About backbiting and speaking ill of others
Those who do not commit sins and have been gifted with safety (from sins) should take pity on sinners and other disobedient people. Gratefulness should be mostly their indulgence and it should prevent them from (finding faults with) others. What about the backbiter who blames his brother and finds fault with him? Does he not remember that Allah has concealed the sins which he committed while they were bigger than his brother’s sins pointed out by him? How can he vilify him about his sins when he has himself committed one like it? Even if he has not committed a similar sin he must have committed bigger ones. By Allah, even if he did not commit big sins but committed only small sins, his exposing the sins of people is itself a big sin.
O’ creature of Allah, do not be quick in exposition anyone’s sin for he may be forgiven for it, and do not feel yourself safe even for a small sin because you may be punished for it. Therefore, every one of you who comes to know the faults of others should not expose them in view of what he knows about his own faults, and he should remain busy in thanks that he has been saved from what others have been indulging in.
“Do you know what backbiting is?” People said, “Allah and His Prophet know better.” Then he said, “Backbiting means that you say about your brother a thing which pains him.” Someone said, “But what if I say what is actually true about him?” The Prophet replied, “It is backbiting only when it is factually true, otherwise you would be accusing him falsely.”
There are many causes for indulging in backbiting, and because of this a man commits it sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly. Abu Hamid al-Ghazali has recounted these causes in detail in his book Ihya’ `ulumu’d-din. A few of the important ones are:
- To make fun of anyone or to make him appear abased.
- To make people laugh and to display one’s own jolliness and high spiritedness.
- Expressing one’s feelings under the influence of rage and anger.
- To establish one’s feelings under the influence of rage and anger.
- To disprove one’s connection or involvement in a matter; namely that a particular evil was not committed by oneself but by someone else.
- To associate oneself with some group when in their company in order to avoid strangeness with them.
- To belittle a person from whom it is feared that he will expose some fault of one’s.
- To defeat a competitor in the same calling.
- To seek position in the audience of someone in power.
- To express sorrow by saying it is sad that so-and-so has fallen in such and such a sin.
- To express astonishment, for example, to say it is wonderful that so and so has done this.
- To name the committer of an act when expressing anger over it.
However, in some cases fault finding or criticizing does not fall under backbiting.
- Amer-Bil-Maroof has been emphasized in the Holy Quran 160 times, to encourage, inspire and educate people towards good deeds.
If the oppressed complains of the oppressor in order to seek redress, it is not backbiting. Allah says about it: Loveth not Allah open utterance of evil in speech except by one who hath been wronged.. (Qur’an, 4:148)
- To relate anyone’s fault while giving advice is no backbiting because dishonesty and duplicity is not permissible in counseling.
- If in connection with seeking the requirements of a religious commandment the naming of a particular individual cannot be avoided, then to state the fault of such person to the extent necessary would not be backbiting.
- To relate the misappropriation or dishonesty committed by someone with a view to saving a Muslim brother from harm would not be backbiting.
- To relate the fault of someone before one who can prevent him from committing it is not backbiting.
- Criticism and expression of opinion about a relater of traditions is not backbiting.
- If a person is well acquainted with someone’s shortcoming, then to relate such a fault in order to define his personality, for example, describing a deaf, dumb, lame or handless person as thus, is not backbiting.
- To describe any fault of a patient before a physician for purposes of treatment is not backbiting.
- If someone claims wrong lineage then to expose his correct lineage is not backbiting.
- If the life, property or honour of someone can be protected only by informing him of some fault, it would not be backbiting.
- If two persons discuss a fault of another which is already known to both it would not be backbiting, although to avoid discussing it is better, since it is possible one of the two might have forgotten it.
- To expose the evils of one who openly commits evils is not back-biting as the tradition runs:
- “There is no backbiting in the case of he who has torn away the veil of shamefulness.” Nahjul Balagha
- Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Amr Bil Maroof (Enjoining good)
An old man sat to do his Wudhu / Wuzu (Ablution). But his Wudhu was not correct. Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Imam Hussain (a.s.) the grandsons of the Prophet Mohammad (saw), then two young boys, watched him. They immediately realized that the old man was not doing his Wudhu correctly, but hesitated to tell him directly. Perhaps the old man would feel humiliated by two young boys, or he might even lose interest in the act of worship.
