As’salam alaikum warahmatullahi wa barakatuh to my brothers and sisters in Islam.
Today, I want to talk about a topic that many see an insignificant but in reality, it is significant in the sight of Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala). Before we begin, I would like to share a hadith of Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) who reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) said, "He whom Allah saves from the evil of that which is between his jaws and the evil of that which is between his legs will enter Jannah." [At-Tirmidhi].
So what does this mean? The evil between the jaw and the evil between the legs?
Find out by reading
Well today’s topic would be covering the evil between the jaws and even more so backbiting. This is simply because we think we have enough topics about the evil between the legs, but not so much on what lies between the jaws (ie our tongue- the instrument of salvation or destruction).
The prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) mentioned, - let’s all pay attention here. "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].
So from this, we know that a person can either utter something that would lead him to Jannah or he may say something that would destroy him and drag him to Jahannam.
So what is this evil between the tongue?
To be honest, there are many things that we can consider evil of the tongue and a Muslim has to guard his tongue and avoid things that have been forbidden. Among the things which are forbidden which unfortunately people take lightly include gheebah (backbiting), buhtan (slander) and nameemah (malicious gossip).
Shaykh Taqiy al-Deen once said: “Any talk about a person’s honour is either truthful gossip or a fabricated lie. In either case it is slander, because if slander is true then it is gossip and if it is not true then it is a false accusation.” This is something I agree with because you are either praising a person by saying what he would like to hear or you are condemning or saying something that he would not like to hear (even if it is true).
What is backbiting?
Gheebah or backbiting means speaking about a Muslim in his absence and saying things that he would not like to have spread around or mentioned. In order words, Gheebah (backbiting, gossip) means that a person mentions the faults of his Muslim brother in his absence, which he would not like if he heard about it, when there is no need to mention them.
- things that are said to commend or praise,
- things mentioned in a person’s presence (although the scholars differ on this).
- things that a person wouldn’t mind being said and things that need to be mentioned
- And cases when there is a shar’i (legal religious) reason for doing that, such as warning against an innovator to make people aware of his bid’ah (innovation).
Today, I would like to emphasize on backbiting because I think it’s the easiest to fall into. For someone to slander or spread malicious gossip- a person needs to intend to do that.
Seriousness of back biting
Let’s start with Allah’s description of backbiting.
Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says in surah (describing backbiting) in surah al Hujurat verse 12 “neither backbite 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”
You can see that Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala compares backbiting to eating the flesh of another human being, more so one’s brother.
How many of us have eaten the flesh of our brothers? Today? Yesterday? Maybe last week? Or even a few months back?
How many of us have eaten the flesh of our brothers? Today? Yesterday? Maybe last week? Or even a few months back?
How many of us have stamped on the honor of our brothers and sister in their absence? Either as a result of ‘gisting’, anger or simply boredom?
1- has to do with people’s rights, so it is more serious because it involves wrongdoing against people.
2- Is an easy sin that most people commit and people usually regard easy things as insignificant although they are serious before Allah. This is so true, a person could say something and then realize...wait a minute....Fulan wouldn’t have liked that I talked about his martial crisis or that I said that he was short or that I called him rude, even though all of these are true.
Bukhari and Muslim reported that Abu Musa Al-Ash'ari (May Allah be pleased with him) asked the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) concerning the most excellent among the Muslims. He (peace and blessing be upon him) said, "One from whose tongue and hands the other Muslims are secure."
Let’s think about that for a few minutes. Are our brothers and sisters safe from out tongue and hands?
What is the punishment for backbiting
The punishment for backbiting is a very simple one. Every time you oppress someone with your tongue (either by backbiting or slandering or spreading malicious gossips) you are simply giving them your good deeds. So all the Ramadan you fasted, Qur’an you recited and charity you gave will be recorded for them. And if end bankrupt and unable to give them good deeds, then their bad deeds would be recorded for you. So cursing, gambling, fornication and adultery would be given to you.
Can you imagine all your good deeds being taken away before your very own eyes just because of what you used to say?
If today was yaumul qiyamah how many deeds do you think would remain with you?
