Allah T'ala says in the Holy Quran:
O you who have believed, avoid much suspicion, for some suspicions are sins. Do not spy, nor should any one backbite the other. Is there any among you who would like to eat the flesh of his dead brother?' Nay, you yourselves abhor it. Fear Allah, for Allah is Acceptor of repentance and All-Merciful. (49:12)
Gheebat (back-biting) has been defined thus: "It is saying on the back of a person something which would hurt him if he came to know of it. " This definition has been reported from the Holy Prophet himself. According to a tradition which Muslim, Abu Da'ud, Tirmidhi, Nasa'i and others have related on the authority of Hadrat Abu Hurairah, the Holy Prophet defined Gheebat as follows:
"It is talking of your brother in a way irksome to him." It was asked: "What, if the defect being talked of is present in my brother ?" The Holy Prophet replied: "If it is present in him, it would be Gheebat; if it is not there, it would be slandering him."
In another tradition which Imam Malik has related in Mu'watta, on the authority of Hadrat Muttalib bin `Abdullah, "A person asked the Holy Prophet: What is Gheebat? The Holy Prophet replied: It is talking of your brother in a way irksome to him. He asked: Even if it is true, O Messenger of Allah? He replied: If what you said was false, it would then be a calumny."
These traditions make it plain that uttering a false accusation against a person in his absence is calumny and describing a real defect in him Gheebat; whether this is done in express words or by reference and allusion, in every case it is forbidden. Likewise, whether this is done in the lifetime of a person, or after his death, it is forbidden in both cases.
According to Abu Da'ud, when Ma`iz bin Malik Aslami had been stoned to death for committing adultery, the Holy Prophet on his way back heard a man saying to his companion: "Look at this man: Allah had concealed his secret, but he did not leave himself alone till he was killed like a dog!" A little further on the way there was the dead body of a donkey lying rotting. The Holy Prophet stopped, called the two men and said: "Come down and eat this dead donkey." They submitted: "Who will eat it, O Messenger of Allah?" The Holy Prophet said: "A little before this you were attacking the honor of your brother: that was much worse than eating this dead donkey."
The only exceptions to this prohibition are the cases in which there may be a genuine need of speaking in of a person on his back, or after his death, and this may not be fulfilled without resort to backbiting, and if it was not resorted to, a greater evil might result than backbiting itself. The Holy Prophet has described this exception as a principle, thus: "The worst excess is to attack the honour of a Muslim unjustly." (Abu Da'ud).
In this saying the condition of "unjustly" points out that doing so "with justice" is permissible. Then, in the practice of the Holy Prophet himself we find some precedents which show what is implied by "justice" and in what conditions and cases backbiting may be lawful to the extent as necessary.
Once a desert Arab came and offered his Prayer under the leadership of the Holy Prophet, and as soon as the Prayer was concluded, walked away saying: "O God, have mercy on me and on Muhammad, and make no one else a partner in this mercy beside the two of us." The Holy Prophet said to the Companions: `What do you say: who is more ignorant: this person or his camel? Didn't you hear what he said?" (Abu Da`ud). The Holy Prophet had to say this in his absence, for he had left soon after the Prayer was over. Since he had uttered a wrong thing in the presence of the Holy Prophet, his remaining quiet at it could cause the misunderstanding that saying such a thing might in some degree be lawful; therefore, it was necessary that he should contradict it.
Two of the Companions, Hadrat Mu`awiyah and Hadrat Abu Jahm, sent the proposal of marriage to a lady, Fatimah bint Qais. She came to the Holy Prophet and asked for his advice. He said: "Mu`awiyah is a poor man and Abu Jahm beats his wives much." (Bukhari, Muslim). In this case, as there was the question of the lady's future and she had consulted the Holy Prophet for his advice, he deemed it necessary to inform her of the two men's weaknesses.
