How to stop backbiting and renew intentions | Living a better life: Part 4

22 Jan 2019

Spiritual Well-Being

 

Welcome to the final part in the Spiritual Well-Being section of the series where we're looking at how to stop backbiting, renewing intentions and seeking knowledge. Next week we'll recap the tips and challenges we've discussed, including my personal experiences of doing the challenges in the hopes that it motivates you to take part too. If you're not already a subscriber, you can sign up at the bottom of the page to receive next weeks article and other new blog posts straight to your inbox.

 

9. Stop backbiting

 

Talking about people behind their backs in a negative way isn't allowed in Islam, and arguing and talking about negativity should be avoided too. It's not always easy. In fact, it's pretty hard to avoid completely.

 

Believers, avoid making too many assumptions- some assumptions are sinful- and do not spy on one another or speak ill of people behind their backs: would any of you like to eat the flesh of your dead brother? No, you would hate it. So be mindful of God: God is ever relenting, most merciful. (49:12)

 

The fact Allah has told us not to do a thing should be enough for us to avoid it. When we are knowingly engaging in disobedience to our Lord, it necessarily effects our spirituality and spiritual well-being. There are other tangible harms of backbiting; not only can it cause disputes or hurt feelings for others, wallowing in gossip and negativity also influences our own thoughts of other things. Negativity breeds negativity and Allah has warned us from being miserly.

 

Worship God; join nothing with Him. Be good to your parents, to relatives, to orphans, to the needy, to neighbours near and far, to travellers in need, and to your slaves. God does not like arrogant, boastful people, who are miserly and order other people to be the same, hiding the bounty God has given them. We have prepared a humiliating torment for such ungrateful people. (Qur'an 4:36-37)

 

Remember, backbiting doesn't mean only lying about people or making fun of them, it means to talk about someone in a way they wouldn't like.

 

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: Do you know what is backbiting? They (the Companions) said: Allah and His Messenger know best. Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: Backbiting implies your talking about your brother in a manner which he does not like. It was said to him: What is your opinion about this that if I actually find (that failing) in my brother which I made a mention of? He said: If (that failing) is actually found (in him) what you assert, you in fact backbited him, and if that is not in him it is a slander. (Sahih Muslim)

 

 

How to stop backbiting

 

1. Move away (physically) from where the conversation is taking place

 

When you find yourself in an environment or conversation where backbiting is taking place, remove yourself from it.

 

2. Do not engage in the conversation: stay quiet

 

If you can move away physically then do so, but at the very least, do not engage in the conversation. If an explanation is warranted, remind your brothers and sisters in Islam of the verses of Qur'an and hadith about backbiting.

 

Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should talk what is good or keep quiet, and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should not hurt (or insult) his neighbour; and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should entertain his guest generously." (Sahih Bukhari)

 

3. Maintain proper etiquette in different spaces

 

Be weary of how we can fall into backbiting offline and online. Take the discourse around Muslim influencers removing their hijab as an example - often it includes personal attacks under the guise of defending Islam, but we can address these issues with the same passion - if it is genuine - without backbiting our brothers and sisters.

 

Other spaces could be work environments where you're in the company of non-Muslims, or engaging in political or popular debates.

 

4. Talk about issues, not people

 

Linking on from the previous point, take care to recognise backbiting when it's veiled in popular discourse. Some issues are important and impact our lives and the lives of others and are worthy of discussion, but often these discussions reach a point of no benefit and include attacks on individuals.

 

10. Renew intentions to fulfil what is asked of you

 

Sometimes we lose our way and become lazy with our obligations. And its returning to our obligations will put us back on track. The symptom is the remedy. - @amodestargument on Twitter

 

Renewing our intentions are a constant necessity. We make intentions for every salah, when making wudhu or ghusl, when we fast and when differing between paying zakat or giving sadaqah - intention, niyyah is critical to worship.

 

Fulfilling our obligations as Muslims begins with making intentions. This could include establishing proper hijab or leaving haraam and makruh activities. For every day that we remain in sin, it becomes easier to continue in sin. The guilt, the deep regret that we feel when we miss a prayer lessens with each prayer we miss. Renew your intentions to fulfil your obligations, and may Allah make it easier for you to do so, Aameen.

 

If you don't observe hijab (both men and women), then truly intend to fulfil this obligation and determine actual steps to help you achieve this. You can read more about hijab here.

 

If you drink alcohol or consume other forbidden things, seek help if necessary to cut it out completely. 

 

If you aren't fulfilling the rights of people you are responsible for - ask yourself - why? What is stopping you? Identify the barriers and make changes to overcome them. Sometimes this means sacrifice.

 

Of course, at the very least the fardh of salah should be fulfilled. We spoke about the importance of prayer in Part 1 of the series.

 

11. Actively seek to build your knowledge and understanding

 

You can't disconnect 'ilm from ibada. You can't disconnect knowledge from worship - Sheikh Omar Suleiman

 

Knowledge is essential to practising our faith. It's fardh on us as individuals to learn about our personal acts of worship; some knowledge like how to pray for example is obligatory for us to learn.

 

Depending on our environment and circumstances; family, finances, and other things, building advanced (or even basic) Islamic knowledge and understanding can be quite challenging. Online courses make learning pretty accessible - but they may not always be the most reliable route. Short courses tend to be either at night - difficult for those with children to attend, or during a time when people are at work or committed to other studies. And rarely do we have capacity to commit to full time Islamic studies - as much as we may want to. 

 

Last year we wrote about why seeking knowledge in Islam is so vital with tips and considerations for finding the right route, I encourage you to read that post here.

 

Facilitate things to people (concerning religious knowledge) and do not make it hard for them and give them good tidings and do not make them run away (from Islam). (Sahih Bukhari)

 

Watch out for next weeks spiritual well-being recap before we start talking about physical well-being, and don't forget to try out the new challenges below. Remember you can like our Facebook page for more!

 

Challenges

 

1. Try out our tips to avoid and stop backbiting

 

2. Define one Islamic obligation you know you aren't fulfilling as well as you could, and make intentions and take steps to fulfil it

 

2. Read this post about seeking knowledge in Islam, and source a local course (short-term or long-term, accredited or not) or alternatively access something like Bayyinah TV and create a disciplined schedule for learning

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