May 23, 2008, Jamadi-ul-Awwal 17, 1429 A.H
and refrain from backbiting
By Dr Shariffa Carlo
Living in non-Muslim societies, it is easy for us to
fall into the habits and customs of these
lands. We start to set our moral compasses in relation
to theirs. Sometimes, we go so far as to think that
if what we are doing is better than what they are doing,
its acceptable. While this may be true in a society
of honourable people, in this society where the woman
who wears a one-piece bathing suit instead of a bikini
is considered modest, we cannot use them to set our
compasses. We have to set our standards much higher.
They have to correspond with the teachings and understandings
Also, we have to recognise that when it comes to morality
and values, Islam is the standard. Want to know a prime
example? Ever heard of the Golden Rule? It says, "Do
unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Sound familiar? It should, Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allaho
alaihe wasallam) stated the same basic thing.
He said, Narrated Hadhrat Anas (Radhi Allaho anho):
The Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) said,
"None of you will have faith till he wishes for
his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself."
(Sahih Bukhari: Volume 1, Book 2, Number 12)
What about the statement, "If you can't say something
good, say nothing at all." Here it is in our beloved
Prophet's words. Narrated Hadhrat Abu Huraira (Radhi
Allaho anho): Allah's Apostle (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam)
said, "Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day
should talk what is good or keep quiet, and whoever
believes in Allah and the Last Day should not hurt (or
insult) his neighbour..." (Sahih Bukhari: Volume
8, Book 76, Number 482)
All this goes to preface the idea that we have to care
about each other in a way that is in line with Islam,
not the lessor standards of the non-believers. Let them
When we think of 'Gheebat' (gossip, backbiting), most
of us think that this is the speech as defined by the
non-believers -- saying something negative about someone
-- whether truthful or not.
But Islam has given it a stronger definition: Narrated
Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (Radhi Allaho anho): Allah's Apostle
(Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) said: Do you know what
is backbiting? They (the Companions) said: Allah and
His Apostle (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) know best.
Thereupon, he (the Holy Prophet) said. "Backbiting
implies your talking about your brother in a manner
that he does not like." It was said to him, "What
is your opinion about this that if I actually find (that
failing) in my brother which I made a mention of? He
said, "If (that failing) is actually found (in
him) what you assert, you in fact backbitten him, and
if that is not in him, it is a slander. (Sahih Muslim:
Book 31, Number 6265, Abu Dawood, Ahmad and Tirmizi)
And Muttalib bin Abdullah said, "The Messenger
of Allah (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) said, 'Gheebat
(gossip, backbiting) means that a man mentions about
a person something which is true, behind his back."
Just imagine the high standards that Islam has set,
that this horrible sin is not even confined just to
the oral or written statement. Hasan bin Al-Makhaariq
reported that "Once a woman visited Hadhrat Aisha
(Radhi Allaho anha), and when the woman got up to leave,
Hadhrat Aisha made a sign with her hand indicating to
the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) that
the woman was short. The Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe
wasallam) immediately chastised her, saying, "You
have backbitten!" (Tafseer Ibn Jareer, vol 4, p
In another Hadith, Ummul Momineen Hadhrat Aisha narrated:
I said to the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam):
It is enough for you in Safiyyah that she is such and
such (the other version than Musaddad's has:) meaning
that she was short-statured. He (the Holy Prophet) replied:
You have said a word, which would change the sea if
it were mixed in it..." (Sunan Abu Dawood: Book
41, Number 4857)
Here we can see that Gheebat (gossiping, backbiting)
is also what we do that a person may dislike if done
in reference to them. This is a serious sin. I know
it is easy to underestimate its worth, but Allah has
warned us about it in His Glorious Book: "O you
who believe! Avoid most of suspicion, for surely suspicion
in some cases is a sin, and do not spy nor let some
of you backbite others. Does one of you like to eat
the flesh of his dead brother? But you abhor it; and
be careful of (your duty to) Allah, surely Allah is
Oft-returning (to mercy), Merciful." (49:12)
Allah described backbiting as an act similar to eating
the flesh of our brothers or sisters. But don't think
of this as only metaphorical. Our beloved Prophet (Sall
Allaho alaihe wasallam) proved this to us in one of
his great miracles.
