Backbiting

BEWARE OF BACKBITING AND GOSSIPPING
By Imâm al-Madîna al-Munawarrah ‘Alî Abd-ur-Rahmân al-Hudhaifî

Jumaadath-Thaaniyah 5, 1422 (August 24, 2001)

http://www.islaam.net/main/display.php?id=397&category=23

All praise is due to Allah. May peace and blessings be upon the Prophet, his household and companions.
Fellow Muslims!

“Fear Allah and obey Him. Be afraid of the Day when you shall be brought back to Allah. Then every person shall be paid what he earned; and they shall not be dealt with unjustly” (Al-Baqarah 2: 281)

Brothers in Faith! Major sins are indeed the cause for all misery, evil and torment in this world and the hereafter. And the worst of all sins are those that are greatest in harm and danger. Among the destructive major sins are backbiting and slandering. These two sins were forbidden by Allah through His Prophet because they sow enmity, evils and discord among people and lead to destruction. They make their perpetrator regret when regret will be of no avail. They cause hostilities between people of the same household and between neighbours and relatives. They can decrease in good deeds and increase in evil ones and lead to dishonour and ignominy.

Backbiting and slandering are shame and disgrace. Their perpetrator is detested and he shall not have a noble death. Allah forbids these acts in His Book when He says,

“O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, in deeds some suspicions are sins. And spy not neither 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 accepts repentance, Most Merciful” (Al-Hujuraat 49: 12)

This verse strongly forbids backbiting for Allah likens the backbiter to one who eats the flesh of his dead brother. If he would hate eating the flesh of his brother, he should also hate to eat his flesh while he is alive by backbiting and slandering him.

When one reflects deeply over this assimilation it will be enough to keep one away from backbiting.
Aboo Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet said,

“Do you know what backbiting is?” They said, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He then said, “It is to say something about your brother that he would dislike.” Someone asked him, “But what if what I say is true?” The Messenger of Allah said, “If what you say about him is true, you are backbiting him, but if it is not true then you have slandered him.” (Muslim)

Aboo Bakr narrated that the Prophet said in Mina on the day of slaughtering (10th day of Dhul-Hijjah),

“Verily, your blood, property and honour have become sacred to one another as the sacredness of this day of yours in this month of yours and in this city of yours. Indeed, have I conveyed the Message?” (Al-Bukharee and Muslim)

Therefore, guard your tongue, fellow Muslims, from this debasing sin, for whoever guards his tongue from sins and uses his limbs in acts of obedience to Allah has prospered. Sahl ibn Sa’d narrated that the Messenger of Allah said

, “Who protects his tongue from unlawful utterances and his private parts from illegal sexual intercourse, I shall guarantee him entrance into Paradise.” (Bukharee and Muslim)

Aboo Moosa Al-Ash’aree said

, “I asked the Messenger of Allah: Who is the best Muslim? The Messenger of Allah replied, “He is the one from whom Muslims are safe from the evil of his tongue and hands.” (Muslim)

Dear Muslims! Beware of slipping of your tongues and do not give it free hand to wreak havoc on you. For free tongue destroys its owner and causes him calamities and evils.

Aboo Sa’eed Al-Khudree narrated that the Messenger of Allah said,

“When man wakes up in the morning each day, all parts of the body warn the tongue saying, ‘Fear Allah as regards us for we are at your mercy; if you are upright, we will be upright and if you are crooked, we become crooked.’” (At-Tirmidhee)

Mu’aadh ibn Jabal said,

“I said: O Messenger of Allah tell me of a deed that will make me enter Paradise and keep me away from the Fire. The Prophet said, ‘You have asked of a great matter but it is easy for whosoever Allah makes it easy. You should worship Allah without associating anything with Him, perform Salaah, pay Zakaah (charity), fast during the month of Ramadaan and perform pilgrimage if you are able to.’ He said further, ‘Should I show you the gateways to good? Fasting is a shield (from evils), charity extinguishes sins as water extinguishes fire and praying in the middle of the night.’ He then recited this verse, ‘Their sides forsake their beds to invoke their Lord in fear and hope and they spend (charity in Allah’s cause) out of what We have bestowed them. No person knows what is kept hidden for them of joy as a reward for what they used to do.’ (As-Sajdah 32: 16-17) The Messenger of Allah then said, ‘Should I tell you the head of the matter, its pillar and its peak?’ I said: Yes O Messenger of Allah. He then said, ‘The head of the matter is Islam, its pillar is Salaah (prayer) and its peak is Jihaad in the way of Allah.’ He then asked, ‘Should I tell you of the foundation of all that?’ I said: Yes O Messenger of Allah. He then took hold of his tongue and said, ‘Hold back this.’ I said: O Messenger of Allah, are we going to be held responsible for what we utter? He said, ‘May your mother be bereaved of you[1] does anything cast people into the Fire on their faces except what their tongues have uttered?’” (At-Tirmdhee)

