about this time from the point of view of one who was in the wrong. However the three days give them chance to review what they said or did and mull it over internally and rectify it externally – by apologising or making amends.
It is easy for words to be misconstrued on social media. You cannot gauge how the message was intended. You may not realise it was meant humorously as you cannot see the body language, the facial expressions or hear the tone of the voice that would have accompanied it in person. It can easily cause offence and the best way to rectify it is to pick up the phone and clear the air, or at least send a voice memo, that get caught up in a bitter exchange.
Clear your mind every night
Remember that if you were caused sadness and it struck your heart out of the blue, it was destined for you and it is your test to resolve it. You can choose to gain reward by forgiving, turn it into something positive by creating change or you can let it linger and suffocate you.
The best practice is to clear your mind every night by getting over the episodes which have upset you that day. Cleanse your heart every night, so it brings peace to you mind and your family. Do not let yourself rewind bad memories. Make dua for Allah to clear your heart of rancour. It is always better to forgive.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim – The Thursday Knowledge Circle on Al Ghazali’s Forty Principles of Religion. Kitaab Al-Arba’in Fi Usul ad-Din.
This book is the last book Ghazali wrote. Towards the end of this life, after he had accomplished and completed Ihya Ulum ad Deen, he summarised the Ihya in 40 principles. In chapter 8, Ghazali looks at how to deal with people and uphold their rights.
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