Ibn Taimiyyah (r) said that there are those from the people that backbite or listen to backbiting, and they do so to please the company they keep, with the awareness that the victim is likely to be innocent of some of the things that are uttered about him. Often such offenders feel that if they were to attempt to end such conversation in a gathering, their presence might become unwelcome or burdensome.
There are many methods and guises that are employed when one mentions another in a negative way.
- Under the pretense of being informative. one could say that it is not one's habit to mention others, except for the sake of relating another's condition to someone.
- Or one could state that by Allah, indeed so and so is one to be pitied thereby showing superiority over one who is to be rejected.
- Another method might be to say that so and so is a good person, however he has such and such qualities, thereby justifying himself in revealing another's faults.
- One could also simply state that we should forget so and so, and make supplication for their forgiveness as well as our own, intending only to belittle the one that was mentioned.
- There are those who backbite to raise their own status. When they hear of someone's error, they employ words like, "Had I not prayed for so and so last night in my prayer, the news of their sin would not have reached my ears."
- When a person states of another that he lacks understanding in a matter, the implication is personal superiority for the one that mentions the other's shortcoming.
- There are those that couple jealousy with backbiting - the act of being critical or belittling to those that are praised in the company of others.
- Some people also backbite for the sake of humour, playfullness and lightheartedness. A person finds a certain amount of satisfaction from being appreciated for his story-telling abilities; speaking ill of some one in a humorous fashion adds flavour to a tale.
- Some engage in backbiting by showing surprise and amazement at another's actions: "How is it that someone could do such a thing?" Yet others mention people and their actions with the pretense of sympathy for their actions or misfortunes. In reality, the one who backbites actually finds contentment and satisfaction at the mention of others and their misdeeds.
- Another form is relating someone's misfortune to their enemies, so that they too may find pleasure in putting them down.
In reality all these tactics are designed to try to deceive Allah and to please the creation, and in reality, the many that follow these methods only serve to deceive themselves.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "A man might speak a word without thinking about its implications, but because of it, he will plunge into the Hellfire further than the distance between the east and west." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (6477) and Sahîh Muslim (2988)]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Whoever can guarantee to me what is between his two lips and what is between his two legs, I can guarantee for him Paradise." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (6474)]
Al-Hasan al-Basrî said: "Backbiting has three manifestations, all of which are discussed in Allah’s Book. They are: backbiting, tale-telling, and slander. As for backbiting, it is to say about your brother something that is true about him. Tale-telling is to say something that you have heard about him. Slander is to say about him what is not true."
Allah says: "O you who believe! Shun much suspicion; for lo! some suspicion is a crime. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would abhor that. And keep your duty (to Allah). Lo! Allah is Relenting, Merciful." [Sûrah al-Hujurât: 12]
Allah says: "O you who believe! Let not some men among you deride others who may be better than they (are), nor let women (deride) women who may be better than they are; neither defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. Evil is a bad name after faith." [Sûrah al-Hujurât: 11]
Allah says: "Woe to every sneering defamer." [Sûrah Humazah: 1]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "One of the greatest of the major sins is to stretch out one’s tongue without right against the honor of a Muslim." [Sunan Abî Dâwûd (4877)]
Backbiting pertains to a disease of the heart. May Allah save us from this most evil of actions and protect us from it's temptations. Ameen!
Page 51; Gems and Jewels, compiled by Abdul Malik Mujahid, Darussalam.