Sitting next to him, they started to do the Wudhu and during the Wudhu, Imam Hasan (a.s.) said: “Oh Hussain my Wudhu is correct and more perfect than yours.”
In reply, Imam Hussain (a.s.) insisted that his own Wudhu was better than Imam Hasan’s.
Finally they said: “Let us refer to this gentleman. He is older than us and should be able to decide.”
The old man was listening patiently. The boys performed their Wudhu under his supervision, one after the other. And when they had finished, he realized the Wudhu done by the boys was methodical and correct. It was his own Wudhu which was incorrect. Turning to Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Imam Hussain (a.s.), he gently said: “The Wudhu done by you is correct. I am grateful that you chose to guide me in such a beautiful manner.”
- Amr bil Ma’roof denotes urging others to perform good deeds and Nahy Anil Munkar implies restraining them from sins. Like the previous obligations these are also an article of faith and an important duty incumbent on Muslims. They are components of Jihad. Its practice is greatly emphasized in many ayats and traditions and its neglect is severely criticized. Some of the ayats are mentioned below.
“And from among you there should be a party who invite to good and enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong and these it is that shall be successful.”(Surah Aale Imran 3: 104)
In this ayat Allah has informed us the obligatory nature of Amr bil Ma’roof and Nahy Anil Munkar with emphasis. At another place in the same chapter the Lord Almighty remarks,
“You are the best of the nations raised up for (the benefit of) men; you enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong and believe in Allah;”(Surah Aale Imran 3:110)
Those who neglect Nahy Anil Munkar have been severely criticised in the following verse of Surah Maidah,
“Why do not the learned men and the doctors of law prohibit them from their speaking of what is sinful and their eating of what is unlawfully acquired? Certainly evil is that which they work.”(Surah Maidah 5:63)
- EXPOSING SHORT COMING OF OTHERS
“And yield not to any mean swearer. Defamer, going out with slander”.(Al-Qalam:10-11)
There was once a wise man, who, after a very long time met his friend.While they were both chatting, his friend said,
“Do you know so and so (name of a person) whom you always considered as your best friend? Well, he has been speaking ill about you to others”
The wise man neither considered this information useful nor was he impressed by itsw conveyor. He just looked at his friend and said,
“You have committed three acts of evil and treachery. Firstly, you have displeased my heart against a brother in faith. Secondly, you have unduly diverted my heart and made it occupied with something unpleasant. And thirdly, you have lowered yourself in my eyes and proved wicked by exposing others”.
In the verses of Sura al-Qalam mentioned above, generally teaches us not to pay attention to a type of mean and lowly people who always engage in defaming and exposing faults of others, even to the extent of slandering – fabricating defects against others.
Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (as) has said,
“The worst of the people are those who do not forgive errors and do not cover up short-comings of others”.
The vice and bad habit of exposing the short-coming and defects of others is caused by jealousy and hostility. It leads to the spread of corruption and enmity among people. It causes ill-feeling and disunity in a society or even at home within ones own family.
And this why the habit of covering defects of others has been praised and encouraged in Islam. Imam Ali (as) guides us with the following words:
“Keep silent and cover up (short-comings of people) so that you remain secured and safe”
“One who covers up (short-comings) of a Muslim, Allah would reward him by covering him up in this world and in the hereafter”
Quite often the one with big mouth in fault-finding and exposing others, has in his own self such sins and defects as to require much attention in rectifying before his concern for others. Thus Imam Ali (as) suggests;
“Whoever is inquisitive about the defects of others, should commence this and do first with his own self”.
The Imam (as) warning people against friendship of such people further says:
“Refrain from associating with the fault-finders because their friends too, cannot remain safe from their harm”.
- Note: I composed this article just to clear the confusion from the mind of our muslims about gheebah, and amr bil maroof. I have seen so many of us commit sins and when someone object or guide they start to blame him for gheebah, slander ect. Because they do not know the difference in gheebah, slander and amr bil maroof . some times because of guilty or love for sins…they try to confuse others also, just to justify their sins by presenting one sided hadith and verses of Holy quran..
