Backbiting is one of the major sins in Islam. This article will be looking at the meaning of backbiting, what the prophet said about backbiting, and hadith about backbiting.
Hadith About Backbiting And Gossiping
Abu Hurairah said: The Messenger of Allah SAW said, “Do you know what is backbiting?” The Companions said: “Allah and His Messenger know better.” Thereupon he said, “Backbiting is talking about your (Muslim) brother in a manner which he dislikes.” It was said to him: “What if my (Muslim) brother is as I say.” He said, “If he is actually as you say, then that is backbiting; but if that is not in him, that is slandering.”
Source: Sahih Muslim 2589
Hadith About Backbiting In Arabic
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ أَتَدْرُونَ مَا الْغِيبَةُ قَالُوا اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَعْلَمُ قَالَ ذِكْرُكَ أَخَاكَ بِمَا يَكْرَهُ قِيلَ أَفَرَأَيْتَ إِنْ كَانَ فِي أَخِي مَا أَقُولُ قَالَ إِنْ كَانَ فِيهِ مَا تَقُولُ فَقَدْ اغْتَبْتَهُ وَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ فِيهِ فَقَدْ بَهَتَّهُ
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Explanation Of Hadith On Backbiting
The Prophet SAW explained backbiting when he SAW said to his companions: ‘Do you know what backbiting is?’ They replied: ‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’
Then he SAW said: ‘Backbiting is mentioning something about your brother what he dislikes.’ They asked: ‘O Messenger of Allah! What if what I say about my brother can be found in him?
He replied SAW: ‘If he possesses what you said, you have backbitten him but if does not possess it, then you have slandered him.’ that is, including backbiting.
Backbiting is one of the major sins which Prayer, charity, fasting and other righteous acts cannot expiate; rather, it will remain on the scale.
Ibn Abdul-Qawiyy (may Allah shower blessings on him) said in his poem entitled Al-Aadaab:
They have said backbiting and eavesdropping, But major sins they are in the view of Ahmad.
He was referring to Ahmad bin Hanbal (may Allah shower blessings on him). That is, he considered backbiting and eavesdropping as major sins.
The saying of the Prophet SAW in defining backbiting: “Your mentioning about your brother what he does not like” includes what the person may dislike of physical and religious defects.
Therefore, whenever you mention about a person what he dislikes, this is considered as backbiting. For instance, you would have backbitten him by referring to him as lame, one-eyed, tall, short or similar description in reference to his physical deformity. This is considered as backbiting.
When you make reference to his moral defect, for instance stating that he is not chaste or modest, he follows and gazes at women.
An example of reference to religious defect is saying a person is an innovator, does not observe Prayer with the congregation or other similar acts, and condemning him in his absence.
You talk about him in his absence; this is why it is called backbiting. However, if this is done in his presence, it will be an insult and affront, not backbiting.
And the saying of the Prophet ‘If what you said of your brother is right, you have backbitten him. But if it is not true, you have slandered him.’
That is, you have slandered him and also backbitten him. He SAW omitted the second part because it is clear.
His statement: ‘You have slandered him’ does not limit the matter to slander alone; rather it is backbiting and slander.
You should understand that the ignominy and sin of backbiting increase in accordance to its consequences. Therefore, backbiting a common man is not comparable to backbiting a scholar, leader, manager, minister or similar figures.
This is because backbiting the people in authority in minor or major issue is worse than backbiting the one with no authority, control or responsibility.
The harm in backbiting a common man is limited to him alone whereas backbiting a person holding a position of authority will harm him and those under his authority.
For instance, there is no doubt that backbiting a scholar is an act of oppression against his personality just like every other Muslim.
Furthermore, it harms the Shareeah which he conveys since a learned person is the carrier of the Shareeah. Your backbiting him belittles him in the sight of people which would make them reject his statements.
They will not have recourse to him in their religious affairs and they will doubt whatever truth he might say due to your action. This is a great crime against the Shareeah.
Likewise, this holds true for backbiting a leader, king, president and other similar figures. Such act of backbiting does not affect their personalities alone as it may lead to collapse of their government.
When you backbite a leader, a minister or a king, you sow dissension in the hearts of the subjects against him which will lead to a great damage. This will lead to widespread confusion among the public and create a state of general disunity.
It may start as verbal exchange and later become throwing of arrows. When the hearts are filled with enmity and hatred for the leader, it becomes impossible for such hearts to comply with the directives of the leader.
If your heart is filled with vengeance or anger, then discharge it on yourself before anyone else. You should consider your own evil deeds, are you free from fault? You should begin with your deficiencies before you insult and backbite the leaders.
It has been earlier discussed that backbiting refers ‘to talking about your brother about what he dislikes’ in his religion, character, physical attributes and others.
You should not discuss anything which your brother dislikes in his absence. And it has been earlier discussed that backbiting is one of the major sins which cannot be erased by Salat, charity, fasting or Hajj.
It is similar to other major sins which will only be measured against good deeds on the scale. It has been earlier stated that backbiting has different rulings based on its evil and negative consequences.
Similarly, backbiting people in authority, be it scholars or rulers, is worse than others, which is due to the enormity of its evil consequence.
However, there is nothing wrong in backbiting for the purpose of advice or clarification. For instance, when someone seeks your advice about hiring a particular person, and you know this is a business deal.
In this case, you ought to clarify his defect with the aim of offering a counsel. The evidence for this is that Faatimah bint Qays (may Allah be pleased with her) had three suitors among the companions: Usaamah bin Zayd, Mu’aawiyyah bin Abee Sufyaan and Aboo Jahm.
She (may Allah be pleased with her) came to seek advice from the Prophet SAW. She (may Allah be pleased with her) said to him: ‘So-and- so persons have asked for my hand in marriage.’
The Prophet SAW then said to her: ‘Muaawiyyah is destitute and he has no property, and Abu Jahm is very hard on women. So, you should marry Usaamah.
He mentioned what these two people would dislike but it was for the purpose of counseling, not spreading fault and ignominy. He SAW separated the issues.
Likewise, if someone comes to seek your opinion about taking knowledge from a particular person whom you know with distorted methodology, you are not blameworthy if you advise him against that.
For instance, if you fear that he may influence a learner with his wrong ideology, creed, reasoning, thinking or methodology, it becomes incumbent upon you to tell him not to seek knowledge from him because of his defects.
There are many examples of this but the important point is that it is not blameworthy to mention what your brother might dislike for the sake of counsel and advice.
Indeed, there is a widespread wrong notion that: ‘There is no (guilt of) backbiting in the case of a lasciviously bad person.’
This is not a statement [of the Prophet SAW], thus it is not tenable. There is (guilt of) backbiting in the case a bad person as it is with others.
When we mention his acts of transgression for the sake of finding his fault or apportioning blame on him, then this is not permissible. But when we mention this in the form of admonition and warning, this is not wrong but indeed compulsory.
The point to note is that this (i.e. the above expression) is not a hadeeth of the Prophet My and its meaning is not absolute; it has modifications as earlier stated.
Taken from Explanation Of Riyadus Saliheen By Uthaimeen.
Allah alone grants success.