The Quran

Commentaries for 49.12

Al Hujraat (The apartments) - الحجرات

49.12 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(O ye who believe) in Muhammad (pbuh) and the Qur'an! (Shun much suspicion) this was revealed about two Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) who backbit Salman al-Farisi and also thought ill of Usamah, the Servant of Allah's Messenger (pbuh). They spied on him to see whether Usamah did really have what the Prophet (pbuh) asked him to give to them. Allah therefore forbade them from having a bad opinion about others, as well as from suspicion and spying; and so He said: O you who believe in Muhammad (pbuh) and the Qur'an, shun much suspicion about your brother's ins and outs (for lo! some suspicion is a crime) for some ill thoughts and what you hide are sins; this is what the two men thought of Usamah. (And spy not) and do not scrutinise the faults of your brother, nor reveal that which Allah has concealed about him; and this is exactly what the two men did, (neither backbite one another) the two backbit Salman. (Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother) unlawfully without any necessity? (Ye abhor that (so abhor the other)) you deem eating the flesh of a carrion unlawful unless it is out of necessity, consider backbiting your brother likewise! (And keep your duty (to Allah)) fear Allah regarding backbiting anyone. (Lo! Allah is Relenting) Allah forgives whoever repents of backbiting, (Merciful) towards whoever die repentant.
49.12 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
O you who believe, shun much suspicion. Indeed some suspicions are sins, that is to say, it causes one to fall into sin. This [suspicion] may have many forms, such as thinking ill of the good folk from among the believers — and such [good folk] are many — in contrast to the immoral individuals among them in whose case there is no sin, so long as it [the suspicion] is in accordance with their outward behaviour. And do not spy (tajassasū: one of the two tā’ letters [of tatajassasū] has been omitted): do not pursue the imperfections and faults of Muslims by searching them out; nor backbite one another, do not speak of him by [mentioning] something which he is averse to [having mentioned of himself], even if it be true. Would any of you love to eat the flesh of his brother dead? (read maytan or mayyitan). That is to say, it would not be right for him [to do so]. You would abhor it. Thus to backbite him in life would be like eating his flesh when he is dead. This latter [form of behaviour] has been suggested to you and you were averse to it, so be averse to the former too. And fear God, that is, His punishment for backbiting, by repenting of it; assuredly God is Relenting, accepting of the penitence of those who repent, Merciful, to them.
49.12 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
The Prohibition of Unfounded Suspicion
Allah the Exalted forbids His faithful servants from being suspicious, which includes having doubts and suspicions about the conduct of one's family, relatives and other people in general. Therefore, Muslims are to avoid suspicion without foundation. The Leader of the faithful `Umar bin Al-Khattab said, "Never think ill of the word that comes out of your believing brother's mouth, as long as you can find a good excuse for it.'' Malik recorded that Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, said that Allah's Messenger said,
«إِيَّاكُمْ وَالظَّنَّ فَإِنَّ الظَّنَّ أَكْذَبُ الْحَدِيثِ، وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا تَحَسَّسُوا، وَلَا تَنَافَسُوا وَلَا تَحَاسَدُوا، وَلَا تَبَاغَضُوا وَلَا تَدَابَرُوا، وَكُونُوا عِبَادَ اللهِ إِخْوَانًا»
(Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tales; do not spy on one another; do not look for other's faults; do not be jealous of one another; do not envy one another; do not hate one another; and do not desert (shun) one another. And O Allah's servants! Be brothers!) The Two Sahihs and Abu Dawud recorded this Hadith. Anas said that the Messenger of Allah said,
«لَا تَقَاطَعُوا وَلَا تَدَابَرُوا وَلَا تَبَاغَضُوا وَلَا تَحَاسَدُوا، وَكُونُوا عِبَادَ اللهِ إِخْوَانًا، وَلَا يَحِلُّ لِمُسْلِمٍ أَنْ يَهْجُرَ أَخَاهُ فَوْقَ ثَلَاثَةِ أَيَّام»
