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August 15, 2010

Article: The Many Guises of Backbiting

by Umm Muawiyah

Assalamu Alaikum.

Why am I talking about backbiting in a blog about Ramadan?

Well, you see, fasting has two kinds of nullifiers:

1) Actual nullifiers (eating, drinking and sexual intercourse with one’s spouse)

2) Figurative nullifiers

What are figurative nullifiers? Well, they are things that pretty much render the fast useless. The proof that they exist is in the following hadeeth:

Narrated Abu Hurairah: The Prophet (salallahu alaihi wasallam) said, “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)” [Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Volume No. 3, Hadeeth No. 127]

These nullifiers are haraam outside of Ramadan and fasting as well. It’s just that it is WORSE when you do them during fasting or Ramadan.

[Note: It’s ironic but there are only three HALAL things which become haram during fasting. So why is it that we give up so many things in Ramadan (e.g. music, movies, etc)? Perhaps because deep inside we know that they are not allowed? If we keep going this route (i.e. stopping the haram only during Ramadan), our own actions will be a witness against us.]

Here’s an article that explains the issue of the figurative nullifiers:

Ramadaan Preparation

Shaykh Saalih ibn Fowzaan al-Fowzaan

Reference: The Explanation of Zaad al-Mustaqni’ (2/382-383), after the author says, “And it is obligatory to avoid lying, backbiting and insulting [others].

Category: Fasting

There are things that are impermissible for the one fasting [to do] even though they do not nullify his fast. They are called “Mufattiraat Ma’nawiyyah” (figurative nullifiers). They include: Gheebah which is to mention your brother in a manner that he dislikes and Nameemah which is to spread slander between people. It also includes insulting, abusing and cursing [people] and other than that from prohibited speech. All of these affairs are impermissible for the Muslim whether he is fasting or not. However, it is more severe [in prohibition] as it relates to the one fasting. That is because it may remove the reward of his fast, thus leaving him with no benefit [at all]. The only thing that he would gain is fatigue, thirst and hunger.

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:

((Whoever does not leave off false statements (all prohibited speech) and acting according to them, Allaah is not in need of his abstaining from his food and drink.)) [1]

These affairs are prohibited always and forever; however they are more severe [in prohibition] as it relates to the one fasting, because they either eliminate the reward of one’s fast or decrease it and puncture it.

This is because fasting – as the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said – is a shield (i.e. a protection). So if the shield is punctured, it does not benefit its possessor nor does it guard him from the enemy’s arrows. But if the shield is strong and solid, he can use it to protect him from the enemy’s weapon.

Likewise, if the Siyaam is correct (i.e. performed in accordance to the Sharee’ah) and free from Gheebah, Nameemah, false speech and insults then indeed it shields him from Allaah’s punishment. But if it is a feeble fast, punctured with Gheebah, Nameemah, insults, false speech and abuse then it is a fast that will neither prevent him from sin nor from punishment.

[1] Bukharee, #1903


One of these figurative nullifiers is gheebah (backbiting).

What IS backbiting?

It’s saying something about another person behind his/her back that they would not like to hear. What if it’s the truth?

Erm…that IS backbiting. If it was a lie, then the sin will be upgraded to “slander”.

Abu Hurairah reported Allah’s Messenger (salallahu alaihi wasallam) as saying: “Do you know what is backbiting?” They (the Companions) said: “Allah and His Messenger know best.” Thereupon he (the Prophet) said: “Backbiting implies your talking about your brother in a manner which he does not like.” It was said to him: “What is your opinion about this that if I actually find (that failing) in my brother which I made a mention of?” He said: “If (that failing) is actually found (in him) what you assert, you in fact backbited him, and if that is not in him it is a slander.” [Saheeh Muslim, Hadeeth No. 6265]

This is something that we are ALL guilty of unfortunately.

What happens when we backbite someone?


1) We cheapen ourselves.

2) We fall in the eyes of the person that we are talking to.

3) We earn a major sin.

4) We give our good deeds to the person that we are backbiting about.


Abu Hurairah reported Allah’s Messenger (salallahu alaihi wasallam) as saying: Do you know who is poor? They (the Companions of the Prophet) said: A poor man amongst us is one who has neither dirham with him nor wealth. He (the Prophet) said: The poor of my Ummah would be he who would come on the Day of Resurrecton with prayers and fasts and Zakaah but (he would find himself bankrupt on that day as he would have exhausted his funds of virtues) since he hurled abuses upon others, brought calumny against others and unlawfully consumed the wealth of others and shed the blood of others and beat others, and his virtues would be credited to the account of one (who suffered at his hand). And if his good deeds fall short to clear the account, then his sins would be entered in (his account) and he would be thrown in the Hell-Fire. [Saheeh Muslim, Hadeeth No. 6251]

As this is such a horrible thing to do, Shaitan (the devil) tries his best to make us do it even more. How does he do that? By making us think that what we are doing is not really backbiting.

Here’s a nice article which explains the many guises of backbiting. May Allah keep us safe from destroying ourselves and others with the swords of our tongues.


The Many Guises of Backbiting

Gems & Jewels
© Darussalam 2003

Shaikhul-Islam Ibn Taimiyyah said that there are those from the people that backbite or listen to backbiting, and they do so to please the company they keep, with the awareness that the victim is likely to be innocent of some of the things that are uttered about him. Often such offenders feel that if they were to attempt to end such conversation in a gathering, their presence might become unwelcome or burdensome.

There are many methods and guises that are employed when one mentions another in a negative way.

Under the pretense of being informative, one could say that it is not one’s habit to mention others, except for the sake of relating another’s condition to someone.

Or one could state that by Allah, indeed so-and-so is one to be pitied, thereby showing superiority over one who is to be rejected.

Another method might be to say that so-and-so is a good person; however, he has such and such qualities. Again, one is justified in revealing another’s faults.

One could also simply state that we should forget so-and-so, and make supplication for their forgiveness as well as our own, intending only tobelittle the one that was mentioned.

In reality, all these tactics are designed to try to deceive Allah (the Exalted) and to please the creation; and in reality, the many that follow these methods only serve to deceive themselves.

Then there are those that backbite to raise their own status.

When they hear of someone’s error, they employ words like, “Had I prayed for so-and-so last night in my prayer, the news of their sin would not have reached my ears.”

Again, when a person states of another that he lacks understanding in a matter, the implication is personal superiority for the one that mentions the other’s shortcoming.

There are also those that couple jealousy with backbiting – the act of being critical or belittling to those that are praised in the company of others.

Some people also backbite for the sake of humor, playfulness and lightheartedness. A person finds a certain amount of satisfaction from being appreciated for his story-telling abilities; speaking ill of someone in a humorous fashion adds flavor to a tale.

Others engage in backbiting by showing surprise and amazement at another’s actions: “‘How is it that someone could do such a thing?”

Yet others mention people and their actions with the pretense of sympathy for their actions or misfortunes. In reality, the one who backbites actually finds contentment and satisfaction at the mention of others and their misdeeds.

Another form of backbiting is relating someone’s misfortune to their enemies, so that they, too, may find pleasure in putting them down.

From these examples, one can surmise that backbiting pertains to a disease of the heart… May Allah save us from this most evil of actions and protect us from its temptations.

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