Monday, 11 April 2016


Definition of Backbiting

Backbiting is Forbidden

Expiation of Backbiting

Examples of Backbiting

Biting your dead Brother's Flesh!

What you Lose when you Backbite - Your Good Deeds!

Reward and Thank your Backbiter with Gifts - What!? Why?

Exceptions to Backbiting, Evidence & Conclusion


What is Backbiting (Gheebah)?

The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: "It [backbiting] is saying something about your brother which he dislikes." Someone asked: "Supposing that what I said about my brother was true?" And the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: "If what you say about him is true you have backbitten him and if it is not true you have slandered him." [Muslim 32:6265; Malik 56.4.10] [Bulugh al-Maram by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (d. 852 A.H.), p. 553-554. (Hadith no. 1538)]

So backbiting (gheebah) is saying something negative about your brother/sister behind his/her back (i.e. without their knowledge), something which (s)he would not like. And if what you say is a lie/falsehood, then you have slandered your brother/sister.


Backbiting is Forbidden (haram)

Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says: "O you who believe! Let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. However bad is it to insult one's brother after having Faith [i.e., to call your Muslim brother (a faithful believer) as: 'O sinner', or 'O wicked']. And whosoever does not repent, then such are indeed Zalimun (wrongdoers)." (Quran 49:11)

Ibn Kathir (رحمه الله) explained: "Allah, the Exalted, forbids scoffing (i.e. ridiculing) at people, which implies humiliating and belittling them. In the Sahih, it is recorded that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, 'Arrogance is refusing the truth and belittling people.'" [Muslim 1:164]. [Tafsir ibn Kathir]

Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says: "O you who believe! Avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate the other)! But fear Allah: For Allah is Accepting of repentance and Most Merciful." (Quran 49:12)

Bilal Philips explained mathal (simile, proverb, and metaphor) in the Quran, saying, {At other times, the mathal is used to discourage certain evil practices by comparing them to distasteful things. For example, Allah said the following concerning backbiting: "Do not backbite each other. Would anyone of you wish to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You detest it..." (Quran 49:12)

The revulsion we all feel at the thought of eating the flesh of our dead brother should be felt when we hear slander or backbiting.

Figurative speech is generally a more moving and effective method of communication than direct commands and detailed explanations. Hence, Allah has used them frequently in the Quran:

"Certainly I have made all kinds of parables (mathal) in the Quran for mankind that perhaps they would reflect." (Quran 39:27)} 
['Usool at-Tafseer: The Methodology of Qur'anic Interpretation' by Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, pg. 193]

Mu'adh ibn Jabal (رضي الله عنه) said: "Messenger of Allah, shall we really be punished for what we talk about?" He replied, "May your mother lose you! It is what the tongue says that throws people on their faces into Hell." [Tirmidhi, no. 2616] [Imam Ahmad, no. 5/231, 236, 237]

Ibn Rajab said about the above hadith: {This indicates that restraining one's tongue is the root of all goodness. If a person restrains his tongue, he controls his affairs. This ruling was elaborated when explaining the saying of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), "Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak well or keep silent." The apparent meaning of the hadith indicates that the tongue is the most important reason for sending people to Hell.

The signs of the tongue include: (i) Polytheism which is gravest of all sins; (ii) Attributing falsehood to Allah, which is just like polytheism; (iii) Perjury; (iv) Practicing black magic; (v) Accusing innocent people of fornication; (vi) Telling lies; and (vii) Slandering and backbiting of others. Most sins are almost always accompanied by an utterance by the tongue. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, "The organs that primarily lead people to Hell are the mouth and the sexual organs." [Tirmidhi, no. 2004] [Ibn Majah, no.. 4246] [Imam Ahmad, no. 2/291, 392]

Through his sayings and deeds, a person sows either a good or bad reward. One the Day of Judgement, he will harvest what he planted.}