(Do not shun each other; do not ignore one another; do not hate one another, and do not envy one another, and be brothers, O servants of Allah. No Muslim is allowed to shun his brother for more than three days.) Muslim and At-Tirmidhi collected this Hadith, who considered it Sahih. Allah said,
وَلاَ تَجَسَّسُواْ
(And spy not), on each other. Tajassus, usually harbors ill intentions, and the spy is called a Jasus. As for Tahassus (inquiring) it is usually done for a good reason. Allah the Exalted and Most Honored said that Prophet Ya`qub said,
يبَنِىَّ اذْهَبُواْ فَتَحَسَّسُواْ مِن يُوسُفَ وَأَخِيهِ وَلاَ تَايْـَسُواْ مِن رَّوْحِ اللَّهِ
("O my sons! Go you and inquire (Tahassasu) about Yusuf and his brother, and never give up hope of Allah's mercy.'') (12:87) Both of these terms, `Tajassus' and `Tahassus' could have evil connotations. In the Sahih it is recorded that the Messenger of Allah said,
«لَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا تَحَسَّسُوا، وَلَا تَبَاغَضُوا وَلَا تَدَابَرُوا، وَكُونُوا عِبَادَ اللهِ إِخْوَانًا»
(Neither commit Tajassus nor Tahassus nor hate each other nor commit Tadabur. And be brothers, O servants of Allah.) Al-Awza`i said, "Tajassus means, to search for something, while Tahassus means, listening to people when they are talking without their permission, or eavesdropping at their doors. Tadabur refers to shunning each other. '' Ibn Abi Hatim recorded this statement. Allah the Exalted said about backbiting;
وَلاَ يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضاً
(neither backbite one another), thus prohibiting it, which was explained in a Hadith collected by Abu Dawud that Abu Hurayrah said, "It was asked, `O Allah's Messenger! What is backbiting' He said,
«ذِكْرُكَ أَخَاكَ بِمَا يَكْرَه»
(Mentioning about your brother in a manner that he dislikes.) He was asked, `What if my brother was as I mentioned' He said,
«إِنْ كَانَ فِيهِ مَا تَقُولُ فَقَدِ اغْتَبْتَهُ، وَإِنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ فِيهِ مَا تَقُولُ فَقَدْ بَهَتَّه»
(If he was as you mentioned, you will have committed backbiting. But if he was not as you say about him, you will have falsely accused him.)'' At-Tirmidhi collected this Hadith and said "Hasan Sahih.'' Backbiting was sternly warned against, and this is why Allah the Exalted and Most Blessed compared it to eating the flesh of a dead human being,
أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتاً فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ
(Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother You would hate it.) Just as you hate eating the flesh of a dead person, on account of your nature; so hate backbiting, on account of your religion. The latter carries a punishment that is worse than the former. This Ayah seeks to discourage people from backbiting and warns against it. The Prophet used these words to discourage taking back a gift that one gives to someone,
«كَالْكَلْبِ يَقِيءُ ثُمَّ يَرْجِعُ فِي قَيْئِه»
(He is just like the dog that eats its vomit.) after saying,
«لَيْسَ لَنَا مَثَلُ السَّوْء»
(Ours is not an evil parable.) Using various chains of narration, the Sahihs and Musnads record that the Prophet said during the Farewell Hajj:
«إِنَّ دِمَاءَكُمْ وَأَمْوَالَكُمْ وَأَعْرَاضَكُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ حَرَامٌ كَحُرْمَةِ يَوْمِكُمْ هذَا، فِي شَهْرِكُمْ هذَا، فِي بَلَدِكُمْ هذَا»
(Verily, your blood, wealth and honor are as sacred among you as the sanctity of this day of yours, in this month of yours, in this town of yours.) Abu Dawud recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said,
«كُلُّ الْمُسْلِمِ عَلَى الْمُسْلِمِ حَرَامٌ مَالُهُ وَعِرْضُهُ وَدَمُهُ، حَسْبُ امْرِىءٍ مِنَ الشَّرِّ أَنْ يَحْقِرَ أَخَاهُ الْمُسْلِم»
(All of the Muslim is sacred to the Muslim, his wealth, honor and his blood. It is evil enough for someone to belittle his Muslim brother.) At-Tirmidhi collected this Hadith and said "Hasan Gharib.'' Al-Hafiz Abu Ya`la recorded that a cousin of Abu Hurayrah said, "Ma`iz came to the Messenger of Allah and said, `O Allah's Messenger! I have committed adultery,' and the Messenger turned away from him until Ma`iz repeated his statement four times. The fifth time, the Prophet asked him,
«زَنَيْتَ؟»
(Have you committed adultery؟) Ma0 iz said, Yes. The Prophet asked,
«وَتَدْرِي مَا الزِّنَا؟»
(Do you know what adultery means) Ma`iz said, `Yes. I have illegally done with her what a husband legally does with his wife.' The Prophet said,