One day when the Holy Prophet was present in the apartment of Hadrat 'A'ishah, a man came and sought permission to see him. The Holy Prophet remarked that he was a very bad man of his tribe. Then he went out and talked to him politely. When he came back into the house, Hadrat `A'ishah asked: "You have talked to him politely, whereas when you went out you said something different about him. " The Holy Prophet said, "On the day of Resurrection the worst abode in the sight of Allah will be of the person whom the people start avoiding because of his abusive language." (Bukhari, Muslim). A study of this incident will show that the Holy Prophet in spite of having a bad opinion about the person talked to him politely because that was the demand of his morals; but he had the apprehension lest the people of his house should consider the person to be his friend when they would see him treating him kindly, and then the person might use this impression to his own advantage later. Therefore, the Holy Prophet warned Hadrat `A'ishah telling her that he was a bad man of his tribe.
Once Hind bint 'Utbah, wife of Hadrat Abu Sufyan, came to the Holy Prophet and said: "Abu Sufyan is a miserly person: he does not provide enough for me and my children's needs. " (Bukhari, Muslim). Although this complaint from the wife in the absence of the husband was backbiting, the Holy Prophet pemitted it, for the oppressed has a right that he or she may take the complaint of injustice to a person who has the power to get it removed.
From these precedents of the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet, the jurists and traditionists have deduced this principle: 'Gheebat (backbiting) is permissible only in case it is needed for a real and genuine (genuine from the Shari'ah point of view) necessity and the necessity may not be satisfied without having resort to it". Then on the basis of the same principle the scholars have declared that Gheebat is permissible in the following cases:
(1) Complaining by an oppressed person against the oppressor before every such person who he thinks can do something to save him from the injustice.
(2) To make mention of the evils of a person (or persons) with the intention of reform before those who can do expected to help remove the evils.
(3) To state the facts of a case before a legal expert for the purpose of seeking a religious or legal ruling regarding an unlawful act committed by a person.
(4) To warn the people of the mischiefs of a person (or persons) so that they may ward off the evil, e g. it is not only permissible but obligatory to mention the weaknesses of the reporters, witnesses and writers, for without it, it is not possible to safeguard the Shariah against the propagation of false reports, the courts against injustices and the common people or the students against errors and misunderstandings. Or, for instance, if a person wants to have the relationship of marriage with somebody, or wishes to rent a house in the neighborhood of somebody, or wants to give something into the custody of somebody, and consults another person, it is obligatory for him to apprise him of all aspects so that he is not deceived because of ignorance.
(5) To raise voice against and criticise the evils of the people who may be spreading sin and immorality and error, or corrupting the people's faith and persecuting them.
(6) To use nicknames for the people who may have become well known by those names, but this should be done for the purpose of their recognition and not with a view to condemn them. (For details, see Fat-h al-Bari, vol. X, p. 362; Sharah Muslim by An-Nawawi; Riyad us-Salihin; al-Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur an; Ruh al-Maani commentary on verse wa a yaghtab ba 'dukum ba 'dan).
Apart from these exceptions it is absolutely forbidden to speak ill of a person behind his back. If what is spoken is true, it is Gheebat; if it is false, it is calumny; and if it is meant to make two persons quarrel, it is slander. The Shari'ah has declared all these as forbidden. In the Islamic society it is incumbent on every Muslim to refute a false charge made against a person in his presence and not to listen to it quietly, and to tell those who are speaking ill of somebody, without a genuine religious need, to fear God and desist from the sin. The Holy Prophet has said: If a person does not support and help a Muslim when he is being disgraced and his honour being attacked, Allah also does not support and help him when he stands in need of His help; and if a person helps and supports a Muslim when his honour is being attacked and he is being disgraced, Allah Almighty also helps him when he wants that AIlah should help him. (Abu Da'ud).
As for the backbiter, as soon as he realizes that he is committing this sin, or has committed it, his first duty is to offer repentance before Allah and restrain himself from this forbidden act. His second duty is that he should compensate for it as far as possible. If he has backbitten a dead person, he should ask Allah's forgiveness for the person as often as he can. If he has backbitten a living person, and what he said was also false, he should refute it before the people before whom he had made the calumny. And if what he said was true, he should never speak ill of him in future, and should ask pardon of the person whom he had backbitten. A section of the scholars has expressed the opinion that pardon should be asked only in case the other person has come to know of it; otherwise one should only offer repentance, for if the person concerned is unaware and the backbiter in order to ask pardon goes and tells him that he had backbitten him, he would certainly feel hurt.
