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Backbiting


THE PROHIBITION OF BACKBITING
  • Backbiting is same as eating the meat of a dead person
  • What is backbitting?
  • Backbitting is an air-pollution.
  • The commandment of guarding one’s tongue.
  • Every word is recorded by angels of Allah.
  • Good words please Allah and bad words displease Allah.
  • The believer must speak well or remain silent.
  • The true Muslim avoids hurting others with his tongue.
  • Proper use of speech will lead to Paradise.
  • Misuse of speech can lead to Hellfire.
  • Exceesive talk hardens the heart and keeps away from Allah.
  • Our limbs humble themselves before the tongue.
  • Bad speech would pollute the pure sea.
  • Punishment of backbiting.
  • Accepted repentance from backbiting and slander.
And backbite not 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 forgives and accepts repentance, Most Merciful. (49:12)
COMMENTARY
Backbiting was sternly warned against, and this is why Allah the Exalted and Most Blessed compared it to eating the flesh of a dead human being. Just as you hate eating the flesh of a dead person, on account of your nature; so hate backbiting, on account of your religion. The latter carries a punishment that is worse than the former. This Ayah seeks to discourage people from backbiting and warns against it.

WHAT IS BACKBITTING?

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) 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.”[Muslim].

COMMENTARY
This Hadith elaborates the meaning of backbiting and calumny and points out the difference between the two along with the evils of each one of them. Both these evils are mischief of the tongue and entail great troubles. May Allah save us from both.

BACKBITTING IS AN AIR-POLLUTION

Jabir bin `Abdullah said, “We were with the Messenger of Allah when a rotten odor was carried by the wind. The Messenger of Allah said,(Do you know what this odor is It is the odor of those who backbite people.)” Imam Ahmad.

A cousin of Abu Hurayrah said, The Prophet said: (The backbiting you committed against your brother is worse as a meal than this meal. By He in Whose Hand is my soul! He is now swimming in the rivers of Paradise.)” Al-Hafiz Abu Ya`la recorded this Hadith which has an authentic chain of narration.

THE COMMANDMENT OF GUARDING ONE’S TONGUE

Since Backbitting is done by tongue Allah commands all the believers to guide their tongue:
EVERY WORD IS RECORDED BY ANGELS OF ALLAH
Allah’s statement:

Not a word does he (or she) utter, but there is a watcher by him ready (to record it). (50:18)

GOOD WORDS PLEASE ALLAH AND BAD WORDS DISPLEASE ALLAH
Therefore, the angels record every word that is spoken. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) said, “A man utters a word pleasing to Allah without considering it of any significance for which Allah exalts his ranks (in Jannah); another one speaks a word displeasing to Allah without considering it of any importance, and for this reason he will sink down into Hell.”[Al-Bukhari].

Abu ‘Abdur-Rahman Bilal bin Al-Harith Al-Muzani (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said,

A man speaks a good word without knowing its worth, Allah records for him His Good Pleasure till the day he will meet Him; and a man utters an evil word without realizing its importance, Allah records for him His displeasure till the day he will meet Him.
[Imam Malik and At-Tirmidhi].

COMMENTARY
Alqamah used to say, “How many words did I not utter because of the Hadith that Bilal bin Al-Harith narrated.” At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah collected this Hadith. At-Tirmidhi said, “Hasan Sahih.” There is a Hadith similar to this in the Sahih. This Hadith tells us a fact which can be observed in our everyday life. Sometimes a person utters a good sentence which pleases an individual and he reforms himself or holds himself from doing something wrong. Such a sentence or utterance is highly rewarded by Allah. Similarly, sometime a person utters a mischievous sentence, the ruinous effects of which he does not realize. This utterance hurts someone’s feelings and leads him to sin and evil. Almighty Allah is displeased with such a person. The lesson that this Hadith has for us is that one should strictly guard his speech and weigh his words to avoid Allah’s Wrath.

THE BELIEVER MUST SPEAK GOOD OR REMAIN SILENT

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) said, “He who believes in Allah and the Last Day must either speak good or remain silent.”
[Muslim].

THE TRUE MUSLIM AVOIDS HURTING OTHERS WITH HIS TONGUE

Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I asked the Messenger of Allah (PBUH): “Who is the most excellent among the Muslims?” He said, “One from whose tongue and hands the other Muslims are secure.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

PROPER USE OF SPEECH WILL LEAD TO PARADISE

Sahl bin Sa`d (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Whosoever gives me a guarantee to safeguard what is between his jaws and what is between his legs, I shall guarantee him Jannah.” [Al-Bukhari].

COMMENTARY
What is between the jaws and what is between the legs refers to the tongue and the sexual organs, respectively. The Prophet (PBUH) has given the assurance of Jannah to every Muslim who protects these two parts of the body. Protection here means their use permitted by the Islamic Shari`ah. They should be guarded against every act that is prohibited by the Shari`ah.

