“Did you hear what Fatima did?”
“You’ll never believe what I heard about Ahmed…”
“I found out something shocking about Adam recently.”
We’ve all been in this situation before. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or co-worker, each one of us has been part of a casual conversation that has turned into gossip – maybe even without realizing it.
As Muslims, we know we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. Yet we may also find ourselves wondering, “What’s really the big deal?” After all, it seems like almost everyone does it.
A True Role Model
The answer to this question can be found in the statements and behavior of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), our role model. He told us that Allah Almighty will cover our faults on the Day of Judgment if we cover the faults of others in this life.
This is huge. I don’t know about you, but I definitely do not want all my sins and flaws to be put on display on the Day of Judgment. And if you think about it, Allah has every right to call us out on our sins on that Day. But we hope in His mercy and that He will cover our flaws and mistakes.
Similarly, even if we feel like someone deserves to have their sins exposed, we should still not reveal them. Plus, it’s not our place to go around exposing what Allah has hidden of someone’s mistakes.
Sometimes this topic can be genuinely confusing. Like, what exactly counts as backbiting, gossiping, or revealing someone’s faults? In yet another priceless statement of guidance, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has broken this down for us…
Abu Huraiyrah reported:
The Messenger of Allah said:
Do you know what backbiting is?
They (the companions) said:
‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’
The Prophet said:
It is to mention something about your brother that he hates.
It was said:
‘What do you think if what I said about him is true?’
The Prophet said:
If what you say about him is true, then it is backbiting. If it is not true, then it is slander.’” (Sahih Muslim)
Rule of Thumb
As a general rule in all of our human interactions, we should keep in mind that the Prophet Muhammad told us to treat others as we would like to be treated. (Sahih Muslim)
This is commonly known as the golden rule.
In following this Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him), we should also refrain from talking about others in a way that we would not want them to talk about us. Just like I don’t want my sins and mistakes to be used as juicy gossip in social gatherings or between two people, I should also not do this to others. And remember that ultimately, the way we treat others says volumes about our own character.
Some Practical Tips
I’ll be the first to admit that avoiding gossip is not easy. It is widespread and a common topic of conversation in many settings. But that doesn’t mean we must necessarily get sucked into it. There are ways to avoid conversations revolving speaking ill of others. Here are just a few:
– Be Around Good Company
This is a tough one because most of us have a certain circle of people that we are used to being around. However, we should do our best to avoid company that is exposing us to petty conversations.
Who we are around determines, to a large extent, who we ourselves become. If the people who are gossiping are family members, co-workers, or others that we can’t avoid, it may be helpful to subtly shift the direction of the conversation to something more positive and productive.
– Remember Your Book of Deeds
I know this is easier said than done, but ultimately, we are each responsible for our own behavior. Gossip may not seem like a big deal while we are engaging in it, but we are warned that we will be called to account for even the tiniest of bad deeds.
– Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner
This is a cliché expression, but it is something to really consider. If someone sins, are we talking bad about them because we dislike them now or are looking down on them? It would be more beneficial to make a silent prayer for them (and for ourselves).
– Evaluate Yourself
This ties together with the previous point. Are we so busy looking at others that we are ignoring our own flaws? What if I am the one who tends to initiate gossip the most in my social circles? Or, while I am eagerly listening to people gossip about someone who made a mistake, do I keep in mind that I myself sin in different ways as well? These are all things to reflect on honestly.
May Allah forgive us and help us to avoid revealing the flaws of others. Ameen.
O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful. (Quran 49:12)