Backbiting – A Major Sin
By Farooq Khan
قال الله تعالى
يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ …. لَا يَغۡتَب بَّعۡضُكُم بَعۡضًاۚ أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُڪُمۡ أَن يَأۡڪُلَ لَحۡمَ أَخِيهِ مَيۡتً۬ا فَكَرِهۡتُمُوهُۚ وَٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ۬
Allah swt says in Surah al-Hujrat (49:12) – ‘O you who believe ….. do not backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One Who forgives and accepts repentance, Most Merciful’.
Abu Huraira (ra) reported that Allah’s Messenger (saws) saying: ‘Do you know what is backbiting?’ The Companions said: Allah and His Messenger know best. Thereupon the Prophet said: ‘Backbiting implies you are talking about your brother in a manner which he does not like’. It was said to him (saws): ‘what is your opinion about this, that if I actually find (that failing) in my brother which I made a mention of?’ He (saws) said: ‘If (that failing) is actually found (in him) what you assert, you in fact have backbitten him, and if that is not in him, then it is a slander (i.e. false accusation)’. (Recorded by Imam Muslim)
Brothers in Islam: Backbiting (Gheebah) is a social evil. The above ayah prohibits it. In the definition of backbiting the phrase ‘behind his back’ or ‘in his absence’ appears. The above ayah sternly warns against disgracing a Muslim and compares it to eating the flesh of a human being.
This does not mean that it is permissible to say hurtful things in the presence of somebody. If the victim of disgrace is present before the offender, it is like eating the flesh of a living person, and the Qur’an has termed it as ‘Lamz’ which is prohibited in the preceding ayah of Surah al-Hujrat (ayah 11), as well as in
Surah al-Humazah (104:1).
وَيۡلٌ لِّـكُلِّ هُمَزَةٍ لُّمَزَةِ
‘Woe to every backbiter and mocker.’
Backbiting is most severely and harshly condemned. It is compared to the eating of the flesh of a dead person, thus bringing out the gravity of its unkindness and meanness. It is a malicious act and not an act of valour or bravery.
The wisdom of it lies in the fact that, if hurtful things are said to the face of someone, the person being present will be able to defend himself. However, for fear of defence not everybody will have the courage to utter hurtful things to the face of someone. So they backbite.
Backbiting is carried out where there is no one to defend the victim, and thus the meanest person would take the courage to backbite the greatest of men. The accusations, comments and attacks are not defended. Generally the words spread, and more and more people get involved which leads to major problems. This will affect individuals, families, societies, groups and nations.
Therefore, it is the duty of every Muslim to defend their brother or sister who is being accused if they can. If that is not possible, then they should at least abstain from listening to it, because listening to it wilfully and intentionally is like backbiting itself.
Maimun (ra) says that once he saw in a dream that there was a dead body of a person. A caller addressed him and said: “Eat this.” Maimun (ra) said: “O servant of Allah! Why should I eat this?” The caller replied: “Because you have been backbiting a certain slave.” Maimun (ra) said: “By Allah, I did not do that.” The caller replied: “Yes, you did: you listened to people backbiting your brother and remained silent as if you were in agreement with them.” After this dream, Maimun (ra) composed himself and he did not allow anyone else in his presence to backbite.
In a narration of Anas Ibn Malik (ra) relating to the Prophet’s (saws) experience of Mi’raj, the Messenger of Allah (saws) said: “When I was taken up to the heavens, I passed by people who had fingernails of copper and were scratching their faces and breasts violently. I asked Jibrael: ‘Who are these people?’ He replied: ‘They are those people who are being punished for backbiting their brothers and attacked their reputation.’ (Cited in Mazhari).
Imam Ahmad recorded that Jabir bin `Abdullah (ra) said, “We were with the Messenger of Allah when a rotten odour was carried by the wind. The Messenger of Allah (saws) said, do you know what this odour is? And he (saws) said, it is the odour of those who backbite people.”
Jabir (ra) also reported that the Prophet (saws) said: ‘Backbiting is worse than adultery’. The noble Companions enquired: ‘How so?’ The Messenger of Allah (saws) replied: ‘A person may commit fornication, repent for it and his sin is forgiven. But the sin of backbiting is not forgiven unless the affected party forgives.’ (Recorded by Tirmidhi).
This Hadith indicates that backbiting is not only a violation of human right but also the violation of the Divine command.
أيها المؤمنون: Look at the severity of the situation and the result of someone who goes after their Muslim brothers trying to expose their faults.
The Messenger of Allah (saws) said: ‘O you who have believed with (only) your tongues, faith has not yet entered your hearts! Do not backbite each other and do not search out their faults. Verily he who follows the private matters of his Muslim brother, Allah will follow his private matters. And whoever has his private matters followed by Allah, then Allah will expose them even if they were (hiding) in the belly of his home’ (Recorded by Abu Dawood).
Allah has commanded us to be merciful, loving, and forgiving to one another. And He has made this an exemplary quality in His Messenger (saws) so that we could follow his example.
Indeed, the Sahaba (ra) followed the example of Rasool Allah (saws) and were described by Allah swt in Surah al-Fath, 48:29 ‘Muhammad (saws) is the Messenger of Allah and those who are with him are strong against unbelievers, (but) compassionate-merciful amongst each other.’
Backbiting is one of the biggest and the most evil wreckers of compassion and brotherhood. Backbiting is Haram; it is one of the major sins and repentance must be sought for this sin. Imam Qurtubi (ra) said, “There is Ijmaa (a consensus) that backbiting is a major sin and that it is Fardh upon the person to do Tauba for it.”
Anas (ra) said that, the Prophet (saws) said “The expiation for backbiting is to ask forgiveness of Allah swt in the following words: O Allah, forgive my sins and the sins of my victim”. (Transmitted by Bayhaqi).
أيها المؤمنون: Following are some of the causes to backbite a person:
- Satisfying our anger
- To make or keep others as friends
- Playing around, joking and making fun of others
- Anger for the sake of Allah
- Having too much spare time
- Conceit and lack of awareness of our own faults
Uqbah Ibn Amer (ra) narrates that: I said, “O Messenger of Allah! What is salvation?” He (saws) said, “Hold your tongue! And cry over your (own) faults” (Recorded by Tirmidhi).
The mercy, love and brotherhood that the companions and the Messenger of Allah (saws) showed us in the following ways:
- Having Eeman in Allah and doing righteous deeds.
- Giving Salaam to those whom you know and those whom you do not.
- Giving gifts to your brothers and sisters. The prophet (saws) said: give gifts and you shall love one another (Recorded by Bukhari).
- Telling your brother that you love them for the sake of Allah. This is one of the ways to solidify the brotherhood when your brother knows that you love them.
Our beloved prophet (saws) showed us the example when he said to Muadh (ra): “O Muadh! I love you for the sake of Allah!” Muadh (ra) replied, “May He whom you have loved me for, love you too.”
In conclusion, my brothers in Islam if we can remember only one thing today, let it be the following words of our beloved prophet (saws).
He (saws) said: ‘Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him say good things or keep quiet!’ Take this as your motto until it carries you to the Jannah.
Let’s ask Allah swt forgiveness. ‘Verily, Allah is the One Who forgives and accepts repentance, and He is Most Merciful’.
Let’s pray to Allah swt to give us guidance and help us to avoid the major sin of backbiting and love each other for the sake of Allah swt. Ameen.