Al-Gheebah (Backbiting) and its Evil Effects on Muslim Society
All praise is due to Allah, and may Allah's peace and blessings be on the Messenger of Allah, his progeny, Companions and those who followed him.
There is no doubt that Allah has bestowed tremendous bounties on mankind. Among the foremost of these bounties after Islam is the bounty of speaking with the tongue.
However, the tongue is a weapon that has two sharp edges. If it is used in the obedience of Allah, such as reciting the Quran, enjoining righteousness, forbidding evil, helping the oppressed and other righteous acts, then this is required from every Muslim. They must also be thankful (to Allah) for this bounty.
However, if the tongue is used in the obedience of Satan, in dividing the Muslim community, lying, uttering falsehood,backbiting, spreading calumnies, breaching the honor of Muslims and other acts that Allah and His Messenger ~ have forbidden, and then this is forbidden for Muslims. This is among the harms of the tongue and one of the greatest harms to mankind.
It is easier for mankind to avoid eating forbidden things, injustice, adultery, theft and alcohol consumption, than controlling his tongue. This is why some men who are described as abstinent, religious worshippers of Allah, sometimes utter words that anger Allah, while being careless regarding the evil they are uttering. Also, a person may strive to stay away from lewdness and transgression, yet his tongue tears and slaughters the honor and reputation of the living, and even the deceased. They do not care about what they utter, and power and strength come only from Allah.
Hence, due to the danger of the tongue’s harms upon the individual, the society and the Islamic nation, we undertook the task of writing this treatise and something, regarding this dangerous matter. Hopefully Allah will benefit the Muslims with it, and success is from Allah
The Prophet explained the meaning of Gheebah in his saying, "Do you know what Al-Gheebah is?"
They said, "Allah and His Messenger know best." He said, "Your mentioning your brother with what he hates."
It was asked, "What if that which I say is (really) in my brother?" He said,
"If he (really) has in him what you say, you will be committing, Gheebah against him, and if what you say is not (really) in him, you will be slandering him."
Therefore, 'Gheebah' means to mention someone in his absence by an attribute or a characteristic that he has, which if he were present, he would hate. However, if the absent person is not as he was described, then this is called Buhtaan, meaning, lies and falsehood, which is worse than Gheebah.
The Ruling of Gheebah and the Evidences for the Ruling
Gheeban is one of the worst social ills that Muslims are required to avoid, for it is forbidden according to the consensus (Ijmaa') of the Muslim scholars and is considered one of the major sins. Islam has forbidden Gheebah and prohibited it due to what it contains of severing brotherly ties, spoiling relations of affection, sowing seeds of enmity and spreading faults. To further discourage Muslims from committing Gheebah, the Qur'an likens the person who practices it to one who eats the flesh of his dead brother. Allah said,
" ... and neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it." (49:12)
Therefore, he who criticizes his brother in his absence is like one who bites him and eats his flesh while he is dead, and unable to feel the pain of the bite or being eating. Ibn Kathir and Al-Qurtubi said, in explaining this Verse, "Gheebcdi is forbidden according to the consensus (of the scholars)." Also, Aishah (Razi Allah Anha) narrated, "I said to the Prophet, 'It suffices you regarding Safiyyah that she is such and such -meaning short. He said, "You have uttered a word that if it was mixed with the water of the sea, it would spoil it." (Sahih Abu Dawoocl)
The One Who Listens to Backbiting is the Same as the One Who Backbites
Listening to someone who practices Gheebah , showing amazement and delight at what he says, falls under the same ruling as Gheebah itself. This behavior increases the activity of whoever commits Gheebah and encourages him. It also contains a form of affirming his truthfulness. Consequently, when the listener accepts the words of backbiter and becomes pleased with his speech, he will have participated with him in committing Gheebah. An-Nawawee said,
"Know that whoever hears Gheebah being committed against another Muslim is required to reject it and chastise whoever is saying it. If cannot chastise that person with words, he should forbid him with his hand. If he is unable to forbid the Gheebah with his hand or tongue, then he is required to leave that audience (where Gheebah is being committed). If one hears Gheeban being committed against his teacher, or others who have a right on him or those who are honorable and righteous, he is required to implement what we mentioned above even more vigorously." (Al Athhaar. 294)
What is Required of Whoever Hears Gheebah being Committed Against His Muslim Brother
The Messenger of Allah said "He who defends the honor of His brother in his absence, will have a right on Allah that He frees him from the Fire." (Sahih: Recorded by Ahmad. See Sahih Al-Jaami' , no. 6240)
Causes of Gheebah
Seeking victory for oneself, and the backbiter's effort to relieve the hatred that is in his chest for someone else. Therefore, he backbites him or slanders him. Hatred and dislike for others. Therefore, the backbiter mentions the errors of whomever he hates in order to satisfy the hatred he feels. This is not from the characteristics of the believers. Enviousness, The backbiter will be envious of someone whom the people praise and love. Therefore, the jealous backbiter, who is weak in his religion and intellect, will try to remove this favor. However, he finds no way of doing this except by backbiting him.
