| 2 Summary of Ethics


Overall Meaning: The Meaning of Backbiting

Ghibah linguistically: is to speak ill of people. Ightabahu ightiyaban means that he speaks ill of another. [1108] Maqayis al-Lughah, Ibn Faris (4/403).

Ghibah technically: is mentioning something of a person behind their back that they wouldn't like to be said. It is also described as making mention of a concealed thing of a person which would upset them if they were to hear it. If it is truly in the person, it is backbiting. If it is not, it is slander. [1109] al-Sihah, al-Jawhari (1/196); Fath al-Bari, Ibn Hajar (10/469). The Difference between Backbiting and Some Other Characteristics [1110] Tafsir al-Qurtubi (16/335); al-Dhakhirah, al-Qarafi (p. 241); Tathir al-`Ibah min Danas al-Ghibah, Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (p. 45).

● The Difference between Backbiting, Imputation (Ifk), and Slander (Buhtan)

Backbiting is to make mention of something in your brother that he in fact possesses. Imputation is to mention what has reached you about him. Slander is to say of him what is not in him.

● The Difference between Backbiting, Gossiping (Namimah), and Badmouthing (Ghamz wa Lamz)

Backbiting is mentioning something of a person behind their back that they wouldn't like to be said. Gossiping is passing on someone’s state out of corrupt intent in a way that he would not be pleased with. This is regardless whether they are aware of this taking place or not. Due to its corrupting capacity, gossiping is unique from backbiting, as it is not a condition for the latter. Obligatory advice is exempt from backbiting, as to inform another that some person wishes to kill or rob them at some place or at some time. Badmouthing is to criticise someone in their presence - ghamz - or absence - hamz. According to some, the terminologies are reversed with regards to the presence or absence of the one being badmouthed.Dispraise of Backbiting and its Prohibition in the Qur’an and Sunnah

❖ Allah, exalted, says: “Believers, avoid making too many assumptions - some assumptions are sinful - and do not spy on one another or speak ill of people behind their backs: would any of you like to eat the flesh of your dead brother? No, you would hate it. So be mindful of Allah: Allah is ever relenting, most merciful.” al-Hujurat: 12
❖ Allah, exalted, says: “Woe to every fault-finder, badmouther.” al-Humazah: 1. Meaning, the insulting backbiter who, when a person is absent, speaks ill of them. [1111] Tafsir Muqatil ibn Sulayman (4/837).
❖ `A’ishah, Allah be pleased with her, said: “I said to the Prophet ﷺ: ‘It is enough for you in Safiyyah that she is such-and-such’, meaning that she was short-statured. He replied: ‘You have said a word which would change the sea if it were mixed in it.’” [1112] Reported by Abu Dawud (4875) and al-Tirmidhi (2502), Ibn Daqiq al-`Id in al-Iqtirah (118) and al-Albani in Sahih Sunan Abi Dawud (4875). Quotes of the Predecessors and Scholars on Dispraising Backbiting

❖ Ibn `Abbas, Allah be pleased with them both, said: “Mention of your brother when he is absent that which you would like for him to mention of you. Desist from mentioning that which you would dislike being mentioned of you.” [1113] al-Targhib wa al-Tarhib, al-Mundhari (3/329).
❖ `Amr ibn al-`As, Allah be pleased with him, passed by a deceased mule, so said to a few of his companions: “That one eats from this carcass until he fills his belly is better for him than to consume the flesh of a Muslim person.” [1114] al-Mujalasah wa Jawahir al-`Ilm, al-Dinawri (6/86).
❖ Muhammad ibn Sirin is narrated to have said: “The most sinful of people are those who make continuous mention of others’ sins.” [1115] al-`Iqd al-Farid, Ibn `Abd Rabbih al-Andalusi (2/335-336), with adaptation. Categories of Backbiting
Impermissible backbiting: is mentioning something of a person behind their back that they wouldn't like to be said, bringing to light some hidden defect. Whether it is a physical feature or one pertaining to his conduct, religious or worldly matters, this is all impermissible explicitly in the Book of Allah, the Sunnah of His Messenger ﷺ, and scholarly consensus. This is elucidated by the aforementioned evidences in this chapter. Obligatory backbiting: is the type of backbiting that is necessary to ward off some potential evil. For example, being bluntly honest if asked about a person whom the enquirer is considering for marriage. Likewise, if one is to tell another that so-and-so wishes to hurt or kill him at this place, or wishes to rob them at this hour. This is all a form of advice. Permissible backbiting: backbiting is acceptable if it has its legal justification, achieving some valid goal that may not otherwise be accomplished. These justifications are six types. Firstly: is complaining to a judge or a governor or some official body about some grievance. Such a body should have the ability to uplift the injustice. For example, a person saying to said official body: ‘So-and-so has wronged me.’ Secondly: seeking aid to prevent some wrong, rectifying mistakes, and returning the disobedient to the ranks of the obedient. For example, one would say to those who have the power to change some wrong: ‘So-and-so does such-and-such, so admonish him from doing so.’ Thirdly: seeking religious verdicts. Saying to the mufti: ‘My father, or brother, or husband, or so-and-so has wronged me by doing such-and-such.’ Fourthly: warning Muslims from evil and advising them. Fifthly: if one is openly sinning or innovating in religion, like a person who publicly drinks alcohol, dispossesses people for their property, imposes taxations, etc. Sixthly: is calling someone by their nickname. If a person is known by some appellation it is permissible to call them by it so long as it is not with the intent of belittlement. Examples include: al-A`mash (the Blear-eyed), al-A`raj (the Hobbler), al-Asamm (the Mute), al-A`ma (the Blind), al-Ahwal (the Cross-eyed), etc. [1116] Riyad al-Salihin, al-Nawawi (2/182), with adaptation. Harms of Backbiting Individually and Societally

