You hear a juicy tit bit from a neighbour, who heard it from a friend, who heard from her sister on a social chat group, who added some “spice” to make it more appetizing… and so the gossip goes around town…sounds familiar?
Gossip is dangerous and harmful; it can destroy the fabric and morality of a society. People spread gossip for many reasons such as to feel superior (they feel better if someone is worse off than them), out of jealousy, to fit in the group, for attention (they become centre of attention for a few moments), out of revenge and even out of sheer boredom (an idle mind is a devils workshop).
We need to remind ourselves over and over again that we are accountable for our deeds in the Court of Allah. Allah Ta’ala says: “Oh you who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest you harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what you have done” (Quran 49:6).
There once lived a gossip monger. He always preoccupied himself in talking about other s. He could not resist the urge. Whenever he heard a story about somebody he knew, and sometimes about somebody he did not know, he just had to tell it to his friends. Since he was in business, he heard a lot of rumours and stories. He didn’t care if it was true or not. He loved the attention he got from his gossip, which he sometimes spiced up with little details he invented to make them funnier, juicier and more palatable. Other than that, he was really a pleasant man.
He kind of knew it was wrong, but . . . it was too tempting, and in any case, most of what he told had really happened, didn’t it?
One day he found out something really weird about another businessman and his wife. Of course he felt compelled to share what he knew with his colleagues, who told it to their friends, who told it to people they knew, who told it to their wives and so the gossip spread around town until the unhappy businessman who was the main character in the story heard about it. He ran to the wise man of the town, and wailed and complained that he was ruined! His good name and his reputation were gone with the wind.
The wise old man decided to call the man who loved to tell stories. If he was not the one who started them, he might at least know who did. When the nice man with the nasty problem heard from the wise man how devastated his colleague was, he felt truly sorry and admitted his guilt.
“True, or not true, that really makes no difference! You just cannot tell stories about people. This is all slander, and it’s like murder—you kill a person’s reputation.” shouted the wise man. The man who started the rumour now felt really bad and sorry. “What can I do to remedy the harm ?” he sobbed. “I will do anything you say!”
The wise old man looked at him. “Do you have any feather pillows in your house?, bring me one.” The man was mystified, but he returned with a nice fluffy pillow under his arm. “Cut it open!”said the wise man. The man cut the pillow. A cloud of feathers came out. Being a windy day,they floated all over the place and a lot of them flew out of the window in a big swirling, whirling trail.
The wise man waited a while. Then he ordered the man: “Now bring me back all the feathers, and stuff them back in your pillow. All of them, mind you. Not one may be missing!” “That is impossible! The ones here in the room I might get, most of them, but the ones that flew out of the window are gone. I can’t do that, you know it!”
“Yes,” that is how it is… once a rumour or a gossip or a ‘secret,’ leaves your mouth, you do not know where it ends up. It flies on the wings of the wind, and you can never get it back!”
He ordered the man to sincerely repent to Allah Ta’ala and with remorse deeply apologize to the person about whom he had spread the rumour; that is difficult and painful, but it was the least he could do. After that he talked about the importance of guarding your tongue to all his friends and colleagues. And in the end he became an upright man who overcame a nasty addiction of tale telling!
Allah, The Most Wise, says in the Quraan:
“ Oh you who believe! Avoid suspicion for suspicion, in some cases is a sin. And backbite not on each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? No, you would abhor it…But fear Allah. For Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful” (Quran 49:11-12).
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “When man wakes up in the morning each day, all his body parts warn his tongue saying: ‘Fear Allah with regards to us, for we are under your mercy; if you are upright, we will be upright and if you are crooked, we will be crooked.” (At-Tirmidhi)
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) once asked: “Do you know what backbiting is?” His companions replied: “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He then said: “It is to say something about your brother that he would dislike.” Someone asked: “But what if what is said is true?” The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) replied: “If what you say about him is true, then you have backbitten him, but if it is not true then you have slandered him.” (Hadith-Muslim)
Let’s face it, we live in a world where gossip often crosses our path. People gossip and this cannot be changed overnight. But we do have the ability to change what happens when the rumour comes our way. We can simply break this chain of gossip by considering the following :
- Beneficial or not? Try to ascertain the worth of the subject under discussion. If non-beneficial refrain from it. Why would I want to be a link in this sinful chain?
- Put yourself in their shoes: Would I like people to know this about me? How would this person feel if they knew about this rumour?
- Look for positive qualities in people: If you really have to talk about someone who’s not there, talk about how great, hardworking, funny, humble they are instead of deficiencies.
- Fear Allah Ta’ala and Repent: Remember Allah can see and hear everything, we are accountable to Allah Ta’ala! If we have engaged in gossip than repent and also ask the wronged one for his or her forgiveness.
- Don’t be an audience: Remember that according to a hadith by listening and letting it continue makes us equally responsible.
- Change the topic or leave: Allah praised such action in the Quran: “If they hear gossip, they walk away” (Quran 28:55). Diplomatically change the topic and if you cannot than just walk away when your friend tries to gossip or just say “I’m not interested” and ignore any nasty comments. “When you see men engaged in vain discourse about Our Signs, turn away from them unless they turn to a different theme. If Satan ever makes you forget, then after recollection, do not sit in the company of those who do wrong.”(Quran-Al-An’am6:68)
- Stop it right there! Do not provide the oxygen needed to spread the fire. Politely and with hikmah (wisdom) admonish and stop the perpetrator/s.
- Guard the honour of your fellow being ,remember if you respect people’s privacy they will respect yours. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:”if anyone defends his brother’s honour in his absence, then it is Allah’s responsibility to set him free from the fire (hell).”(Hadith-Musnad Ahmed)
An excellent practice to apply in our lives is the TRIPLE FILTER TEST. One day a man tried to gossip about someone to a pious person. He asked the pious man whether he wanted to hear what he heard about his friend. The pious man replied: Wait before you tell me anything I want you to pass this Triple Filter Test.
First Filter is TRUTH: Is what you are about to say absolutely true?
The Man: No, I just heard about it.
Pious Man: Alright so you tell me that you don’t really know if it is true or not.
Second Filter is GOODNESS: Is what you are going to say is GOOD?
The Man: No.
Pious Man: So you want to tell me something bad and you are not sure that if it is true or not.
Third Filter is USEFULNESS: Is what you are going to tell me going to be USEFUL to me?
The Man: No.
Pious Man: Well if you want tell me something that is neither True nor Good nor even USEFUL, why tell it to me at all?
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him was once asked: “Who is the best Muslim?” He (pbuh)replied: “He is the one from whom Muslims are safe from the evil of his tongue and hands.” (Hadith-Muslim)
Once The Messenger of Allah (Peace and Blessings be upon him) asked the Sahabah(RA) “Do you know who is bankrupt?” They replied, “Bankrupt among us is he who has no money or property.” He said, “Verily, the real bankrupt one from my Ummah is he who will come on the Day of Resurrection with prayer, fasting and Zakat that he performed. However, he had cursed this person, falsely accused that person, ate up the property of another person, shed the blood of another person and beaten another person. So, this person will be given from his righteous deeds, and that person will be given from his righteous deeds. If his righteous deeds finish before his account is paid in full, sins from their records will be transferred from them to him, and he will then be thrown in the Fire.” (Hadith Muslim )
We can destroy all our good actions by a few loose words that we utter in moments of heedlessness. We need to seek forgiveness of ALLAH TA’ALA, and from the one we wronged, if we have backbitten, slandered or hurt anyone, otherwise on the day of Qiyamat(Resurrection) we will have to compensate them with our good actions.
“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”
May Allah Ta’ala guide and protect us all… aameen
By Umm Ammarah