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Backbiting: Causes and Remedy

In the Shari`ah of Islam, there are certain matters which drive away the sin of ghiebah. They may be presented as follows:

First, complaining about oppression or injustice. It is lawful for an oppressed or wronged person to mention the evil things committed against him by one who has oppressed or wronged him, in the presence of someone who is supposed to bring him his right back.

Second, seeking the help of others to change something wrong and bring an oppressor back to the way of righteousness.

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Third, asking for a fatwa regarding a certain issue. However, it is recommendable for the person who wants to do so to use hints or indirect references when asking the mufti for his legal opinion concerning someone who has wronged him.

Fourth, warning a Muslim against some evil. One, for example, is permitted to warn a pious person against some wicked or immoral person whom he visits frequently without knowing about his wickedness or immorality. This is also recommendable in consultation regarding such matters as marriage and entrusting money and the like. However, if the consulted person here has to warn against some evil, he must do so out of sincere advice, not calumniation and slander.

Fifth, if a person is known with a special title such as “the lame” or “the blear-eyed,” it is not an act of ghiebah to call him as such. But if he can be recognized with another means, it is preferable to use this means instead of calling him with such a title.

Sixth, if a person commits immoral and indecent acts in public and does not feel shy of doing so, it is not an act of ghiebah to tell others about these acts.

Repentance and Regret

It should be known that a backbiter commits two sins: one is violation of Allah’s right, as he has committed something that He has forbidden him to do. The expiation for this sin is to repent and regret. The other sin is committed against the honor of the backbitten person; if the latter has known about the backbiter’s act against him, he should ask him for forgiveness. It was reported on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

Whoever has wronged his brother, with regard to wealth or honor, should ask for his pardon [before his death], before he pays for it [in the Hereafter] when he will have neither a Dinar nor a Dirham.

[He should secure pardon in this life] before some of his good deeds are taken and paid to this [brother in compensation], or [if he has no good deeds] some of the bad deeds of this [brother] are taken to be loaded on him.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

If, however, the backbitten person has not learned about the backbiter’s act against him, the backbiter should keep asking Allah to forgive the backbitten so that he may not know about it and thus become angry with the backbiter.


References

Ibn Qudamah Al-Maqdisi, Mukhtasar Minhaj Al-Qasidin, translated by Wa’il Shihab, (Al-Mansourah, Egypt: Dar Al-Manarah, 2002) pp. 186-191.

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