Ubaid, the freed slave of the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho
alaihe wasallam) reported that someone came to the Holy
Prophet and showed him two women who were fasting and
said that they were dying of thirst. The Holy Prophet
turned away silently refusing to give permission for
them to break their fast.
So, the man begged him again, mentioning that the women
were on the verge of death. The Holy Prophet then said,
bring them to me and bring along a bowl. When they turned
to him, he turned to one and told her to vomit in the
bowl. She complied, spitting up a mixture of vomit,
blood, pus and pieces of flesh, which half filled the
He then turned to the other and had her do the same.
After the bowl was filled, he said, "Verily these
two have fasted from what Allah has made halaal for
them and broken their fast from what Allah has made
haraam. They spent their fast eating the flesh of others."
These women gave up food and drink -- halaal substances,
and, instead, partook of the flesh of their brothers
and sisters. So distasteful was this fare that it made
them sick to the point of near death.
Further, our scholars have warned us to repent from
it. Al-Qurtubi said, "The scholars agree that it
is a major sin, and that the committing of this sin
necessitates repentance (Taubah) to Allah." (Tafseer
The Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) has warned
us of great punishments, which may befall us as a result
of committing this sin. Narrated Abu Barzah al-Aslami:
The Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) said:
"O community of people, who believed by their tongue,
and belief did not enter their hearts! Do not backbite
Muslims, and do not search for their faults, for if
anyone searches for their faults, Allah will search
for his fault. And if Allah searches for the fault of
anyone, He disgraces him in the open for everyone to
see, even if he hid it in the innermost part of his
house." (Abu Dawood: Book 41, Number 4862, Tirmizi
and Ibn Hubban)
See, we talk about others, exposing them and Allah gives
us a taste of our own medicine -- exposing us. Which
of us has no secret, which would harm us if exposed?
Who among us can afford to risk this punishment? May
Allah protect us form His wrath!
We have to be very careful. Remember, on the Day of
Judgement, Allah may forgive us the sins we committed
against Him, but He will not take away our rights as
individuals. On that day, people will have the right
to take our good deeds or even the bad deeds of theirs
would be given to us in case of crimes we have committed
against them. One of these crimes is Gheebat, where
we sacrifice the honour of our brothers and sisters.
Narrated Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (Radhi Allaho anho): Allah's
Apostle (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) said: Do you know
who is poor? They (the Companions of the Holy Prophet)
said: A poor man from amongst, who neither has dirham
nor wealth with him. He (the Holy Prophet) said: "The
poor of my Ummah would be he who would come on the Day
of Resurrection with prayers and fasts and Zakat but
(he would find himself bankrupt on that day as he would
have exhausted his funds of virtues) since he hurled
abuses upon others, brought calumny against others and
unlawfully consumed the wealth of others, and shed the
blood of others and beat others, and his virtues would
be credited to the account of the one (who suffered
at his hand). And if his good deeds fall short to clear
the account, then his sins would be entered in (his
account) and he would be thrown in the Hell-Fire."
(Sahih Muslim: Book 31, Number 6251)
Let's reflect on this. Here we are. We thought we were
doing good. We prayed. We fasted. We worked hard on
doing good deeds. Yet, there we will be on the Day of
Judgement. We will have survived all of the horrible
trials, the Judgement, the Bridge and the huge thorns,
which snatch us according to our deeds and throw us
into Hell. (Sahih Bukhari: Volume 8, Book 76, Number
We will have been through all this, only to lose all
our good deeds because we could not or would not control
our tongue. On this day, we will stand there and be
asked by those whom we harmed for their rights. A person
whom we have backbitten may take that one crucial deed
that means Heaven or Hell. How many deeds can you afford
to give away?