Agreeing with the company one associates with. Being courteous to friends, supporting them in their conversation and loving flattery and hypocrisy.
Characteristics of Those Who Commit Gheebah
Those who commit Gheebah have an awful stench. Jaabir RA narrated: We were with the Prophet when an awful odor arose. He said, "Do you know what this odor is? It is the odor of those who commit Gheebah against the believers." (Hasan: Recorded by Ahmad)
Those who commit Gheebah will be tormented in the grave. The Prophet PBUH said, " ... these two are only being tormented because of Gheebah and (not being cautious about) urine. (Sahih: At-Targheeb wat-Tarheeb)
Those who commit Gheebah have weak and cowardly personalities, because they cannot confront other people and they do not have the strength to be direct. If they were brave, they would have mentioned what was wrong with the person in their presence
The trade of the person who indulges in Gheebah is a losing trade, as he surrenders his goods to whomever he backbites in spite of himself. At the same time, it is a profit for the other (backbitten) party, as he acquires its reward in good deeds, thus making his Scale of deeds heavier while he is unaware.
The Faith of those who commit Gheebah ! is deficient, for the Prophet said Do you, 0 you who backbites others, love for your believing brother what you love for yourself when you backbite him? The backbiter nullifies commanding good and forbidding evil. If we were truthful in our Islam and sincere in our, we would face whomever we see as having some shortcoming and we r would command the good and forbid the evil. If not, we nullify the goodness of this Ummah (the Muslim nation).
Examples of Gheebah
Gheebah may be in the body of the person. This is by it being said, "this is a blind person, a cross-eyed person, a one eyed person, a tall person, a wretched person, a black person, or a bald person", and other characteristics that people dislike being described with.
Gheebah may be in the ascription (Le. lineage, nationality, etc.) of the person. This is by it being said, "this person is from such and such tribe," in a belittling manner; or "this person is a non-Arab, a Kurd, a Bedouin, an African, or an Indian," in a derogatory way. It could be in saying, "this person is originally such and such," and so forth. It could also be in his profession, for example saying, "this person is a servant or a barber,II or anything that the person may dislike.
Gheebah may be in the character of the person. This is by it being said, "This person has bad character, he is stingy, he is arrogant, he is a coward, he is irresponsible, he is quick-tempered;" and anything similar to this.
Gheebah may be related to matters of religious law. This is by it being said, "he is a thief, a liar, a drinker of alcohol, one who is lax about prayer (Salaah) or charity (Zakaah) , he does not bow and prostrate properly (in prayer), or he is unkind to his parents." However, this does not apply if he commits these sins in public with an exposed face, neither fearing his Lord or the people. In this case, whoever speaks about such a person is not considered to be committing Gheebah.
Gheebah may be related to worldly matters. This is by it being said, "he is not well-mannered, he belittles people, he talks a lot, he sleeps a lot, he has a big stomach," and so forth.
All of these things are considered aspects of Gheebah if they are actually true and not a lie. Thus, the person who says these things is a backbiter who has eaten the flesh of his brother and is disobedient to his Lord. Gheebah is not restricted to the statement of the tongue. Verily, a movement, a gesture, a motion, an imitation (mimicking), an insinuation, a sneer, a wink, or anything that is understood to mean a degradation of the other party, is all forbidden and included in the meaning of Gheebah. And refuge is sought with Allah.
Matters that are not Thought to be Gheebah, but Actually are Gheebah
A person may mention something about his brother that he would dislike, and then, when someone forbids him from doing so, says, "I am ready to say it in front of him (in his presence)." However, this is rejected from different angles. Among them are the following: Verily you mentioned him behind his back in a manner that he would not like. This is Gheebah. Being prepared to mention speak before him has not evidence concerning it that makes it lawful to backbite him.
