Do Not Backbite One Another
(Friday Speech was delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, N. C., on August 28, 1987)
Allah (S.W.T.) talking to the believers said in surat Al-Hujurat, (Verse 12), what can be translated as,
"Do not backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One Who accepts repentance, Most Merciful."
This verse clearly forbids backbiting. Thus it is one of the forbidden things that scholars agreed upon, and with this magnificent style of deterrence, Allah (S.W.T.) raises this question, "Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother?" Then the verse answers, "You would hate it." All sane human instincts hate eating a dead human flesh and as you all hate this, you might as well also hate falling into backbiting.
But what is backbiting and what are the limits?
The prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.), himself answered this question to his companions, reported by Imam Muslim,
"Do you know what is backbiting?" The companions answered, Allah and his prophet know better. The prophet replied, "Mentioning your Muslim brother with what he doesn’t like."
Then it was said, "Even though it is true?" Then the prophet (S.A.W.) answered, "If it is true then it is backbiting, if not then it is slander." Thus the prophet (S.A.W.) has clarified the meaning of backbiting and did not leave room for people’s interpretation.
He (S.A.W.) gave attention to fighting this immorality among Muslims, thus we see lots of ahadeeth about backbiting, its danger and sins. Some of this is reported by Imam Abu-Daoud, and others in a good hadith that the prophet (S.A.W.) delivered a speech saying, " O Those who believe in the tongue and not in the heart, don’t backbite the Muslims, don’t follow their private mistakes, who ever follows Muslim private mistakes, Allah will follow his private mistakes, and whoever Allah follows his private mistakes, Allah will disgrace him even in his house." In the prophet’s speech, he made backbiting a character of hypocrites and warned that following the Muslim’s private mistakes, their mistakes and misdeeds will result in Allah’s following his private mistakes and disgrace him even if he hides in the middle of his house.
Imams Abu-Daoud and An-Nisai’ reported in a good hadith that after stoning Ma’iz, because of Adultery, one of the companions told another "He, meaning Ma’iz, is sitting same as the dog". Then later He, the prophet (S.A.W.), passed by a stinking dead animal along with those two companions. He (S.A.W.) commanded them, "Bite it," Then they said, "O’ prophet should we bite a dead animal?" Then He answered, "What you have mentioned about your brother is worse than this."
In another authentic hadith reported by Imams Ahmed, Abu-Daoud, and At-Tirmithi that Aisha, the wife of the prophet, mentioned a woman to him and said that she is short. Then the prophet (S.A.W.) said to her, "You have backbitten her."
Also in another hadith reported by Imam Abu-Daoud, that the prophet (S.A.W.) said, "When I was ascended up (miraj), I passed by some people with copper nails, scratching their faces and chests. Then I asked Gabriela, who are these people? He then answered, "Those are the ones who eat peoples’ flesh (Backbite people) and accusing people by talking bad about them."
In another authentic hadith reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim, that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said in his speech in the day of sacrifice, in Mina, during his pilgrimage journey, "O’ people, your blood, fortune and honor are sacred amongst you, as sacred as your day today in this month, in this place, here I thus informed".
Dear brothers and sisters in Islam, whoever looks at the reality of the Muslims today, see a wide spread of backbiting among them. Unfortunately, many that avoid the forbidden things and practice the compliance fall into backbiting. This is because of ignorance, negligence, or diseases of the heart. Backbiting is the fruit and result of such causes. The most important causes of backbiting are hatred, envy, anger, exploitation, scoffing and sharing bad company in their talk.
Wiping out the sin of backbiting and its cure is pointed out in the end of the same verse we have mentioned in the beginning, what can be translated as, "And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One Who accepts repentance, Most Merciful." Thus (taqwa) piety, fearing Allah, is enough to prevent from sins, backbiting is one of them. (taqwa) Piety pushes the believers to hurry for repentance to Allah and asking for His forgiveness. The conditions of a sincere repentance in this case (backbiting) are: To stop backbiting, regret it and intend not to do it again, this will clear a person from Allah’s right. For complete repentance, the Muslim must ask his brother for forgiveness. He must also increase supplication for him in his absence and to mention good things about him where he has backbitten him before. Imam Mujahid, one of the famous of tabe’en said "That wiping out the backbiting of your brother is to mention good things about him and to supplicate good things for him."