UNIT SEVENTEEN – BACKBITING, SLANDER :

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Anas ibn Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said: “When I ascended through the heavens, I passed by some people holding copper nails with which they were gouging their faces and chests. I said, ‘Who are these, Jibril?’ He said, ‘Those are the people who consumed people’s flesh and attacked their honor.’” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Adab, 35).

 

NARRATOR

Anas ibn Malik

1. Anas ibn Malik was born in Mecca in the year 613 and passed away in Basra, in 709 (90 AH). 2. When the Messenger of Allah emigrated to Medina, Anas ibn Malik was only ten years old. 3. After the Prophet’s arrival in Medina, Anas ibn Malik’s mother held her son by the hand and took him to the presence of Allah’s Messenger and said, “O Messenger of Allah, I have raised my child in great hardship. I have nothing (else) with which to help you. This is my son, Anas. I entrust him to your care and for your service. Please let him serve you.” The Messenger of Allah could not turn down this earnest request and took Anas ibn Malik under his care. He kept Anas by his side at all times. 4. Despite being just twelve years of age at the Battle of Badr, Anas went to the battlefield to serve the Muslim troops during the battle and did not neglect his service of Allah’s Messenger. 5. Remaining in Medina during Umar’s caliphate, Anas ibn Malik spent most of his time teaching Muslim canonical jurisprudence. He passed away at around eighty years of age in Baghdad. 6. Entreating Allah for Anas, the Prophet had said, “O Allah, increase him in wealth and offspring, and accept him into Paradise.”

 

EXPLANATION

Backbiting is speaking of someone, in their absence and without their knowledge, in way with which they would be displeased or offended. Allah’s Messenger said, “Do you know what backbiting is?” They (the Companions) said, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He said, “To mention your brother in a manner he dislikes.” It was said, “What if my brother is as I say?” He said, “If he is as you said, you have backbitten him. If he is not as you said, you have slandered him.” This hadith is reported in Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu Dawud, Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Sunan at-Nasa’i, as well as others.

1. On account of all people being brothers and sisters in Islam and due to the community of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, all being like the different members of the one family, the believers do not plot against one another, like the hypocrites, and refrain from any action or behavior that causes harm to their fellow believer. For this reason, Allah has declared all believers brothers and sisters and has likened backbiting to a repugnant savagery as eating the flesh of one’s believing brother or sister:

O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, for some suspicion is a grave sin (liable to Allah’s punishment); and do not spy (on one another), nor back- bite (against one another). Would any of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would abhor it! Keep from disobedience to Allah in reverence for Him and piety. Surely Allah is One Who truly returns repentance with liberal forgiveness and additional reward, All-Compassionate (particularly towards His believing servants). (al-Hujurat 49:12)

The expression, “Would any of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother?” describes the inherent evil and vileness of backbiting. Due to the absence of person who is spoken ill of, their ignorance of what is being said and their resultant inability to defend themselves at that very moment, they are consequently like the dead and are therefore a dead sister or brother. Launching an attack on their honor, in such a situation, by speaking ill of them is vividly depicted in the verse as a brutality and savagery akin to pulling to pieces the flesh of a dead person and then consuming it.

2. Allah declares: “O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, for some suspicion is a grave sin (liable to Allah’s punishment)…” (al-Hujurat 49:12).

3. Backbiting is a base weapon used by those who harbor enmity, jealousy, and obstinacy in their heart. An honorable and valiant person does not stoop to using such a vile weapon.

 

THE REMEDY FOR BACKBITING

This remedy is of two kinds:

1. Through knowledge. This is also divided into two categories:

a. To contemplate the Prophetic Traditions concerning backbiting and reflect upon and be very aware of its adverse repercussions.

b. A person must consider his or her own shortcomings and failings that can be backbitten. If they see a flaw within themselves, they must not accuse one who backbites them.

2. To bear in mind the causes driving them to backbite others. There are four such causes:

First Cause: Being angry or resentful, for a particular reason, of the person one backbites. The Prophet says, “Whoever suppresses his rage, while he is able to exact it, Allah will bring him forward before all of creation [on the Day of Judgment] so that he can choose whichever of the heavenly servants he wishes.”

Second Cause: A person who backbites follows suit with others so as to earn their approval. The remedy for this is as follows: as seeking the approval of the people leads to Divine wrath and punishment, one must forever seek Allah’s good pleasure and approval.

Third Cause: People desire self-praise, but are unable to openly praise themselves; thus, they backbite others so that their superiority can be revealed.

Fourth Cause: Envy and jealousy.

 

WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED

1. Those who backbite and who presume to toy with the honor and dignity of others will be sentenced to the punishment of scratching their faces and necks with nails made of copper in the Hereafter.

2. Backbiting is a most vile and base weapon injurious to the love and respect between people.

3. The sin of backbiting is among those sins which entail violations of the rights of others. Divine forgiveness may not be possible without having obtained the pardon of the person backbitten against.

 

EVALUATION

1. According to the hadith, what was the wrongdoing that those scraping their skin with copper nails committed in the world?

2. What is the difference between backbiting and slander?

3. For whom did the Prophet entreat Allah, saying, “O Allah, increase him in wealth and offspring, and accept him into Paradise”?

4. To what brutal and abhorrent act does Allah liken backbiting?

5. In what circumstances may backbiting be permissible?

6. What are the causes of backbiting?