It can start up in any small group, beginning with “Did you hear . . . ?” or “I shouldn’t tell you this, but . . . ” followed by some juicy treat about a colleague or friend.
Hearing something secret about someone you know (and who knows maybe adding a detail of our own) often brings up a moral predicament. Should we indulge, denounce, ignore or withdraw from the gossip?
Backbiting indicates a disease of the Heart
Words falling from the tongue are simply a reflection of what is in the heart. Indulging in backbiting is a sign of weak control of our vain desires which is a serious heart ailment.
Moreover, while we should entertain love and compassion for our fellow humans, backbiting reveals that our hearts are not pure; they are tainted with hidden grudge towards others. We may deceive ourselves by claiming that we have no ill-intentions and that we are only telling the truth.
A hadith by Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) informed us that gossiping is:
“To say something about your brother that he would dislike”
Someone asked him (peace and blessings be upon him):
“But what if what I say is true?”
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) 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)
Mind Your Tongue
To protect ourselves from falling into gossip and backbiting, we need to fight our tongue before we open our mouth. According to the great scholar, Imam Al-Ghazali: “The tongue is a great endowment from Allah; though small in size, its crime is enormous.”
I remember when younger, my mother always telling me to ‘think before I leap‘ as it will definitely help me land somewhere safe and sound.
We should think before we say something; if the possibility exists that it could be interpreted as backbiting, it would be best not to say it. After all, whoever gossips to us will gossip about us.
If you hear a rumor about someone’s misfortune, strive for compassion rather than continuing the gossip. Remind others not to gossip, and if they don’t listen, walk away.
The scholar, Imam Al-Shafi’i said:
“If you wish to speak then it is upon you to think before you speak. If you think there is good in it then speak and if not then do not speak.”
How should we deal with gossip
What can we do if we are put in an environment where other people are backbiting or somebody is trying to backbite with us, how should we behave?
You may redirect the conversation in a friendly manner. Yet, it is better to express disapproval and nicely remind everyone about the seriousness of backbiting.
It’s important not to feed the gossiper with curiosity, agreement and further questions. Rather, simply change the subject.
If however the gossiper persists, we should attempt to defend the person being gossiped about. If they keep backbiting despite this warning, we should leave the area in fear of being dragged into joining the conversation.
Gossiping, rumoring, backbiting all destroy friendships and families and fuels mistrust among community members. Still worth, they destroy our hard-earned hasanat and make us liable to punishment in the hereafter.
So the next time you have the urge to say “I need to tell you something. I’m not gossiping; I’m sharing in love.” Remember that the Prophet Muhammad, (peace and blessings be upon him), said
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should speak what is good or keep silent.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
So sit back and enjoy the silence. After all silence is gold.