“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: Number 6109)
In this post, we will focus on the sins of backbiting, slander and lying. May Allah (swt) enable us to act upon the guidance we have been gifted through the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
What is the meaning of backbiting and what does the Holy Quran say about it?
Backbiting is mentioning a fault about an identified or named absent person, such that if he were to hear it, he would dislike it. Allah (swt) says in the Holy Qur’an:
“Woe to every slanderer and backbiter.”
“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.”
What are the Prophetic Narrations on Backbiting?
Our Beloved Prophet (pbuh) explains the importance of the tongue among the other parts of the body by 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: Number 2407)
The Prophet once gave counsel to Abu Dharr, saying:
“O Abu Dharr! Beware of backbiting, for backbiting is graver than adultery. Abu Dharr said: Why is that so, O Messenger of Allah? He replied: That is because when a man commits adultery and then repents to God, God accepts his repentance. However, backbiting is not forgiven until forgiven by its victim.”
(Ibn Abi Dunya, Jabir ibn Abdullah)
Even listening to backbiting is a sin, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once said to Sayyidina Imam Ali (RA):
“O Ali! When someone hears the backbiting of his Muslim brother committed in his presence, yet he does not rally to his assistance despite being capable of doing so, God shall humiliate him in the world and in the Hereafter.”
From this we learn that backbiting is indeed an ugly and grave sin that we must all avoid by all means. But are there any exceptions?
Is backbiting ever permissible?
Yes, revealing the fault of another in their absence is permissible in ONLY the following scenarios:
- Complaining about a wrong that someone did to one (in order to redress this wrong)
- Asking for help to stop another person from disobeying Allah (swt)
- Asking a scholar for a legal opinion about a matter that involves another person
- Warning people about a bad man or woman who harms people or causes trouble
- Identifying a person who is only known by a degrading name (e.g. “the leper”)
- Talking about the disobedience of a person who openly disobeys Allah (swt) and does not care
- Telling the truth about a person when someone asks for advice in order to decide whether or not to deal with him (e.g. get married to him, do business with him, choose him as a friend, etc.)
- Finding out the reliability of witnesses or narrators *
What are slander and lying and what do I need to know about them?
- Slandering is making up a false statement about a person and spreading it in public.
- Lying is intentionally uttering a statement that does not correspond with reality whilst knowing that it is false.
Firstly, you should know that a sinful act in general is foremost a satanic whisper or thought that enters your brain. The reality is that no one is free from sinful thoughts but those who lie and slander are those who are acting upon the evil thoughts.
In his book the ‘Path of Muhammad’ Imam Birghivi (RA) opines:
“The tongue is loose, it is hard to keep it straight. The best way to keep it from going astray is to close it inside the mouth and keep it quiet. It has no control in itself. It babbles and makes noise unless it becomes a tool of the mind.”
Therefore, to avoid sins of the tongue such as lying and slandering, you should be mindful, meaning reject or don’t act upon the sinful whisper or negative thought. You may find it helpful to always seek refuge in Allah (swt) from the whispers of Satan by saying:
“A’udhu bi-Llahi min ash-shaytan ar-rajim. Amantu billahi wa Rasuluhi” (I seek refuge with Allah from the accursed Satan. I believe in Allah and His Messenger)
When is lying permissible?
In four limited situations lying may be permissible:
- To bring two contending people to a truce or friendly relations
- Deception against the enemy in wartime
- White lies told to one’s spouse to improve the relationship
- To protect someone from a tyrant
Practical tips to ‘train your tongue’
It is quite clear from the above that the tongue is a small yet incredibly powerful organ of the body. It has the power to build relationships or kill relationships, that’s why people say the tongue has no bones but it can break bones. The best and easiest method to avoid sins of the tongue is by following the all-encompassing advice of our Beloved Prophet (pbuh):
“Whoever among you believes in God and the Day of Judgment, either speak of things from which people will benefit, or keep silent.”
(Tirmidhi, Abu Hurayrah)
Stop reading and start doing
Reading won’t change your state but implementing what you have read, will.
If you are actually serious about abandoning the sins of the tongue (backbiting, lying, slander, and many more) then it is important that you monitor and track your performance as to how you are faring on a daily basis. If you don’t monitor your daily progress, then you will not identify from which sins/weaknesses you are suffering.
Most of us have abused the tongue and committed sins with it from childhood to adulthood so to change its habits from bad to good will take time and patience. So, do not rush. Try your best and on a daily basis make sure you record your progress.
If you are struggling, then just try and remain quiet, yet polite and cheerful. You will find that the quieter you are, the easier you will find it to complete your tongue sheet. Once you have completed 30 day you will be ready to start a new task.
You can turn your back on backbiting for free where one of our gender-specific mentors can start advising you. It has never been easier with our one of a kind mobile phone app, which you can download via the Google Play Store.
“He will indeed be successful who purifies it. And he will indeed fail who corrupts it.”
(Surah 91: Verses 9,10)
* The Messenger ﷺ said:
“Are you reticent to warn others of the dangers some criminals may cause? Tell everyone to protect themselves from such people.”
(Ibn Abi Dunya, Baz ibn Hakim)
“To tell others about the shameful acts of someone who shamelessly exposes his mischief in public is not slander.”
(Abu Shaykh, Anas ibn Malik)
See also, the book ‘Al-Adhkaar’ by Imam Al-Nawawee.
F0r more, please read The Prophetic Path course book, which can be found here.