The social matters that are related to morals and ethics are mainly associated to tongue. The tongue, though very small and tiny in size, holds great importance in ones social life. The good behaviours and characters are chiefly the phenomenon of tongue, while telling a lie, abusing, slandering, backbiting, gossiping, scandal mongering and other social evils are concerned with this tiny piece of flesh. Therefore, in Islamic teachings the tongue has been given due place and Muslims were warned to use it very carefully. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has been reported saying: "Whoever protects his tongue from unlawful utterances and guards his private parts from illegal sexual relations, I shall guarantee him entrance into the Paradise." (Sahih Bukhari: Hadith No 6109)
While, at another place the Prophet (peace be upon him) is asked: “Who is the best Muslim? The Messenger of Allah replied: “He is the one from the evils of whose tongue and hands people are safe." (Sunan Nasai: Hadith No 11726)
Another Hadith explains the important position of tongue among the other parts of the body saying: "When man wakes up in the morning each day, all parts of the body warn the tongue saying, ‘Fear Allah as regards us; for we are at your mercy; if you are upright, we will be upright and if you are crooked, we become crooked." (Sunan Tirmizi: Hadith No 2407)
Islam is a religion of peace, love and compassion. Lies, suspicion, backbiting, slander and gossip are totally against the spirit of Islam. Islam demands that our relationship with our fellow society members should be one of sincerity and responsibility. There should be respect for the honor, prestige and privacy of others. These are the foundations that prop up the entire fabric of social system. If society members are sincere and responsible towards one another they gain trust and thus peace and fraternity prevails in the society. While the aforesaid social evils attack at the very root of social fabric; they cause destruction and devastation. When the society members will not be responsible towards one another and loose mutual confidence and trust, the peaceful society will cease to exist.
Today, we shall discuss one the most destructive of all social evils i.e. backbiting and slandering. They are so widespread that it has become the topic of our meetings and an avenue for expressing anger, envy and jealousy. The Glorious Quran declared it as abhorring and hateful, saying: “O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, in deed some suspicions are sins. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear Allah, verily, Allah is the one who accepts repentance, Most Merciful.” (Al-Quran, Surah Hujrat, 49:12) According to the meaning of the verse, slander and backbiting are repugnant to the intelligence and heart, to humanity and conscience, to human nature and religious and societal brotherhood.
Backbiting is to speak ill of a person behind his back, including matters concerning his character, worldly affairs, physical appearance and personality. Not only is backbiting restricted to words, but also it includes every behavior and deed, whether indicating to a person by gesturing with ones eyes, hand or head.
So, backbiting is to mention something about a person in his absence that he hates to have mentioned, even though these things exist in him and are true. In order to describe the meaning of backbiting once the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked his companions: "Do you know what backbiting is?" They said, "Allah 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 Allah said, "If what you say about him is true, you are backbiting him, but if it is not true then you have slandered him." (Sahih Muslim: Haidth No 2589).
Backbiting and slandering is amongst the meanest manners and serious social crimes which cause dishonour and ignominy to other fellowmen. It leads to hostilities between people of the same household and between neighbours and relatives. We have been emphatically asked to maintain good ties with relatives and neighbours and not to hurt them by our hand and tongue. ‘A perfect Muslim is one from whose hand and tongue people are safe.’ Islam strongly dislikes enmity and distrust among relatives, neighbours and other community members. The Quran has commanded believers to refrain from such utterances and statements that may sow enmity and discord among the family or society members. It says: “Say to My servants that they should only say those things that are best, for Satan does sow dissensions among them, for Satan is to man an avowed enemy.” (Al-Quran, Sura Israa, 17:53)
Backbiting is the one of the grave social evils today. Backbiting is a destructive element that devastates the social construction and spoils the tied up relations. When the ill speech reaches the one about whom it is said, it hurts him and arises feelings of hatred, distrust and enmity in him. Through its regulations, Islam intends to reinforce fraternity and develop mutual amicability, while it warns against any matter that roils the pure hearts or raises malice and contempt.
Some of the Hadith goes to define the evil of backbiting more serious than a social crime. It is reported in a Hadith that backbiting is graver even than adultery. This is because when a man commits adultery and then repents to Allah, Allah accepts his repentance, but the sin backbiting is not purged away until it is forgiven by the person who was backbitten. (Mishkatul Masabeeh by Baihaqi: 4874)
By committing backbite, a person intends to ridicule and degrade his fellowman and shows that he is superior to him. This character is again very disgusting and highly offensive. Backbiting is the weapon of the weak and the low. Backbiting is a shameful weapon and most commonly used by people of enmity, envy and obstinacy; no self-respecting, honorable man will ever demean himself by resorting to such a vile weapon. Those who indulge in backbiting hide their own imperfections by speaking ill of others and flinging mud upon them.
Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org