Nov 4, 2013

Gheebah: the Ills of the Tongue Part 1

By Umm Yusuf Zaid

Part 2

O you who have believed by their tongues, but Faith has not yet entered their hearts, do not commit Gheebah against the Muslims and do not seek their errors, then Allah will seek his errors (i.e. He will not pardon and conceal them), and he whom Allah seeks his errors, He will shame him, even in his own house.” (Sunan Abu Dawood: 4862)

Ummah can be defined as a community. However, it is not just any community. It is a faction of people that transcend the borders of race, ethnicity, nationality, and class. The concept is in and of itself so unique and inclusive.

Putting aside this fantastic notion of Ummah, if we were to get a reality check, none of us would disagree with the fact that the nation of our beloved Prophet Muhammed salallahu alayhi wasallam is in overt hostility with each other, starting with our families, to our communities, and masses as a whole.

There are several social ills ­responsible for this predicament. But one of the worst of these social ills is gheebah, or backbiting. The amount of time we spend judging our fellow brothers and sisters is astounding. Gheebah has become so common that whenever we indulge in it, we no longer feel its enormity.

Islam has forbidden gheebah greatly because of its consequences. As a result of such a heinous act, hate and enmity spread very rapidly amongst the Muslims, thus spoiling the unity of the Muslim nation.

Indeed, your blood, property and honor are sacred to [one another], like the sanctity of this day of yours in this city of yours." [Sahih Bukhari: 105, Sahih Muslim: 4161]

It might be easy for mankind to avoid eating forbidden things, dealing with injustice, committing adultery and theft, and consuming alcohol, yet it is very hard to control our tongues. A person may try to stay away from lewdness and transgression, yet by the use of his tongue, he tears and slaughters the honor and reputation of the living and even the deceased.

"Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should say [something] good, or he should keep silent." [Bukhari, Muslim: 0076, Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah]

Imam al-Nawawi says, "This hadith is quite explicit that it is imperative to not talk unless the speech is good, which is that wherein there is some benefit. If a person is in doubt as to whether there will be any benefit, then he should remain silent."

What is Gheebah?

It has been defined by Prophet (Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam) as,

"Your mentioning your brother with something about him that he dislikes [being spoken about]."
Someone asked, "How about if my brother contains that [characteristic which I am mentioning]?"
He replied, "If he possesses that which you mention, then you have [indeed] backbited him. And, if he does not contain that which you say, then you have slandered him." [Sahih Muslim: 6265]

Therefore, gheebah means to mention someone in his absence by an attribute or characteristic that he would hate. However, if the absent person is not as he was described, then this is called Buhtaan, meaning lies and falsehood, which is worse than gheebah.

Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) says in the Qur'an: "Woe to every scorner and mocker!" (104:1)

The ruling of Gheebah

Islam has forbidden gheebah due to what it causes of severing brotherly ties, spoiling relationships, sowing seeds of enmity, and spreading faults. To further discourage Muslims from committing gheebah, the Quran likens the person who practices it to one who eats the flesh of his dead brother.

"... And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it." (49:12)

Therefore, he who criticizes his brother in his absence is like one who bites him and eats his flesh while he is dead.

Examples of Gheebah

Partaking in gheebah can take shape in different forms.  It may be done when talking about someone’s body, such as describing him/her as being fat, short, wretched, or anything else of similar characteristics that a person would dislike to be described with.

Gheebah may be done to belittle a person, such as saying, “This person is a non-Arab, African, Indian.” It could also be used to belittle someone with regard to his/her profession, saying such things as, “This person is a servant or a butcher,” or anything that the person may dislike.

Additionally, a person may partake in gheebah when talking about the character of a person, such as saying, “He is stingy, he is arrogant, he is irresponsible” and anything similar to this.

Gheebah is not restricted to the statement of the tongue. Verily, a movement, a gesture, a motion, an imitation (mimicking), an insinuation, a sneer, a wink, or anything that is understood to mean a degradation of the other party is all forbidden and constitutes Gheebah. How many of us are guilty of this offence habitually?

As narrated by Aisha (peace and blessings be upon her): “I said to the Prophet, ‘It suffices you regarding Safiyyah that she is such and motioning short.

He said, “You have uttered a word that if it was mixed with the water of the sea, it would spoil it.” [Sahih Abu Dawood: 4857]

To be continued...

I hope you gained much from my article.  Please post your comments below:) 


May Allah guide us and show mercy on us and give us the hidaya to follow the sunnah of the prophet

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