Anas narrated that the Messenger of Allah said,

“When I was ascended to heaven, I passed by a people who had copper nails with which they scratched their faces and chests, and I said, ‘O Jibreel, who are these?’ He said, ‘These are those who used to eat other people’s flesh and attack their honour.’” (Aboo Dawood)

Therefore do not treat the issue of backbiting with indifference because it is a great sin. Allah says, “

You considered it a little thing, while with Allah it was very great.” (An-Noor 24: 15)

Aboo Bakr used to take hold of his tongue and say this is that which caused me destruction. He said this as a sign of humbleness.

Backbiting is so widespread that it has become the topic of people’s meetings and an avenue for expressing their anger, misgivings and jealousy with those who indulge in backbiting believing that they are hiding their own imperfections and harming others. They are oblivious of the fact that they are only harming themselves. This is because the backbiter if the wrongdoer and his victim is the wronged and on the Day of Resurrection both the wrongdoer and the wronged will stand before Allah Who is the Just Judge and the wronged will appeal to Allah to avenge the wrong done to him, Allah will then give this wronged person from the good deeds of the person who wronged him in accordance with his wrong by backbiting his brother on a Day that no father will give his son any of his good deeds nor a friend to his friend. All will be saying, ‘Myself, myself.’
The Messenger of Allah said,

“Usury has seventy something kinds, the smallest of which is for a man to have intercourse with his mother and the highest act of usury is for a Muslim to attack the honour of his Muslim brother.” He also said, “Whoever protects the honour of his brother, Allah will protect him from Hellfire on the Day of Resurrection.” (At-Tirmidhee)

So prevent the backbiter of affronting the honour of Muslims. Allah says,

“O you who believe, keep your duty to Allah and fear Him and speak (always) the truth.” (Al-Ahzaab 33: 70)

Fellow Muslims! Fear Allah for whoever fears Allah, He protects him from torment and doubles reward for him. Allah says,

“And indeed We have created man and We know what his own self whispers to him. And We are nearer to him than his jugular vein (by Our knowledge). (Remember) that the two receivers (recording angels) receive (each human being after he or she has attained the age of puberty), one sitting on the right and one on the left (to note his or her actions). Not a word does he or she utter, but there is a watcher by him (ready to record it.” (Qaaf 50: 16-18)

Brothers in Islam, gossiping about others is also another vicious type of backbiting. It means carrying tales from one people to another with the intention of sowing dissention among them. Allah condemned this deed when He said,

“And obey not everyone who swears much, and is considered worthless. A slanderer going about with calumnies.” (Al-Qalam 68: 10-11)

The Prophet said,

“The gossiper will not enter Paradise.”

Fear Allah therefore, dear brothers, and call yourselves to account before you are called to account and weigh your own deeds before they are weighed for you.

Be aware also dear Muslims, that the Ulamaa have explained that it is allowed for the wronged to inform the authorities of the wrong done to him as it is allowed for the person who sees vice to inform those who are capable of removing it and prevent its perpetrator from committing further vice. It is also allowed for the one seeking for religious decision to mention the wrong done to him to the knowledgeable man from whom he is seeking a decision in order to make things clear for him. It is also permissible for you to tell whoever seeks your advice on a person of something about him. It is not allowed for you to hide what you know about him so that he will not be deceived. All these types of speaking about others are lawful.
Footnote

[1] This statement is used by the Arabs to rebuke someone, and its literal meaning is not meant.

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BACKBITING

By Omar Tarhuni

Pick your teeth!

