Six Secrets to Saying "No"

Say NOIt’s a simple known fact that if we are overwhelmed with too many commitments we will never be productive. Life management will be very poor, spreading you in too many directions. The dunya will begin to control us and we will lose track of our time, value and space. When we were young, one of the first word we learnt to say was “No”.

However as we grow older we begin to lose our self-confidence/esteem and begin to say “Yes” instead to all requests. We look like the nice person and person-pleaser. In the meantime our important goals and commitments are put on the back burner. We have lost the concept and are generally scared to say no to others out of fear of rejection. This impacts our ability to make decisions, as we feel it may jeopardise relationships. We should never lose fact or sight of our purpose in this world. It all begins with managing ourselves and self accountability. As Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) reminds us: “If you have your own schedule and set of priorities you are well in control, and know what other commitments you will be able to accommodate.”

So, the first person you need to say ‘no’ to is yourself. Say no to kids, spouses, family and work colleagues in a nice firm gentle way. After all, saying no is really about how much you value your time and space. As Allah tells us in Surah Al-Asr, a productive Muslim has to use their time wisely.

For example: what happens when you take a kid to a shopping centre? We know they will always find something they would like to have. Is it wise to continuously say yes and give in to every request? Okay – you may think it might avoid the tantrums and the screaming in the short run. However doing so over a long period of time would result in a child who is spoilt and undisciplined.

Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said something beautiful, what translates as: “I cannot be deceived, even by my own self, hence why the first being you say no to is yourself.” Ask yourself: do you find it difficult to say no since you have built up a good relationship with someone? At work do you stay behind working long hours to cover work that you were unable to complete, because you were busy attending to everyone else’s requests? If that is the case, then your family and friends suffer as a direct consequence of your lack of ability to say no.

Saying no is your prerogative to staying productive and minimising stress and frustration. I know you like to appear indispensable and helpful to others though let’s make that commitment today to start saying ‘no’ to the unimportant things in life and ‘yes’ to things that are most important to us.

Here are six simple practical solutions on how to say “No”:

1. Say No to Yourself

The first person you say no to is yourself. The most difficult person you will have to deal with is you. It’s time to say “No” to you in order to realise that failure to accept another persons’ request in order to achieve your primary goals and fulfil your duties is at times necessary.

2. Value your Time

Know your commitments and how valuable/precious time is. When someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply can or cannot do it. After evaluating your current workload and commitments and decide that you cannot, gently tell them that you have a full plate and aren’t able to help right now. You need to be polite but firm about guarding your time.

3. Plan Ahead

Planning brings order to your life in two ways: first, it tells you how to get from where you are to where you want to be; secondly, it identifies the required tasks and resources to get you there. Planning is the key to managing events in your life.

4. Prioritise Commitments

Consider your goals and schedules before agreeing to take on additional work. Prioritising commitments will ensure that you spend your time and energy on those that are truly important to you. Even if you do have some extra time (which is rare), is this new commitment really worth your time? Personally for myself I know that more commitments means less time with my kids, who are more important to me.

5. Say “No” to Your Boss

Yes – sometimes even the highest in authority have to be told No! At times we feel that we have to say yes to our boss in order to protect our professional repute. However your boss is also human, so let him/her know that by taking on extra commitments your productivity is affected and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists to re-prioritize the projects or tasks, kindly explain that there’s only so much you can take on.

6. Get Back to Focus on Yourself

When your asked to do something for someone else, instead of providing an answer on the spot it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them than to impulsively make a promise and fail to deliver. This will allow you time for consideration and checking your commitments and priorities.

Also, this isn’t an excuse to say ‘No’ to those we are obligated to serve such as our parents in their time of need. If you are going to say no to your family, friends and colleagues always give them a reason why you have to refuse (depending on the situation). It helps others respect your decision and understand where you are coming from. This is crucial to maintaining and having a strong relationship.

”No” is the New ‘Yes’

People will appreciate you much more once you can give them your undivided attention if you said “No” to other requests. Your home life will be better and inshaAllah your career will soar! You can focus on doing things you love, instead of always focusing on obligations. If you have never said no, here is a quick exercise I use with my clients. Start off by practicing saying no quietly, and then gradually increase the intensity till you are saying no aloud. Introduce some are gestures to push away what is no longer acceptable to you. Then begin to decrease the intensity of the volume till it’s almost a whisper. You should now be able to say “No” authoritatively, confidently and quietly.

Share thoughts below on how saying “No” helps you in your quest for productivity!


1. Abu Guddah, A. A. (2004). The Value of Time, Awakening UK.
Al Jersaisy, K. (2002). Time Management. King Fahd National Library.
2. Chua, C. (2010). ZenHabits. Retrieved from zenhabits
3. Forster, M. (2000). get everything done and still have time to play. London: CPIBok Marque.
4. McDermott, I., & Shrcore, I. (2007). Manage Yourself Manage Your Life. Great Britain: Piatkus.