In the verse, Allah by likening backbiting to eating a dead brother's flesh has given the idea of its being an abomination. Eating the dead flesh is by itself abhorrent; and when the flesh is not of an animal, but of a man, and that too of one's own dead brother, abomination would be added to abomination. Then, by presenting the simile in the interrogative tone it has been made all the more impressive, so that every person may ask his own conscience and decide whether he would like to eat the flesh of his dead brother. If he would not, and he abhors it by nature, how he would like that he should attack the honour of his brother-in-faith in his absence, when he cannot defend himself and when he is wholly unaware that he is being disgraced. This shows that the basic reason of forbidding backbiting is not that the person being backbitten is being hurt but speaking ill of a person in his absence is by itself unlawful and forbidden whether he is aware of it, or not, and whether he feels hurt by it or not. Obviously, eating the flesh of a dead man is not forbidden because it hurts the dead man; the dead person is wholly unaware that somebody is eating of his body, but because this act by itself is an abomination. Likewise, if the person who is backbitten also does not come to know of it through any means, he will remain unaware throughout his life that somebody had attacked his honour at a particular time before some particular people and on that account he had stood disgraced in the eyes of those people. Because of this unawareness he will not feel at all hurt by this backbiting, but his honour would in any case be sullied. Therefore, this act in its nature is not any different from eating the flesh of a dead brother.
THE SIMILITUDE WITH WHICH ALLAH'S APOSTLE (MAY PEACE BE UPON HIM) HAS BEEN SENT WITH GUIDANCE AND KNOWLEDGE
Abu Musa reported Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying: The similitude of that guidance and knowledge with which Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, has sent me is that of rain falling upon the earth. There is a good piece of land which receives the rainfall (eagerly) and as a result of it there is grown in it herbage and grass abundantly. Then there is a land hard and barren which retains water and the people derive benefit from it and they drink it and make the animals drink. Then there is another land which is barren. Neither water is retained in it, nor is the grass grown in it. And that is the similitude of the first one who develops the understanding of the religion of Allah and it becomes a source of benefit to him with which Allah sent me. (The second one is that) who acquires the knowledge of religion and imparts it to others. (Then the other type is) one who does not pay attention to (the revealed knowledge) and thus does not accept guidance of Allah with which I have been sent. (Muslim, Book 030, Number 5668)
Some selected verses from the Holy Qur'an about his life, status, morals and mannerscompiled by Siddiq Osman Noormuhammad
On one occasion when mother of the faithful, Aisha (radi-Allah Anha) was asked about the morals and manners of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.), she replied: "His morals are the Qur'an." This meant that the Holy Prophet's actions and sayings were a practical commentary of the Holy Qur'an, or, in other words, the Holy Prophet was the embodiment of action based upon the Holy Qur'an.Read more...
Taken from "The Life of Muhammad" by Muhammad Husayn Haykal,
translated by Dr. Ismail Ragi A. al Faruqi
Allah, the Exalted, says:
"And follow not (O man, i.e., say not or do not or witness not) that of which you have no knowledge.'' (17:36)
"Not a word does he (or she) utter, but there is a watcher by him ready (to record it).'' (50:18)
1542. Ibn Mas`ud (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "Truth leads to piety and piety leads to Jannah. A man persists in speaking the truth till he is recorded with Allah as a truthful man. Falsehood leads to transgression and transgression leads to the Hell-fire. A man continues to speak falsehood till he is recorded with Allah as a great liar.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
1. Whatever attitude one adopts becomes his special trait and then he becomes known by it. Therefore, one should always adopt virtues and good conduct so that he may attain a high esteem with Allah and be also remembered well by people.
2. Truth is the way to salvation while falsehood is the way to destruction.
1543. `Abdullah bin `Amr bin Al-`As (May Allah be pleased with them) said: The Prophet (PBUH) said, "Whosoever possesses these four characteristics, is a sheer hypocrite; and anyone who possesses one of them, possesses a characteristic of hypocrisy till he gives it up. (These are:) When he talks, he tells a lie; when he makes a covenant, he acts treacherously; and when he quarrels, he utters foul language.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
Commentary: Nowadays we do not find hypocrisy of Belief among Muslims generally, but practical hypocrisy is very common. The reason is that their majority has most of the signs of hypocrisy which this Hadith makes clear. See Hadith No. 690.