MISUSE OF SPEECH CAN LEAD TO HELLFIRE

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard the Prophet (PBUH) saying, “A person utters a word thoughtlessly (i.e., without thinking about its being good or not) and, as a result of this, he will fall down into the fire of Hell deeper than the distance between the east and the west.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

COMMENTARY
This Hadith shows the disadvantages which can be caused by the improper use of the tongue. It is, therefore, essential that one should think before he speaks.

Sufyan bin `Abdullah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I asked: “O Messenger of Allah! Tell me, of something to which I may remain steadfast.” He (PBUH) said, “Say: My Rubb is Allah and then remain steadfast.” Then I said: “O Messenger of Allah! What do you fear most about me?” He took hold of his own tongue and said: “This.” [At-Tirmidhi].

Faith in Allah and all His Attributes is the basis of all virtuous deeds. No act or deed is acceptable by Allah without this faith, “and then remain steadfast” means to comply with what Allah has ordained and to keep away from what He has forbidden so that one can win over His Pleasure. Every Muslim is required to guard his speech strictly because even the slightest carelessness on this account can cause Allah’s displeasure.

EXCESSIVE TALK HARDENS THE HEART AND KEEPS AWAY FROM ALLAH

Ibn `Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “Do not indulge in excessive talk except when remembering Allah. Excessive talking without the Remembrance of Allah hardens the heart; and those who are the farthest from Allah are those whose hearts are hard.” [At-Tirmidhi]

COMMENTARY
The hardening of the heart is a condition where one neither learns any lesson from Allah’s Signs nor does one accept anyone’s good advice and religious preaching. If one indulges in idle talk rather than the remembrance of Allah, his heart becomes hardened, which is a sign of being far from Allah’s Mercy. One should therefore occupy himself with the remembrance of Allah.
‘Uqbah bin `Amir (May Allah be pleased with him) said: I asked the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), “How can salvation be achieved?” He replied, “Control your tongue, keep to your house, and weep over your sins.”[At-Tirmidhi].

It is better for one to spends his surplus time at home in the remembrance of Allah, the recitation of the Qur’an and the performance of acts of obedience, if one feels unable to benefit others or if one fears that he, as well as his religion will not be safe if one mixes with others. Allah greatly likes it that one repents of his own sins and weeps over them.

OUR LIMBS HUMBLE THEMSELVES BEFORE THE TONGUE

Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (PBUH) said, “When the son of Adam gets up in the morning, all the limbs humble themselves before the tongue and say: `Fear Allah for our sake because we are with you: (i.e., we will be rewarded or punished as a result of what you do) if you are straight, we will be straight; and if you are crooked, we will become crooked.”’ [At-Tirmidhi].

COMMENTARY
This Hadith shows the importance of guarding one’s tongue against that which is prohibited. Even the slightest carelessness on the part of the tongue can make all the organs suffer for it. Crookedness of the tongue means the careless use of the tongue which lands the whole body in trouble; and keeping the tongue straight means keeping oneself safe from all kinds of troubles and ordeals.

BAD SPEECH WOULD POLLUTE THE PURE SEA

`Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) said: I said to the Prophet (PBUH): “Such and such thing of Safiyyah (May Allah be pleased with her) 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 said: I imitated a person before him and he said, “I do not like that I should imitate someone even (if I am paid) in return such and such.”[Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi].

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. This is the reason the Prophet (PBUH) used the analogy stated in this Hadith when `Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) said that Safiyyah (May Allah be pleased with her) was short-statured. Imam An-Nawawi regarded this analogy as based on Wahy and supported his contention by the Verse of the Qur’an: “Nor does he speak of (his own) desire. It is only a Revelation revealed.”
Thus, 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.

PUNISHMENT OF BACKBITTING

Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, “During the Mi`raj (the Night of Ascension), I saw a group of people who were scratching their chests and faces with their copper nails. I asked, `Who are these people, O Jibril?’ Jibril replied: `These are the people who ate flesh of others (by backbiting) and trampled people’s honour.”'[Abu Dawud].

COMMENTARY
“These are the people who ate flesh of others” is a metaphor for backbiting. “To trample people’s honour” is akin to harming their goodwill and honour. The punishment for these things mentioned in Hadith makes their seriousness obvious.

ACCEPTED REPENTANCE FROM BACKBITING AND SLANDER

Allah the Exalted and Most Honored said, (And have Taqwa of Allah), that is, regarding what He has commanded you and forbidden for you. Fear Him and beware of Him, (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
1. One refrains from backbiting intending not to repeat it again,
2. One must feel remorse for such an act,
3. It is better to praise those whom a person has backbitten in audiences instead of apologizing to them which could hurt them more.
4. One can recompense by fixing the demage caused by backbiting.