The punishment of one who backbites

Islaam has placed much emphasis on respecting the honour of a Muslim. It is for this very reason that from amongst the major sins in Islaam is falsely accusing another Muslim of fornication. In fact this sin is seen to be so horrendous that Allah has mentioned in the Quraan:

 

 وَٱلَّذِينَ يَرْمُونَ ٱلْمُحْصَنتِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَأْتُواْ بِأَرْبَعَةِ شُهَدَآءَ فَٱجْلِدُوهُمْ ثَمَنِينَ جَلْدَةً وَلاَ تَقْبَلُواْ لَهُمْ شَهَادَةً أَبَداً وَأُوْلَـٰئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْفسِقُونَ . إِلاَّ ٱلَّذِينَ تَابُواْ مِن بَعْدِ ذٰلِكَ وَأَصْلَحُواْ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ .
(24:4,5)
”As for those who slander chaste women (accuse them of fornication or adultery) without presenting four (reliable) witnesses (who had personally witnessed the act), you should punish them (the accusers) eighty lashes and never accept their testimony (in a court hearing) ever again. These people are sinners except for those who repent thereafter and make amends, Allah is most forgiving most merciful.”

 

This punishment has its regulations, and is only to be carried out under an Islaamic government. None the less, the idea is that Islaam has not taken the honour and respect of Muslims lightly.  The sanctity and honour of the Ka’bah is something which is well known in Islaam. Keeping this in mind, consider the following narration:


Abdullah ibn amr narrates: I saw the messenger of Allah performing tawaaf around the ka’bah and I heard him say (addressing the ka’bah) ”How pleasant you are and how pleasant is your smell. How great you are and how great is your sanctity. I swear by that being in whose hand is the life of Muhammed, the sanctity of a Muslim in the sight of Allah is greater than your sanctity, his wealth, his blood and that we think good of him.” (Ibn Maajah: 3932)

 

This narration shows us the level of sanctity and honour of a Muslim in Islaam. In order to protect this honour Allah has also prohibited backbiting and has mentioned in the Quraan:

 

 وَلاَ يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضاً أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتاً فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ وَٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيم .
(49:12)
And never backbite each other. Does any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother, which you so detest? Fear Allah, Allah is most pardoning most merciful.

 

In this verse Allah has equated backbiting to eating the flesh of one’s dead brother and this is an analogy which has been used by the messenger of Allah peace be upon him on many occasions. For example, Anas Allah be pleased with him narrates that the messenger of Allah peace be upon him said:

 

ما صام من ظلّ يأكل لحوم الناس.(رواه ابن أبي شيبة في مصنفه مَا يُؤْمَرُ بِهِ الصَّائِمُ مِنْ قِلَّةِ الْكَلاَمِ وَتَوَقِّي الْكَذِبِ ح/٨٩٨٣)

The one who spends his day eating the flesh of people has not fasted.( Ibnu abi Shaybah). Even though someone may have physically fasted during the day, due to his backbiting he is deprived of any reward from Allah.

 

The messenger of Allah peace be upon him has clearly defined for us what backbiting means.

 

عَنْ أَبِى هُرَيْرَةَ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- قَالَ أَتَدْرُونَ مَا الْغِيبَةُ؟ قَالُوا اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَعْلَمُ. قَالَ ذِكْرُكَ أَخَاكَ بِمَا يَكْرَهُ قِيلَ أَفَرَأَيْتَ إِنْ كَانَ فِى أَخِى مَا أَقُولُ قَالَ إِنْ كَانَ فِيهِ مَا تَقُولُ فَقَدِ اغْتَبْتَهُ وَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ فِيهِ فَقَدْ بَهَتَّهُ.(رواه مسلم،ح/٦٧٥٨)

Abu Hurayrah Allah be pleased with him narrates that the messenger of Allah peace be upon him asked his companions, ‘Do you know what backbiting is?’. They replied ‘Allah and his messenger know best’. The messenger of Allah peace be upon him then explained and said ‘Backbiting is to mention your brother with words he would dislike’. It was asked ‘What about if what is mentioned is actually found inside him?’. The messenger of Allah peace be upon him replied ‘If what you mention is found in him then you have engaged in backbiting about him, but if what you say is not found inside him then you have certainly slandered him’.(Muslim 6758)

 

This narration also highlights the unacceptability of one of the most common justifications of backbiting, being the truth. The mere fact that what one is mentioning is the truth regarding his brother is the same reason it is considered backbiting as if it were a lie it would be slandering.

 

Allah’s messenger peace be upon him has also warned us of the poisonous nature of backbiting.

