On Slander and Back-biting
Speaking ill of others behind their backs, scandal-mongering, slander and vilification are moral vices that are more woeful in their consequence than tale-bearing, Back-biting, malicious upbraiding, and spreading false reports against anyone that tend to cause him pain or injure his reputation is the height of perversity. To stress the foulness of back-biting, it has been likened in the Qur’an and the Traditions to ‘eating the flesh of one’s dead brother’.
(1) It is related by Abu BarzaAslami that the Apostle of God said: “O people who have affirmed Faith (only) with the tongue and Islam has not yet entered into their hearts! Do not speak ill of Muslims behind their backs, and do not pry into their secrets, for whoever does so, God, too, will treat him in the same manner, and whoever will be treated like that, from the side of God, will be made lowly and debased, by Him, in his own house.”
– Abu Dawood
It shows that to malign and vilify a Muslim and speak ill of him behind his back is the characteristic of a Hypocrite and only those will do so who are Muslims simply in name and their hearts are devoid of real Faith.
(2) It is related by Anas that the Apostle of God said “During Meraj, I passed by some people whose nails were red like copper, (and) they were scratching their faces and breasts with them. I enquired about them from Gabriel as to with them they were that such a terrible punishment was being inflicted upon them. Gabriel replied that they used to eat the flesh men in their lives, i.e., spoke ill of them and played foul with their reputations.”
– Abu Dawood
Apparently, the nails of these persons had become red like copper in the heat of the fire of Hell and it was with them that they were scratching and wounding their faces and chests. In Barzakh, this punishment was, particularly, prescribed for them because back-biting was their favourite pastime in the world which, as we have just seen, was similar to eating the flesh of one’s brother.
(3) It is related by Abu Sa’eedKhudri that the Apostle of God said: “Back-biting is worse than adultery.” He was asked: “Sir, how can back-biting be worse than adultery?” The Prophet explained: “If a person, unfortunately, commits adultery, he can be forgiven by God, if he offers repentance, but a back-biter will not be forgiven until he is forgiven by the person he had spoken ill of behind his back.”
(4) Abu Hurairah related to us, saying that one day, the Apostle of God said: “Do you know what is back-biting?” “God and His Messenger know best” the Companions replied. The Apostle of God, thereupon, observed: “When you talk about a brother in a way that hurts or harms him, it is back-biting.” “Would it also, amount to back-bitting if I spoke an evil of my brother that was, actually, present in him?” asked a Companion, “It will be back-biting only when the evil is present in him, while if it is not present (in him), it will be slander (which is even worse than back-biting),” the Prophet replied.
It should, however, be noted that, in case, it became necessary to relate, truthfully, the fault or viciousness of an individual or group to others out of good will and sincerity to the bondmen of the Lord or for the eradication of an evil or mischief, or should the realisation of an objective relating to the Shariahor morality be dependent on it then it will not amount to the back-biting which is forbidden by the Shariah and is a major, sin. On the other hand, in certain circumstances, it will be a virtuous act, meriting reward in the future.
Thus, to depose against a criminal before an officer of the realm or to warn the people against a professional cheat or the rebutting of evidence of false and unreliable narrators by the scholars of the Traditions, or to acquaint the people with the errors of treacherous pedlars in Faith by religious doctors will all belong to the same category.
It is the habit of some people that when there is a dispute or enmity between two persons or groups they speak to each of them about the other in terms that are unfavourable. In the same way, some people show friendliness and sincerity when they meet a person, but speak all of him or act against his interests behind his back. It is a form of hypocrisy and has been condemned in the severest terms by the sacred Prophet.
(5) It is related by Abu Hurairah that the Apostle of God said: “On the Day of Resurrection, the biggest loser will be the double-faced person who talks in one voice when he goes to one party, and in another voice when he goes to the other party.”
– Bukhari and Muslim
We can imagine the frightful sequel that tits a dissembler and hypocrite of that class, in the Hereafter, from the Tradition that follows.
(6) It is related by Ammar bin Yaasir that the Apostle God said: “Whoever is double-faced in the world, i.e., talks to different people in different voices, there will be two tongues of fire in his mouth on the Day of Final Judgement.”
– Abu Dawood
Good manners and good deeds on which there is the promise of a reward in the Hereafter are of different kinds and belong to different grades. Similarly, bad manners and evil deeds on which there is the warning of a penalty in After-life, too, are of different kinds and grades. The Almighty, in His infinite wisdom, has prescribed a reward or punishment on every good or evil act in proportion to its goodness or evilness. Thus, for double-dealing, the punishment on the Day of Reckoning will be that there will be two tongues of fire in the mouth of such a man.It is significant to note that some snakes, also, have two tongues.
There are, in fact, some faults and weaknesses that are most dangerous and grave misdeed in the judgement of the Lord, but we do not, generally, attach much importance to these vices, nor take enough care to avoid them. It is about such acts and iniquities that the Qur’an has said:
“Ye counted it a trifle, (but) the sight of Allah it is very great.” (XXIV: 15)
The evil habit of hypocrisy and double-dealing, too, is one among them. Many of us are apt to regard it an ordinary matter though both the aforementioned Traditions tell how sinful it is to indulge in it and what a grievous penalty has been got ready in the Hereafter for those who play double game or speak in two voices.