The Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) saw a funeral passing by, and those who were with him spoke ill of the deceased person, and he (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “It is due.” Then another funeral passed by, and they spoke well of the deceased person, and the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “It is due.” They asked him what he had meant by saying it is due, and he said: “The one of whom you spoke ill, Hell is his due, and the one of whom you spoke well, Paradise is his due. You are the witnesses of Allah on His earth.” (Abu Dawud)
The Muslim has to guard his tongue and avoid things that have been forbidden. Among these forbidden things which people often take lightly are gheebah (backbiting), buhtan (slander) and nameemah (malicious gossip).
There is a great deal of evidence to show that these actions are haram (impermissible). It will suffice to mention just a few of them in order to demonstrate that they are haram.
"Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should say [something] good, or he remain silent." [Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah]
"...Neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it [so hate backbiting]" (49:12)
But there could arise situations where there could be a genuine need of speaking about a person behind his back. The situation could not be resolved without resorting to backbiting. And if it was not opted a greater evil might have resulted than backbiting itself. However what should be taken into consideration is that there should be no excess and injustice made during the course of backbiting.
“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.
Situations where Gheebah is permissible
The conditions mentioned by the Shari’ah in which a Muslim may talk about his brother behind his back are as follows:
- It is permissible for an oppressed person to speak before the judge or someone in a similar position of authority to help him or her establish his or her rights by telling him `so-and-so wronged me and has done such and such to me.
- It is permissible to seek somebody's assistance in forbidding evil and helping someone change his or her immoral conduct. One can say to the person who can offer such assistance, `so-and-so does such and such evil deeds to seek his help. This is permissible as long as one intends to forbid evil. If, however, one intends something else apart from this, then this act becomes unlawful.
- One who seeks legal verdict on a certain matter may point out the defaults of another person or relate something else. One in this case can say to the Mufti (religious scholar who issues verdicts): "My father or brother (for example) treated me unjustly. Can I get my right established?'' This is permissible to say only if need be, but it is better to say `What do you think of someone who did such and such?' This does not mean, however, that naming the person in question is not permissible.