«مَا تُرِيدُ إِلَى هذَا الْقَوْلِ؟»
(What do you seek to accomplish by this statement) Ma`iz said, `I intend that you purify me.' The Prophet asked,
«أَدْخَلْتَ ذلِكَ مِنْكَ فِي ذلِكَ مِنْهَا كَمَا يَغِيبُ الْمِيلُ فِي الْمُكْحُلَةِ وَالرِّشَا فِي الْبِئْرِ؟»
(Have you gone into her just as the stick goes into the kohl container and the rope goes into the well) Ma`iz said, `Yes, O Allah's Messenger!' The Prophet commanded that Ma`iz be stoned to death and his order was carried out. The Prophet heard two men saying to one another, `Have you not seen the man who had Allah cover his secret, but his heart could not let him rest until he was stoned to death, just as the dog is stoned' The Prophet continued on and when he passed by the corpse of a donkey, he asked,
«أَيْنَ فُلَانٌ وَفُلَانٌ؟ انْزِلَا فَكُلَا مِنْ جِيفَةِ هذَا الْحِمَار»
(Where are so-and-so Dismount and eat from this donkey.) They said, `May Allah forgive you, O Allah's Messenger! Would anyone eat this meat' The Prophet said;
«فَمَا نِلْتُمَا مِنْ أَخِيكُمَا آنِفًا أَشَدُّ أَكْلًا مِنْهُ، وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ إِنَّهُ الْانَ لَفِي أَنْهَارِ الْجَنَّةِ يَنْغَمِسُ فِيهَا»
(The backbiting you committed against your brother is worse as a meal than this meal. By He in Whose Hand is my soul! He is now swimming in the rivers of Paradise.)'' This Hadith has an authentic chain of narration. Imam Ahmad recorded that Jabir bin `Abdullah said, "We were with the Messenger of Allah when a rotten odor was carried by the wind. The Messenger of Allah said,
«أَتَدْرُونَ مَا هذِهِ الرِّيحُ؟ هَذِهِ رِيحُ الَّذِينَ يَغْتَابُونَ النَّاس»
(Do you know what this odor is It is the odor of those who backbite people.)''
Accepted Repentance from Backbiting and Slander
Allah the Exalted and Most Honored said,
وَاتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ
(And have Taqwa of Allah), that is, regarding what He has commanded you and forbidden for you. Fear Him and beware of Him,
إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ
(Verily, Allah is the One Who forgives and accepts repentance, Most Merciful.) He forgives those who repent to Him, is merciful with those who go back to Him and trust in Him. The majority of scholars have stated that repentance for committing the sin of backbiting is that one refrains from backbiting intending not to repeat it again. There is a difference of opinion if whether feeling remorse is required in this case, and also if one should apologize to those who he has backbitten. Some scholars stated that it is not necessary for one to ask those whom he has backbitten to forgive him, because if they knew what was said about them, they could be hurt more than if they were not told about it. It is better, they said, that one should praise those whom he has backbitten in audiences in which he has committed the act. It is also better if one defends the injured party against any further backbiting, as much as one can, as recompense for his earlier backbiting.
49.12 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
What is forbidden is not conjecture as such but excessive conjecture and following every kind of conjecture, and the reason given is that some conjectures are sins. In order to understand this Command we should analyze and see what are the kinds of conjecture and what is the moral position of each.
One kind of conjecture is that which is morally approved and laudable, and desirable and praiseworthy from religious point of view, e.g. a good conjecture in respect of Allah and His Messenger and the believers and those people with whom one comes in common contact daily and concerning whom there may be no rational ground for having an evil conjecture.
The second kind of conjecture is that which one cannot do without in practical life, e.g. in a law court a judge has to consider the evidence placed before him and give his decision on the basis of the most probable conjecture, for he cannot have direct knowledge of the facts of the matter, and the opinion that is based on evidence is mostly based on the most probable conjecture and not on certainty. Likewise, in most cases when one or the other decision has to be taken, and the knowledge of the reality cannot possibly be attained, there is no way oat for men but to form an opinion on the basis of a conjecture.