● Individual Harms
Increases bad deeds and decreases good ones. The one who backbites is bankrupt on the Day of Resurrection. Backbiting causes the abandonment of its possessor. Backbiting takes away from a person’s fast. Allah follows up the backbiter’s privacy, exposing him even if in the depth of his home. Those who backbite are among the inhabitants of the Fire. Backbiting is more grotesque than a rotting body.

● Societal Harms
People’s privacies being exposed, spreading their faults and belittling them. Backbiting leads to more backbiting. Meaning, whoever is backbitten is incited to backbite the one who instigated it. In this way, the characteristic spreads in society, becoming an incurable disease which is very difficult to uproot. Spreading malice, envy, dislike, and hatred among individuals of a society. Ruining relationships of endearment, severing brotherly ties, and filling hearts with grudges and animosity. Reasons for Falling into Backbiting
One’s hidden hatred for the person whom he backbites, without wishing to disclose it, so that it does not become open hostility. Competition which begets envy. The envious does not like that he be known for this characteristic. The desire of the one who backbites to justify what he is known for of ugliness and fault. He therefore mentions whom the people respect in a negative light, mentioning defects like the one he possesses. That way, their rebuke of him lightens. [1117] al-Akhlaq al-Islamiyyah wa Ususuha, `Abd al-Rahman Habankah al-Maydani (p. 231). Curing one’s inner rage. A person inadvertently becomes a cause of some rage within another, so the later backbites the former to cure said rage. Copying mates and going along with colleagues’ habits. One fears that if he admonishes them, they would not find him sociable. Wishing to elevate oneself through lowering others. One says, for example: ‘So-and-so is ignorant, and his understanding is superficial.’ Playing around and having fun. One may imitate others ungraciously to get a laugh from others. Abundance of free time, boredom, and restlessness. One therefore busies himself with babbling about others’ honour and faults. Benefits of Desisting from Backbiting
The one who does not backbite is among the best of Muslims. Leaving backbiting allows one admittance into the Garden. Desisting from backbiting is one of the signs of a true penance. [1118] al-Mujalasah wa Jawahir al-`Ilm, al-Dinawri (4/194). Means to Desisting from Backbiting
Seeking proximity to Allah, sanctified and exalted, through abundant good deeds, prioritising His pleasure over the creation’s. Increasing one’s faith, strengthening it through beneficial knowledge and righteous action. That a person busies themselves with finding their own faults. Choosing righteous companionship. Fostering Islamic teachings and etiquettes. Making use of free time, with what benefits one and strengthens his faith. Contentment with what Allah has provided, showing Him thanks for his bounties. That one places himself in the place of the person they are backbiting, realising that he would not accept this for himself. Restraining one’s rage, and being patient over anger. Backbiting in Poetry

The poet said:

“Expose not people’s faults, what is hidden of it,
So Allah uncovers what is hidden in your faults.

Mention their virtue when they are mentioned,
And blame not anyone with what is within you.” [1119] Rawdat al-`Uqala’ wa Nuzhat al-Fudala’, al-Busti (p. 127).

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