The act of backbiting (Gheebah/Gheebat) has been strongly condemned in Islam, in both the Quran and the Hadith. There are frightening descriptions of the punishment for backbiting in Islam. Backbiting in Islam is likened to one of the most repulsive acts possible, in the Quran.
The Prophet (PBUH) said in a Hadith in Sahih Bukhari that whoever has oppressed another person should indeed beg him to forgive him. He must do this before the Day of Resurrection. On that day, there will be no money to compensate for wrong deeds. In fact, the evildoer may lose his good deeds as well. Eventually, if that’s not enough, then Allah will give the oppressor the sins of the oppressed.
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said a group of people during Mi’raj who were scratching their chests and faces with nails. He asked Jibril who they were. Jibril replied that they were the ones who engaged in backbiting.
Allah commands the believers in Surah al-Hujurat to avoid negative assumptions. He points out that this can be sinful. He also tells Muslims not to spy or backbite each other. Then, the Almighty likens backbiting to eating the flesh of one’s dead brother.
Backbiting is certainly a major sin and must be avoided at all costs. However, many people take it lightly or aren’t aware of the numerous forms of speech that qualify as Gheebat. Muslims must pay heed and learn about the various ways they can fall into the heinous sin of Gheebah. This is imperative, in order for us to thoroughly protect ourselves from committing this often-overlooked transgression.
What is considered to be forbidden backbiting in Islam?
The evil deed of backbiting that is prohibited in our religion can be committed in a number of ways. There are many kinds of speech that constitute backbiting, and it’s easy to backbite without even realizing your error.
Gheebah is to talk about a person in a negative manner, which would offend and upset the person in question if he was present. This could include any undesirable comment pertaining to his physical appearance, or his practice of the religion. It could also be something as basic as a snide remark regarding one’s financial status or children.
We can commit Gheebat in multiple ways. It could be through regular speech or by way of writing, for example, on the internet using social media. It doesn’t even have to be an outright, explicit statement. Even implicitly mocking, insulting, or exposing someone qualifies as backbiting. If the statement disparaging the other person is true, it is still considered backbiting. However, if it is an untruth, one would be guilty of slander.
One may seek to justify and cover up his backbiting by using Islam. In such a case, a person might convince himself that he is against backbiting in general. He could tell himself that he’s not committing Gheebah; rather, he is only sharing the truth about another person.
Others may pretend to be opposing immorality, whereas their primary intent is to talk negatively behind a person’s back. We have to take great care to ensure we never commit this dreadful sin. Furthermore, we should always be mindful of our intentions when speaking, only uttering that which is beneficial.
The Prophet (PBUH) said in a Hadith narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari that whoever believes in Allah and the Day of Reckoning should either speak good, or keep silent.
What causes it?
It is vital to assess why backbiting is so prevalent nowadays. There are a number of factors that lead to backbiting or increase one’s likelihood of falling into it. For example, one may be lacking in faith and thus unable to exercise God-consciousness in all his actions. For such people, pleasing Allah and striving to avoid incurring His wrath is not always a priority.
Another reason is envy and animosity towards others. Indeed, jealousy frequently instigates people to speak ill of those towards whom they harbor hostility and resentment. Conceit is also a key motivator of Gheebah. Often, one’s arrogance may lead to his looking down on others. Pride can make a person belittle others and ridicule them, or make fun of their lack of wealth, etc.
Poor upbringing can also play a part. One may not have been brought up with Islamic values and etiquettes. This means that one’s conduct is not according to correct religious teachings; therefore, backbiting may become a regular activity.
In addition, keeping bad company is a common reason for backbiting. When your friends are morally deficient and ill-mannered, they are bound to influence your character negatively. Consequently, you may end up acquiring their bad habits.
A person may not necessarily be inclined towards Gheebah, but he may still backbite, just to avoid being seen as different or odd by society. People also tend to indulge in gossip and backbiting purely for the sake of entertainment and socializing. Furthermore, some people simply lack knowledge of the religion, and the noble conduct and manners it enjoins. Such people are unlikely to grasp the enormity of this evil deed.
Ways to prevent it
It is of prime importance to strengthen our faith and instill fear of Allah in all our actions. We must strive to please Allah, rather than His creation. By correcting our priorities in this way, we can shun all desires to backbite. Additionally, it is essential to provide our children with an Islamic upbringing. Following the teachings of the Quran, and Sunnah of Muhammad (PBUH) is a must for children to develop righteousness.
Believers are also advised to avoid bad companionship and befriend pious people. We cannot underestimate the impact of our companions’ conduct on our personality. Also, we should spend our free time keeping ourselves busy in beneficial activities, so that we avert detrimental gossip.
We can battle jealousy by accepting that whatever anyone else is blessed with is from Allah’s Qadar (predestination). In addition, one may be tempted to talk about another’s sins or shortcomings. In such a situation, one ought to pay attention to his own faults and concentrate on improving himself.
It is of critical importance for Muslims to learn how to stop backbiting in Islam.We must implement these vital practices so that we can steer clear of Gheebah.
Forgiveness for backbiting in Islam
It is compulsory to repent and beseech Allah for forgiveness if one is guilty of backbiting. If one is aware that the wronged person knows about the Gheebah committed, he must also seek his forgiveness. On the other hand, if the discussed person is oblivious, he should not be informed. However, the perpetrator should make dua for the affected person’s forgiveness and compensate by only speaking positively about him.
Cases where backbiting is allowed
There are some situations in which backbiting is permissible. It is permitted when it is required for the accomplishment of something that is of benefit. If one is oppressed, he is allowed to report his oppressor to a ruler, or someone who has the authority to deliver justice. It is also allowed to ask someone for help with stopping a sinner from sinning further.
It is also permitted in case one needs to mention someone else’s actions to obtain a relevant fatwa (religious ruling). Another circumstance is when one needs to expose another to protect fellow believers from evil. For example, you may have information about a person who is not suitable for marriage. You can advise the person who wants to marry them against entering the relationship. You can also advise a student against studying under a teacher who you know is corrupt.
It is also permissible to discuss what a person has already publicly revealed of his sins. Finally, someone may be recognized by a nickname, such as “the blind one” or “the deaf one”. We may refer to him by that nickname, provided our intention is not to mock him.
Backbiting is a very evil sin in Islam. Hence, Muslims must try their best to stay far away from it. In Islam, we should not only refrain from committing acts. Rather, we should also stay away from things that may lead to those acts, to avoid gaining Allah’s displeasure. That is what the best of the Muslims do to save themselves from such sins that can have ghastly consequences. Undoubtedly, gheebat or backbiting is one of the worst of sins that a Muslim can get involved in.
The first thing that we can do to save ourselves from getting involved in this is to ensure that we surround ourselves with good company. Most people engaging in backbiting are in bad company. Hence, someone ignites a conversation and then everyone takes it to the next level, saying this and that about a person who isn’t present to defend themselves. We should also note that this usually comes out of gossiping and groups that encourage gossip. This is very prevalent today, but it is definitely something we must try to avoid. Try to introduce a positive topic in such gatherings to avoid getting into gheebat.
Hence, chiefly important is to ensure having good companions. That will reduce situations where we can get involved in this sin by 90+%. Muslim parents must also ensure that they bring up their kids with Islamic values and ideals. They should ideally also teach them about the Quran, which will further help to develop their knowledge of Islam. Muslims must stay away from backbiting or gheebat at all costs. Allah informs us in the Quran that it is like eating the flesh of one’s own dead brother, which is something that should send shivers down the spine of every righteous Muslim.