Backbiting, often referred to as “Gheebah” or “Namimah” in the Arabic language, is considered by scholars as a MAJOR SIN in the Islamic religion. Backbiting is an act that involves speaking negatively about someone behind his/her back whether it’s true or false. And what makes this act even more common and gangerous is the internet/social media era we’re living in right now as people in all ages can easily access their devices from anywhere and spread false information or backbite about one another. This is why I will dive deep into the teachings of Islam to explain why backbiting is haram (forbidden) and the consequences of backbiting in this life and on the Day of Judgment.
Backbiting in Islam from the Quran & Sunnah of the Prophet (Hadith)
The Quran, the holy book of Islam, provides clear guidance on the matter of backbiting. One of the key verses that addresses this issue is found in Surah Al-Hujurat, verse 12: “O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. 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. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful”. This verse emphasizes the gravity of backbiting, likening it to the act of consuming the flesh of a dead brother, something abhorrent and detestable. It stresses the importance of avoiding negative assumptions about others and refraining from spying or speaking ill of them behind their backs.
In addition to the Quran, the Hadith (sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) provide further insights into the prohibition of backbiting in Islam. It was narrated by the companion Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger Muhammad (Peace be upon him) asked his companions: “Do you know what backbiting is? They replied, Allah and His Messenger know better. The Prophet then said, it is to say something about your brother that he would dislike. The companions asked but what if what I say is true? The Prophet replied, if what you say about him is true, you are backbiting him, and if it is not true, you are slandering him” (Sahih Muslim). This Hadith highlights that even if what is said about someone is true, it is still considered backbiting and is strictly discouraged in Islam.
Consequences of Engaging in Backbiting (Gheebah)
Understanding the consequences of backbiting is crucial for Muslims. The Quran and Hadith provide insights into the gravity of this sin:
1. Sin and Accountability: Backbiting is considered as a major sin in Islam. As mentioned in the Quranic verse earlier, it is a matter that Allah takes very seriously. Those who engage in backbiting will be held accountable for their words and actions.
2. Broken Brotherhood: Backbiting damages relationships and erodes trust among individuals, leading to division and discord within the community. Islam places a high value on maintaining strong bonds between believers.
3. Punishment in the grave: It was narrated by the companion Ibn ‘Abbas that the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) passed by two graves and said: “They are being punished, but they are not being punished for anything that was difficult to avoid. One of them used to walk about spreading malicious gossip (namimah), and the other used not to take precautions to avoid getting urine on himself when he urinated.” Then he called for a green branch, which he split in two and planted a piece on each grave, and said, “May their torment be reduced so long as these do not dry out.” (Sahih Bukhari and Muslim)
4. Loss of good deeds on Day of Judgment: It was narrated by the companion Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said: “Whoever has wronged his brother with regard to his honour or anything else, let him seek his forgiveness today before there will be no dinar and no dirham, and if he has any good deeds to his credit they will be taken from him in a manner commensurate with the wrong he did, and if he has no good deeds, then some of his counterpart’s bad deeds will be taken and added to his burden.” (Sahih Bukhari)
How to Avoid Backbiting in Islam?
Now that we understand the seriousness of backbiting in Islam, let’s explore ways to avoid falling into this sinful behavior:
1. Guard Your Tongue: The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) advised his followers to “Say good or remain silent.” Practicing mindfulness of our words is the first step in avoiding backbiting.
2. Change the Conversation: If you find yourself in a conversation where backbiting is taking place, try to change the topic or steer the discussion toward positive and constructive subjects.
3. Speak Directly to Resolve Issues: Instead of discussing someone’s faults behind their back, if you have a concern or issue with them, it is better to address it directly and privately. This aligns with the Islamic principle of advising one another with kindness and sincerity.
4. Seek Forgiveness: If you realize that you have engaged in backbiting, repent and seek forgiveness from Allah. Make a sincere effort to rectify the situation by speaking well of the person you backbit and seeking their forgiveness if necessary.
Backbiting in Islam, known as Gheebah or Namimah, is a great sin that is strongly condemned. The Quran and Sunnah provide clear guidance on its prohibition and the severe consequences it carries. Muslims are encouraged to guard their tongues, maintain positive relationships, and seek forgiveness when they err. By adhering to these principles, believers can strive to create a harmonious and righteous community in accordance with the teachings of Islam. Remember the words of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him say good or remain silent.”