Yet another kind of inner-filth that is commonly witnessed in today’s society is backbiting.
Given below is a common scenario witnessed today:
Two people are sitting somewhere, busy discussing something. Enters a third person and he is warmly welcomed by the first two. After some time the third person leaves. As he leaves he is offered a very cordial farewell. The moment he is out of sight these two persons start talking ill about him in such a manner that if this third person was present he would not have liked it at all.
This ill-talking behind someone’s back is called backbiting.
Backbiting or Gheebah means speaking about a Muslim in his absence and saying things that he would not like to hear and he would also dislike it to spread around.
Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala says in the Qur’an:
O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion; indeed some suspicion is sin. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it. And have Taqwa of Allah. Verily, Allah is the One Who forgives and accepts repentance, Most Merciful. (Surah 49 Al-Hujurat Ayat 12. Tafsir Ibn Kathir).
Yes, in front of our Rabb, our Creator backbiting is like eating the flesh of your dead brother!
Hadhrat Anas (Radi Allahu ‘anhu) said:
The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) 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 the flesh of others (by backbiting) and trampled on people’s honour.”‘
We humans are so much involved in the sin of backbiting that if at all this ‘flesh eating’ act takes a practical form in this world then eating a dead brother’s flesh would become something that we would repeatedly witness everywhere.
- We would definitely witness maximum number of people gorging this flesh in social gatherings.
- A number of participants in some religious gatherings would also be involved in munching this flesh.
- Even the fasting people would sometimes be witnessed eating this flesh abundantly at the time when not even halaal food is supposed to enter their mouths.
- A number of Musallis would be seen consuming this flesh right in the Masjid.
- Many of those who are in the sacred journey of Hajj/Umrah would be seen devouring this flesh.
Backbiting is committed in many ways. At times people do not even realise that the way they speak or act can easily tantamount to committing these heinous sins. Backbiting and gossip often destroy reputations and dis-unify relationships yet some of us actually derive great pleasure in committing these sins.
Given below are various types of backbiting:
- The Common Backbiting
The messenger of Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa Sallam) once asked the Companions:
“Do you know what backbiting is?”
They said, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He said, “Saying something about your brother that he dislikes.” It was said, “What if what I say about my brother is true?” He said, “If what you say is true then you have backbitten about him, and if it is not true, then you have slandered him.” Sahih Muslim 2589.
This is the most common and direct form of backbiting and in most cases, is accompanied by slandering and gossiping, both of which are undoubtedly grave sins.
Making suggestive gestures with hands or with the head to describe a person’s physical stature. An example is using the hand to indicate the shortness of a person.
- Facial Expression
At times people convey the shortcoming of a Muslim by the expression of their faces. Examples include: rolling their eyes, raising their eyebrows, giving unpleasant looks, smiling mockingly, etc. These expressions are used to express their doubt, mockery, contempt, disapproval, anger etc. in the absence of the person concerned.
- Implicit Backbiting
Talking negatively about a person without mentioning the name in such a manner that people can easily know who you are referring to. Quite often the mere description of a person can reveal his identity to the listeners.
- Using nicknames
At times we call a person by his nickname in his absence, the nickname that he might be detesting. This also amounts to backbiting him. We can only use the nickname if there is no other way left to let people identify him.
Mimicry involves the action or skill of imitating someone, especially in order to ridicule someone. Many of use gain pleasure in mimicking certain people’s walking and talking styles to entertain and amuse people. Such an action is not the attribute of a true Muslim.
- Listening to a backbiter.
Listening to the backbiter with profound interest or amazement amounts to a subtle form of backbiting. It is also not preferred in Islam. The words like ‘Really! ‘, ‘Wow, this is really amazing!’ ‘Are you serious? You must be joking!’ and many other similar expressions encourage the backbiter to continue backbiting.
- Electronic backbiting
In this digital age many Muslims use social media like Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp etc. to backbite. This is far from the traits of a true believer and it is absolutely prohibited.
- Electoral backbiting
The sin of backbiting is especially evident at the time when any election process is taking place. To get maximum votes in order to win the elections some Muslim candidates openly backbite their Muslim opponents and they also use their campaigners/agents to be involved in this backbiting. This is totally un-Islamic!
Expiation for backbiting
Hassan al-Basri (rahmatullah ‘alayh) said: “It is sufficient to seek forgiveness for the backbitten person. There is no necessity to seek his pardon.”
If we have done any kind of backbiting, slander or malicious gossip then we have to repent and ask Allah for His forgiveness and that is between ourselves and Allah. If we know that any of the words we have spoken have reached the person concerned then we should go to him and ask him to forgive us with all sincerity. However, if he does not know what we have spoken, then we need not tell him. Our responsibility would now be to make du’ah for him and speak well of him in his absence just as we spoke against him. Similarly, if we know that telling him will provoke more enmity, then it is sufficient to make du’ah for him, speak well of him and pray to Allah Ta’ala for forgiveness for him.
…and Allah Ta’ala knows best
By: M. B. Ahmed