The Holy Quraan says: And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You abhor that (so abhor the other)! And keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Relenting, Merciful. (49:12)
Almighty Allah says: Woe to every slanderer and backbiter. (104:1) Backbiting is certainly one of the actions Islam forbids. Its effect on individuals and communities is all there to see. It creates ill feelings and mistrust. Moreover, it betrays a cowardly attitude, as the backbiter takes the opportunity of the absence of another person in order to speak ill of him, giving other people a bad picture of him. Had he been speaking the truth, he would not have chosen to speak of him in such terms when he is away. He actually acknowledges that he does not have the courage to face him with similar statements. The evils of backbiting and its effects on the society are well-known to everyone.
Sayyiduna Hudayfa (radi Allahu anhu) reported that the Holy Prophet of Islam (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) said: A Qattat will not enter Paradise. (Bukhari) A Qattat is a person who conveys information from one person to another with the intention of causing harm and enmity between them.
Sayyiduna Abu Sa’eed (radi Allahu anhu) and Sayyiduna Jaabir (radi Allahu anhu) reported that Sayyiduna Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Backbiting is worse than adultery”. The companions of the Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) wished to know how backbiting is worse than adultery. The Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) said: A man commits adultery and then submits his repentance to Allah who accepts it. But the backbiter will not attain salvation unless the person against whom he has committed the crime of backbiting forgives him. (Bay’haqi)
Sayyiduna Abdur Rahman Bin Ghenam (radi Allahu anhu) and Sayyidah Asma Bint Yazid (radi Allahu anha) reported that Sayyiduna Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) said: Those are the virtuous servants of Allah seeing whom one remembers Allah, and those are the bad servants of Allah who indulge in backbiting and cause a separation between friends and attempt to involve an innocent man into hardships. (Bay’haqi)
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (radi Allahu anhu) reported that the Prophet of Islam (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) said: Do you know what is backbiting? The companions said: Allah and His Messenger (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) know better. The Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) said: Backbiting is when you speak of your brother with an attribute, which he may dislike. A companion asked: If my brother possesses that demerit? The Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) said: If he has got the demerit, which you mention in his absence, it will be treated as backbiting. If he does not possess that what you mention about him, it will be treated as allegation. (Muslim)
Sayyiduna Anas (radi Allahu anhu) reported that Allah’s Messenger (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) said: The compensation for backbiting is that the backbiter should invoke Allah for the forgiveness of the person against whom he has spoken ill. (Bay’haqi)
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (radi Allahu anhu) reported that when Sayyiduna Ma’ez Aslami (radi Allahu anhu) was stoned to death after confessing the crime of adultery, a man said to the other: See him, Allah had kept his sin secret but his conscience did not leave him, and hence, he is stoned to death like a dog. Sayyiduna Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) heard their conversation and kept silent. When they advanced a few steps, they found a dead donkey with stretched limbs. The Beloved Habeeb (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) said to those persons: Go and eat the flesh of that donkey. They said: How can we eat it, O Apostle of Allah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam)? The Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) said: The crime that you have committed by speaking ill of your brother is worse than eating the carrion. By Him in Who holds my life, Ma’ez (radi Allahu anhu) is diving into the Rivers of Paradise. (Abu Da’ood)
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (radi Allahu anhu) reported that the Holy Prophet of Islam (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) said: A believer is the mirror of another believer and his brother. He should protect his belongings from destruction and save him against backbiting. (Tirmidi)
Sayyiduna Abdullah Ibne-Abbas (radi Allahu anhuma) reported once Sayyiduna Rasoolullah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) went through the grave yards of Madina and heard the voices of two humans who were being tortured in their graves. The Holy Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) said: They are being punished, but they are not being punished because of a major sin, yet their sins are great: One of them used not to save himself from being soiled with the urine, and the other used to go about with calumnies. Then, the merciful Prophet of Allah (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) asked for a green palm tree leaf and split it into two pieces and placed one piece on each grave, saying: I hope that their punishment may be abated as long as these pieces of the leaf are not dried. (Bukhari)
However, there are cases when pointing out the faults of another person is permissible. Suppose that people come to you to ask for information about a man you know intimately. They tell you that he has proposed to marry their daughter, or to go into business partnership with them. In such a case, you have to give them all the information, which is likely to influence their decision one way or the other. You must point out the faults you know of that person in order to make an honest testimony. For example, if you know him to be stingy or hot-tempered or negligent of his family duties, you must tell them of all that because these are qualities which influence a decision on accepting a proposal of marriage. If you know from your long association with that person, that, for example, he had entered into a business partnership with others and the business collapsed and there was some suspicion about his honesty, or his handling of the affairs of the business, or that he did not have a sound business sense, you must tell that to the inquirers. In such cases, you are not indulging in backbiting; you are simply acting as a witness who must give an honest testimony.
There are, however, certain things to take into account when you are called upon to give such information. The first is that you give it only to the people who need it. You must not publicize it. The second is that you give only the information, which is necessary. Thirdly, you must be very objective. You must not allow your own prejudice to either exaggerate or make little of what you know. Fourthly, you should give the information in the least offensive way. You should use the words that give a clear idea of the man and his standing and that are not too personal. That is not backbiting by any measure.