Backbiting, as defined by the Prophet (pbuh) is “to mention your brother with something he dislikes”. So when one backbites his brother or sister in Islam, what he says might be true. On the other hand, to slander is to say something false about one`s brother or sister in Islam.

Sheikhul-Islam, Ibn Taimiyyah radhi Allah talah anhaa said that there are those from the people who backbite or listen to backbiting, and they do so to please the company they keep, with the awareness that the victim is likely to be innocent of some of the things that are uttered about him. Often such offenders feel that if they were to attempt to end such a conversation in a gathering, their presence might become unwelcome or burdensome.

There are many methods and guises that are employed when one mentions another in a negative way. Under the pretense of being informative, one could say that it is not ones`habit to mention others, except for the sake of relating another`s condition to someone. Or one could state that by Allah, indeed so and so is one to be pitied, thereby showing superiority over one who is to be rejected. Another method might be to say that so and so is a good person; however he has such and such qualities. Again, one is justified in revealing another’s faults`. One could also simply state that we should forget so and so and make supplications for their forgiveness as well as our own, intending only to belittle the one that was mentioned. In reality, all these tactics are designed to deceive Allah (the Exalted) and to please the creation; and in reality, the many that follow these methods only deserve to deceive themselves.

Then there are those that backbites to raise their own status. When they hear someones`error, they employ words like, “had i prayed for so and so last night in my prayer, the news of their sin would not have reached my ears”. Again when a person states of another that he lacks the understanding in a matter, the implication is personal superiority for the one that mentions others`shortcoming.

There are also those that couple jealousy with backbiting the act of being critical or belittling to those that are praised in the company of others. Some also backbite for the sake of humour, playfulness and lightheartedness. A person finds a certain amount of satisfaction from being appreciated for his story-telling abilities; speaking ill of someone in a humourous fashion adds flavour to a tale. Others engage in backbiting by showing surprise and amazement at anothers`actions: ” how is it that someone could do such a thing?”. Yet others mention people and their actions with the pretense of sympathy for their actions or misfortunes. In reality, the one who backbites actually finds contentment and satisfaction at the mention of others and their misdeeds. Another form of backbiting is relating someones` misfortune to their enemies, so that they, too, may find pleasure in putting them down. From these examples one can summarize that backbiting pertains to a disease of the heart.

Allah says in the Quran:

“And spy not, neither 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”. (Quran 49:12).

Hudhaifah narrates that he has heart the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) say:

” A slanderer will never enter Paradise”.

When a slanderer comes to you with news about a brother or a sister you need to do these things :

  1. You must not believe him; a slanderer is an evildoer, which makes him / her untrustworthy source of news.
  2. You should reproach him /her for his /her slander and try to show him the reprehensibility and vileness of his deed.
  3. You should hate him for the sake of Allah. Allah hates him /her for being a slanderer, and you should hate him too, for a Muslim must hate whom Allah hates.
  4. You must not have evil thoughts about your brother who is being slandered.
  5. After hearing what the slanderer said, you must not go out and spy on the person he spoke about, so as to ascertain whether what he said is true.
  6. Having reproached the slanderer for the vileness of his deed, you should not commit the same vile deed yourself, even if your intention is not malevolent. Therefore you  must neither pass on what he said nor say to another, “so and so said so and so”, in which case you will become like him. Everything we mentioned here are about slandering is valid when there is no islamic benefit that requires one to speak ill about another person.

The Prophet (pbuh) has said:

” a person is sufficiently considered to be lying when he relates all that he hears”

On the other hand if you defend another muslim you will be saved from the fire. The Prophet (pbuh) has said :

“Whoever defends the flesh of a brother or sister in Islam in his / her absence, Allah will save him from the fire”. (Reported by Ahmad).

The Prophet (pbuh) has said :

“the worst of people are those who spread malicious gossip”. (Reported by Ahmad).

May Allah save us from this most evil of actions and protect us from its temptations.

(Exctract taken out of the book “Gems and Jewels” and ” the book of manners” and the book ” the Ideal Muslimah “.