1544. Ibn `Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) said: The Prophet (PBUH) said, "He who narrates a dream which he has not seen will be put to trouble to join into a knot two barley seeds which he will not be able to do; and he who seeks to listen to the talk of a people (secretly) will have molten lead poured into his ears on the Day of Resurrection; and he who makes a picture (of people or other creatures with a soul, such as animals and insects) will be (severely punished), and he will be asked to infuse spirit therein, which he will not be able to do.''
1. "Hulm'' means a bad dream but here it has been used in the sense of a dream, irrespective of its being good or bad. This Hadith has a severe warning for inventing a dream. Such persons are in the habit of inventing dreams who have either a lust for fame or want to impress people with their piety.
2. Listening to the talk of others secretly is also condemned.
3. The making of paintings of people or other creatures with a soul entails severe punishment.
1545. Ibn `Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) as saying: "The worst of lies is to pretend to have seen something which he has not seen.''
Commentary: This Hadith strongly condemns falsehood, whether it relates to a dream or to the real world. It is a great sin in both cases.
1546. Sumurah bin Jundub (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) very often used to ask his Companions, "Do any one of you has seen a dream?'' So dreams would be narrated to him by those whom Allah willed to relate. One day he (PBUH) said, "Last night I had a vision in which two men (angels) came to me and woke me up and said to me, `Proceed!' I set out with them and we came across a man lying down, and behold, another man was standing over his head, holding a big rock. Behold, he was throwing the rock at the man's head, smashing it. When he struck him, the stone rolled away and he went after it to get it, and no sooner had he returned to this man, his head was healed and restored to its former condition. The thrower (of the rock) then did the same as he had done before. I said to my two companions, `Subhan-Allah! Who are these?' They said: `Proceed, proceed.' So we proceeded and came to a man lying in a prone position and another man standing over his head with an iron hook, and behold, he would put the hook in one side of the man's mouth and tear off that side of his face to the back (of the neck), and similarly tear his nose from front to back, and his eyes from front to back. Then he turned to the other side of the man's face and did just as he has done with the first side. He had hardly completed that (second) side when the first returned to its normal state. I said to my two companions, `Subhan-Allah! Who are these?' They said, `Proceed, proceed.' So we proceeded and came across something like a Tannur (a kind of baking oven, a pit usually clay-lined for baking bread).'' I (the narrator) think the Prophet (PBUH) said, "In that oven there was much noise and voices.'' The Prophet (PBUH) added, "We looked into it and found naked men and women, and behold, a flame of fire was reaching to them from underneath, and when it reached them they cried loudly. I asked, `Who are these?' They said to me, `Proceed, proceed.' And so we proceeded and came across a river.'' I (the narrator) think he said, "-- red like blood.'' The Prophet (PBUH) added, "And behold, in the river there was a man swimming, and on the bank there was a man who had collected many stones. Behold, while the other man was swimming, he went near him. The former opened his mouth and the latter (on the bank) threw a stone into his mouth whereupon he went swimming again. Then again he (the former) returned to him (the latter), and every time the former returned, he opened his mouth, and the latter threw a stone into his mouth, (and so on) the performance was repeated. I asked my two companions, `Who are these?' They replied, `Proceed, proceed.' And we proceeded till we came to a man with a repulsive appearance, the most repulsive appearance you ever saw a man having! Beside him there was a fire, and he was kindling it and running around it. I asked my two companions, `Who is this (man).' They said to me, `Proceed, proceed!' So we proceeded till we reached a garden of deep green dense vegetation, having all sorts of spring colours. In the midst of the garden there was a very tall man, and I could hardly see his head because of his great height, and around him there were children in such a large number as I have never seen! I said to my two companions, `Who is this?' They replied, `Proceed, proceed.' So we proceeded till we came to a majestic, huge garden, greater and better than any garden I have ever seen! My two companions said to me, `Ascend up' and I ascended up.'' The Prophet (PBUH) added, "So we ascended till we reached a city built of gold and silver bricks, and we went to its