[Jami' Al-'Ulum Wal-Hikam (A Collection of Knowledge and Wisdom) by Imam Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (736-795 A.H.), pg. 376-377]

Ibn Rajab further said about backbiting: {And He [Allah] says, "...And He has united their [i.e. the believers'] hearts. If you had spent all that is in the earth, you could not have united their hearts, but Allah has united them. Certainly He is All-Mighty, All-Wise." (Quran 8:62-63) Because of this, Allah has prohibited spreading gossip among people as it leads to animosity and hatred. At the same time, He has allowed lies that are said in order to bring about reconciliation among people.}

[Jami' Al-'Ulum Wal-Hikam (A Collection of Knowledge and Wisdom) by Imam Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (736-795 A.H.), pg. 448]

Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-'As (رضي الله عنه) said: "Leave alone what you have nothing to do with, and do not speak about what does not concern you, and secure your tongue like you secure your money." [Ibn Hibban Al-Busti, Rawdatu Al-'Uqala' 1:55]

Reefi said: "May my tongue fall off, like the tail of the lizard, before uttering any slander towards my brothers."

A man once wrote to Ibn Umar (رضي الله عنه): "Please write down all knowledge for me." Ibn Umar replied: "Knowledge is vast, but if you can meet Allah having kept your back light of the burden of people’s blood, your stomach void of people’s wealth and having kept your tongue from [disparaging] their honour, then do so." [Al-Dhahabi, Siyar 'A'lam Al-Nubala' 3:222]


Expiation of Backbiting

Ibn Kathir (رحمه الله) explained Quran 49:12 as follows: "'Verily, Allah is the One Who forgives and accepts repentance, Most Merciful.' He forgives those who repent to Him, is merciful with those who go back to Him and trust in Him. The majority of scholars have stated that repentance for committing the sin of backbiting is that one refrains from backbiting intending not to repeat it again. There is a difference of opinion if whether feeling remorse is required in this case, and also if one should apologize to those who he has backbitten. Some scholars stated that it is not necessary for one to ask those whom he has backbitten to forgive him, because if they knew what was said about them, they could be hurt more than if they were not told about it. It is better, they said, that one should praise those whom he has backbitten in audiences in which he has committed the act. It is also better if one defends the injured party against any further backbiting, as much as one can, as recompense for his earlier backbiting." [Tafsir ibn Kathir]

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (رحمه الله) said: "Whoever wrongs a person by slandering him, backbiting about him or insulting him, then repents, Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) will accept his repentance, but if the one who was wronged finds out about that, he has the right to settle the score. But if he slandered him or backbit about him and the person did not hear of that, then there are two views according to the scholars, both of which were narrated from Ahmad, the more correct of which is that he should not tell him that he spoke against him in his absence. It was said that he should rather speak well of him in his absence just as he spoke badly of him in his absence, as al-Hasan al-Basri (رحمه الله) said: 'The expiation for gheebah (backbiting) is to pray for forgiveness for the person about whom you backbit.'" [Majmoo’ al-Fataawa]

What is garnered from the above two passages by the eminent scholars of the past are that one should:
1. Repent to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى);
2. Not backbite again;
3. Praise the one who was backbitten in gatherings where (s)he's been backbitten;
4. Defend the backbitten person against further backbiting as much as possible;
5. Speak well of the one backbitten in his/her absence;
6. Pray for the forgiveness of the one who's been backbitten.


Examples of Backbiting

Aisha (رضي الله عنها) said: I said to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم): "Such-and-such thing of Safiyyah (رضي الله عنها) is sufficient for you." (She means to say that she was a woman with a short stature). He said: "You have indeed uttered a word which would pollute the sea if it were mixed in it." She further imitated a person before him and said: "I do not like that I should imitate someone even (if I am paid) in return such-and-such." [Abu Dawud 41:4857; at-Tirmidhi 2502] [Riyadh as-Saliheen, no. 1525]

Commentary: In Arabic, the word "Muhakat" is often used for imitating someone's defect or deformity, etc. Every imitation of this kind also amounts to backbiting. It is evident from this Hadith that to speak of somebody in a scornful manner, or ridicule someone's physical defect, or to imitate someone's deformity, or talk disparagingly about someone, is a great offense which should be avoided by every Muslim.