- It is clear from these ayats that Amr Bil Maroof and Nahy Anil Munkar are obligatory duties which if not fulfilled, invite divine chastisement. Those who neglect Nahy Anil Munkar are as guilty as those who commit sins and deserve equal punishment.
“Those who believed from among the children of Israel were cursed by the tongue of Dawood and Isa, son of Marium, this was because they disobeyed and used to exceed the limit.
They used not to forbid each other the hateful things (which) they did; certainly evil was that which they did.”
(Surah Maidah 5: 78-79)
This ayat has severely criticized those who neglect Nahy Anil Munkar. Imam Sadiq (a.s.) says that the people who earned the curse of Allah’s messengers because they did not forbid evil and who were subsequently transformed into apes were those who never befriended the wrong doers or attend their assemblies, but when met those people they were friendly and affectionate towards them. (Wasaelush Shia)
The Holy Prophet (SAWAW). has said :The world is like a ship and mankind its passengers. The welfare of all depends upon the safe conduct of each. If anyone is found making a hole on the side of a ship, he must be stopped.
It is not that a believer will never commit a mistake or be involved in evil. Only that he will never insist on it, justify it, or promote it. He may fail to do some required good. But he will never be a force opposing it. In the Islamic society sin is a private weakness, not a public cause. It is for this reason that repentance for a public sin must also be made in public while we must repent privately for our private sins. A public sin may have encouraged others to do the same. A public repentance will counter that.
At one level it is the responsibility of every member of the society. When we see a wrong we should correct it. A very famous hadith declares it as an issue of faith. “Whoever amongst you sees an evil should change it with his hand. If he is unable to do that then with his tongue. If he is unable to do that, then with his heart, and that is the weakest level of Iman.” [Muslim]
So if a person does not even feel bad about an evil, he has no faith whatsoever
“Let there arise out of you a group inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong. They are the ones to attain success.”[Aal-e-Imran, 3:104]
Can we imagine what the ummah would look like had we followed this one teaching seriously? For today we seem to be doing exactly the opposite. There are Muslim women who have been pressured out of observing hijab by friends and relatives. Men and women have been enticed into riba transactions. All innovations (bid’at) and false social practices continue under social pressures. Bribery, backbiting, corruption, indecency, and dishonesty flourish under social approval. It is frightening to see how our real life matches the description given for the hypocrites. For we are warned that if we persuade others to commit a wrong we’ll add to our burden of sins by the same amount. It is one thing to commit a wrong out of weakness. It is totally different to advocate the wrong and willingly multiply our burden of sins.
At the collective level also,one can see a tendency to avoid raising voice against prevalent and accepted ills. It is far easier to give a pep talk about the virtues of Islam at the Friday Khutbah. At other places one may even hear advocacy of wrong in the name of ijtehad.
Of course for today’s secular world amr-bil-maroof is an alien concept. This world is driven by interests not principles.
The above discussion is based on Verses of holy quran:
“You are the best community that has been raised for mankind. You enjoin good and forbid evil and you believe in Allah.” [Aal-e-Imran, 3:110].
“The believers, men and women, are protectors of each other: they enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil.”[Tauba, 9:71]
Yet we see a growing attitude in the Muslims in the West under the influence of this slogan of freedom. It effectively says: “This is my life, leave me alone.” But we must remember that the Islamic society is the only society with a declared mission of promoting good and forbidding evil.
But we must remember after death we all are answerable to allah subhan o Tala for our neglegance and hypocricy.
“The hypocrites, both men and women, proceed one from another. They enjoin the wrong and forbid the right…”[Tauba, 9:67]
Ways of doing amr-bil-ma’roof and nahya ‘anil munkir:
(a) By tongue. By talking to the person and persuading him, using the
politest posible language to start off with.
(b) By conduct. If talking produces no result, a gradual withdrawal of
friendship and companionship should be resorted to.
(c) The next stage should be to report the matter to ‘alam-e-shar’a (the
mujtahid whose muqallid you are or his duly appointed “wakil” authorised
to decide jurisprudential matters).
I trust the above is helpful. If you need any further information or
clarification, I shall be happy to assist.
May Allah in His infinite mercy forgive us our sins.
Syed Mohammad Masoom Abidi