Islam teaches us and emphasized on to give respect to other Muslims honour. Backbiting is a serious sin in Islam. A sin that, unfortunately, many Muslims have come to normalize in their day to day interactions. Backbiting is so widespread that they have become the topic of people’s meetings and an avenue for expressing their anger, misgivings, and jealousy. Backbiting is, however, one of the meanest manners and most serious crimes and sins. Allah says:
وَمِنْهُم مَّن يَلْمِزُكَ فِي الصَّدَقَاتِ فَإِنْ أُعْطُوا مِنْهَا رَضُوا وَإِن لَّمْ يُعْطَوْا مِنْهَا إِذَا هُمْ يَسْخَطُونَ
“And among them (is he) who criticizes you concerning the charities. Then if they are given from it, they are pleased; but if not they are given from it, then they (are) enraged.” (Surah At-Taubah 9:58)
Backbiting is to speak ill of a believer behind his back, including matters concerning his moralities, appearance. Those who indulge in backbiting are oblivious of the fact that they are only harming themselves. The act of backbiting is greatly condemned in the eyes of Allah. It is necessary to avoid being in conformity with the backbiters or listening to them, for the listener of backbiting is regarded as a partner in the sin. Allah says:
إِذْ تَلَقَّوْنَهُ بِأَلْسِنَتِكُمْ وَتَقُولُونَ بِأَفْوَاهِكُم مَّا لَيْسَ لَكُم بِهِ عِلْمٌ وَتَحْسَبُونَهُ هَيِّنًا وَهُوَ عِندَ اللَّهِ عَظِيمٌ
“When you received it with your tongues and you said with your mouths whatnot for you of it any knowledge, and you thought it (was) insignificant, while it (was) near Allah great.” (Surah An-Nur 24:15)
Many people may not be aware that they are falling into the sin of backbiting, because to them, they may just be innocently sharing information that they heard, or telling someone about another person’s wrongdoings that may or may not have affected them personally. If you hear a rumour about someone’s misfortune, strive for compassion rather than continuing the gossip. Remind others not to gossip, and if they don’t listen, walk away. Allah praised such action in the Quran: Allah says:
وَلَا تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولَٰئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْئُولًا
“Do not concern yourself with things about which you do not know. Verily, your hearing, sight, and heart — all of them will be called to account.” (Surah Al-Isra 17:36)
Islam is a religion of peace, love, and compassion. Lies, suspicion, backbiting, slander, and gossip are alien to Islam. They are considered amongst the most destructive of major sins. This is so because these sins sow enmity and discord among the Muslim Ummah (nation) and lead to its destruction. They cause hostilities between people of the same household, and between neighbours, friends, and relatives. Allah says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا أَن تُصِيبُوا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ
“O you who believe! If comes to you a wicked person with information, investigate, lest you harm a people in ignorance, then you become, over what you have done, regretful.” (Surah Al-Hujurat 49:6)
Islam demands that our relationship with mankind be one of sincerity and responsibility. It should be one where we have respect for the honour, reputation, and privacy of others. Islam teaches us that we are not only held accountable for our attitudes and actions, but also for anything over which we have control or influence in our society or the world around us. Allah says:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحِبُّونَ أَن تَشِيعَ الْفَاحِشَةُ فِي الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
“Indeed, those who like that (should) spread the immorality among those who believe, for them (is) a punishment painful in the world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows, while you (do) not know.” (Surah An-Nur, 24:19)
Backbiting is a graver sin than one can imagine; if only one understood the repercussions of engaging in backbiting, one would steer clear of it and actively work towards avoiding it. This is because, on the Day of Resurrection, both the wrongdoer and the wronged will stand before Allah, the Just Judge. Allah will then give the wronged person the good deeds of the person who wronged him by backbiting or other injustices.
Here are a few tips to help us keep away from backbiting and all that it entails:
- Fear Allah (SWT)
- Better to stay quiet than to backbite
- Make people realize the gravity of the sin
- Avoid places and people prone to backbiting
- We Need to Beware of the Slipping of Our Tongues
- Backbiting is Great Sins and Cannot be Treated with Indifference
- Backbiting is the foremost sin mentioned in Holy Quran and Hadith
- Satan Wishes that We Use Our Tongues to Create Conflict and Hatred
- Allah Teaches Us to Speak Out Against Slander and Try to Put a Stop to It
- We Should Guard Our Tongue against Sins and Use Our Limbs in Acts of Obedience
Take preemptive measures; avoid places and gatherings where you know people get together to discuss other people. Steer clear of people who are in the habit of gossiping and spreading false rumours/assumptions about those around them. Backbiting is a toxic phenomenon, which only festers negativity, jealousy, and envy in the hearts of men. Find people who are more like-minded and who do not depend on gossip to pass the time. Allah says:
وَلَوْلَا إِذْ سَمِعْتُمُوهُ قُلْتُم مَّا يَكُونُ لَنَا أَن نَّتَكَلَّمَ بِهَٰذَا سُبْحَانَكَ هَٰذَا بُهْتَانٌ عَظِيمٌ
.“And why, when you heard it, did you not say: ‘It is not for us to speak of this. Exalted are You, O Allah]; this is a great slander?” (Surat An-Nur 24:16)
Sometimes, we may have a legitimate reason for wanting to speak about another person’s wrongdoings, and these situations are mostly divided into the following:
- When reporting a matter to a judge, or someone in a position of authority
- To warn people about someone who openly commits sins or usurps peoples’ rights
- Complaining about something bad that has been done to you by another person
- Complain only about their wrongdoings that concern you, not the ones that you may have heard other people speak of.