Backbiting is Biting your Dead Brother's Flesh!

Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says: "O you who believe! Avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate the other)! And fear Allah: For Allah is Accepting of repentance and Most Merciful." (Quran 49:12)

Kamal El Mekki said: "Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) likened it [backbiting] to eating the flesh of your brother while he's dead...horrible, right? One of the scholars invited some people in his house for food. He brought out the bread and now was going to get the meat. They [i.e. the people] started backbiting someone so he [i.e. the scholar] wanted tell them indirectly to stop backbiting. He said: 'SubhanAllah [Free is Allah from every imperfection]! People before you used to eat the bread before the meat, and you are starting with the meat!' Understand? ...Because you're already eating the flesh of your brother." []

So next time, before you backbite, ask yourself: "Would you like to eat the flesh of your dead brother?!"

If you are in Salah (prayer), protect your heart. If you are in a gathering of people, protect your tongue and protect your gaze.


What you Lose when you Backbite - Your Good Deeds!

Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: "Whoever has wronged his brother with regard to his honour or something, let him ask him for forgiveness before the time when there will be neither dinar nor dirham, and if he has any good deeds it will be taken from him in proportion to the wrong he did, and if he does not have any good deeds (hasanaat), some of the other person's evil deeds (sayi'aat) will be taken and given to him to bear." [Bukhari, no. 2296 and 6053]

Ibn Hajar (رحمه الله) said in his commentary on this hadith: "'Whoever has wronged his brother' - i.e., if he has done something wrong to his brother. 'With regard to his honour or something' - i.e., anything else... this includes all kinds of wealth and wounding, even a slap in the face and so on. According to a report narrated by at-Tirmidhi, 'with regard to his honour or his wealth.'

'Before the time when there will be neither dinar nor dirham' - i.e., the Day of Resurrection. 'Some of the person's evil deeds (sayi'aat) will be taken' - i.e., they will be taken from the account of the person who was wronged. 'And given to him to bear' - i.e., they will be added to the account of the wrongdoer." [Fath al-Bari Sharh Sahih Al-Bukhari] ['Islam: Questions And Answers - The Heart Softeners' (Part 2), Volume 16, by Muhammad Saed Abdul-Rahman, pg. 76-77]

Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: "The one who is bankrupt among my Ummah [community] is the one who will come on the Day of Resurrection with prayers, fasts and Zakah (i.e. good deeds) to his credit, but he will come having slandered one person and shed the blood of another and wrongfully consumed the wealth of a third, so (his victims) will be given some of his hasanaat (good deeds), and if his hasanaat (good deeds) run out before the score is settled, some of their sins will be taken and thrown onto him, and he will be thrown into Hell." [Muslim 32:6251]

So even though he has done many good deeds, e.g. prayers, fasts and charity, since he hurled abuses upon others, brought calumny against others and unlawfully consumed the wealth of others and shed the blood of others and beat others, his virtues (i.e. good deeds) would be credited to the account of one who suffered at his hand. And if his good deeds fall short to clear the account, then the sins of the one he backbit would be entered in his account and he would be thrown in the Hell-Fire.

This means, when you backbite, you will be giving your good deeds away to the one you are backbiting on the Day of Judgement. And when your good deeds have run out, the bad deeds (i.e. sins) of the one who have backbitten will be thrown onto you. What a great disaster it is for the one who cannot control his tiny delicate flesh (i.e. tongue) which lies in his mouth!

Yasir Qadhi said: "The tongue is but a small, soft flesh. Yet it is capable of breaking the strongest bonds and destroying the most powerful of relationships." 


