How to say "No"

>> Thursday, November 15, 2012

I need help. I'm quite shy. I hardly ever say my opinion to others and I find it almost impossible to say no to people. My best friend says I need to start saying no so that people will stop taking advantage of me. But I don't know how to do that. And I feel incredibly guilty if I even try to say no. Is there anything about this from an Islamic point of view?

Assalamualaikum wa Rahmatulahi wa Barakatu my dearest sister in Islam,

Firstly, I just wanted to say, Masha’Allah. It is just so beautiful that you have such a kind heart and that you always want to help people out in any way you can! May Allah continue to bless your heart with purity and kindness and grant you all that you need in this dunya and the Akhirah Ameen!

To proceed with your question and concern,

Being shy is a true characteristic of a believing slave.

Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar (Radiya Allah Anhoo): The Prophet (sallahu Alyhee wa salam) passed by a man who was admonishing his brother regarding Haya and was saying, "You are very shy, and I am afraid that might harm you." On that, Allah's Apostle said, "Leave him, for Haya is (a part) of Faith." (Bukhari).

There is nothing wrong with being shy and keeping your thoughts to yourself is a quality that is very admirable. If only half of the world kept their own opinions to themselves then we would not have so many problems! I encourage you to keep adopting the beautiful attribute of shyness and only speak out when it is necessary to do so. 

That being said, saying “no” to people is a whole different issue. It depends on what exactly you can’t say “no” to and who you can’t say “no” to. If you find it difficult to turn down strangers, say, at a store in the mall, or someone who is asking you to do something haram, then this could pose as a hindrance to yourself and potentially your deen.

The first is remembering you’re intentions. Why are you doing these things?  If you are helping them for the sake of Allah and to please Him and Him alone, then there is no reason you should say “no” to their request. If you are agreeing to help someone by doing something that is not within the Islamic guidelines (i.e.- backbite, gang up on people, lie, or cheat) then you must say “no”. Remember you do not owe these people anything and you don’t want to accumulate sins because of their request.

So how do we say “no” to these demands and requests that can cause us harm? Well, the first thing is reminding ourselves to be polite at all times and to carry good manners. We should also assess the situation and remind ourselves that we are not rejecting them personally but just turning down a request.

Learning to say “no” firmly and with confidence takes practice and you can start with turning yourself down (not literally), but you can practice in the mirror. Looking at yourself in the eye and saying “no” will surely help you build confidence in saying “no” when the time comes.

 After you have mastered this first step, your second step is to practice with your best friend and ask her to give you scenarios that you will say “no” to and also your reasons for saying “no”. Remember with your reasons, you want to be honest, direct and to the point. The more we pause and drag on our answer, the more likely we will seem uncertain and lacking confidence with our answer “no”.

  There are several ways of saying “no” if you don’t feel comfortable with a one word answer. You may practice saying: “I apologize but I am unable to do that because (insert reason i.e- against Allah’s commands , you are busy etc)..” or “ I’m currently working on my own homework now and I won’t be able to find time to share my answers” and also “ I’m sorry but I fear Allah and I am afraid that if I say yes and follow through with those plans, I will also fall into sin.”

 These are just a few examples just to give you a general idea of different alternative sentences you may use.  Always seem sincerely apologetic and show compassion that you are unable to respond to their requests but at the same time state your reason why you can’t assist them.

Secondly, if people are asking you to help them with something you can easily earn as AJR (reward) from Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala then I highly encourage you to be patient and help them with their request. There is a difference between saying “no” to something that may harm us and consider as a “waste of time” and saying “no” to something that would be considered a good deed in the sight of Allah. The Prophet sallalahu aleyhi wasselam never refused anyone when it came to charity and the importance of charity is mentioned several times in the Qur’an and aHadith.
On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), who said:
"Allah (mighty and sublime be He) said:'Spend (on charity), O son of Adam, and I shall spend on you.'"[Bukhari (also by Muslim).]