The person saying, "Some people do such and such or some of the Fiqh scholars (do such and such) ," when the person being spoken to understands exactly who is being talked about. Thus, the speaker does this to make it understood who is meant (without saying it directly). Maybe a person will be asked about the condition of his brother, so he replies, "May Allah correct us, may Allah forgive us , we ask Allah for security," and similar statements that give a suggestion of his deficiency. Likewise is the saying, "so-and-so is being tested with such and such, or we all do this."
The person's saying, "This is a child so it is permissible to backbite him." This statement is strange and we request the evidence that proves its permissibility.
The Cure for Gheebah
There are two ways to treat one's inclination to commit Gheebah . The first is to repent from Gheebah. This is that the person knows that if he commits Gheebah, he is exposed to the anger and wrath of Allah. Also, he should know that by committing backbiting, some of his good deeds are transferred to the backbitten person on the Day of Resurrection. Therefore, one should sincerely repent to Allah from Gheebah, feel sorrow for his sin and intend to refrain from committing Gheebah in the future. Also, one is required to seek Allah's forgiveness for Gheebah. If the Gheebah reaches the backbitten person, its expiation is that the person who backbit him seeks excuse and pardon from him. If the Gheebah did not reach the person who was backbitten, then the backbiter should seek forgiveness for him, pray for him, and speak well of him in the same amount that he spoke ill of him. In this case he should not inform the backbitten person so that he does not harbor any ill feelings. In both situations, the person who backbit should recant from his statement before those whom he spoke with (against the person), and he should declare within himself that he will not repeat such an act again.
The second cure is that the person should look into the reason that caused him to backbite. For verily, the problem is rectified by cutting off its originating source. The intelligent person cuts off the causes of Gheebah and takes the means of cure and remedy. He occupies himself with his own shortcomings instead of the shortcomings of others. He guards his tongue from speaking anything but goodness. In this way he is victorious with both the good of this world and the good of the Hereafter.
What is Worse than Gheebah
From the calamities that the Muslims have been tested with is that you see a person backbiting his brother, but not because of a sin or shortcoming. He is only doing so in order to make forbidden or IawfuI some customary practices and cultural habits. This is from those things that are specifically for Allah, the Most High. For example, a person may be humble in his dress and non-extravagant in it, even though he is able to be extravagant. Therefore, the ignorant person will say, "Look at this stingy person. Look at this man who forbids for himself the adornment of the worldly life. Look at this person who tries to put our worldly life to death." The opposite is also true. For example, if Allah provides a person with a house or an animal, they say, ‘Look at him. Verily he does not fear Allah regarding the Muslims. While he is living in his house and riding his animal, he does not think about the Muslims." And so forth. Let us know, firstly, why the person does this. Then, let us think and contemplate, is it lawful or forbidden for us to speak against him and give admonishments and sermons about him. Do you know his hidden secrets, as to whether he spends in the way of Allah or not? If Allah provides for him from His bounty, does he reject that bounty or does he give it it’s just due? Fear Allah, fear Allah regarding the honor of the Muslims and their flesh. We ask Allah for safety and we seek refuge with Him from ignorance.
Resisting the Desire to Indulge in Gheebah is one of the Best Types of Jihaad
The Prophet Peace Be Upon Him said, "The best type of Jihaad is for one to struggle against his own self and its desire." (Sahih Al-Jaami', no. 1099, and As-Sahihah, no. 1496)
He also said, "The MUjaahid is he who performs Jihaad (strives hard) against his own self for the sake of Allah." (Sahih Al-Jaami', no . 6679)
We remind you of the Prophet's statement,
"0 you who have believed by their tongues, but Faith has not yet entered their hearts, do not commit Gheebah against the Muslims and do not seek their errors. Verily, he who seeks their errors, then Allah will seek his errors (Le., He will not pardon and conceal them), and he whom Allah seeks his errors, He will shame him, even in his own house. " (Sahih: Abu Dawood)
The wise man spoke the truth who described Gheebah as the entertainment of the sinners, the pastures of the women, and the condiment of the dogs of the people. We ask Allah to save us all from the ills of the tongue and the torment of the Fire. We also ask Allah to benefit whoever reads this, distributes it and hears it. May He make it a means of drawing us and him (the reader) nearer to the Gardens of Delight (i.e. Paradise), and make it a proof on our behalf and not against us. May Allah's peace and blessings be on His Messenger, his household and all of his Companions?