Deterring people from backbiting (Gheebah)
Definition of Gheebah:
When the Prophet was asked about backbiting, he answered: “To mention your brother in a manner which he dislikes”. Then he was asked, “What if my brother actually has (this failing) that I made mention of?” The Prophet said: “If (that failing) is actually found in your brother, you in fact backbit him, and if that is not in him it is a slander.” [Muslim]
Backbiting refers to a Muslim mentioning his Muslim brother in a manner that the latter dislikes, whether by referring to a defect in his body, or in his lineage, or in his morality. The meaning of insulting is included in backbiting, whether it is in the form of words, gestures, or writing.
Ruling of Gheebah:
Backbiting is forbidden in the Noble Quran and the Sunnah. The person who commits it is given the similitude of a person who eats the flesh of his dead brother. Allaah Says (what means): “…And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it…” [Quran 49: 12]
To highlight the sanctity of the Muslim, the Messenger of Allaah said in his sermon during the Farewell Pilgrimage: ”…Your blood, your wealth and your honor are sacred, as this day of yours, in this month of yours, in this land of yours, are sacred…?” [Ahmad and Muslim] This firmly proves haw far beyond limits one transgresses when he backbites his fellow Muslim
Let us think deeply about this, and regard the orders of Allaah and His Prophet with the awe that they deserve. In the sight of Allaah, violating the rights of your brother by backbiting is equivalent to violating the sanctity of the Day of Sacrifice, in the month of Thul-Hijjah, in Minaa. Do we really realize the enormity of this violation of a Muslim’s honor?
Islamic perception of Gheebah:
Al-Baraa’ Ibn ‘Aazib narrated that the Messenger of Allaah said: “There are seventy-two degrees of Ribaa (usury), the least of which is equivalent to committing adultery with one’s own mother. The worst of them (the seventy two degrees) is a man’s insulting his brother’s honor (i.e. by backbiting).” [Ibn Jaaroot]
`Aa’ishah said: “I said to the Prophet : ’It’s bad enough that Safiyyah is such and such. (Some of narrators said: she is short).’ He said: “You have said a word which, if it could be mixed with the water of the sea, it would have been… (i.e., the enormity of it is such that, if it were mixed with the vast water of the sea, it would spoil it.)” [Abu Daawood]
A word which, if it could be mixed with the water of the sea, it would have been…! One word alone could do this, and have such a far-reaching impact! So what do you think of the backbiting people of today, whose tongues never cease to wag? What vast oceans could be tainted and corrupted by their words? How many quiet lives are disrupted by them?
‘Amr Ibn Shu`ayb narrated from his father from his grandfather : (the people) mentioned a man to the Messenger of Allaah saying: ”He doesn’t eat until he is fed and he doesn’t visit anybody until they have visited him first.” The Prophet said: ”You have backbit him.” They said: ”O Messenger of Allaah! We have mentioned about him something which is true.” He said: “It is bad enough that you have mentioned something about your brother which is true.” [Al-Asbahaani]
We should all ask ourselves: who among us is infallible? Who among us is free from errors, faults and sins? Who among us would be content to have everything about him, good and bad, spoken of by others? Any one of us becomes furious if he hears someone hinting something about him; so what would you do if it was said clearly and in detail, let alone behind your back?
‘Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood said: “We were with the Prophet when a man got up and left, whereupon another man immediately started backbiting him. The Prophet said: ”Clean the bits of meat from between your teeth!“ The man asked: “What should I clean from between my teeth? I haven’t eaten any meat!” He said: “You have eaten the flesh of your brother!“ [At-Tabaraani]
This is the state of our community nowadays: any one of us may commit the sin of backbiting, but then will say: I didn’t backbite, I didn’t eat flesh, I haven’t done anything! Why?
Because we have allowed our tongues to become accustomed to speaking this way, without knowing what backbiting is. Let us learn about our religion. Let us learn about what is lawful and unlawful – as much as we can – and distinguish between the speech which is lawful and the speech which is not.
The evil consequence of Gheebah:
Due to its negative impact on individuals and communities alike, the Prophet frequently made mention of backbiting, and greatly warned against it.
The Prophet said: “O you who have believed (only) with their tongues while (true) belief has not visited their hearts! Do not backbite Muslims nor pursue their defects (and faults), otherwise Allaah will pursue your faults, and whomever Allaah pursues his defects (and faults) He disgraces him even though inside his house.” [Ibn Abu Ad-Dunyaa]
The Prophet showed us the safe way of freeing ourselves from the evil consequence of backbiting others when he said: “Whoever has wronged his brother with regard to wealth or honor, should ask for his pardon (before his death), before he will pay for it (in the Hereafter) when he will have neither a Dinaar nor a Dirham (gold and silver currencies). (He should secure pardon in this life) before some of his good deeds are taken and paid to this (his brother), or (if he has no good deeds) some of the bad deeds of this (his brother) will be taken (from the person he wronged) and will be loaded on him.” [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]