Reward and Thank your Backbiter with Gifts - Why?

A man said to Al-Hasan Al-Basri (رحمه الله): "Indeed, someone has backbitten you." Hasan sent a dish of sweet dates to the backbiter and he said: "I heard that you have given me your good deeds as a gift so I would like to repay you for it, but please excuse me because I am unable to completely repay you." [Bariqah Mahmudiyyah 257]

Sufyan at-Thawri (رحمه الله) said: "It’s amazing how Abu Hanifah (رحمه الله) never backbites. I’ve never even heard him backbite his enemies!"

And Sufyan at-Thawri (رحمه الله) said: "Abu Hanifah is more intelligent than to let someone run away with all his good deeds!" or ("Abu Hanifah is not such a fool that he will destroy his own good deeds")!

Kamal El Mekki said: "Sufyan at-Thawri (رحمه الله) said: 'I have never seen Abu Hanifa (رحمه الله) backbiting anyone. Abu Hanifa is too intelligent to let someone to go away with his good deeds.' This means that if you backbite people, they take from your good deeds on the Day of Judgement... Some people said to Sufyan at-Thawri (رحمه الله): 'These people are talking bad about you.' Sufyan at-Thawri sent them a bowl of dates with a message that said, 'It has come to my attention that you have given me some of your good deeds. I couldn't find anything to thank you with except this bowl of dates so please accept it from me.'" [] 

So next time, before you backbite, ask yourself: "Would you like to give away your good deeds and receive another's bad deeds on your balance of deeds on the Day of Judgement?!"

What an affliction it would be, 
that on your scale of deeds you should see,
evil deeds that you did not commit!
To find they're the bad deeds of the one you had backbit!
Transferred onto you for the crimes of your tongue!
Then you would have preferred to live life dumb!
For the evils of gheebah were not worth your "fun"!
To have all your good deeds wiped out;
to have all your good deeds gone!
Because you could not control a small flesh in your mouth!

Ibn Al-Qayyim (رحمه الله) said: "There is nothing on earth that badly needs to be imprisoned more than the tongue." [Al-Fawa'id, pg. 249]


Exceptions to Backbiting

In An-Nawawi's book called 'Riyadh as-Saliheen', the 256th Chapter is titled, 'Some cases where it is permissible to backbite.'

Backbiting is permissible only for valid reasons approved by Shari'ah (Islamic Law). 

"One of the scholars summed up in two lines of poetry the situations in which it is permissible to talk about a person in his absence, and said:  'Criticizing is not gheebah (backbiting) in six (cases) –  (1) complaining, (2) identifying, (3) warning, (4) when the person is committing evil openly, (5) when advice is sought, (6) and when one is asking for help in removing an evil.'" [Fatawa al-Lajnah al-Daimah li’l-Ifta]

An-Nawawi (رحمه الله) mentioned these following 6 points:

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. [(1) Complaining]

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 tends something else apart from this, then this act becomes unlawful. [(6) When one is asking for help in removing an evil]

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. 1535 makes this point clear. [(5) When advice is sought]

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. [(4) When the person is committing evil openly]

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 his '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. [(3) Warning]

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. [(2) identifying]

Evidence for these exceptional points:

• Point 3: "One who seeks legal verdict on a certain matter may point out the defaults of another person..." [(5) When advice is sought]

Aisha (رضي الله عنها) said: "Hind bint Utbah (رضي الله عنها) - the wife of Abu Sufyan (رضي الله عنه) - said to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم): 'O Messenger of Allah! Abu Sufyan is a miserly 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 (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said to her: 'Take what is sufficient for you and your children, and the amount should be just and reasonable (with no extravagance).'" [Bukhari 3:34:413; 3:43:640; 7:64:272; 8:78:636] [Muslim 18:4253-4254] [Bulugh al-Maram by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (d. 852 A.H.), p. 421. (Hadith no. 1179)] [Riyadh as-Saliheen, no. 1535] 

We learn from this Hadith that, in order to know religious injunctions, husband and wife can mention each-other's shortcomings before a Mufti (religious scholar who is in a position to issue verdicts on religious matters).