gate and asked (the gatekeeper) to open the gate, and it was opened; and we entered the city and found in it men with one side of their bodies as handsome as the most handsome person you have ever seen, and the other side as ugly as the ugliest person you have ever seen! My two companions ordered those men to throw themselves into the river. Behold, there was a river flowing across (the city), and its water was like milk in whiteness. Those men went and threw themselves in it and then returned to us after the ugliness (of their bodies) had disappeared, and they came in the best shape.'' The Prophet (PBUH) further added, "My two companions said to me: `This place is the `Adn Jannah, and that is your place.' I raised up my sight, and behold, there I saw a palace like a white cloud! My two companions said to me, `That palace is your place,' I said to them, `May Allah bless you both! Let me enter it.' They replied, `As for now, you will not enter it, but you shall enter it (one day).' I said to them, `I have seen many wonders tonight. What does all that mean which I have seen?' They replied, `We will inform you: As for the first man you came upon, whose head was being smashed with the rock, he is the symbol of the one who studies the Qur'an and then neither recites it nor acts on its orders, and sleeps, neglecting the enjoined prayers. As for the man you came upon, whose sides of mouth, nostrils and eyes were torn off from front to back, he is the symbol of the man who goes out of his house in the morning and tells lies that are spread all over the world. And those naked men and women whom you saw in a construction resembling an oven, they are the adulterers and the adulteresses. And the man who was given a stone to swallow is the eater of Ar-Riba (usury), and the bad-looking man whom you saw near the fire, kindling it and going around it, is Malik, the gatekeeper of Hell, and the tall man you saw in the garden is (Prophet) Abraham, and the children around him are those who died upon Al-Fitrah (the Islamic Faith of Monotheism).''' The narrator added: Some Muslims asked the Prophet (PBUH) , "O Messenger of Allah! What about the children of Al-Mushrikun (i.e., polytheists, pagans, idolaters, and disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah and in His Messenger Muhammad (PBUH))?'' The Prophet (PBUH) replied, "And also the children of Al-Mushrikun.'' The Prophet (PBUH) added: "My two companions added, `The men you saw half handsome and half ugly were these people who had mixed an act that was good with another that was bad, but Allah forgave them'.''
Another narration of Al-Bukhari is: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "One night two men came to me and took me to a blessed land.'' (The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) told of the same incident as above) and said, "After a while of walking we came upon a pit like an oven, narrow at the top and wide at the bottom with fire raging in it. When the flames rose up (the people in it) also rose up till they were about to come out; and when the fire subsided they, too, would go down with it. In it were naked men and women.'' (The remainder of the Hadith is the same as the above Hadith except that at the end of it, the Messenger of Allah said: "We came upon a river of blood in the middle of which there was a man standing, and at the bank of the river there was a man with plenty of stones before him...'' In this narration we also find: "They made me climb the tree and they made me enter an abode so beautiful the like of which I have never seen before. There (I saw) old men and youth.'' In this narration we also find: "`The first house you entered was the abode of the believers in general, and the other house was the abode of the martyrs. I am Jibril (Gabriel), and this is Mika'il. Raise your head.' I looked up and saw something like clouds. They said to me, `That is your abode.' I said, `Shall I enter it?' They said, `You have not completed your term of life yet. When you do, you will certainly enter it.'''
Commentary: This Hadith has the following points:
1. Manifestation through dream of punishment of various evils, i.e., forgetting the Qur'an after having memorized it, not practising the teachings of the Qur'an, violating the precepts of the Qur'an after attaining their knowledge, slackness in offering obligatory Salat, lying, immoral acts, usury, etc. Strict warnings have been issued against all these evils, and the punishment to which they are liable have been mentioned in this Hadith. May Allah save us from them.
2. This Hadith also mentions the unique status of Prophet (PBUH) and the distinguished place of martyrs.
3. We also learn from this Hadith that Allah has made Hell for punishment and Jannah for reward. Muhammad (PBUH), the Last Prophet of Allah, was made to witness many scenes which demonstrated the retribution and reward of deeds done by people in their earthly life.