Guarding the Tongue
there is an excellent e-book about the rulings and limits of backbiting, slander and gossip in Islam entitled "Hifdh-ul-Lisaan" [Guarding the Tongue] written by Imam An-Nawawee hafidhullah from his larger book "Al-Adhkaar" [Words of Remembrance].
the e-book is published by Al-Ibaanah Book Publishing walhamdulillah. i wanted to share with you all some excerpts from the book as a compliment to my last post. insha'Allah i pray that everything that i post on my blog is of some benefit to those who read it. to proceed:
Allaah the Most High says:
"Not a word does one utter, except that there is an (angel) watching, ready to record it." (Surah Qaaf: 18)
And He says:
"Verily, your Lord is Ever-Watchful." (Surat Al-Fajr: 14)
Know that every individual who falls under the category of being responsible for his actions (mukallaf) must guard his tongue from all types of speech, except for that speech which consists predominantly of some benefit. So in a situation where speaking and refraining from speech are both found to contain the same amount of benefit within them, then the Sunnah is to refrain from it altogether. This is because the allowable speech (equal in benefit and harm) paves the way towards that which is forbidden as well as disliked. Rather, in most cases, this will be the result, and applying safety at that point will not be able to soothe it in the least.
Abu Hurairah radee Allahu 'anhuu reported that the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said: "Whoever believes in Allaah and the Last Day should speak good or remain silent." (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree, 11/308 and Muslim, 47)
As for Backbiting (gheebah), then it when you mention something about a person (in his absence), that he hates (to have mentioned), whether it is about: His body, his religious characteristics, his worldly affairs, his self, his physical appearance, his character, his wealth, his child, his father, his wife, his servant, his slave, his turban, his attire, his manner of walking, his smile, his dissoluteness, his frowning, his cheerfulness or anything else related to the above. Likewise, it is the same whether you mention that about him with words, through writings, or whether you point ot indicate that by gesturing with your eyes, hand or head.
As for Gossiping (nameemah), then it is when one conveys and carries the talk of people from one group of individuals to another with the intent of causing discord between the two of them.
These are the definitions of the two. As for their rulings, then they are forbidden according to the unanimous agreement of the Muslim scholars. The clear evidences in the Qur'aan, the Sunnah and the consensus of the ummah indicate its prohibition. Allaah says:
"And do not backbite one another." (Surah Al-Hujuraat:12)
And He says:
"Woe to every slanderer and backbiter." (Surah Al-Humazah:1)
Abu Hurairah radee Allahu 'anhuu reported that Allaah's Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam once said (to his Companions): "Do you know what backbiting is?" They said: "Allaah and His Messenger know best." He said: "Your mentioning something about your brother (in his absence) that which he hates (to have mentioned)." It was said: "What if there exists in my brother that which I say (of him)?" He sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said: "If there is found in him what you say, then you have backbitten him. And if there is not found in him what you say, then you have slandered him." (Saheeh Muslim, 2589)
It's Guidelines: Everything by which one causes others to understand the deficiencies found in a Muslim, then that is considered the backbiting that is forbidden...Backbiting is only when one mentions a specified individual or a specific group of people (whether by name or insinuation).
Also from the forbidden types of backbiting is:
When one says: "Some of the people did such and such" or "some of the scholars" or "some who claim to have knowledge" or "some of the muftees" or "some who attribute themselves to rectifying (the ummah)" or "who claim abstinence" or "some people who passed by us today" or "some people that we saw" or "similar to this "...did such and such", without specifying anyone, but yet the one being spoken to realizes who the individuals are specifically, due to the speaker's causing him to understand who they are (through his words).
From the section "What Types of Backbiting Is Permissible?":
Seeking a fatwa (religious ruling) - One should do this by saying to the muftee (scholar capable of issuing a fatwa): "My father" or "my brother" or "such and such person wronged me in this way." "Does he have the right to do so?" "How shall I go about putting an end to it and obtain my right while repelling oppression from myself?" and so on. Likewise, one may say: "My wife did such and such to me" or "my husband did such and such a thing" and so on. This is permissible due to the necessity for it, however, to be more cautious it is better for one to say: "What do you say about a man who has done such and such thing?" or "concerning a husband" or "concerning a wife who did such and such" (without saying "my"), etc.
From the section "The Backbiting of the Heart"
"O you who believe, avoid much (types) of suspicion. Verily some (forms) of suspicion is a sin." (Surah Al-Hujuraat:12)
And Abu Hurairah radee Allahu 'anhuu reported that Allaah's Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said: "Beware of suspicion, for indeed suspicion is the most untruthful form of speech." (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree, 10/484 and Muslim, 2563)
What the backbiting of the heart means, is: When the heart has firm conviction and holds bad thoughts about someone. But as for the notions that occasionally display in one's mind or when one talks to himself, then as long as these thoughts do not remain established and continuous in him, it is excused according to the consensus of the scholars. This is since he has no choice in the matter as to stop it from occurring nor can he find any way to liberate himself from it when it does occur. This is the understanding of what has been authentically established (in the texts).
The Messenger of Allaah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said: "Indeed, Allaah has permitted for my ummah that which their souls whisper to them, so long as they do not speak it out (audibly) or act upon it." (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree, 5/160 and Muslim, 127 & 202)
The scholars say: "This refers to the notions that form in one's mind, but do not become settled or established."
And whenever you come to know of a defect or a mistake in another Muslim based on some proofs, which cannot be denied, then advise him in privacy and do not let the Devil deceive you such that he invites you and leads you towards backbiting him. And when you admonish him, then do not admonish him while you are happy and pleased that you have knowledge of his deficiency. So it is as if he is looking at you with the eyes of awe and respect while you are looking down at him with condescending eyes. Rather, make your intention in that to free him from this sin, while you are distressed over him, just as you are distressed when some deficiency enters in you. And his getting rid of that deficiency without you having to admonish him (i.e. on his own) should be more bloved to you than him having to rid himself of it due to your admonishing.
And lastly, from the section "Expiating Onself and Repenting From Backbiting":
Know that it is required upon everyone that commits a sin to rush towards repenting from it. Repentance with regard to the rights of Allaah must meet three conditions:
1. One must stop committing that sin immediately,
2. He must feel remorse and sorrow for having done it, and
3. He must resolve to not return to committing that sin again.
Repentance with regard to the rights of humans must meet these same three conditions (listed above), as well as a fourth one, which is:
4. Taking back any oppression that was inflicted on someone or asking for his forgiveness or absolvment from that.
So it is obligatory on a person who has committed backbiting to seek repentance according to these four conditions, because backbiting involves the rights of people, so he must seek the forgiveness of the person he has backbitten.
Is it sufficient for one to just say: "I have backbit you, so please absolve me from (this) sin" or must he inform him also of what he said about him?
(The strongest opinion is that) his clarifying what he said (when backbiting) is a condition. So if he is absolved without informing him of what he said, the pardon is not valid, just as if he were to absolve him from (stealing) unidentiable money.
Know that it is preferable for the one who has been backbitten to absolve the backbiter from his sin, but it is not an obligation on him to do so. This is because it is giving away and forfeiting one's right, so the choice is his. However, it is strongly recommended (muta'akkidah) for him to absolve him so that his Muslim brother can be free from the harm of this sin and so that he can be successful in receiving Allaah's great reward of Forgiveness and Love. Allaah, the Most High, says:
"Those who repress their anger and pardon people. Verily, Allaah loves the good doers." (Surah Aal 'Imraan: 134)