Now the evidence for the above statement is that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever has wronged his brother with regard to his honour or anything else, let him seek his forgiveness today, before there will be no dinar and no dirham, and if he has any good deeds to his credit they will be taken from him in a manner commensurate with the wrong he did, and if he has no good deeds, then some of his counterpart’s bad deeds will be taken and added to his burden.” [al-Bukhaari].
In addition to that we have another hadith from Huraira who said: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Do you know who is bankrupt?” They said, “The one without money or goods is bankrupt.” The Prophet said, “Verily, the bankrupt of my nation are those who come on the Day of Resurrection with prayers, fasting, and charity, but also with insults, slander, consuming wealth, shedding blood, and beating others. The oppressed will each be given from his good deeds. If his good deeds run out before justice is fulfilled, then their sins will be cast upon him and he will be thrown into the Hellfire.” [Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2581]
It was also reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) 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].
Okay so what if I didn’t backbite but I just listened, would I be sinning?
Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baz (may Allah have mercy on him) was asked concerning listening to backbiting without denouncing it.
He replied: There is sin on you for that unless you denounce the evil. If they accept that, then praise be to Allah, otherwise you have to leave them and not sit with them, because Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And when you (Muhammad) see those who engage in a false conversation about Our Verses (of the Quran) by mocking at them, stay away from them till they turn to another topic. And if Shaytan (Satan) causes you to forget, then after the remembrance sit not you in the company of those people who are the Zalimoon (polytheists and wrongdoers)” [6:68]
“And it has already been revealed to you in the Book (this Quran) that when you hear the Verses of Allah being denied and mocked at, then sit not with them, until they engage in a talk other than that; (but if you stayed with them) certainly in that case you would be like them” [4:140]
In addition to that enjoining good and forbidding evil is an obligation on every individual Muslim. Therefore, a Muslim should denounce backbiting whenever he sees it.
Al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: The one who hears any backbiting about a Muslim should refute it and rebuke the one who says it. If he does not rebuke him in words he should rebuke him by his actions. If he cannot rebuke him by his actions or his words, then he should leave that gathering.
This correlates with the hadith where the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand (by taking action); if he cannot, then with his tongue (by speaking out); and if he cannot, then with his heart (by hating it and feeling it is wrong), and that is the weakest of faith.”
Now, I am not going to lie and say this is the easiest thing to do. It’s something that has to be done with wisdom and sometimes just a simple and gentle reminder can do the trick. You could be like ahh, even if Fulan is like this nobody is perfect. In fact, this is backbiting seff and it’s prohibited...and explain the rulings.
If they listen to you then praise be to Allah and if they refuse, then you can simply leave the sitting. Let them carry their wahala and go. I mean, you cannot come and be giving the good deeds that you worked hard for to another person.
What is the expiation for backbiting ?
I will make this brief because I don’t want to make the topic long
· Repent sincerely to Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala)
· As the prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) mentioned- ask for the forgiveness of the one who was wronged. Now the scholars differed as to whether a person should go in detail about what was said or just simply ask for forgiveness without going into details. Sh Muhhammed mentoned that the more correct opinion is to go in detail. This is because a person might not forgive certain type of gossips. Getting the person to forgive you is the safest because you know that the burden has been removed.
· If you fear that telling the person would make things worse or make them hate you, then you can keep quiet about it. Ask for forgiveness on behalf of the person, speak good about them and do good deeds with the intention of the reward going to the one you have backbitten. This is done is hope to compensate for the evil done against the other person.
· Still on the forgiveness, a person can say- O Allah, forgive me and the one whom I have gossiped (try to specify the name) about and wronged; O Allah, pardon us and him, and whatever else you can say in your du’a.
How do I prevent backbiting?
· Controlling the tongue- The prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) was asked about attaining salvation and he (peace and blessing be upon him) replied, "Control your tongue, keep to your house, and weep over your sins."[At-Tirmidhi].
· Avoiding excess speaking - The prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) 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]
· Keeping good company
· Narrating stories without mentioning names or leaving means of another person finding out. What things means is that- say something happened and you want to gist someone, do that without mentioning the names involved or any means of the other person finding out.
There are situations where backbiting is permitted (such as complaining when one has been wronged, to warn against someone’s evil etc.). Perhaps, I would talk about that next time, but in the meantime, let us try to be from amongst the most excellent Muslims by guarding our brothers and sisters from oppression with our tongues and hands.