Prohibition of two Holding Secret Counsel to the Exclusion of Conversing together a Third
Allah, the Exalted, says:
"Secret counsels (conspiracies) are only from Shaitan (Satan).'' (58:10)
1598. Ibn `Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) said: the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "In the presence of three people, two should not hold secret counsel, to the exclusion of the third.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
In Abu Dawud, Abu Salih related: I asked Ibn `Umar: "What if there are four people.'' He said, "There is no harm in that.''
Malik reported in Al-Muwatta that `Abdullah bin Dinar related: Ibn `Umar and I were together in Khalid bin `Uqbah's house which was situated in the market place. A man came to consult Ibn `Umar. None besides me was present. Ibn `Umar called another man in and we became four and said to me and the man he had called: Move away a bit because I have heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) saying, "The two people should not hold secret counsel together excluding the third.''
Commentary: This Hadith teaches us certain etiquettes of society. Ibn `Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) called the fourth person so that he (Ibn `Umar) could hear the conversation of the man who wanted to speak to him in isolation. He asked the other two to move to a distance so that they could not overhear what the person in question wanted to say to him. Thus, we learn that in the presence of more than one person, two can speak to each other in confidence. If there are four people, three of them are not permitted to speak in confidence leaving the fourth alone. Moreover, this prohibition is for lawful matters only because in unlawful matters such private conversation is altogether forbidden, even if there is no third person. The Noble Qur'an ordains:
"O you who believe! When you hold secret counsel, do it not for sin and wrong and disobedience to the Messenger, but do it for righteousness and self-restraint; and fear Allah, to Whom you shall be brought back.'' (V.58:9)
1599. Ibn Mas`ud (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "When three of you are together, two of you must not converse privately ignoring the third till the number increases, lest the third should be grieved.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
Commentary: This Hadith tells us that holding private counsel has been prohibited for the reason that it hurts the feelings of the Muslim who is ignored; and to hurt the feelings of a Muslim is a great sin indeed. Allah says: "And those who annoy believing men and women undeservedly, bear on themselves the crime of slander and plain sin.'' (33:58) Whispering of the two is permissible when all the three mix up in a crowd. Then the two can speak to each other in confidence.