What is backbiting in Islam?

Backbiting, also known as “Gheebah” in Islam, is a serious sin that involves speaking ill of someone behind their back in a way that would harm them or their reputation if they were aware of it. It is considered to be a major sin in Islam and is strongly condemned in the Quran and Hadith.

In this article, we will explore what backbiting is, why it is considered a sin in Islam, and how to avoid it in our daily lives.

What is Backbiting?

Backbiting is defined as speaking about someone behind their back in a way that would harm them or their reputation if they were aware of it. It can take many forms, such as speaking negatively about someone’s character, actions, or appearance. Backbiting can be done in person, over the phone, or through social media also. This includes discussing someone’s private matters or revealing their secrets without their consent.

Backbiting is different from expressing legitimate concerns or criticism about someone’s behavior. Islam encourages Muslims to speak the truth and stand up against injustice. However, this should be done in a respectful and constructive manner, and not with the intention of harming someone’s reputation or causing division among people.

Why is Backbiting Considered a Sin in Islam?

Backbiting is considered a major sin in Islam because it violates the rights of others and can cause harm to individuals and communities. It goes against the Islamic principles of respect, justice, and brotherhood/sisterhood. Backbiting can cause strife and conflict between people, leading to resentment, mistrust, and even violence.

The Quran, the holy book of Islam, explicitly forbids backbiting. In Surah Al-Hujurat, verse 12, Allah says: “O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, for some suspicions are a sin. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, you would abhor it. And fear Allah, for Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful” [1]49:12.

This verse highlights the seriousness of backbiting and compares it to the repugnant act of eating the flesh of a dead person. It also emphasizes the importance of avoiding negative assumptions and gossip, which can harm one’s own soul as well as the person being talked about.

Do you know what backbiting is?

In addition, The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ also spoke strongly against backbiting. He said: “Do you know what backbiting is?” The Companions replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” The Prophet said, “To say something about your brother that he dislikes.” One of the Companions asked, “But what if what I say is true?” The Prophet replied, “If what you say about him is true, you have backbitten him, and if it is not true, you have slandered him” [2]Muslim.

This hadith emphasizes the importance of treating others with kindness and respect. It also advises Muslims to speak only words of goodness or to remain silent if they cannot speak positively about someone.

Moreover, in another narration, the Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever beliefs in Allah and the Last Day should say what is good or remain silent” [3]Sahih Muslim. This hadith implies that speaking well or remaining silent are the only two options a Muslim has when it comes to speech, as anything else could potentially harm someone else.

The Consequences of Backbiting

Backbiting has severe consequences that can affect both the victim and the perpetrator. For the victim, it can lead to harm and embarrassment, creating animosity and hatred towards the one who backbites. In this life, backbiting can lead to damaged relationships, loss of trust, and a negative reputation.

It can also create feelings of guilt and regret for the person who engages in it, as well as for those who listen to it. Meanwhile, for the one who backbites, it results in the loss of their good deeds and even eternal punishment in the hereafter.

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Do you know who the bankrupt is?” They said, “The bankrupt among us is the one who has no money or property.” The Prophet said, “The bankrupt from my nation would be the one who comes on the Day of Resurrection with prayer, fasting, and zakat, but he had abused somebody, slandered somebody, misappropriated somebody’s wealth, and beaten somebody, then his good deeds would be given to those whom he has wronged. If his good deeds are not enough to clear the account, then their sins would be added to his account, and he would be thrown into the Fire” [4]Sahih Muslim.

This hadith emphasizes that sins and harming others can lead to the loss of one’s good deeds and the accumulation of sins, leading to eternal punishment in the hereafter.

How to Avoid Backbiting

Avoiding backbiting requires conscious effort and self-awareness. Here are some tips on how to avoid this sin in our daily lives:

  • Think before you speak: Before saying anything about someone, ask yourself if it is something that would harm them or their reputation if they were aware of it. If so, it is likely backbiting and should be avoided.
  • Change the topic or redirect the conversation: If you find yourself in a situation where others are engaging in backbiting, try to change the topic or redirect the conversation to something more positive. Suggest discussing a current event, a beneficial Islamic topic, or engaging in activities that promote unity and understanding.
  • Seek forgiveness: If you have engaged in backbiting in the past, repent sincerely and seek forgiveness from Allah. Recognize that no one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. By seeking forgiveness, you can start anew and strive to avoid backbiting in the future.
  • Practice empathy and understanding: Put yourself in the shoes of others and try to understand their perspectives. Recognize that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Instead of criticizing or speaking negatively about someone, try to empathize with their struggles and offer support and advice when appropriate.
  • Engage in positive discussions: Surround yourself with individuals who promote positivity and refrain from engaging in gossip or negative conversations. Encourage discussions that focus on personal growth, sharing knowledge, and inspiring others. By cultivating a positive environment, you can reduce the temptation to engage in backbiting.
  • Control your tongue: The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ advised his followers to control their tongues. Think before you speak and be mindful of the impact your words can have on others. Remember that once spoken, words cannot be taken back, and their effects can be long-lasting. Develop the habit of speaking only about what is beneficial and refrain from idle talk or gossip.
  • Make dua (supplication): Ask Allah to protect you from engaging in backbiting and purify your heart from negative thoughts and intentions. Seek His guidance and strength to uphold the principles of Islam and avoid harmful behavior.

The Summary Backbiting in Islam

Backbiting is a serious sin in Islam that cause harm to individuals, relationships, and communities. Islam promotes unity, respect, and kindness, and forbids actions that undermine these values. By being mindful of our words, seeking forgiveness for past mistakes, and cultivating a positive environment, we can strive to avoid backbiting and promote a culture of empathy, understanding, and righteousness.

Let us remember the words of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Who said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak good or remain silent.” May Allah guide us all on the path of righteousness and grant us the strength to refrain from backbiting.

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3, 4Sahih Muslim