• Point 4: "One who criticizes those who openly commit acts of disobedience..." [(4) When the person is committing evil openly]

1. Aisha (رضي الله عنها) said: The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: "I do not think that so-and-so understands anything of our Faith." [Bukhari] [Riyadh as-Saliheen, no. 1532]

Al-Laith ibn Sa'd, one of the narrators of this Hadith, said: "The two men mentioned by the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) in this Hadith were hypocrites (i.e., they revealed Faith but concealed disbelief)."

2. Zayd ibn Wahb reported that a man was brought before Abdullah ibn Mas'ud (رحمه الله) because his beard was giving out smell of wine and his beard was dripping with wine (alcohol). Ibn Mas'ud (رحمه الله) said: "We have been prohibited from spying (on Muslims) and finding faults (with them). But we can take to task only and only if the sin is overt (manifest)." [Abu Dawud 41:4872] [Riyadh as-Saliheen, no. 1572]

Here we see a key Islamic principle: to hide and/or seek excuses for people's faults; not to occupy our time searching for people's faults/sins; and to take appropriate actions against sins which are openly committed, not basing our judgments on suspicion and assumptions. 

A person guilty of drinking was brought in front of Abdullah ibn Mas'ud (رضي الله عنه) and his beard dripping with the alcoholic drink. But since he himself hadn't seen the man drinking, Abdullah ibn Mas'ud (رضي الله عنه) said: "We have been forbidden to seek out people's weaknesses. Yes, if a crime is committed openly we will punish it."

Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid said: "If he accidentally sees him in a doubtful place or seeming to behave in a doubtful manner, he should not accuse him unless he sees him with his own eyes doing a wrongful action...he should not broadcast it unless the person does the evil action openly, because this will only help the Shaytaan (Satan) against him and stop him from repenting. And Allaah knows best." 

Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: "The servant (who conceals) the faults of others in this world, Allah would conceal his faults on the Day of Resurrection." [Muslim 32:6267]

Shaykh 'Abd Al-Aziz ibn Baz said: "If someone sees from his brother (for the sake of Allah) something private (i.e. a sin) then don’t expose him nor spread it between the people. Rather cover it for him, advise him, direct him towards good, calling him to make Tawbah (repentance) to Allah from that, and do not expose him to the people. And whoever does this and covers for his brother, Allah will cover for him in this world and the next. Because the reward is according to the action. As for those that expose sins and don’t have shyness, exposing themselves to the people; then they shame themselves. Therefore, they are not the ones that you cover up for. Like the one that drinks alcohol in front of the people, in the market and gathering places, they have shamed themselves. I ask Allah Al-'Afiya (wellness). In addition, the one that does other transgressions openly and doesn’t care, then his affair is to be taken to the guardians [those in charge of affairs]. If they will be a deterrence for those like him and uphold the punishment on him then raise his affair [to them]. For this is not the place to cover up the one who exposes and announces his sins."

So if a person sins in private, why should you expose his/her sin into the public and spread cheap gossip among people?

Umar ibn Al-Khattab (رضي الله عنه) said: “Verily, in the time of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) the people would be judged by revelation, but the revelation has ended. Now we judge you according to your outward deeds. Whoever shows us good, we will trust him and favor him and it is not for us to judge his inner secrets, for Allah will hold him accountable for those. Whoever shows us evil, then we will not trust him or believe in him even if he claims his intention is good.” [Bukhari 3:48:809]

Hamdun al-Qassar (رحمه الله) said: "If a friend among your friends errs (makes an error), make seventy excuses for them. If your hearts are unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own selves." [Imam Bayhaqi in his Shu'ab al-Iman (7.522)]