The third kind of conjecture, which is although a suspicion, is permissible in nature, and it cannot be regarded as a sin. For instance, if there are clear signs and pointers in the character of a person (or persons), or in his dealings and conduct, on the basis of which he may not deserve to enjoy one's good conjecture, and there are rational grounds for having suspicions against him, the Shari `ah does not demand that one should behave like a simpleton and continue to have a good conjecture about him. The last limit of this lawful conjecture, however, is that one should conduct oneself cautiously in order to ward off any possible mischief from him; it is not right to take an action against him only on the basis of a conjecture.
The fourth kind of conjecture which is, in fact, a sin is that one should entertain a suspicion in respect of a person without any ground, or should start with suspicion in forming an opinion about others, or should entertain a suspicion about the people whose apparent conditions show that they are good and noble. Likewise, this also is a sin that when there is an equal chance of the evil and goodness in the word or deed of a person, one should regard it as only evil out of suspicion. For instance, if a gentleman while leaving a place of assembly picks up another one's shoes, instead of his own, and we form the opinion that he has done so with the intention of stealing the shoes, whereas this could be possible because of oversight as well, there is no reason for adopting the evil opinion instead of the good opinion except the suspicion.
This analysis makes it plain that conjecture by itself is not anything forbidden; rather in some cases and situations it is commendable, in some situations inevitable, in some permissible up to a certain extent and un-permissible beyond it, and in some cases absolutely unlawful. That is why it has not been enjoined that one should refrain from conjecture or suspicion altogether but what is enjoined is that one should refrain from much suspicion. Then, to make the intention of the Command explicit, it has been said that some conjectures are sinful. From this warning it follows automatically that whenever a person is forming an opinion on the basis of conjecture, or is about to take an action, he should examine the case and see whether the conjecture he is entertaining is not a sin, whether the conjecture is really necessary, whether there arc sound reasons for the conjecture, and whether the conduct one is adopting on the basis of the conjecture is permissible. Everyone who fears God will certainly take these precautions. To make one's conjecture free and independent of every such care and consideration is the pastime of only those people who are fearless of God and thoughtless of the accountability -of the Hereafter.
"Do not spy': Do not grope after the secrets of the people: do not search for their defects and weaknesses: do not pry into their conditions and affairs. Whether this is done because of suspicion, or for causing harm to somebody with an evil intention, or for satisfying one's own curiosity, it is forbidden by the Shari 'ah in every case. It does not behoove a believer that he should spy on the hidden affairs of other people, and should try to peep at them from behind curtains to find out their defects and their weaknesses. This also includes reading other people's private letters, listening secretly to private conversation, peeping into the neighbor's house, and trying to get information in different ways about the domestic life or private affairs of others. This is grave immorality which causes serious mischief in society. That is why the Holy Prophet once said in an address about those who pry into other people's affairs:
"O people, who have professed belief verbally, but faith has not yet entered your hearts: Do not pry into the affairs of the Muslims, for he who will pry into the affairs of the Muslims, Allah will pry into his affairs, and he whom Allah follows inquisitively, is disgraced by Him in his own house. " (Abu Da'ud).
Hadrat Mu'awiyah says that he himself heard the Holy Prophet say; `If you start prying into the secret affairs of the people, you will corrupt them, or at least drive them very near corruption. " (Abu Da'ud).
In another Hadith he said: "When you happen to form an evil opinion about somebody, do not pry about it. " (AI-Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur'an).
According to still another Hadith, the Holy Prophet said: "The one who saw a secret affair of somebody and then concealed it is as though he saved a girl who had been buried alive." (AI-Jassas).
This prohibition of spying is not only applicable to the individuals but also to the Islamic government. The duty of forbidding the people to do evil that the Shari`ah has entrusted to the government does not require that it should establish a system of spying to inquire too curiously into the people's secret evils and then punish them, but it should use force only against those evils which are manifested openly. As for the hidden evils spying is not the way to reform them but it is education, preaching and counseling, collective training of the people and trying to create a pure social environment. In this connection, an incident concerning Hadrat `Umar is very instructive. Once at night he heard the voice of a person who was singing in his house. He became curious and climbed the wall. There he saw wine as well as a woman present. He shouted at the man, saying: "O enemy of God, do you think you will disobey Allah, and Allah will not expose your secret?" The man replied: “Do not make haste, O Commander of the Faithful: if I have committed one sin, you have committed three sins: Allah has forbidden spying, and you have spied; Allah has commanded that one should enter the houses by the doors, and you have entered it by climbing over the wall; Allah has commanded that one should avoid entering the other people's houses without permission, and you have entered my house without my permission. " Hearing this reply Hadrat `Umar confessed his error, and did not take any action against the man, but made him to promise that he would follow the right way in future. (Abi Bakr Muhammad bin Ja`far al-Khara'iti, Makarim al-Akhlaq). This shows that it is not only forbidden for the individuals but also for the Islamic government itself to pry into the secrets of the people and discover their sins and errors and then seize them for punishment. The same thing has been said in a Hadith in which the Holy Prophet has said: `When the ruler starts searching for the causes of suspicions among the people he corrupts them" (Abu Da'ud).