About the Author:

Khafayah Abdulsalam is a proud single Mum of four children aged between 8-19 years old. She empathizes with issues other mothers face especially on family management and juggling the joys of motherhood. Over the last few years, she has successfully coached mothers using Islamic principles to take them through the journey of motherhood.
Her primary profession is motherhood, Khafayah also works full-time as a Payroll Manager. She is a certified Mommy coach trained by Sheikh Muhammad Alshareef and a NLP practitioner. Khafayah recently obtained a Masters in Business and Payroll Management. You can follow her on Facebook and visit her new

Like this article?
Get Latest Productivity Tips extracted from Quran & Sunnah:
Get our exclusive newsletter with practical tips, insights & productivity tools designed in accordance with the Qur'an & Sunnah to beat procrastination, kill distraction & overcome the worldly challenges

10 thoughts on “Six Secrets to Saying "No"

  1. it remember me how much time i had losed when i couldn’t say no, thanks you for this benefical subject, that i can summarise in ” have a plan, then you’ll know if you can say “yes” or “no” for other commitements”

  2. Jazakallahukhairan, excellent article, NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, Just had to write that lol, usually i just say sorry bro i cant, and even if they start persuading me and say its only 20mins, i nod my head write and left, and that’s it. Back to my list of priorities

  3. Please help me on this issue that is directly related to this topic: I graduated in last July from college. I couldn’t find a job; I worked in part time job to pay my bills. During that time, I felt responsiblity to help in the dawah at our mosque. I decided to join a non-profit dawah organiztion as a volunteer. I decided to go to Grad school. Its in Science and not close to daawah work. I have to do research while write a thesis. Should I say no to the dawah activities and focus on my family, school and work? I thought about paying a monthly donation out of the research job since that might be more effective. But again, I feel bad since I made the commitment for the rest of this year. Jazakum Allah Khar and if know a scholar who talked about this please point it out.

    1. Renegotiating your commitment is a natural part of life but it’s important that you do renegotiate them and not leave yourself indecisive about what to do next. My suggestion is to think long-term, what would be most beneficial for you and the organization in the long term? If you’re a normal volunteer, I’m sure they can train and find someone else. Having said that, being active in the community is also important, so you need to find the balance between focussing on your studies/work/family but volunteering from time to time to the dawah organisation and being “socially” productive. Hope this helps.

  4. Pingback: Warum es so wichtig ist „Nein!“ zu sagen | 1 islamische Ummah
  5. Pingback: Saying NO
  6. I feel like im letting alot of people down especially they have high expectations of me. The problem is not with being over burdened with the work load but because it goes against my beliefs (ie islamic beliefs). Ive said yes to this commitment (smth to do with music) earlier because i didnt really think much about it even when i already know it goes against my beliefs, plus it was something i enjoyed doing previously so i wanted to see how it goes. But now i know that i shouldn’t participate in such activities anymore.

    How do i really explain to them when im already halfway preparing for this upcoming event? Im so stressed thinking about it and ppl have helped me alot. Im a people pleaser tbh (why i couldn’t say no in the first place)

    Should i just suck it up and get it over done with this event then quit? (Which is in like 6 more months) or should i just call it quits now?

    Any advice will be much appreciated! Thank you!

    1. Dear ‘Just A Really Shy Awkward People Pleaser’ :),

      Assalaamu alaikum!

      Please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in responding to you. I hope it’s not too late to share our advice.

      I know what it feels like to be in that situation and I personally know how hard it is to say no. It’s particularly harder to do so when you’re in the middle of it all and people are relying on you.

      However, when the reason why you’d like to say no stems from your beliefs/faith, I would advise you to follow your beliefs. If you need to do your research first, consult a scholar, etc., do so and then take action.

      Yes, you’re likely to end up disappointing people, and it will be hard. Yet, allow the fact that what you’re doing is pleasing Allah (in sha Allah) be the inspiration for you.

      “Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds – the Most Merciful will appoint for them affection” [Qur’an, Surah Maryam (19): Verse 96]. (

      The commentators of the Qur’an say that, if you draw your heart closer to Allah, then Allah will draw the hearts of the believers closer to you.

      One saying goes, “If you displease Allah by pleasing the creation, then Allah will be displeased with you and will make the creation also displeased with you and if you please Allah by displeasing the creation, then Allah will be pleased with you and will also make the creation pleased with you.”

      And another: “If you sacrifice something for the sake of Allah, He will replace it with something you couldn’t even imagine having.” — Shaykh Abdul Jabbar

      So make lots of dua for Allah to help you, to make the situation easy for you, to grant you the tawfeeq to do the right thing, and to guide you to something better. May you truly attain that! Ameen.

      I also wanted to share a particular dua I recently learned that would be relevant for you, in sha Allah:

      “Allahumma alhimni rushdi wa a’idhni min sharri nafsi” (O Allah! Inspire in me guidance and deliver/save me from the evils within myself.) [Jami’ at-Tirmidhi] (

      This dua really gives me the needed consolation when I encounter situations clashing with my beliefs such as the one you’re facing.

      I truly hope this helps!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>