Personally, I don't feel that I can spare one. On that
day, the mother will drop her load. Your mom will not
know you or care about you! Your mother! The Prophets
will be saying, "I am not fit for that (intercession)."
The Prophets, what chance do you or I have? We must
not give ourselves so much credit that we actually have
the gall to believe that we can afford to give away
even one deed. May Allah protect us all!
This is a major sin that we have to guard against. We
cannot allow ourselves to fall into it. Allah warns
us that nothing will be hidden on that day. We will
have even our limbs speaking against us or for us: Allah
says, On the day when their tongues and their hands
and their feet shall bear witness against them as to
what they did. (24:24)
And Our Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) warns
us to be careful of our tongues, what we say. He also
encouraged us with the rewards we get for doing so.
Narrated Hadhrat Sahl bin Saad (Radhi Allaho anho):
Allah's Apostle (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) said,
"Whoever can guarantee (the chastity of) what is
between his two jaw-bones and what is between his two
legs (i.e. his tongue and his private parts), I guarantee
Paradise for him." (Sahih Bukhari: Volume 8, Book
76, Number 481)
And Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (Radhi Allaho anho) narrated:
Allah's Apostle (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) told that
the servant whose fault Allah conceals in this world,
Allah would also conceal his faults on the Day of Resurrection.
(Muslim: Book 31, Number 6266)
Hadhrat Uqbah bin Amir (Radhi Allaho anho) narrated:
Whoever covers the faults of believer is like one who
has brought to life a female child buried alive. (Abu
Dawood: Book 41, Number 4873)
The rewards are so great. We should be so careful in
this matter to avoid the punishment and to receive the
great blessings. There are a few situations where it
is allowed for us to talk about something, but these
are limited. Here are a few allowed situations:
Marital advice or protection from possible harm:
Fatimah binte Qays went to the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho
alaihe wasallam) seeking marital advice when both Mu'awiyah
bin Abu Sufyan and Abu Jahm had proposed to her. The
Holy Prophet told her, "Muawiyah is stingy and
tight fisted and Abu Jahm beats his women." So
marry Usamah instead. (Muslim, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi,
Nisai and Ibin Majah)
Narrated Hadhrat Aisha (Radhi Allaho anha): Hind, the
mother of Mu'awiya said to Allah's Apostle (Sall Allaho
alaihe wasallam), "Abu Sufyan (her husband) is
a miser. Am I allowed to take from his money secretly?"
The Holy Prophet said to her, "You and your sons
may take what is sufficient reasonably and fairly."
(Sahih Bukhari: Volume 3, Book 34, Number 413)
Seeking advice from someone who has the power to help:
Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (Radhi Allaho anho) narrated that
a man said, ""O Messenger of Allah! I have
a neighbour who is harassing me." He (the Holy
Prophet) said, "Go and put your belongings on the
street." So, the man went and put his belongings
on the street. People gathered and asked, "What's
wrong with you?" He said, "I have a neighbour
who is harassing me; I told the Holy Prophet about that
and he told me to go and put my belongings in the street."
The people began to say, "O Allah curse him! (about
the neighbour). The neighbour heard about that, so he
came to the man and told him, "Go back to your
house. By Allah, I will not disturb you again."
Now, once we have seen this, we have to reflect upon
it. What if we have committed Gheebat, what should we
do? Well, Imam Nawawi said, "The Ulama have said
that if you have committed Gheebat, then ask forgiveness
for it. So, how do we repent from this awful deed?
We have to first ask Allah to forgive us and make a
decision not to repeat it. Then, we have to go to the
people whose backbite we did, if possible, and ask them
to forgive us, and if they are dead, ask forgiveness
from Allah for their sins and ask of Him to give rewards
of His to them and make them happy from us. Remember,
Allah will forgive us his right, if we ask sincerely,
but He will not remove a right from a believer. So we
must ask the believer for his forgiveness as well.