Ja'far ibn Muhammad as-Sadiq (رحمه الله) said: "If you see something you do not like in your brother, try to find from one to seventy excuses for him. If you cannot find an excuse, say, 'There might be an excuse, but I do not know it.'" [Al-Bayhaqi in Shu'b Al-Iman, 7853]

One of the righteous people said: "If I see someone with alcohol dripping from his beard, then I’ll say perhaps it spilled on him. And if I see him on top of a mountain saying, ‘I am your Lord Most High’ (أنا ربكم الأعلى), then I’ll say, 'he’s reciting an ayah (verse) from the Quran.'"

3. Zaid ibn Al-Arqam (رضي الله عنه) said: We set out on a journey along with the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and people suffered from the lack of provisions. Abdullah ibn Ubai ibn Salul (the chief of the hypocrites of Madinah) said to his friends: "Do not spend on those who are with the Messenger of Allah until they desert him." He also said: "If we return to Madinah, the more honourable (meaning himself, i.e., Abdullah ibn Ubaiy) will drive out therefrom the meaner (meaning Messenger of Allah)." I (i.e. Zaid) went to the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and informed him about that and he sent someone to Abdullah ibn Ubai ibn Salul. He (صلى الله عليه و سلم) 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. 

Zaid (رضي الله عنه) said: "I was so much distressed because of this until this Verse was revealed verifying my statement: 'When the hypocrites come to you (O Muhammad), 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.' (Quran 63:1) Then the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) called the hypocrites in order to seek forgiveness for them from Allah, but they turned away their heads." [Bukhari 6:60:423-427; Muslim 38:6677] [Riyadh as-Saliheen, no. 1534]

Commentary: Abdullah ibn Ubai ibn Salul was the chief of the hypocrites at 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 (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and Muslims, which were overheard by Zaid ibn Al-Arqam (رحمه الله). The latter informed the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) 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.

• Point 5: "...It is also permissible to mention the bad qualities of somebody for marriage purposes in case an advice is sought..." [(3) Warning]

Fatimah bint Qais (رضي الله عنها), a female Companion of the Prophet, said: I came to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and said to him: "Mu'awiyah ibn Abu Sufyan, Abul-Jahm and Usamah Zaid sent me a proposal of marriage." The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: "Mu'awiyah is a poor man without any property, and Abul-Jahm is very harsh with women (i.e. is a great beater of women). Marry Usamah." So I married him and I was envied (by others). [Muslim 9:3512; 9:3526; 9:3527] [Riyadh as-Saliheen, no. 1533]

Commentary: We learn from this Hadith that it is permissible to mention the true facts, virtues and vices without equivocation (i.e. without the use of ambiguous or unclear language) about the parties who intend to enter into wedlock provided one does it for their welfare.

 Point 5: " fears that his '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." [(3) Warning]

Aisha (رضي الله عنها) reported that a person sought permission from Allah's Apostle (صلى الله عليه و سلم) to see him. He said: "Grant him permission. He is a bad son of his tribe or he is a bad person of his tribe." When he came in he used kind words for him. [Muslim 32:6268]

Ibn Hajr (رحمه الله) said: "...whoever would know something [bad] about a person and would fear that others might be deluded by his outward goodness, and would consequently fall into jeopardy, then he should tell them about that person's bad attribute(s) as an advice..."

Al-Qurtubi (رحمه الله) said: "This hadith states the permissibility of backbiting on the one who declares immorality, obscenity, tyranny in authority, or calling others to innovation in religion provided that it is valid to comply with them in order to avoid their harm, however this should not lead into cajolery on the expense of Allah's religion....and the difference between Mudaraat (compliance) and Mudahanah (cajolery) is that compliance is exerting dunya (worldly matters) for the sake of worldly matters or religion or even both. That is permissible, and may be even desirable. While cajolery is exerting deen (religion) for the sake of worldly matters. Verily the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) exerted to him from his worldly matters his good companionship and gentleness in speech, however he didn't praise him in speech, so his words about him would contradict his deeds. Therefore, what he said about him is true, and what he granted him was good companionship, and thus the ambiguity is removed and praise be to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى)."

