Allah swt says in Surah al-Hujrat (49:12) – ‘O you who believe ….. 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 forgives and accepts repentance, Most Merciful’.

Alongside this, Abu Huraira (ra) reported that Allah’s Messenger (saws) saying:

‘Do you know what is backbiting?’ The Companions said: Allah and His Messenger know best. Thereupon the Prophet said: ‘Backbiting implies you are talking about your brother in a manner which he does not like’. It was said to him (saws): ‘what is your opinion about this, that if I actually find (that failing) in my brother which I made a mention of?’ He (saws) said: ‘If (that failing) is actually found (in him) what you assert, you in fact have backbitten him, and if that is not in him, then it is a slander (i.e. false accusation)’. (Recorded by Imam Muslim)

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Backbiting (Gheebah) is a social evil. The earlier ayah prohibits it. In the definition of backbiting the phrase ‘behind his back’ or ‘in his absence’ appears. The earlier ayah sternly warns against disgracing a Muslim and compares it to eating the flesh of a human being.

Backbiting is most severely and harshly condemned. It is compared to the eating of the flesh of a dead person, thus bringing out the gravity of its unkindness and meanness. It is a malicious act and not an act of valour or bravery.

The wisdom of it lies in the fact that, if hurtful things are said to the face of someone, the person being present will be able to defend himself. However, for fear of defence not everybody will have the courage to utter hurtful things to the face of someone. So they backbite.

Backbiting is carried out where there is no one to defend the victim, and thus the meanest person would take the courage to backbite the greatest of men. The accusations, comments and attacks are not defended. Generally the words spread, and more and more people get involved which leads to major problems. This will affect individuals, families, societies, groups and nations.

Therefore, it is the duty of every Muslim to defend their brother or sister who is being accused if they can. If that is not possible, then they should at least abstain from listening to it, because listening to it wilfully and intentionally is like backbiting itself.

The imam reminded us of a hadith in which Jabir (ra) also reported that the Prophet (saws) said:

‘Backbiting is worse than adultery’. The noble Companions enquired: ‘How so?’ The Messenger of Allah (saws) replied: ‘A person may commit fornication, repent for it and his sin is forgiven. But the sin of backbiting is not forgiven unless the affected party forgives.’

So how does one overcome the habit of backbiting. In order to do this, first it is important to look at some of the root causes of backbiting. In todays’ reminder the following are some of the causes to backbite a person:

  1. Satisfying our anger
  2. To make or keep others as friends
  3. Playing around, joking and making fun of others
  4. Anger for the sake of Allah
  5. Having too much spare time
  6. Conceit and lack of awareness of our own faults

And so, if we focus on each of these root causes and try and address them today then we can be of those who can eradicate this bad habit insha’Allah.

  1. The strong person is one who can control themselves when they get angry. So conversely, we are weak if we let emotions run away with ourselves during times of anger. Seek protection from Shaitaan when feeling angry towards someone and insha’Allah it will prevent the anger manifesting into backbiting.
  2. Our friendships will make and break us as servants of Allah SWT. If our friendship is dependent upon our habit of backbiting in their presence then maybe it’s worth evaluating the value of this so-called friendship compared to the cost on our souls.
  3. If backbiting is being done to amuse others, then similarly we need to assess the people we are choosing to be around. Are they bringing us closer to Allah SWT or driving us further away from Him?
  4. Sometimes our ego is so advanced that it can convince us that sin is permissible if for the right reasons. Just as we hear in this country, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’, we need to understand that we cannot commit one sin for the sake of a reward from Allah SWT. Backbiting on someone because of the sake of Allah is an example of this.
  5. Backbiting is also something that is just done as it’s an easy topic between two people who know a third. It is used often as an ice-breaker between two people who both know the third person but either replace it with compliments on the third person or find some other ice-breaker, small talk conversation that doesn’t weigh heavily on both your souls.
  6. Lastly, lack of awareness comes back to previous reminders of mindfulness. As muslims, we don’t go through life as zombies. We should be acutely connected with our actions and our words. If backbiting is a habit you recognise in yourself then ask yourself is this is a root cause and try to become more present in the moment. Step one to this is becoming more aware of Allah SWT in the moment and that is achieved through dhikr and thoughtful prayers and duas throughout the day.

Dear brothers and sisters, backbiting is a horrible habit and a grave sin. Let us use today’s reminder to be mindful of this trap of shaitaan and to make a concerted effort to remove it from our personalities.

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