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From the Qur’an:   “O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin.” [Surat al-Hujurat 49:12]  

From the Sunnah:   The Messenger of Allah (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Beware of Adh-dhan (suspicion), for indeed, Adh-dhan is the most false of speech. Do not follow up the [private] affairs of others and do not spy [on others]…” [Bukhari, Muslim and others]  

We should have good thoughts about our Muslim sisters. When they make a mistake, we should give them the benefit of the doubt; when they say something we don’t like, we should interpret their words in such a way that reflects best on their character.   We have been forbidden from Adh-dhan, which literally means suspicion.

The Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said that Adh-dhan is the most false of speech, but what level of suspicion is this referring to? And what does Adh-dhan mean in the context of the prohibition? Al-Khattaabee said, “It refers not to thoughts that wander in a person’s mind, for a person does not have control over such thoughts; instead it refers to when suspicion becomes a firm reality and when one gives credence (credit) to her suspicions.” The suspicion of Adh-dhan that is prohibited is that suspicion that continues to thrive in a person’s heart, until it becomes firm there. This does not include the suspicion that, like a notion (idea), comes and then goes, gaining no stability in a person’s heart. The Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said that Allah (Subhanaahu wa Ta’aala) pardons what the people of this nation say in their souls as long as they do not orally speak of what passes in their minds and souls or set out to realize what they think. [Bukhari, Muslim and others] This refers to thoughts that come and then go and that find no stability in a person’s heart and mind.  

Qurtubi gives a slightly different definition of Adh-dhan: “The meaning of Adh-dhan here is an accusation that has no cause (basis) to it.” This occurs, for example, when a person accuses a man of al-Faahishah (illegal sexual intercourse etc.) without any indication of that evil being present on him. That is why the Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said, “And do not spy” after he (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Beware of Adh-dhan.” It is very important to protect the honor of one’s fellow Muslim. A person first develops the idea of a suspicion in her mind and then she sets out to spy, in order to see if she was right; and both Adh-dhan and spying are forbidden, as mentioned in the abovementioned verse. First, Allah (Subhanaahu wa Ta’aala) mentioned the prohibition of Adh-dhan. But then if a person is suspicious about someone and says, “I will search out and see if what I think is true,” it should be said to her, “And spy not”. If she says, “I am sure of what I think without the need to spy”, it should be said to her, “Neither backbite one another,” which is mentioned in the continuation of the verse.   When the Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) warned Muslims against suspicion and called it the falsest of speech, he was directing Muslims to take people at face value, and to avoid speculating about them or doubting them. It is not the attitude of a Muslimah, nor is it her business to uncover people’s secrets, to expose their private affairs, or to slander them. Only Allah (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) knows what is in people’s hearts, and can reveal it or call them to account for it, for only He knows all that is secret and hidden. A woman, however, knows nothing of her sister except what she sees her do. This was the approach of the Companions (May Allah be pleased with  them), who received guidance, pure and unadulterated, from the Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him).

Abdul-Razzaq reported from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Utbah ibn Mas’ud (May Allah be pleased with him): “I heard ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab  say: ‘There are people who used to follow the Revelation at the time of the Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him), but now the Revelation has stopped. So now we take people at face value. If someone appears good to us, we trust him and form a close relationship with him on the basis of what we see of his deeds. We have nothing to do with his inner thoughts, which are for Allah to judge. And if someone appears bad to us, we do not trust him or believe him, even if he tells us that his inner thoughts are good.'” [Hayat al-Sahabah]  

When we begin to suspect others and expect bad things from them though we have no reason for such suspicions, we will be unable to trust others. We will become afraid and apprehensive and our outlook in life will be dark and pessimistic. On the other hand, when we look at the good side of people, many times we will be rewarded for our trust in them.   One of the ways to have good thoughts about your sister is to give her the benefit of the doubt. If some of her words are conveyed to you, and you are not pleased with those words, interpret them in the best possible way, in the way that best reflects on her character. Search out for an excuse and say, “Perhaps she meant such and such or such and such,” and continue doing so until you run out of excuses for her.   Also, as Muslims we must be careful about the words we say and the judgments we make about people. We should not speak except with knowledge, and we should not form judgments except with certainty. The true Muslim who is pure of heart does not listen to people’s idle talk or pay attention to the rumors and speculation that are present in our communities nowadays. Consequently, she never allows herself to pass on whatever she hears of such rumors without making sure that they are true (if there is a need to do so). She believes that to do so would be the kind of lie that was clearly forbidden by the Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him): “It is enough lying for a man to repeat everything he hears.” [Muslim]  

We must protect ourselves from creating suspicion in our hearts in the first place, and not interfere with that which does not concern us. We should be concerned with the level of our Islam and seeking to attain the Pleasure of our Lord instead of sticking our noses into other people’s business or indulging in rumors about who said what. The Prophet (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “A sign of a person’s being a good Muslim is that he should leave alone that which does not concern him.” [Tabarani]

There is no place in the Muslim society for passing on stories and gossip, asking too many questions or interfering in the private affairs of others; the members of the real Muslim society are too busy with something more important, which is establishing the Word of Allah and taking the banner of Islam to the four corners of the earth and spreading its values among people. Those who are engaged in such great missions do not have the time to indulge in such sins.


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