It’s one of the greatest sins and yet it’s something we do day after day. Sometimes we don’t even realise it. You’re just chatting away with your friends and you begin to talk about somebody else. Our whole lives are based around ‘Home and Away’ and ‘Neighbours’, soaps based on lying, backbiting etc. But look at what the Prophet (saw) said about it: The Prophet (saw) was sitting with his companions one day and one of them was speaking badly about someone who wasn’t there. As the man got up to leave the Prophet (saw) said to him: “Pick Your Teeth!” “But I haven’t eaten anything.” The man protested. “No” the Prophet (saw) said “YOU HAVE EATEN THE FLESH OF YOUR DEAD BROTHER”.

As Allah tells us in the Quran: “Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? No, you would hate it.” (49:12)

But What If It’s True?!

The Prophet (saw) told us “Backbiting is to say something about someone they wouldn’t like said about them….If what bad you said about them is true, then you have backbited and if it is false then you have slandered them.”

If you’re still not convinced of how big a sin backbiting really is, then look at the punishment Allah has in store for the backbiters. The Prophet (saw) described: “On the night of Mirage 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’.

This is how big of a sin backbiting is looked upon and yet we continue to backbite without a second thought, next time you lie, talk about somebody, remember Allah (swt) and the Prophet (saw) and put them in front of you before you speak.

Just having a Laugh!

Maybe we think it’s all right to take the mock out of someone so long as we say it to their face. ‘We’ll make fun of the way someone talks, walks, or how they look. Allah warns us against such behaviour: “O you who believe. Let not some men laugh at others, it may be the 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…” (49:11)

Don’t forget that Allah made us the way we are, so how can you even think of making fun of his creation?

Cool to Swear?

Listen to yourself and to your friends speaking one day – nearly every sentence will have a swear word in it, thinking it’s cool and macho to swear, copying the idols of TV and the cinema. Is it really ‘cool’ to swear? The Hellfire is far from being cool. People will wish they were cool then rather than being cool in this world. Remember! That every time you speak, an angel writes down what you say, and that one day you will have to answer for every single word you ever uttered. So if you swear at someone then it’s written down as a sin against you. You’re only harming yourself. The Prophet (saw) said that “Abusing a Muslim is a sin and fighting with him is disbelief.” (MUSLIM).

‘But sometimes you just have to swear’!

We’ve all been there – you’re just so angry with somebody and the only way you can express yourself, is to swear at them. The solution? …

Don’t get angry in the first place.

A man came to the Prophet (saw) one day and said “Advise me”. The prophet (saw) said “Don’t become angry. Don’t become angry. Don’t become angry”…. “When one of you gets angry while he is standing up, he should sit down. Then anger will leave him, and if not then he should lie down” (Ahmad). So let us follow this beautiful advice of the Prophet (saw) and remember that anger is from shaitan. If someone angers you or swears at you then don’t harm yourself by doing the same but respond in a better way as Allah says in the Quran: “Repel evil with what is better. Then he who was your worst enemy will become your best friend.” (Ch41v33)

“It wasn’t me. Honest.”

How often do we say such a phrase or say that “I was only joking”. We treat lies as being trivial. However we are told that “Allah’s messenger did not hate anything more than lying”(Ahmed). The Prophet (saw) was once asked “Can a Muslim be a coward?” He (saw) replied “Yes.” and then asked “Can a Muslim be a miser?” and the reply was “Yes.” The Prophet (saw) was then asked “Can a Muslim be a liar?” The Prophet (saw) replied “NO! A Muslim can never be a liar”. Furthermore, he said “Truth leads to virtue and virtue leads to paradise…Lying leads to wickedness and wickedness leads to the hellfire.” (Bukhari). As we know that one lie leads to another ten lies which lead to bad actions. Remember you can lie and think that you have got away with it but on the day of Judgement your hands, tongue and feet will bear testimony against you and tell the truth.

But it’s only words!

One day one of the companions asked the Prophet (saw) “O Messenger of Allah. Will we be called to account for what we say?” He replied “May you be lost to your mother – people will be thrown, faces down into the hellfire, only on account to what their tongues said.” (Tirmidhi).

Indeed the tongue controls the rest of your body. A well controlled tongue will keep us within Islam but a loose tongue will destroy us.

The Prophet (saw) said “When a person gets up in the morning, all the parts of his body make a plea to his tongue saying; ‘Fear Allah regarding us, because we follow you. If you are right then we shall also be right , and if you are wrong then we shall also be wrong.” (Tirmidhi)

Instead of swearing, lying and engaging in useless talk we can use our tongues in better ways and what better than telling people about Islam. Allah says “Who is better in speech than one who calls (men) to Allah and works righteousness and says I am one of those who bow down in Islam” (41:33)

Your tongue can save you as well!

Indeed if you control your tongue and speak good then paradise can be yours. The Prophet (saw) said “Whoever can guarantee me two things I can guarantee them Paradise.” The companions asked “What O Messenger of Allah?” He replied “What is between his jaws (his tongue) and his legs (private parts).” (Bukhari)

I’ve lied and backbited, sworn and made fun of others. I must be doomed I must be going to hell!”

NO! Allah (swt) tells us in the Quran: “O my servants who have wronged themselves. never despair of the mercy of Allah for truly he forgives all sins. He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” (39:53)

So if you really repent and turn back to Allah and promise not to commit the sin again then truly Allah’s promise is true and He will forgive you. If you’ve backbitten someone – go and tell the person whom you backbited and apologise sincerely and ask them to forgive you. But if you think that the situation will get worse then turn back to Allah sincerely begging for his forgiveness then to make up for what you said, go around and talk good of him.

The Best Example

As we know that the best person to have ever lived is the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and he is the best of example for mankind. If we follow him we can never go wrong. Ayesha (RA) the Prophet’s wife described the Prophets conduct as follows: “He was neither a obscene talker nor a user of bad words. He did not shout nor did he repay evil with evil. He used to forgive people and overlook their sins.” (Tirmidhi)

Final Advice: A beautiful saying of the Prophet (saw) that will ensure the protection of our tongue. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last day, LET HIM EITHER SPEAK GOOD OR KEEP SILENT” (Agreed upon)

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SOME CASES WHERE IT IS PERMISSIBLE TO BACKBITE

F. Ahmad

Backbiting is permissible only for valid reasons approved by Shari`ah. These reasons are as follows:

1. It is permissible for an oppressed person to speak before the judge or someone in a similar position of authority to help him or her establish his or her rights by telling him `so-and-so wronged me and has done such and such to me’ etc.

2. It is permissible to seek somebody’s assistance in forbidding evil and helping someone change his or her immoral conduct. One can say to the person who can offer such assistance, `so-and-so does such and such evil deeds. Can you exhort him?’ etc. This is permissible as long as one intends to forbid evil. If, however, one intends something else apart from this, then this act becomes unlawful.

3. One who seeks legal verdict on a certain matter may point out the defaults of another person or relate something else. One in this case can say to the Mufti (religious scholar who issues verdicts): “My father or brother (for example) treated me unjustly. Can I get my right established?” etc. This is permissible to say only if need be, but it is better to say `What do you think of someone who did such and such?’ This does not mean, however, that naming the person in question is not permissible, Hadith No. 1536 makes this point clear.

4. One who criticizes those who openly commit acts of disobedience, such as drinking wine, gambling, engaging in immoral habits, fornication, hypocrisy, and making mischief.

5. It is permissible to call into question the narrators of Hadith, and witnesses in the court when the need arises. It is also permissible to mention the bad qualities of somebody for marriage purposes in case an advice is sought. Also, if one has noticed that a “seeker of knowledge” frequently goes to the gatherings of an innovator in religion and one fears that this “seeker of knowledge” may be affected by this so-called scholar, then he must in this case give counsel to the “seeker of knowledge” by telling him about the “innovator,” etc.

6. It is permissible to use names such as “Al-a`mash” which means `the blear-eyed’ to talk about people who are known by such names for the sake of identification and not for disparaging people and underestimating them. To identify them without resorting to such names is however better.

1531. `Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) said: A man sought permission for audience with the Prophet (PBUH). He said, “Give him permission but he is a bad member of his tribe.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. Commentary: Imam Al-Bukhari has obviously justified the backbiting of wicked people to save people from being deceived from their appearance. If people are not informed of the real conduct of such persons, their religious as well as worldly life will be exposed to a grave danger. For this reason, the backbiting of wicked persons for the purpose of warning others is permissible.

1532. `Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “I do not think that so-and-so understands anything of our Faith.” [Al-Bukhari] Al-Bukhari said: Al-Laith bin Sa`d, who is one of the narrators of this Hadith, said: The two men mentioned by the Prophet (PBUH) in this Hadith were hypocrites (i.e., they revealed Faith and concealed disbelief). Commentary: Hypocrites are also people of mischievous and doubtful conduct. It is, therefore, not only permissible but necessary to make people aware of their real position so that people become cautious about them and their religious and worldly life may remain safe from their machinations.

1533. Fatimah bint Qais (May Allah be pleased with her) said: I came to the Prophet (PBUH) and said to him: “Muawiyah and Abul-Jahm sent me a proposal of marriage.” The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Muawiyah is destitute and he has no property, and Abul-Jahm is very hard on women.” [Bukhari and Muslim]. Commentary: We learn from this Hadith that it is permissible to mention the true facts, virtues and vices without equivocation, about the parties who intend to enter into wedlock provided one does it for their welfare.

1534. Zaid bin Al-Arqam (May Allah be pleased with him) said: We set out on a journey along with the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and we faced many hardships. `Abdullah bin Ubaiy (the chief of the hypocrites at Al-Madinah) said to his friends: “Do not spend on those who are with the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) until they desert him.” He also said: “If we return to Al-Madinah, the more honourable (meaning himself, i.e., Abdullah bin Ubaiy) will drive out therefrom the meaner (meaning Messenger of Allah (PBUH)).” I went to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) and informed him about that and he sent someone to `Abdullah bin Ubaiy. He asked him whether he had said that or not. Abdullah took an oath that he had not done anything of that sort and said that it was Zaid who carried a false tale to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). Zaid said: I was so much perturbed because of this until this Verse was revealed verifying my statement: “When the hypocrites come to you (O Muhammad (PBUH)), they say: `We bear witness that you are indeed the Messenger of Allah.’ Allah knows that you are indeed His Messenger, and Allah bears witness that the hypocrites are liars indeed.” (63:1) Then the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) called the hypocrites in order to seek forgiveness for them from Allah, but they turned away their heads. [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. Commentary: `Abdullah bin Ubaiy was the chief of the hypocrites at Al-Madinah. In the journey mentioned in this Hadith, which was undertaken in connection with the war with Banu Al-Mustaliq, he had used improper words against the Prophet (PBUH) and Muslims, which were overheard by Zaid bin Al-Arqam (May Allah be pleased with him). The latter informed the Prophet (PBUH) about this occurrence. This incident goes to prove that exposing the designs and conspiracies of hypocrites does not form backbiting. In fact, it is essential to keep people informed about them in the interest of Islam and Muslims.

1535. `Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) said: Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan, said to the Prophet (PBUH): Abu Sufyan is a niggardly man and does not give me and my children adequate provisions for maintenance unless I take something from his possession without his knowledge. The Prophet (PBUH) said to her, “Take from his possessions on a reasonable basis that much which may suffice for you and your children.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. Commentary: Hind was the mother of Mu`awiyah (May Allah be pleased with him). Along with her husband, Abu Sufyan, she embraced Islam in the year of conquest of Makkah.

We learn from this Hadith that:

1. In order to know religious injunctions, husband and wife can mention each other’s shortcomings before a Mufti (a religious scholar who is in a position to issue verdicts on religious matters).

2. If a husband does not give his wife enough money to cover the domestic expenses, then it is permissible for his wife to take some of his money without his permission, provided the amount thus taken is for essential expenses not for superfluous matters.

