"A good practicing Muslim," is a phrase we usually hear in many Muslim circles. However, the question is what usually comes to our minds when we hear this phrase? Many people may typically visualize images of consistent prayers, fasting, charity, Quranic recitations ...etc. There is no doubt that such acts are great ingredients for our spiritual journey; yet, the prophet stresses a social quality that might be neglected by many religious people but it serves as a good indicator for one's good practice of Islam. This quality is based on a Hadith reported by Imam al-Tirmizi who narrated, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah, that the prophet said: “Part of your good practice of Islam is to leave whatever does not concern you.” In other words, one should mind one's own business.
The hadith clearly teaches that good practicing Muslims should stay away from any talks or actions that are of no concern to them. Rather, as a top priority, Muslims should be busy purifying themselves and taking care of their own faults. If people involve themselves only in the things that concern them, they will not find time to label others or waste their time in gossiping or the like. Allah says: “Successful indeed is the person who uplifts it [his soul] and a failure indeed is that is the person who lowers it [his soul].” (91: 9-10) As a disclaimer, the Hadith does not encourage leading a self-centered life and disregarding people’s rights. In general, it is our moral and legal code that determine the matters that do not concern us. This article seeks to list some examples of the quality of “leave that which is of no concern to you,” a quality which practically illustrates our embodiment of the beauty of our faith.
Situations where you should mind your own business
1- People’s Privacy
There is a huge difference between keeping in touch with friends and intruding on their privacy. You should treat people’s private information in the way you like yours to be treated. If you know that asking a person about his salary, his wife or his children will violate his or her privacy, you have to avoid these kinds of questions. Similarly, one should not share personal information about people without their permission.
2- Judging People’s Final Destiny
There is a huge difference between saying this is lawful or unlawful and saying this man will surely be in Heaven or in Hell.Teaching people about what is permissible and what is prohibited is a religious obligation. However, a Muslim is completely forbidden from claiming that a specific Muslim will be doomed to Hell, simply because judging people’s final destiny is an exclusive work of God Himself. To claim that a Muslim will go to Hell, regardless of his sins, is just like claiming divinity—which is indeed more dangerous than any other grave sin. Moreover, such acts of judgments are heinous acts of pride. Any person who is judgmental in this way will suffer losing all his good deeds on the Day of Judgment. Imam Muslim reported, on the authority of Jundub, that a man said: ‘By Allah, Allah will not forget this person. So Allah said: ‘Who is he who swears by Me that I will not forgive that person. Indeed, I shall forgive that person and nullify the accuser’s deeds.”
Judging people’s final destiny requires a comprehensive knowledge of people’s inner intentions, hidden actions and all of their life circumstances. Thus no one is qualified to determine the destiny of people due to our deficient knowledge and human prejudices. The prophet told us the story of a man who spent his life in excessive sins and end up getting his sins forgiven. The prophet said: “There was a man who used to sin excessively. When he was about to die, he said to his family: ‘when I die, burn me, then grind my corpse and then throw it in the air, because if my God got control of me, he will severely punish me. When he died, everything was done in the way he described. However, Allah commanded the earth to bring the man’s particles together and it did. When the man appeared before Allah, Allah asked him: ‘why did you do that?’ ‘I was afraid of You, my Lord!’ Because of this [reply], the man was forgiven.” Also remember the prostitute who was forgiven because of giving water to a thirsty dog to drink in the desert as the Hadith tells us.
As a matter of fact, claiming that a sinful Muslim will be doomed in Hell will not change him. Actually, it may make him more rebellious, resistant, and indifferent. The prophet taught his companions about the psychology of a sinful person when being cursed. It happened that a man was brought to the prophet because of his frequent sin of drinking. People started throwing shoes at him! Moreover, a Muslim said to him: “May Allah keep you away from His mercy! How often you are brought here!” Upon this, the prophet said: “Do not ally with Satan against your brother, for this man loves Allah and his prophet!” What a great teacher the prophet was! Everyone was looking at the negative side of the sinner, making the man more uncaring. However, the prophet was looking at the bright sight that if it is rightly nurtured will lead to the best results: this man loves Allah and His prophet.
3- The past of those who repented
Sometimes people repent of serious sins and become determined to lead a meaningful life as Allah wants. However, their old bad friends may keep bothering them and discouraging them from following the Way of Allah. They keep reminding those who repented of their sins claiming that Allah is not going to forgive them. Moreover, some "good" Muslim, instead of welcoming them sincerely, may look down on them as they see them unequal and unqualified for a change. We should understand that sin and forgiveness is something between the sinner and Allah alone. A person sinned against Allah, and Allah promised him/her forgiveness when he/she turns to Him in repentance. So we have no right to interfere into this relation at all.
4- Finding faults in others
The prophet taught us very clearly not to search for faults in others. Fault-finding may result in making sinners worse. Mu’awiyah said: I heard the prophet say: “Indeed, if you searched for people’s faults pryingly, you would corrupt them.” Moreover, trying to find faults in others will prompt them to find faults in us or even worse slander us. Abu Birzah al-Aslami narrated that the prophet said: “O people who believed by their tongues whereas Faith did not touch their hearts! Do not backbite Muslims and do not look for their faults. Whoever finds faults in others, Allah will find faults in him and expose him even in his home!”
Thinking badly of people usually leads to finding faults in them. That is why Allah said: “O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion as much [as possible]: for suspicion in some cases is a sin: And spy not on each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, ye would abhor it. But fear Allah: For Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.” ( 49:12).
People’s Inner Intentions
We should avoid judging people’s inner intentions for it is only Allah Who knows them. Judging people by the way they look is most probably deceiving. The prophet set the rule for us as he says: “I have not been ordered [by Allah] to search into the hearts of the people or cut open their bellies.” In a battlefield, it happened that Usamah ibn Zayd killed a man though he had declared his Shahadah, claiming that the man had announced it out of fear! Immediately the prophet reproached him “Did you tear his heart in order to find out whether it professed that or not?”
5- Things you know nothing about
Many people tend to act play Miss Know-It All or Mr. Know-It All. The Quran teaches: “Do not follow whatever you have no knowledge about; indeed, hearing, sight and heart—all of these you will be questioned about.” (17:36) Moreover, Mu’ath ibn Jabal reported the prophet as saying: “You are safe as long as you are silent. Yet when you talk, it will be counted for you or against you.”
6- Unpractical Questions
Involving yourself in unpractical questions that do not lead to anything good to be applied in your life is a waste of time and a sign of incomplete practice of Islam. It is said that half of knowledge is the right questions. The prophet used to direct his companions to ask the right questions you should be concerned with. One day a man came to the prophet asking: “When will be the Day of Judgment?” Eloquently enough, the prophet responded: “What did you prepare for it?”
7- Matters that, if revealed, may bother you
Avoid asking questions the answer of which may bother you. Allah said: “O believers, do not ask [questions] about things that once they are revealed to you will cause you trouble.” (5:101) Imam al-Bukharireported that the prophet addressed his companions asking them to ask questions. Abdullah ibn Huzafah As-Sahmi rose up and asked: “O prophet of Allah, who is my father? ‘Your father is Huzafah.’ When he returned to his mother, she reproached him very severely saying: “I have never seen a man more undutiful to his mother than you are to me. We lived in the pre-Islamic era. What if I committed sins like what people back then used to do, would you like to expose me in public?”