The Prophet also said: "Every act of goodness is charity." - Sahih Muslim, Hadith 496

"They ask you (O Muhammad) what they should spend in charity. Say: 'Whatever you spend with a good heart, give it to parents, relatives, orphans, the helpless, and travellers in need. Whatever good you do, God is aware of it.'" - The Holy Quran, 2:215

“Help one another in acts of piety and righteousness. And do not assist each other in acts of sinfulness and transgression. And be aware of Allah. Verily, Allah is severe in punishment” (al-Maaidah:2)

So there is no problem in not saying “no” when you are doing something for the sake of Allah. If your best friend is saying that you are saying “yes” too much to deeds that could be considered good in the sight of Allah, then I encourage you to share this Hadith with your friends.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said, “He who relieves the hardship of a believer in this world, Allah will relieve his hardship on the Day of Judgment; he who makes easy what is difficult, Allah will make it easy for him in the world and the Hereafter; he who conceals the faults of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in the world and the Hereafter; Allah helps the servant so long as he helps his brother; he who travels a path in search of knowledge, Allah will make easy a path to Paradise; a people do not gather together in the houses of Allah, reciting the Book of Allah and studying together, except that tranquility will descend upon them, mercy will cover them, angels will surround them, and Allah will mention them to those with Him; and he who is slow to good deeds will not be hastened by his lineage.”[Sahih Muslim, Book 35, Number 6518]
This beautiful Hadith pretty much explains the benefits of helping others for the sake of Allah. Encourage your friends to do good deeds with you and earn sadaqah and the pleasure of Allah together. Saying “no” to doing haram is one thing, and insha’Allah the points provided in the above will be of value to you, but saying “no” to potentially good deeds that you may reap reward for and bank in for your Akhirah is not something that is beneficial. The greatest thing about helping others is that you will be earning the pleasure of Allah and every time we do something to please Allah and Him alone, there will be a checkmark on our list of good deeds which will insha’Allah save us from the torments of the Hellfire.

 But we do want to point out though that if you are being used and you are aware of that, you should not let that continue because the Messenger of Allah was reported as saying what could mean:

" A Muslim is not stung from the same  whole twice” (1). Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah).

(You can read more about that here:,%20Adil%20Salahi.htm)
All in all, remember not to feel guilty the next time you say “no” if it is something that will harm you and your religion, you are doing the right thing by turning down those kinds of requests and insha’Allah you will actually get reward and Allah’s pleasure by saying “no.” If someone is asking for your help , for example, your family members and your neighbors, then the best thing to do is to continue to help them with their request and also encourage your friends to join you and do the same with their friends and family. 
Nothing is better than saying “yes” to earning the pleasure of Allah and Him alone! J

7 wonderful sprinkely thoughts:

Layyinul Harir November 16, 2012 at 6:10 AM  

thank you for the answer..I just have the same situation with her..

khadijah November 16, 2012 at 6:39 AM  

assalamualaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatu
insha'Allah it will help you and you can benefit from it !


Anonymous,  November 17, 2012 at 3:51 AM  

Assalamo alaikum!
LOL, I was wondering if it's okay to change your intention AFTER you've started something.
The thing is: I sometimes compulsively (or grudgingly) say 'yes' to a friend's request, is it okay for me to tell myself that I'm going to do it for Allah's sake, afterwards?

khadijah November 17, 2012 at 8:35 AM  

assalamaualaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatu !
thanks for your question dear sis!!
I am not a scholar or a sheikh but I do know that when we do something, we should always first and foremost do it for the sake of Allah otherwise it will be considered as a form of shirk and it will be renounced!
Hadith Qudsi 5:
On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: Allah (glorified and exalted be He) said:
I am so self-sufficient that I am in no need of having an associate. Thus he who does an action for someone else's sake as well as Mine will have that action renounced by Me to him whom he associated with Me.It was related by Muslim (also by Ibn Majah).
So as long as you remember that the actions you do are for the pleasure of Allah and not the people then insha'Allah it will be excepted (even after the fact that you remembered after you had already said yes to someone!) & of course Allah knows best! hope that helps!
One Chinese Auntie!

Aziza November 18, 2012 at 5:52 PM  

JazakAllah Khair dearest Khadijah, this was very helpful for me as I sometimes face the similar issue of not wanting to hurt people's feelings, but at the same time fearing what my Lord will think of me. This was very empowering SubhanAllah and InshaAllah I will keep your tips in mind. :)

Anonymous,  November 18, 2012 at 10:39 PM  


Assalamu'alaikum, please sisters listen to this audio. Insha'Allah It will help to understand our problems better.

Anonymous,  December 12, 2012 at 12:22 PM  

This is just beautiful ma sha Allah. Exactly my problem back then, but alhamdulillah I'm gradually learning to overcome saying YES against Allah's wishes i.e learning to say NO maybe not yet unequivocally though. The advices help a lot and encourage me to even embrace my shy attitude sometines. JazakAllah khair 4 dis sister. Its incredible

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Asalamu aialkum!
Well, what do you think? You know, you're part of the team, as well. Please help a sister out and share your own advice/experiences/etc. One for all and all for one =)
P.S. I reserve the right to remove any disrespectful comment ;)

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