And why did you not, when you heard it, say? "It is not right of us to speak of this: Glory to God, this is a most serious slander." (Quran 24:16)
A Commentary on One of the Most Destructive Sins
Islam is a religion of peace, love and compassion. Lies, suspicion, backbiting, slander and gossip are totally unacceptable in Islam. In fact, they are considered amongst the most destructive of major sins. It is because these sins sow enmity and discord among the human race and lead to its destruction. They also cause hostilities between people of the same household, between neighbors, friends and relatives.
Islam demands that our relationship with mankind should be one of sincerity and responsibility. It should be one built upon mutual respect for the honor, reputation and privacy of one another. In addition to being held accountable for our own attitudes and actions, we are also accountable for anything else we have control or influence over both in our society and/or the world around us.
After knowing the status of these actions in the Islamic religion, let us take a look at the legislative sources of this religion, the Quran and Hadith, and see how God has prohibited such actions.
God has forbidden the believers from backbiting
O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, verily some suspicions are sinful. And spy not nor backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear God, verily, God is the one who accepts repentance, Most Merciful. (49: 12)
Do not belittle the sinfulness of backbiting and slander because it is a great sin
Behold, you received it on your tongues, and said out of your mouths things which you had no knowledge; and you thought it to be a light matter, while it was most serious in the sight of God (24: 15)
God teaches us to speak out against slander and try to put a stop to it
And why did you not, when you heard it, say? "It is not right of us to speak of this: Glory to God, this is a most serious slander" (24:16)
God informing us of Satan’s aims and methods
Say to My servants that they should only say those things that are best, for Satan does sow dissensions among them, for Satan is to man an avowed enemy. (17:53)
The definition of backbiting & slander
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "Do you know what backbiting is?" They said, "God and His Messenger know best." He then said, "It is to say something about your brother that he would dislike." Someone then asked him, "But what if what I say is true?" The Messenger of God said, "If what you say about him is true, you are backbiting him, but if it is not true then you have slandered him." (Muslim)
We should guard our tongue from sins and use our limbs in acts of obedience
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "Whomsoever protects his tongue from unlawful utterances and his private parts from illegal sexual intercourse, I shall guarantee him entrance into Paradise." (Bukhari and Muslim)
The definition of the best Muslim
"I asked the Messenger of God: Who is the best Muslim? The Messenger of God replied, "He is the one from whom Muslims are safe from the evil of his tongue and hands." (Muslim)
As we can see, deriding people in their presence by making negative facial expressions or by hand gestures while they are unaware is also a form of backbiting.
We need to beware of the slipping of our tongues
"When man wakes up in the morning each day, all of the body parts warn the tongue saying, ‘Fear God regarding us, for we are at your mercy; if you are upright, we will be upright and if you are crooked, we will become crooked.’" (At-Tirmidhee)
It becomes apparent that backbiting and slander are against the teachings of the Islamic religion and everyone will be held accountable for their tongues. This is because on the Day of Resurrection both the wrongdoer and the wronged will stand before God. He will then give this wronged person from the good deeds of the person who wronged him in accordance with his actions.
However, there are some situations that allow us to inform others of what someone has done and would not be considered backbiting. Not only is it permissible, it is encouraged. Some of those situations are; informing the authorities when someone does injustice to us or others, advising whoever seeks our advice on a person for business dealings or marriage.
It is also noteworthy to mention here that not only did Islam prohibited backbiting and slander but it also encouraged coming to the defense of the one slandered.
In conclusion, one can see that Islam’s approach towards discord that occurs in society between friends, etc is a preventative one. If one applies its teachings in everyday life, these problems would decrease if not eliminated.