Reflection No. 201 on Q 49:12 – Avoiding Suspicion

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ
Yā ayyuhalladhīna āmanūj-tanibū kathīran minz-zanni inna ba‘dhaz-zanni ithm
O you who believe! Avoid most of suspicion, for surely suspicion in some cases is a sin.
(Sūratul Hujurāt, No. 49, Āyat 12)

This verse is part of a passage from Sūratul Hujurāt that talks about social relationships. One of the deadly threats to a good relationship is constant suspicion about the thoughts, intentions, and motivations of the other party. These negative thoughts creep up often, and sometimes are allowed to roam freely through the mind. Unless kept in check, they can destroy trust and goodwill in any relationship. It robs an individual of peace of mind, and deprives him of relationships that could be pleasant and fulfilling.

The suspicions and assumptions in the mind are planted by the Shaytān who does not wish to see believers having good relationships with another. Harmony between believers would strengthen them and cause their faith to grow – an unbearable prospect for Shaytān.  So he plants his eggs in their minds, as Imam Ali (a) says when he talks about the hypocrites:
They have made Satan the master of their affairs, and he has taken them as partners. He has laid eggs and hatched them in their bosoms. He creeps and crawls in their laps. He sees through their eyes, and speaks with their tongues. In this way he has led them to sinfulness and adorned for them foul things like the action of one whom Satan has made partner in his domain and speaks untruth through his tongue. (Sermon 7, Nahjul Balāgha)

To avoid the suspicions that are planted in the mind, one must seek refuge from God and immediately divert the mind to more noble thoughts. Imam Zaynul ‘Ābidīn (a) gives a good prescription in Du‘ā Makārimul Akhlāq in Sahīfa Sajjadiyya.
O God, make
the wishing, the suspicion, and the envy which Satan throws into my heart
– a remembrance of Your Mightiness,
– a reflection upon Your Power,
– and a devising against Your enemy!
(Du‘ā 20, passage 13)

Such noble thoughts about Divine Might, Power, etc. must replace suspicions that creep into the mind. We can also busy ourselves with reciting various recommended adhkār (plural of dhikr), thus depriving the Satan space in our minds. In a Hadith Amīrul Mu’minīn (a) advises: During every hardship, say, ‘There is no power or strength save in Allah, the High and the Great’ (Lā Hawla wa lā quwwata illā billāhil  ‘aliyil-‘azīm) and you will surmount it.(Bihar 77:270 quoted in Mizānul Hikmah)

Recite this verse when you start assuming things about people, thoughts that you know will sour the relationship. Make this verse your armour, and Imam al-Sajjād’s strategies your weapons, and see Satan slink back defeated.

Amīrul Mu’minīn Imam Ali (a), Nahjul Balāgha;
Imam Ali Zaynul ‘Ābidīn (a), Sahīfa Sajjādiyya,
Muhammadī Rayshahrī, Mizānul Hikmah.