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The Ills of the Tongue

{When you received it with your tongues and said with your mouths that of which you had no knowledge and thought it was insignificant while it was, in the sight of Allah, tremendous.

And why, when you heard it, did you not say, “It is not for us to speak of this. Exalted are You, [O Allah]; this is a great slander“?

Allah warns you against returning to the likes of this [conduct], ever, if you should be believers.} (Quran 24:16-8)

Allah Almighty warns us against Backbiting and Slander; which are among the major sins in Islam. Nevertheless, they are among the most common sins and are even committed daily by many Muslims.

Backbiting and slander are “weapons of destruction” in any society. Allah wants us to live in harmony. Almighty teaches us to respect and protect the privacy of each other.

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What is Backbiting and Slander?

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

“Do you know what backbiting is?”

They said:

“God and His Messenger know best.”

He then said:

“It is to say something about your brother that he would dislike.”

Someone asked him:

“But what if what I say is true?”

The Messenger of God said:

If what you say about him is true, you are backbiting him, but if it is not true then you have slandered him.” (Muslim, 2589)

Prophet Muhammad teaches us the meaning and difference between Backbiting and Slander. Both are harmful; as backbiting although it is true it would be of dislike for the person involved and slander which is untrue is not only disapproving but it would moreover damage a person’s reputation!

Why is Backbiting and Slander so Common?

Although Backbiting and Slander are notorious, they are still quite widely spread and even approved of in many gatherings!

Human nature has a negative side to it that needs to be monitored and if not many weaknesses and corruption such as Jealousy, Envy, Intrusiveness, Idleness etc. take hold of our better selves and moreover cause us to spread backbiting and slander.


Prophet Muhammad warns us of the destructive power of jealousy on our hearts and deeds:

“Beware of jealousy, for verily it destroys good deeds the way fire destroys wood.”

Sister L mentions how jealous her aunt was of her mother to the extent that when her mother died she heard her aunt say to her father: “Look how your face is shining again, she made you look dull.”

All of us have felt jealous once in a while, the existence of jealousy is unquestionable. The question is how we deal with it. We must control it, rather than let it control us. As hard as it may be, the best way to deal with it is to treat the person we feel jealous of even better than usual as this will instill tranquility in ourselves, instead of grudge.

Jealousy occurs when something we already possess (usually a special relationship) is threatened by a third person… Jealousy is a reaction to the threat of losing something (usually someone).”

So, the best way to deal with it is being friendlier and inviting as then we will feel more as one bond and in control of the situation; moreover the other parties will treat us accordingly.


“Envy occurs when we lack a desired attribute enjoyed by another.”

We might only wish for it too and make du’a (supplication) we acquire it as well while praising Allah for the person: “Ma shaa Allah” “whatever Allah wills” glorifying Allah so as not to hit them with an evil eye. This is called Ghibtah and is permissible in Islam.

However, the problematic nature with envy is that it sometimes goes as far as wishing that the person we are envious of loses this attribute. This is called Hasad and is totally impermissible in Islam as it involves damaging other people, property, etc. Like for example, plotting for someone to lose their job, spouse, luxurious property, etc. by slandering them with lies or putting a property into flames.

When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was asked who are the best of people? He replied:

“The one with a clean heart and truthful tongue.”

They asked:

“We understand a truthful tongue, but what does a clean heart mean?”

He answered:

“It is the heart of one that is pious, pure, and is free of sin, transgressions, hatred and Hasad.” (Ibn Majah, 4216)

Again, we need to control our behavior and thank Allah for all the blessings we have. A lot of times, what we believe is a better attribute in others could be their source of misery or bringing them further away from Allah. Allah knows what is best for us and we need to feel content.


Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“A sign of one’s excellence in his Islam is ignoring what does not concern him.” (At-Tirmidhi, 2317)

Intruding in other peoples’ affairs is also a major cause of backbiting and slandering. When you keep asking too many questions often against the other person’s will and often they answer back unwillingly because of being too shy to withhold. Then, you have hurt them twice. Firstly when you made them feel frustrated and angry and secondly when you plan on telling others of what you have just been told, again against that person’s will (backbiting) or even adding some false information (slandering).


Prophet Muhammad advised:

“Take benefit of five before five: Your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free time before you are preoccupied, and your life before your death.” (Al-Bukhari, 40)

Imam Ibn Qayyim stated:

“One of the many signs that one is disliked by Allah is the wasting of his or her time.”

We need to keep ourselves busy with what is beneficial for us, such as learning more about Islam, life’s social and natural sciences, etc. as an empty nafs (ego) is a  fertile soil for backbiting and slandering.

Imam Al Shafi’i said:

“Your nafs (ego) if you don’t keep it busy with truth it will keep you busy with falsehood.”


What is the Difference Between Envy and Jealousy? By Richard Smith Ph.D.

About Suzana Nabil Saad, MA
Suzana Nabil Saad is the former Ask About Islam Editor. She has many years of experience in dawah work.She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the Faculty of Languages, Ain Shams University, Egypt. She obtained her Master’s Degree of Arts in English Literature from Gothenburg University, Sweden.She currently resides in Texas, USA with her husband, and three kids. When she is not editing or writing, she enjoys reading, ideally followed by nature excursions.