- Speak with someone who is in a position to help you
- Speak factually, without embellishing the truth or dishonouring them further.
وَإِذَا سَمِعُوا اللَّغْوَ أَعْرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَقَالُوا لَنَا أَعْمَالُنَا وَلَكُمْ أَعْمَالُكُمْ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ لَا نَبْتَغِي الْجَاهِلِينَ
“And when they hear vain talk, they turn away from it and say, “For us our deeds and for you your deeds. Peace (be) on you; not we seek the ignorant.” (Surah Al-Qasas 28:55)
Many of us backbite and gossip without thinking. We think it is a minor matter, however, Allah reminds us to be careful, for even though we think we are doing something small, it is very large in the sight of Allah! Many people are so busy spreading the slander they hear that they do not even stop to consider whether it is true or not. Allah says:
وَقُل لِّعِبَادِي يَقُولُوا الَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ يَنزَغُ بَيْنَهُمْ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ كَانَ لِلْإِنسَانِ عَدُوًّا مُّبِينًا
“And tell My servants to say that which is best. Indeed, Satan induces [dissension] among them. Indeed, Satan is ever, to mankind, a clear enemy.” (Surah Al-Isra 17:53)
HOW TO AVOID BACKBITING?
Most of the time, we get dragged into gossip, or conversations that lead to gossip. It’s important to know how to get ourselves out of this situation, or what to do in such situations.
- Avoid People Who Backbite: “Bad company corrupts good character” It is so important to befriend people who have similar morals and values as yourself.
- Change the Bad to Good: Instead of talking badly about someone, try to say something positive about the individual.
- Avoid Places of Backbiting: At university, work, and even online, certain meeting places are used for backbiting. If you tend to get involved in backbiting in these locations, stop being there.
- Stop Asking Leading Questions: Avoid the use of questions that can lead to backbiting.
- It’s None Of Your Business: Oftentimes we get involved in conversations that are of no concern to us, we’re merely involved to kill time.
- Change The Topic: Sometimes the best thing to do is find something else to talk about.
- Stay Silent: Sometimes the best thing to do when you’re unsure of whether you’re backbiting or not is to remain silent.
- If you hear rumour or gossip about someone keep it on your own and also remind others not to gossip if they do so then walk away from there. “If they hear gossip, they walk away.” (Quran, 28:55)
- Try to avoid spying as it fuels the trading of secrets and misinformation which ultimately creates a climate of mistrust.
- Most important thing is to repent to Allah Almighty for all mistakes and also seek forgiveness for the person whom you hurt.
لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا
“Certainly, is for you in (the) Messenger (of) Allah an excellent example for (one) who has hope (in) Allah and the Day the Last, and remembers Allah much.” (Surah Al-Ahzab 33:21)
Islam teaches us that if people are being ridiculed or backbitten in our presence, we should defend their honour. If we neglect doing so, we risk depriving ourselves of the ever-needed help and mercy from Allah. Deriding people in their presence by making negative facial expressions or by hand gestures while they are unaware of is also a form of backbiting. Allah says:
الَّذِينَ يَلْمِزُونَ الْمُطَّوِّعِينَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ فِي الصَّدَقَاتِ وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَجِدُونَ إِلَّا جُهْدَهُمْ فَيَسْخَرُونَ مِنْهُمْ سَخِرَ اللَّهُ مِنْهُمْ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ
“Those who criticize the ones who give willingly of the believers concerning the charities, and those who not find except their effort, so they ridicule them, Allah will ridicule them, and for them (is) a punishment painful.” (Surah At-Taubah 9:79)
The evils of backbiting in Islam are deep and far-reaching as they cause nothing but enmity and suspicion between people, destroys ties of kinship and turn people against one another. To build a strong Ummah, we should do our best to honour the rights of our Muslim brothers by not backbiting them. May Allah guide us all towards the right path and protect us from the trials and punishments in this life and the next. Amen