The only exception from this Command are the special cases and situations in which spying is actually needed. For instance, if in the conduct of a person (or persons) some signs of corruption are visible and there is the apprehension that he is about to commit a crime, the government can inquire into his affairs; or, for instance, if somebody sends a proposal of marriage in the house of a person, or wants to enter into business with him, the other person can, inquire and investigate into his affairs for his own satisfaction.
Ghibat (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 ghibat 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 ghibat; 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 ghibat? 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 ghibat; 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 an ass lying rotting. The Holy Prophet stopped, called the two men and said: "Come down and cat this dead ass." 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 ass."
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 had 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 permitted it, for the oppressed one' 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: 'Ghibat (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 ghibat 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 Shari ah 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, of 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 criticize 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-Bani, vol. X, p. 362; Sharh Muslim by An-Nawawi; Riyad us-Salihin; al-Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur an; Ruh al-Ma ani 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 ghibat; 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 honor 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 honor is being attacked and he is being disgraced, Allah Almighty also helps him when he wants that Allah 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 this sentence Allah by likening backbiting to eating the 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 honor 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 retrain unaware throughout his life that somebody had attacked his honor 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 honor would in any case be sullied. Therefore, this act in its nature is not any different from eating the flesh of a dead brother.
49.12 Tustari - Al-Tustari
…Shun much suspicion…He said:That is, ‘Do not discredit anyone [by holding] a bad opinion (sūʾ al-ẓann) about them without [knowing] the truth (ḥaqīqa) [of the matter].’ Indeed the Prophet said: ‘The most untruthful of reports is that of opinion (ẓann).’ Then Sahl said:Bad opinion comes from ignorance and pertains to the natural self (nafs al-ṭabʿ). The most ignorant person is the one who estranges his heart [from God] without being aware of it. Indeed, God, Exalted is He, has said: And that suspicion of yours which you held about your Lord has ruined you, so you have become among the losers. [41:23] Certainly, the servant is deprived of blessed provision and prayer at night because of bad opinion.One night a man, one of [God’s] servants, slept through [and missed] his customary rite (wird) and felt regret over it. [He] was asked: ‘Do you feel regret about [missing] that which you are wont to perform?’ He replied, ‘I do not feel regret because of that, but rather because of the sin through which I became deprived of that good [deed].’Sahl was asked, ‘What is the meaning of the Prophet’s words : “Be on your guard with people, [by holding a] bad opinion (sūʾ al-ẓann).”’ He replied:The meaning of this is [that protection from people] is [gained by holding a] bad opinion of yourself, not of other people. In other words, accuse your own self for not treating them fairly in your dealings with them. His words:
…and do not spy…He said:That is, ‘Do not search out the faults that God has covered for His servants, for you may well be afflicted by that [fault].It was related of Jesus that he used to say, ‘Do not speak too much other than in remembranceof God, Mighty and Majestic is He, for your hearts will be hardened, and the heart that is hard is far from God. Do not regard the faults of people as if you were their masters, but look at your own works as if they were your slaves.
Know that people are either afflicted (mubtalā) or preserved (muʿāfā), so show mercy to those who are afflicted and ask God for preservation.’His words:
…or backbite one another…He said:Whoever wants to be safe from backbiting must bar the door to [ill] assumptions (ẓunūn) in himself, for whoever is safe from making ill assumptions, is safe from backbiting (ghayba), and whoever is safe from backbiting, is safe from calumny (zūr), and whoever is safe from calumny, is safe from slander (buhtān).He said:And Ibn ʿAbbās y said, ‘The hypocrite (munāfiq) is guilty of backbiting, but the wicked (fāsiq) are not guilty of backbiting. This is because the hypocrites keep silent about their hypocrisy, whereas the wicked openly take pride in their wickedness.’He said:He [Ibn ʿAbbās] intended by this the sins (maʿāṣī) that they commit openly, whereas the sins which are kept a secret are a form of backbiting (ghayba). His words: