Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
What does it mean, ‘Leave that which does not concern you’? If I am interested in something, doesn’t it ‘concern me’?
The scholars explain that only things of true worldly or next benefit should concern one. Everything else is, in reality, a waste of time and should, therefore be left, even when not in itself legally disliked or impermissible.
As for the merely permissible, it is the way of those seeking the path of the next life to have high intentions in such matters, which make them rewarded acts.
We have been instructed by the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that, “From the excellence of a man’s Islam is to leave that which does not concern him.” [A sound (hasan) hadith, transmitted by Tirmidhi and others]
Some early Muslims said, “Whoever busies themselves with that which does not concern them misses out on much of that which does concern them.”
Mulla Ali al-Qari (Allah have mercy on him) mentioned in his expansive commentary on Mishkat al-Masabih:
“The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “From the excellence of a man’s Islam is leaving that which does not concern him.”
“That is, to leave that which is not important or befitting of him, whether in speech, actions, or thought. Thus, ‘the excellence of a man’s Islam’ is its perfection, such that one remains steadfast in the submission to the commands and prohibitions of Allah, and surrenders to His rulings in accordance to His destiny and decree (qada wa qadr). This is the sign of the heart having been expanded by the light of its Lord, and the descent of quietude (sakina) into the heart. The reality of ‘that which does not concern him’ is that which is not needed for a worldly or next-worldly necessity, and does not aid in attaining his Lord’s good pleasure, such that it is possible to live without it… This includes excess acts and unnecessary speech… This hadith may well be taken from Allah Most High’s saying, “And who shun all vain things.” (Qur’an, 23: 3 –changed from Pickthall’s ‘vain conversation’, for lagw is, as Baydawi explains: ‘that which does not concern them of speech and actions’)…
“And it has been related in a Prophetic hadith that, “The people of the Garden will not remorse except for moments that passed them by without remembering Allah.” (Tabarani from our master Mu`adh (may Allah be pleased with him)).
“al-Awza`i said, ‘`Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz wrote to us, ‘Whoever is frequent in remembering death is content with but a little of this world. And whoever counts his speech from his actions speaks little except in that which benefits him.’’ (Mirqat al-Mafatih, 8: 585 #4840, excerpt translated by Faraz Rabbani)
From Reliance of the Traveller:
r1.1 (Nawawi:) Every legally responsible person should refrain from saying anything except when there is a clear advantage to speaking. Whenever speaking and not speaking are of equal benefit, it is sunna to remain silent, for permissible speech easily leads to that which is unlawful or offensive, as actually happens much or even most of the time – and there is no substitute for safety.
The Prophet (Allah) bless him and give him peace) said,
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him say what is good or remain silent.”
This hadith, whose authenticity Bukhari and Muslim concur upon, is an explicit legal text indicating that a person should not speak unless what he intends to say is good, meaning that the benefit of it is apparent to him. Whenever one doubts that there is a clear advantage, one should not speak. Imam Shafi’i (Allah have mercy on him) said, “when one wishes to speak, one must first reflect, and if there is a clear interest to be served by speaking, one speaks, while if one doubts it, one remains silent until the advantage becomes apparent.”
1.2 The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace):
1. “O Messenger of Allah, which of the Muslims is best?” And he said, “He who the Muslims are safe from his tongue and his hand.”
2. “A servant unthinkingly says something pleasing to Allah Most High for which Allah raises him whole degrees. And a servant unthinkingly says something detested by Allah Most High for which he plunges into hell,”
3. “The excellence of a person’s Islam includes leaving what does not concern him [def: w54].”
4. “Do not speak much without mentioning Allah (dhikr), for too much speech without mentioning Allah hardens the heart, and the hard-hearted are the farthest of all people from Allah Most High.”
5. “All of a human being’s words count against him and not for him, except commanding the right, forbidding the wrong, and the mention of Allah Most High (dhikr).”
r1.3 The Master Abul Qasim Qushayri (Allah have mercy of him) said, “Safety lies in remaining silent, which should be one’s basis. Silence at the appropriate time is the mark of men, just as speech at the appropriate time is one of the finest qualities. I have heard Abu ‘Ali Daqqaq (Allah be well pleased with him) say, ‘He who is silent when something should be said is a tongue-less villain'” ((y102), 450-55).