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THERE IS NO BACKBITING WHEN IT CONCERNS INNOVATORS

By Jamaal Ibn Fareehaan Al-Haarithee

Source: Lamm Ad-Darr-ul-Manthoor (pg. 58-60),

Translator: isma’eel alarcon

Produced by al-manhaj.com

It is not considered backbiting when talking about the people of desires and innovation, and those who oppose the Salaf:

[178] Al-A’amash reported that Ibraaheem (An-Nakha’ee) said: “There is no backbiting with regard to (talking about) the innovator.” [1]

[179] Al-Hasan Al-Basree said: “There is no backbiting with regard to (talking about) the innovator or the sinner who openly professes his evil.” [2]

[180] And he also said: “There is no backbiting when it concerns the people of innovations.” [3]

[181] Al-Fudayl Ibn ‘Iyyaad said: “Whoever enters upon a person of innovation, then he has no sanctity (i.e. protection from being talked about).”[4]

[182] Sufyaan Ibn ‘Uyainah said: “Shu’abah used to say: ‘Come let us backbite for the sake of Allaah, ‘azza wa jall.'” [5]

[183] Abu Zayd Al-Ansaaree An-Nahwee said: “Shu’abah came to us on a rainy day and said: ‘This is not a day for (learning) hadeeth. Today is a day for backbiting. Come let us backbite the liars (in hadeeth).'” [6]

[184] On the authority of Makkee Ibn Ibraaheem who said: “Shu’abah used to go to ‘Imraan Ibn Hudayr saying (to him): ‘O ‘Imraan, come let us backbite for an hour for the sake of Allaah.’ And they would mention the faults and defects of hadeeth reporters.” [7]

[185] Abu Zur’ah Ad-Dimashqee said: “I heard Abu Mushar being asked about a man that makes mistakes, misconstrues and distorts ahaadeeth, so he said: ‘Make his affair known.’ So I said to Abu Zur’ah: ‘Do you consider that to be backbiting?’ He said: ‘No.’” [8]

[186] Ibn Al-Mubaarak said: “Al-Mi’allaa Ibn Hilaal is fine except when it comes to hadeeth, he lies.” So someone among the sufis (i.e. ascetics) said: “O Abu ‘Abdir-Rahmaan! Are you backbiting?” So he said: “Be quiet! If we do not clarify this, how will the truth be made known from the falsehood?” [9]

[187] ‘Abdullaah, the son of Imaam Ahmad said: “Abu Turaab An-Nakhshabee once went to my father, so my father began saying ‘this person is weak’ and ‘that person is reliable.’ So Abu Turaab said: ‘O Shaikh, do not backbite the scholars!’ So my father turned to him and said: ‘Woe be to you! This is advice, this is not backbiting.” [10]

[188] Muhammad Ibn Bindaar As-Sabbaak Al-Jarjaanee said: “I once said to Ahmad Ibn Hanbal: ‘Verily, it is becoming hard upon me to say: (So and so is weak) and (so and so is a liar). So Ahmad said: ‘If you remain silent and I remain silent, then who will make the ignorant person aware of the authentic from the defective?’” [11]

[189] Shaudhab reported that Katheer Abu Sahl said: “It used to be said: ‘The people of desires do not have any sanctity (i.e. protection from being talked about).” [12]

[190] Al-Hasan Ibn ‘Alee Al-Iskaafee said: “I asked Abu ‘Abdillaah Ahmad Ibn Hanbal about the meaning of backbiting. He responded: “It is when you mention the defect of a person.” I said: “What if the person says: ‘Do not hear (hadeeth) from so and so’ and ‘Such and such person makes mistakes (in his narration)?’” He said: “If the people were to abandon doing this, the authentic would not be known from its opposite.” [13]

[191] Isma’eel Al-Khatabee said: ‘Abdullaah Ibn Ahmad reported to us, saying: “I said to my father: ‘What do you say about seekers of Hadeeth going to a teacher who perhaps is murji’ee or a shi’ee or he has some opposition to the Sunnah in him. Is it permitted for me to remain silent about him or should I warn against him?’ So my father said: ‘If he calls the people to innovation and he is an Imaam (or a head figure) in that and calls to that, then yes, warn against him.’” [14]

Footnotes:

[1] Al-Laalikaa’ee (1/140, no: 276)

[2] Al-Laalikaa’ee (1/140, no: 279)

[3] Al-Laalikaa’ee (1/140, no: 280)

[4] Al-Laalikaa’ee (1/140, no: 282)

[5] Al-Kifaayah fee ‘Ilm-ir-Riwaayah of al-Khateeb Al-Baghdaadee (91) and Sharh ‘Ilal At-Tirmidhee of Ibn Rajab (1/349)

[6] Al-Kifaayah fee ‘Ilm-ir-Riwaayah of al-Khateeb Al-Baghdaadee (91)

[7] Al-Kifaayah fee ‘Ilm-ir-Riwaayah of al-Khateeb Al-Baghdaadee (91)

[8] Sharh ‘Ilal At-Tirmidhee of Ibn Rajab (1/349) and Al-Kifaayah of Al-Baghdaadee (91-92) but there occurs in Al-Khateeb’s report: “So I said to Abu Mushar” instead of “So I said to Abu Zur’ah.”