One thing more I would like us to note that what shall
we do if we are in a situation where others are backbiting?
We have to first remember Allah and advise them not
to do so as well by in a nice and gentle manner. If
this does not work, we must leave that place or that
gathering at once, because sitting there and listening
is as bad as doing the deed. For the scholars agree
that a person who is in attendance when a sin is being
committed is as guilty as the ones who are committing
Your presence is a kind of approval of the deed. If
your friends are angry with you for not participating
in their sins, they are not really your friends. Why
would they want to harm you and, of course, your religion,
and want to hurt your chances to get into Paradise?
Also, remember in doing so, you are protecting the honour
of your brother or sister, and look to the reward of
doing so. The Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam)
said: "On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will deflect
fire from the face of the one who defends his Muslim
brother's honour in the latter's absence." (Tirmizi)
O Allah! Guard our tongues! O Allah! Guard our actions!
O Allah! Forgive us our sins against You and ease the
hearts of those we have harmed.
in matters that do not concern you
Shaikh Nasim Sultan
Abu Hurairah (Radhi Allaho anho) narrated that the Prophet
Muhammad (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) said, "A
sign of one's excellence in his Islam, is ignoring what
does not concern him." (Related by Ahmad, Malik
Ibn-e-Rajab said, "This Hadith is a basic and an
important source of good behaviour in Islam." Muhammad
bin Zayd, a great scholar of the Maliki School of thought,
said, "Four Ahadith comprise a perfect code of
conduct." One of them is, 'Whoever believes in
Allah and His Messenger should say that which is useful
or keep silent.' Another Hadith is when the Holy Prophet
(Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) said to the man who sought
his advice, 'Avoid getting angry.' A third is the Hadith,
'The believer loves for his (believing) brother what
he loves for himself.' The fourth is the above Hadith."
A sign of one's excellence in the religion, is his ignoring
what does not concern him, including all things said
or done. The Muslim should only participate in what
concerns him, such as anything that is his property,
right, obligation or under his control. To be concerned
with something entails preserving and taking care of
this thing that one is allowed to be concerned with.
As for the matters that do not concern one, they are
in abundance. Usually, when a person tries to interfere
in such matters that do not concern him, the tool frequently
used for this is the tongue. Muslims are ordered to
utter only good words, for Allah said, what translated
means, "Not a word he (man) utters, but there is
a watcher by him ready (to record it)." [50:18]
Many people ignore the fact that in Islam, words are
considered actions. Such people care not to preserve
their tongues from uttering evil or nonsense. Muaz bin
Jabal (Radhi Allaho anho) did not know the importance
of discretion in the words one utters, so he asked the
Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam), "Are
we going to be held responsible for what we say?"
The Holy Prophet answered, "May your mother lose
you! What else will lead people to be dragged in the
Fire on their faces, but the result of what they utter
with their tongues." [Irwaa' al-Ghaleel]
An-Nawawi said in his book, "Riyadh-us-Saliheen",
"Know that everyone should only talk about what
might lead to benefit. When talking and being silent
are equal in benefit, then the Sunnah is to be silent.
This is because to be talkative will usually lead to
uttering evil, even if it starts with seemingly harmless
words. One should always be on the safe side, a state
that is indeed desired." When a person utters only
good words, he gains respect in his community. Likewise,
if he is talkative and nosy, disrespect and a bad reputation
are the result.
This Hadith indicates that ignoring what does not concern
one is a sign of his excellence in the religion. Being
successful in working the righteous deeds and gaining
an increase in the number of good deeds are all results
of this better behaviour. The number of sins will also
decrease if one protects his tongue from uttering evil.
Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (Radhi Allaho anho) said, "If
you improve your Islam, then every good deed you work
will increase (and will be multiplied) by ten folds
to seven hundred times in reward. On the other hand,
each sin is recorded according to its weight, until
one meets Allah, the Exalted One." [Muslim]
The only way to know right from wrong is through the
Islamic Shari`ah (Law). What one wishes and desires
do not count in this regard. The Holy Prophet has considered
the one who ignores what does not concern him to be
an excellent Muslim. Therefore, Islam alone must be
consulted to define what does or does not concern a
Muslim. Because many Muslims do not depend on the Shari`ah
to define what they can or cannot participate in, they
sometimes abandon their obligations or what they are
supposed to do or say, thinking that this is not of
their concern. They sometimes defy the rules of the
religion by not advising their Muslim brothers, thinking
that this also is not of their concern. Or, they indulge
in what does not concern them, thinking that this is
their concern. To get out of this confusion, one should
always consult the Shari`ah to know what he is supposed
to do or say.
Benefits from the above quoted Hadith are:
1. This Hadith encourages Muslims to use the time in
a manner that brings about their benefit in this life
and in the Hereafter.
2. Muslims should always be concerned with what is beneficial
and constructive, and should avoid what does not bring
about benefit and what does not preserve the honour.
3. This Hadith also encourages Muslims to strive hard
to discipline their behaviour, and to reject and abandon
sins, dishonour and what brings about disrespect.
4. This Hadith also ordains avoiding interfering with
other people's affairs, for unwarranted interference
with other people's business causes divisions and hatred
of Islamic awareness
Muslim historian does not judge any civilization on
the basis of its material achievement only; he also
takes into consideration the extent to which it has
realised the basic objective ordained by God, the Creator
for His creatures. Allah said: "I have only created
Jinns and men, that they may serve Me." (51:56)
Thus, a noble civilization is the one which creates
a suitable environment -- political, social, economic,
cultural, and material -- that will enable man to direct
himself towards the worship of Allah Almighty and to
adhere strictly to His commandments in all his activities,
unimpeded by the institutions of the society.
These institutions should not be permitted to cause
any contradiction between religious belief and conduct,
nor should they put pressure on anyone to deviate from
his obligations towards Allah, Lord of the worlds.
No matter how advanced a civilization may be in its
sciences, literature and arts; no matter how colourful
its achievements in architecture, furniture, clothing,
and cuisine; no matter how far a civilization has advanced
in material progress; in the opinion of the Muslim historian,
it still remains "backward" and "deficient"
so long as it falls short of creating an environment
appropriate to the worship of Allah and the observance
of His commandments as embodied in the Shari'ah.
Islamic civilization itself has passed through several
stages, and undoubtedly, most of its material achievements
were not realised during its early period. Major achievements
came in the third and fourth centuries after the Hijra
(migration of the Holy Prophet [Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam]
to Madinah from Makkah), also termed as "AH".
For this reason, we find the Western historian Adam
Mitez voicing the opinion that the fourth century of
the Hijra represents the peak of Islamic civilization,
because this period was the most appropriate for the
worship of Allah.
When compared with the behaviour of the Muslims in the
fourth century of the Hijra, the behaviour of the Muslims
in the first century was clearly more in accordance
with the teachings of the Shari'ah. The Holy Prophet
(Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) alluded to this when he
said: "The best of generations is my generation,
then those that come after them, then those that come
This logic seems strange indeed to the minds of the
non-Muslim historians, because they have accepted the
criteria and values of Western civilization. But for
the Muslim historian, who has managed to break free
of the domination of Western values, criteria and concepts,
the whole matter appears self-evident.
The Muslim has been able to achieve this new vision
due to the new wave of Islamic awareness, the effects
of which are now quite visible throughout the contemporary
One of these effects has been the breaking away of the
young Muslim generation from the clutches of Western
civilization. Islam and faith have inspired them with
feelings of superiority, self-confidence, and independence,
both spiritual and intellectual. This is significant
because it represents the first correct step in the
direction of establishing a new civilization, God willing.
mercy in 100 parts'
Hadhrat Abu Hurairah (Radhi Allaho anho) related that
the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) said:
"Allah created mercy in one hundred parts and sent
down to earth only one part. Because of this one part,
there is mutual love amongst creation, so much so that
an animal will lift up its hoof from its young one,
fearing that it might harm it. Allah has reserved the
remaining ninety-nine parts of this mercy to favour
His believing servants on the Day of Judgment. "
(Bukhari and Muslim)
Hadhrat Umar (Radhi Allaho anho) related: Once there
was a woman who was frantically searching for someone
amongst the prisoners of war who had been brought to
the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam). When
she found a child amongst the prisoners, she took it
and pressed it against her chest for it to suckle.
At that point the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam)
turned to his Companions and said: "Do you think
that this woman will ever allow her child to be thrown
into a fire?" They said: By Allah! As far as it
lies within her power, she will never allow the child
to be thrown into a fire. The Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho
alaihe wasallam) then said: "Indeed Allah is kinder
to His servants than this woman is to her child."
Abdullah bin Umar (Radhi Allaho anho) relates that the
Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam) mounted the
pulpit and said in a loud voice: "O You who have
accepted Islam with your tongues, but in whose heart
faith has not yet entered! Do not annoy the Muslims
nor revile them, nor seek out their faults. For whosoever
seeks out the fault of his brother Muslim, Allah will
seek out his faults. He whose faults are sought out
by Allah, then Allah will expose him, even if he is
inside his house." (Muslim)
Hadhrat Ubadah bin Saamit (Radhi Allaho anho) related
that the Holy Prophet (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam)
said: "Whosoever seeks forgiveness for the believing
men and the believing women, Allah will record for that
person -- equivalent to every believing man and believing
woman -- a good deed." (Majma'-uz-Zawaaid)
Hadhrat Amr bin Abasah (Radhi Allaho anho) said: I came
to the Messenger of Allah (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam)
and said: O Messenger of Allah! Who is with you in this
matter: He said: "A free man and a slave."
(Meaning Abu Bakr and Bilal). I asked: What is Islam?
He replied: "Good speech and serving food."
I asked: What is faith? He replied: "Patience and
excellence." I asked: What Islam is the most excellent?
He replied: The one from whose hands and tongue other
Muslims are safe." I asked: What faith is most
excellent? He replied: "Good character." I
asked: What prayer is most excellent? He replied: "Standing
in humility and recitation for a long while."
I asked: Which migration is most excellent. He replied:
"That you leave that which your Lord hates."
I asked: What Jihad is most excellent? He replied: That
in which one's stead is injured and one's blood is shed."
I asked: What hour is most excellent? He replied: The
last half of the night." (Ahmad)
Hadhrat Abu Jaree Jaabir bin Saleem said: I have seen
a man whose opinion is followed, he does not say anything
except that they take it. I said: Who is he? They said:
This is the Messenger of Allah (Sall Allaho alaihe wasallam).
I said (twice): 'Alaik-us-Salaam (upon you be Allah's
prayers) O Messenger of Allah. He said: "Do not
say 'Alayhis-salaam, for that is the greeting of the
dead, rather say: Assalaam-o-'Alaika.
I said: Are you the Messenger of Allah? He said: "I
am Allah's Messenger, whom if an affliction touches
you and you were to invoke Him, He removes it. And if
a year of famine comes upon you and you invoke Him,
He causes the crops to sprout for you. And if you were
in a water-less desert and your she-camel strays and
you invoke Him, He returns it to you."
I said: Give me advice. He said: "Do not abuse
anyone." After that, I did not abuse any free man,
slave, camel or sheep. He said: "Do not look down
upon any good work, and when you speak to your brother
then be cheerful to him by your face, and that is from
goodness..." (Abu Dawood, Ahmad and Haakim)
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