Misconceptions Of Backbiting
By Fahima Mohamood
We all remember a time we backbit another Muslim. We have all gossiped about a Muslim or non-Muslim at a certain time in our lives. It was probably your friend or another sister that did something outrageous. As Muslims, we know we shouldn’t backbite.
The Quran states: “O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, indeed some suspicions are sins. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear Allah, verily, Allah is the one who accepts repentance, is Most Merciful.” [Quran 49: 12]
Despite this ayat and many hadiths about backbiting, many Muslims today are unaware of what is considered backbiting.
Backbiting was also a problem during the Prophet Muhammad’s(peace be upon him) time. Abu Huraira (radiAllahu anhu) reported Allah’s messenger(peace be upon him) as saying: Do you know what is backbiting? They (the companions) said: Allah and His Messenger know best. There upon he (the Holy Prophet) said: Backbiting implies you’re talking about your brother in a manner which he does not like. It was said to him: What is your opinion about this that if I actually find (that failing) in my brother which I made a mention of? He 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 it is a slander.
Many people who backbite use the excuse that it is true. Regardless of whether it is true or not, it is indeed backbiting and is punishable by Allah. Most importantly, Allah subhaana wa taa’la will be displeased with you. The punishment of backbiting is severe as the prophet(sal allahu alayhi wa saalam) described: “On the night of Miraj, I passed by some people who had metal hooks in their hands and were clawing at their faces and their necks with them. I asked Gabriel ‘Who were these people?’ He said ‘These are the people who eat the flesh of human beings and disgrace them’.
“We were just joking” is another excuse backbiters use to minimize their wrongdoings. Whether you are making fun of the way someone talks or looks, you are insulting Allah’s creation. Allah subhaana wa taa’la created every aspect of a human being. All of the languages and dialects we speak, all of the cultures that exist and all of the characteristics that we have are created because of Allah subhaana wa taa’la. In the Quran it states “O you who believe. Let not some men laugh at others, it may be that they are better than you. Nor let some women laugh at others it may be that they are better than you. Nor abuse each other, nor be sarcastic to each other by using offensive nicknames…” [Quran 49:11]
Of course, there are times when it is permissible to backbite. If someone you know is getting married, it is okay for you to investigate or tell them about their potential suitor. Also if you are in court, it is permissible to speak about the person you are asked about. In these situations, the intent is to seek truth or justice. In our own personal situations, we need to ask ourselves what our intention is and whether this will help us to be closer to Allah subhaana wa taa’la.
Backbiting is no small sin and should be taken seriously. We shouldn’t treat it with indifference because it is a major sin. As Allah warns us, “Behold, you received it on your tongues, and said out of your mouths things which you had no knowledge; and you thought it to be a light matter, while it was most serious in the sight of God” [Quran 24:1 5]
We will also be held accountable for hearing gossip and slander. We will also be accountable for not stopping the backbiting. As the Quran states, “And why did you not, when you heard it, say “It is not right of us to speak of this: Glory to God, this is a most serious slander”. [Quran 24:16]
We should all remind our fellow Muslims the punishment of backbiting and follow the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah sal allahu alayhi wa saalam who said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last day, let him either speak good or keep silent.”