[9] Sharh ‘Ilal At-Tirmidhee of Ibn Rajab (1/349) and Al-Kifaayah of Al-Baghdaadee (91-92)

[10] Al-Kifaayah fee ‘Ilm-ir-Riwaayah of al-Khateeb Al-Baghdaadee (92) and Sharh ‘Ilal At-Tirmidhee of Ibn Rajab (1/350)

[11] Majmoo’-ul-Fataawaa of Ibn Taimiyyah (28/231)

[12] Al-Laalilkaa’ee (1/140, no: 281)

[13] Sharh ‘Ilal At-Tirmidhee (1/350-351)

[14] Al-Kifaayah (93) and Sharh ‘Ilal At-Tirmidhee (1/350)

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THE BACKBITING OF THE HEART

By Imaam Abu Zakariyaa Yahyaa bin Sharaf an-Nawawee

Taken from: Guarding the Tongue from the book al-Adhkaar

With hadeeth verification by Shaykh Saleem bin ‘Eed al-Hilaalee

Translated by Isma’eel Alarcon

Know that having bad thoughts about someone is forbidden just like having bad speech about him. So just as it is forbidden for you to speak to others about the defects of a person, it is likewise forbidden for you to speak to yourself about that and to hold bad thoughts for him. Allaah says: “O you who believe, avoid much (types) of suspicion. Verily some (forms) of suspicion is a sin.” (Soorat ul-Hujuraat, 49:12)

And Abu Hurayrah (radee Allaahu ‘anhu) reported that Allaah’s Messenger (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Beware of suspicion, for indeed suspicion is the most untruthful form of speech.” [1]

The ahaadeeth with this same understanding I have mentioned here are many. What the backbiting of the heart means, is: When the heart has firm conviction and holds bad thoughts about someone. But as for the notions that occasionally display in one’s mind or when one talks to himself, then as long as these thoughts do not remain established and continuous in him, it is excused according to the consensus of the scholars. This is because he has no choice in the matter so as to stop it from occurring nor can he find any way to liberate himself from it when it does occur. This is the understanding of what has been authentically established (in the texts).

The Messenger of Allaah (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Indeed, Allaah has permitted for my Ummah that which their souls whisper to them, so long as they do not speak it out (audibly) or act upon it.” [2]

The scholars say: “This refers to the notions that form in one’s mind, but do not become settled or established there.”

And they said: “This is regardless if the notion consists of backbiting, disbelief or so on (i.e. it is pardoned, so long as it does not settle). So (for example) whoever’s mind becomes flooded with thoughts of disbelief, but they are only thoughts, without him intending to have them carried out, and he then rids himself of these thoughts right after they occur, he is not a disbeliever nor is there any sin on him.”

We have already stated previously, in the chapter on the (internal) whisperings, the authentic hadeeth, in which the Companions said: “O Messenger of Allaah! Some of us find things in our thoughts that are too tremendous to speak of.” So he (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “That is the confirmation of Faith.” [3]

And this goes for the other reports we have mentioned in that chapter that bear the same understanding.

The reason for these thoughts being excused is due to what we have stated previously that these thoughts are impossible to prevent. Rather, one is only able to prevent those thoughts from becoming settled and established in one’s mind. This is why the heart’s being resolute and determined on these thoughts is forbidden.

So whenever these thoughts, which consist of backbiting or any other sin, present themselves in your mind, it is an obligation on you to repel them, turn away from them and mention some excuses or explanations that will change what seems apparent.

Abu Haamid al-Ghazzaalee said in al-Ihyaa: “If bad thoughts should occur in your heart, then these are from the whisperings of the Devil, which he has placed in you. So you must deny and reject them because he is indeed the most wicked of evildoers (faasiq).

And Allaah has stated: ‘If a wicked person (i.e. faasiq) comes to you with news, then verify it, lest you harm people without realizing it (i.e. out of ignorance) and afterwards you become regretful for what you’ve done.’ (Soorat ul-Hujuraat, 49:6) So it is not permissible for you to believe Iblees (the Devil).

And if there is some sign that indicates that he is corrupt, yet he implies the opposite of that, then it is not permissible to hold bad thoughts (for him).

Among the signs that indicate one holding bad thoughts (for someone) is that your heart changes with him from the way it used to be, and that you run away from him and find him to be unbearable. And that you are lazy when it comes to having concern for him, showing kindness to him and being worried when he does evil. And indeed the Devil comes close to one’s heart when the slightest trace of defects show in people, and he places this in you, while you think (these thoughts) occur due to your astuteness, intelligence and quick alertness. But the believer sees with the light of Allaah. So this person is in reality speaking with the deceptions and the evil plots of the Devil.

And if a trustworthy person informs you of this, then do not believe him nor reject him, in order that you will not have bad thoughts about either of them.

Whenever some evil thoughts about another Muslim come into your mind, then let that make you increase in your showing concern and being kind to him because this will enrage the Devil and repel him from you. So he will not place such thoughts in you afterward out of fear that it will only cause you to increase in your supplication for that person.

And whenever you come to know of a defect or a mistake in another Muslim based on some proofs, which cannot be denied, then advise him in privacy and do not let the Devil deceive you such that he invites you and leads you towards backbiting him. And when you admonish him, then do not admonish him while you are happy and pleased that you have knowledge of his deficiency. So it is as if he is looking at you with the eyes of awe and respect while you are looking down at him with condescending eyes. Rather, make your intention in that to free him from this sin, while you are distressed over him, just as you are distressed when some deficiency enters in you. And his getting rid of that deficiency without you having to admonish him (i.e. on his own) should be more beloved to you than him having to rid himself of it due to your admonishing.”

These are the words of al-Ghazzaalee. I say: We stated previously that if someone is presented with a notion of bad thoughts for another person, he should cut off those bad thoughts. But this is unless there is some (religiously) legislated benefit that leads to thinking (about that person) in this manner. So if such a reason exists, holding these thoughts about his deficiencies is permissible, as well as warning against them, as can be seen in the jarh (criticism) of certain witnesses, reporters and others we have mentioned in the Chapter on “What Type of Backbiting is Permissible.”

Footnotes:

[1] Saheeh – Reported by al-Bukhaaree, 10/484 of al-Fath & Muslim, 2563

[2] Saheeh – Reported by al-Bukhaaree, 5/160 of al-Fath & Muslim, 127 & 202

[3] Saheeh – Reported by Muslim, 132; Translator’s Note: This hadeeth shows the Companions’ zeal and enthusiasm in commanding themselves with good and forbidding themselves from evil, such that they would even fight against the evil notions that passed through their minds. But as it is impossible to prevent such thoughts from occurring every now and then, they asked the Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) about this. His response to them meant that their trying to repel these thoughts showed their strong Eemaan (Faith) and love for good.

3 thoughts on “Backbiting”

  1. Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    Something that I have seen during the past few months that really saddens me greatly is the amount of backbiting between muslim women. And unfortunately I cannot say I am innocent at all!

    Friends, even best of friends, seem to have the knife in for each other the moment the one acts in a way the other doesn’t like, or says something her friend doesn’t like or sometimes it is just a case of the one going through PMS and being moody and downright nasty!

    And it seems to get to all of us – even the Aalimas, the wives of the Imams, the Hufaaz – no one is excluded from this group.

    I think it is very important to remember what the Qur’an says about backbiting and slandering:

    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 (24: 15)

    So, next time a bad thought of your friend pop into your head or you want to say something that doesn’t put her in a very positive light, bite your tongue and keep it to yourself!
    ***Remember that backbiting is not restricted to Muslims ONLY. We are NOT supposed to backbite Non Muslims EITHER.***

  2. Sarah- Wa alaikum salam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh. Nobody is really safe from this sin nastaghfirAllah ameen. Jazaki’Allahu khair for posting the ayah on backbiting, the reminder benefits the believer.

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