 

 عَنْ عَائِشَةَ قَالَتْ قُلْتُ لِلنَّبِىِّ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- حَسْبُكَ مِنْ صَفِيَّةَ كَذَا وَكَذَا قَالَ غَيْرُ مُسَدَّدٍ تَعْنِى قَصِيرَةً. فَقَالَ لَقَدْ قُلْتِ كَلِمَةً لَوْ مُزِجَتْ بِمَاءِ الْبَحْرِ لَمَزَجَتْهُ.(رواه أبو داود،باب في الغيبة، ح/٤٨٧٧)

Aaishah may Allah be pleased with her narrates, ‘I once said to the prophet peace be upon him, such and such a thing of Safiyyah is sufficient for you (referring to her shortness). He replied you have made such a statement that if it were to be mixed in the water of the ocean, it would pollute the water’.(Abu Daawood 4877)

 

This narration shows us the horrendous nature of backbiting. Aaishah may Allah be pleased with her moves on to say:

 

 وَحَكَيْتُ لَهُ إِنْسَانًا فَقَالَ: مَا أُحِبُّ أَنِّى حَكَيْتُ إِنْسَانًا وَأَنَّ لِى كَذَا وَكَذَا.

I mimicked a certain person in the presence of the messenger of Allah peace be upon him, on seeing this he said, ‘I would never want to mimic a person even if I was given so much and so much as a recompense.’ i.e. A large amount of wealth.   

 

This narration also shows us that mimicking an individual is also considered backbiting. In fact backbiting is not limited to words but can also be expressed through actions as the word used in the narration is حكيت , this is used when an individual mimics the actions of another individual in a degrading way. Therefore backbiting also includes pointing or gesturing towards someone or mimicking someone in a way which is degrading.

 

Allah’s messenger peace be upon him has also warned us of the punishment one who backbites will receive.

 

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم- لَمَّا عُرِجَ بِى مَرَرْتُ بِقَوْمٍ لَهُمْ أَظْفَارٌ مِنْ نُحَاسٍ يَخْمِشُونَ وُجُوهَهُمْ وَصُدُورَهُمْ فَقُلْتُ مَنْ هَؤُلاَءِ يَا جِبْرِيلُ قَالَ هَؤُلاَءِ الَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ لُحُومَ النَّاسِ وَيَقَعُونَ فِى أَعْرَاضِهِمْ.(رواه أبو داود، باب في الغيبة، ح/٤٨٨٠)
Anas may Allah be pleased with him narrates that the messenger of Allah peace be upon him said, ‘When I was taken to the heavens I passed by some people who had nails made of copper with which they were scratching their faces and chest. I enquired who are these people Jibreel? He replied, these are people who used to eat the flesh of others (backbite others) and defame them.'(Abu Daawood).

 

After reading the above mentioned narrations, only a foolish individual would intentionally want to backbite. However, there are many who want to stop backbiting but find it difficult to do so. Hereunder is an action plan to put into place which will aid in staying away from this sin Inshallah.

 

1. The very first thing required to stop any sin is resolve. One must make a firm intention to never commit this sin again.

2. Make dua to Allah to give one the ability to stay away from this detestable sin.

3. Refrain from unnecessarily talking about others even if it may be good, as many times this leads to mentioning the bad points of the very same person.  

4. By pondering over one’s own bad points, he will not consider the bad points of others.

5. Always try to think good of others and give them the benefit of the doubt. This is why Allah mentions thinking bad of others before mentioning backbiting itself.

 

 

يٰأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ ٱجْتَنِبُواْ كَثِيراً مِّنَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ وَلاَ تَجَسَّسُواْ وَلاَ يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضاً. (49:12) 

O you who have Imaan! Refrain from excessive assumption (suspicion and assuming evil things about people without verification). Verily some assumptions are a sin. Never spy on people and never backbite each other.

 

 

  • Ask forgiveness from whom so ever one backbites. This will make him think twice the next time he thinks of backbiting as he would also consider the shame in having to ask forgiveness from that individual.

 

It is important to remember that the one listening to the backbiting is also considered to be backbiting. This is why when this sin takes place in one’s presence it is imperative that he either stops it or leaves the gathering. We must also remember that who so ever we may have backbitten, we must ask forgiveness from them in order for this sin to be forgiven as it is from amongst the rights of slaves.  If one cannot ask specific forgivingness for backbiting as he feels it will cause problems, then he should at least ask for general forgiveness for anything he may have said or done. If one cannot remember who he has backbitten about or cannot contact them, then he should ask Allah for forgiveness and pray for them.

 

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Tayyib HMC FInder

Munadil Islaam

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