Backbiting in Islam
Backbiting, according to Oxford Dictionary is “Malicious talk about someone who is not present. ” It originated from the improper attack from the back in the sport of bearbaiting(1). The word in Arabic is pronounced as “Ghibah. ” Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) defined Gibah as “Your mentioning your brother with something about him that he dislikes. ” Islam considers backbiting as one of the major sins that a muslim person must not commit (2). This paper will cover reasons why it is prohibited, causes, backbiting non muslims, cure, and cases in which backbiting is permissible.
Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) once said, to signify the wrongfulness of backbiting: “Whoever backbites a Muslim spoils his fasts and breaks his wudu’, and shall come on the Day of Resurrection with his mouth’s stench more putrid than a carcass … If he dies before repenting, his death is like that of one who dies while considering permissible that which is prohibited by God (3). ” There are two main reasons why Islam prohibits backbiting: 1. Islam prohibits backbiting because it emphasizes on protecting people’s rights and feelings.
Gibah could violates people’s rights and hurt their feelings; therefore, it is a serious sin. 2. Because of the fact that it is easy to commit, people usually disregard it and might feel that it is insignificant (2). Listening to backbiting is also considered a sin and sometimes the listener might be considered as a sinner a well, being in the same position of the backbiter. The messenger (PBUH) said in regards to that that “the listener is one of the two backbiters. ” A person could be more sinful if he expresses his interest in the backbiter’s talk.
In other words, saying something like “wow,” “Astaghfirullah” or “I didn’t know he would do such a thing” means that the listener is encouraging the backbiter to add something more (3). Causes People backbite each other for plenty of reasons. Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali mentions in his book “Revival of Religious Sciences” several reasons why a person would backbite. One of the reasons is revenge, a person will gain satisfaction when he/she backbites someone since he avenged him or herself. Another reason is the influence of the people around the person.
People sometimes feel pressured by their friends and sometimes the only way to fit in with the group is through participating in whatever that group is. Al-Ghazali also stated that some people have a desire to praise themselves through belittling others. In the same way, someone might bad-mouth another person out of jealousy (4). Joking and mockery is also a reason why people would backbite,and in regards to that Allah says in the Quran “O you who have believed, neither should men mock other men, it may be that these are better than they; nor should women mock other women, it may be that these are better than they…
It is an evil thing to be called by a bad name after faith. Those who fail to avoid this are wrongdoers.. ” (Surah Al-Hujurat 49:11). Backbiting Non-Muslims It is generally discouraged in Islam because one characteristic of a good muslim is not to speak rudely or bad-mouth people. The prophet (PBUH) said: “The Muslim does not slander, curse, speak obscenely or speak rudely. ”. However, Islam has a detailed ruling on backbiting the non-muslims. It can be divided into two cases or scenarios.
The first type of backbiting non-muslims is one in which a person mentions the physical flaws of a another person such as having big ears or long nose. This is type is prohibited because your mockery of someone’s appearance is considered as if you’re making fun of Allah’s creation. The second of type of backbiting non-muslims is when you talk about his bad habits or behavior such as drinking alcohol or adultery. A lot of muslim scholars agree that there is nothing wrong with that if your intention is to warn people against him (5).
Some muslim scholars talked about more specific cases regarding the backbiting of non-muslims. Zakaryia Al-Ansari, a leading Islamic scholar of the 15th century, said that it is prohibited backbite the non-muslim if he is dhimmi. 1 His reasoning is that it will put him off from accepting jizyah. 2 He backs up his reasoning by mentioning the Hadith of the prophet (PBUH) in which he said “Whoever makes a snide comment to a dhimmi has earned Hell. ” Imam Al-Ghazali said that backbiting the dhimmi is forbidden because he is like the muslim “as far as not harming him is concerned.
If the non-muslim is a harbi3, Al-Ansari said that it is permissible to backbite a harbi and he backs it by mentioning what happened when the messenger (PBUH) used to command one of his companions to satirize the mushrikeen4(5). Cases Where Backbiting is Permissible For every rule in Islam, there are exceptions and there are many cases where Islam allows backbiting(4). These Cases are: 1. unjustness. A person who suffered from injustice is allowed to mention the name of the person who committed injustice to someone who is capable of restoring his rights to him like a judge or a ruler of a city.
If your intention is to change evil things or to prevent a person from committing a sin. If the intention is not to change evil, then ghibah is not permissible. 3. If you’re asking about a ruling on a point in Islam(Fatwa), then you may say that your brother, father, or wife has done such and such and you would like to know the ruling on that action. However, Islam encourages people to avoid mentioning names. The question can formulated as “What is the verdict regarding a person who has done such-and-such? ” 4. If your intention is to warn people about the wrongdoing of a person.
For example, it is permissible to warn people about a merchant who cheat people by selling them defective products. It is also permissible to reveal the faults of a person to someone who is asking you to evaluate that person whom the former is thinking of marrying. A legitimate evidence for is when Fatimah bint Qays when the prophet (PBUH) and asked him about two men who had proposed to her. He said “As for Mu`awiyah, he is a poor man with no money, and as for Abu Jahm, his stick never leaves his shoulder. ” [Bukhari, Muslim, Malik].
It is permissible to perform ghibah if a person commits sins in front of people and does not have any qualms about his sins. However, It is prohibited to mention any of his secret sins. “There can be no backbiting of one who casts off the mantle of modesty. “5 [Suyuti, Al-Jami` As-Saghir, 2/519, from Bayhaqi. ] Expiation A backbiter violates two infringements in Islam. One is the limits of Allah which must expiated by sincere regret and seeking forgiveness from Allah. A number of fatwas say that the backbiter must praise the person whom he backbit in his absence.
The second infringement is in regards to people’s rights. The sin can only be expiated if person affected by ghibah forgives and pardons the backbiter. The messenger (PBUH) said that “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 hasanat (good deeds), some of the other person’s sayyiat (evil deeds) will be taken and given to him to bear. ”