I read an interesting article on backbiting and gossip recently which I’d like to share as a reminder to us all. It is something we can all relate to and unfortunately something we very often participate in. The issue is not the nature or severity of the sin, I believe the real issue lies in our failure to acknowledge and recognise the fact that backbiting and gossiping are sinful acts. The recognition of certain acts as sinful or haraam is embedded in our minds from childhood and are therefore easier to reflect upon and acknowledge even as we grow up, however, the acts that are overlooked in our early years can easily be overlooked and even justified as we grow up. Unfortunately, backbiting and gossip are easily overlooked and pose a greater threat to us as we develop and grow. I hope this article serves as a reminder to us of the severity of these sins and also allow us to recognise and acknowledge them as sins so we are better able to avoid and resist them.
Many gatherings produce nothing but gossip about other Muslims and slander of their honour. This is something which Allah has forbidden His slaves, and has drawn the most repulsive analogy to put them off. He says (interpretation of the meaning): “. . . neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it . . .” [al-Hujuraat 49:12]
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) explained the meaning of this aayah. He said: “Do you know what gheebah (gossip or backbiting) is?” They said, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He said: “To say something about your brother that he does not want to be said.” He was asked, “What do you think if what is said about him is true?” He said, “If what you say about him is true, this is backbiting, and if what you say about him is not true, this is a lie.” (Reported by Muslim, 4/2001). Gossip or backbiting means saying something about a Muslim which may be true but which he does not like to hear spoken, whether it be about his physical appearance, his adherence to religion, his worldly affairs, his self, his behaviour or his character. There are many forms of gossip, including talking about a person’s faults and imitating him to make fun of him. People take the matter of gheebah very lightly, although it is very serious in the sight of Allah, as is indicated by the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him): “There are seventy-two forms of riba, the least of which is as bad as a man having intercourse with his own mother, and the worst of which is when a man slanders the honour of his brother.” (Silsilah al-Saheeh, 1871).Whoever is present in a gathering where gossip takes place should “forbid what is evil” and defend his absent brother. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) encouraged us to do this when he said: “Whoever defends the honour of his Muslim brother, Allah will protect his face from the Fire on the Day of Resurrection.” (Reported by Ahmad, 6/450; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 6238).
Some people go about repeating the words of others to cause trouble between people; this is one of the greatest causes of broken relations and stirring up feelings of hatred among people. Allah condemned the one who does this (interpretation of the meaning): “And obey not everyone who swears much, – and is considered worthless, a slanderer, going about with calumnies.” [al-Qalam 68:10-11]Hudhayfah reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “No eavesdropper will enter Paradise.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, see al-Fath, 10/472; “eavesdropper” here refers to a person who eavesdrops on others without their knowing, then goes and tells others what he has heard)
Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) passed by one of the gardens of Madeenah, and heard the sound of two people being punished in their graves. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “They are being punished, but they are not being punished for any major sin; one of them used never to clean himself properly after urinating, and the other used to spread malicious slander . . .” (Reported by al-Bukhaari; see Fath al-Baari, 1/317).
I hope this article has highlighted and reiterated the severity and consequences of backbiting & gossip. My intention was not to scare or depress anyone, but rather to serve as a reminder and hopefully a deterrent towards these sinful acts. It is important to teach our children about theses acts so they grow and develop with the acknowledgement and recognition of these acts as sinful. Don’t promote backbiting and gossip by asking children about other kids at school and don’t backbite or gossip about others in the presence of your kids. What we learn as children and the habits we develop as kids will be reflected in our actions as adults, we need to encourage an Islamic upbringing in order to promote an Islamic lifestyle. I think a good start would be to stop backbiting and gossiping ourselves and Insha Allah the people around us will follow.
Thanks for reading, may Allah make us among those who are guided and among those who guide. Ameen.