Iyaadd said: "Uyaynah wasn't a Muslim yet at that time - Allah knows best - hence, talking about him wasn't considered as backbiting, or may be he embraced Islam, but he wasn't really a good Muslim, so the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) wanted to demonstrate that so those who did not know his true inner feelings would not be deluded. During the lifetime of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and also after his death, he had shown some signs of weak faith, therefore the description of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) is one of the evidences of his Prophethood. As for softening the speech for him after he entered, this was in order to make him feel at ease. Then he mentioned that which is similar to what was stated. This hadith is a foundation in Mudaraat (compliance), and in the permissibility of backbiting on the people of disbelief and obscenity" and the like and Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best." [Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani, Fathul Bari, Kitab: Al Adab, Bab: Lam Yakunn Al Nabai Sallah Allaahu 'Alayhi Wa Sallam Faahishaan wa laa Mutafahishan, Commentary on Hadith no. 5572]

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) had to let people know about the negative aspects of the man in order to caution or warn them so that they may not get harmed by the man's ill effects. 


Backbiting is permitted under 6 exceptional circumstances, that is, an oppressed or wronged person asking for his/her rights before a judge or person in authority; getting a legal verdict (fatwa) on a matter from a Muftiseeking someone's help in forbidding evil to stop someone's bad behaviour and bring him back to the right path; criticizing/speaking out openly about those who openly commit evil deeds; criticizing narrators of hadith and witnesses in court; mentioning bad qualities of someone for marriage purposes for advice and warning; warning someone against an innovator or bad person; identifying someone with a nickname/description e.g. if someone's known by nicknames such as "the blind man" or "the disabled one", however, this is only permissible if you're not belittling them and it's better to identify him/her another way.

As you can see, all of the exceptions are not merely for the sake of foolish entertainment or disparaging someone or for evil malicious reasons, stemming from entertainment, mockery, ridicule or jealousy and envy like we understand backbiting to be, but they have a meaningful, useful and beneficial purpose. For example, the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said to a woman (Fatimah bint Qays) to not marry a certain man because he was harsh on women. Another example is that scholars have evaluated or criticized Hadith transmitters, for example, saying this one has a weak memory, or this one in his old age ended up having a weak memory, this one is a liar, this one is a fabricator, etc for the benefit of acquiring authentic narrations for the religion of Islam. All these exceptional cases come with good purposes and beneficial reasons, by way of sincere advice or other legitimate reasons, and not with the aim of causing harm and spreading mischief. 

"Speaking about a person in his absence is permissible in certain situations as indicated by Islamic Legal (Shari'ah) evidence, if there is a need for that, such as if someone consults you about arranging a marriage to him, or entering into a business partnership with him, or if someone complains to the authorities to put a stop to his wrongdoing. In that case there is nothing wrong with saying things about him that he may not like to be said, because there is an interest to be served by that." [Fatawa al-Lajnah al-Daimah li’l-Ifta]

We end with a beautiful saying of our final Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) in which he advised his followers: "Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him say something good or else remain silent." [Bukhari 8:73:47] [Muslim 1:78]

So let us guard our tongues,
for every breath we take from our lungs,
is also from Allah's blessing,
so how can we then be backbiting,
knowing every breath is by Him?

Ibn Abi ad-Dunya mentioned that Prophet Dawud (عليه السلام) asked Allah (سبحانه و تعالى):
"What is the least of Your blessings?"
Allah revealed to him: "O Dawud, take a breath."
Dawud did so, and Allah told him:
"This is the least of My blessings on you."
['Patience and Gratitude' by Ibn Al-Qayyim, pg. 70]

1 comment: