It is no secret that people love gossip. What is quite shocking is how often we engage in gossip or backbiting and are not even aware of the dangers that lie in it. In Islam the ruling regarding the topic of backbiting is clear. It is considered a grave sin.
What is considered backbiting in Islam?
- To attack the character or reputation of a person who is not present (backbiting).
- Speaking false information or lies about a person who is not present (slandering).
As Muslims it is our responsibility to guard our tongues and to avoid things which are forbidden. The instructions from the Qur’an and hadith are clear regarding the stance on backbiting and slandering. We will explore those in a minute. But first we’ll explore real consequences of just how bad things can get.
We live in a digital age where information spreads rapidly.
With the right message to the right people, things can go viral and false information becomes the “truth” for many. This is the unfortunate happenings which occurred in an Indian village where WhatsAppp messages led to actual mob lynches. To prevent spreading and subsequent lynchings of strangers Facebook began limiting the number of times a message could be forwarded (read about that story here).
We must be more cautious in not only spreading false information but consuming it. Just because it is in written form doesn’t make it any more true.
We must become students, not followers.
Read and assess, don’t just read and follow.
This goes for the information on this site your reading right now. I will preface this by saying, we do have a high standard to be accurate, but if any of our conclusions are wrong we encourage readers to comment or email us.
Quran Verses About Backbiting:
Here are three verses in the Qur’an which gives us a clear understanding of this evil.
وَيْلٌ لِكُلِّ هُمَزَةٍ لُمَزَةٍ
“Woe to every persistent slanderer, persistent defamer”
Dr. Ghali Translation of Surah Al Humazah Ayah 1
إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ يُحِبُّونَ أَن تَشِيعَ ٱلْفَـٰحِشَةُ فِى ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌۭ فِى ٱلدُّنْيَا وَٱلْءَاخِرَةِ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
“Those who love (to see) scandal published broadcast among the Believers, will have a grievous Penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: Allah knows, and ye know not.”
Yusuf Ali Translation of Surah Nur Ayah 19
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ٱجْتَنِبُوا۟ كَثِيرًۭا مِّنَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِثْمٌۭ ۖ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا۟ وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا ۚ أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًۭا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ تَوَّابٌۭ رَّحِيمٌۭ
“O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.”
Sahih International Translation of Surah Al Hujurat Ayah 12
Backbiting According to Hadith:
In the hadith of Abu Dawud 4874, Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was asked a question about Ghibah (backbiting). Someone came to him and said what if what I say about my brother is in fact truth?
Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) replied, if are right, you have slandered him, and if what you say of him is not true, you have reviled him. 
Abu Dharr reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying that Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, said: My servants, I have made oppression unlawful for Me and unlawful for you, so do not commit oppression against one another. 
In another hadith, upon passing a grave the Prophet (ﷺ) said the person of this grave is being punished for committing a major sin. He went on to say, that the person was being punished for making false and defamatory statements and made friends into enemies. 
What is bankruptcy? We may think it is having no cash, or owing more money to debtors or creditors than that which we have in our own accounts. No, this is not real bankruptcy.
In the hadith Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says the one who is bankrupt is the one whom on the day of resurrection has exhausted all his good deeds. Not because he did not pray or donate to charity but because he “reviled others, brought calumny (false testimony) against others, unlawfully devoured the wealth of others, shed the blood of others and beat others”. 
Tip To Avoid Backbiting:
I am confident you will think twice about backbiting after reading this. Backbiting in the moment may provide you temporary relief, but know the only person you harm is yourself.
In the hadith, it says the punishment for backbiting is that Allah will take away from your account of good deeds and give it to the one you hurt as an act of compensation. 
Just think about that… the person you detest is gaining from your inability to control your emotions. You are not only giving them your time, focus and attention you are also losing your good deeds AND added to theirs. What do you really have to gain from this?
You may consider the only person you want to backbite on this earth is your own fathers or mothers. ?
On the flip side…
If you are a victim of backbiting take comfort in knowing that they are only helping you on the day of judgement. Of course protect your character if you feel it is threatened but do so with integrity. Do not fall victim by engaging in the same game. We must show discipline and emotional fortitude and overcome such petty altercations.
Allah Knows best.
May he reward us for being among the ones who take a moral high ground.
 Abu Hurairah said: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) was asked: Messenger of Allah! What is back-biting? He replied: It is saying something about your brother which he would dislike. He was asked again: Tell me how the matter stands if what I say about my brother is true? He replied: If what you say of him is true, you have slandered him, and if what you say of him is not true, you have reviled him. Sunan Abi Dawud 4874 Sahih (Al-Albani)
 Abu Dharr reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying that Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, said: My servants, I have made oppression unlawful for Me and unlawful for you, so do not commit oppression against one another. My servants, all of you are liable to err except one whom I guide on the right path, so seek right guidance from Me so that I should direct you to the right path. O My servants, all of you are hungry (needy) except one whom I feed, so beg food from Me, so that I may give that to you. O My servants, all of you are naked (need clothes) except one whom I provide garments, so beg clothes from Me, so that I should clothe you. O My servants, you commit error night and day and I am there to pardon your sins, so beg pardon from Me so that I should grant you pardon. O My servants, you can neither do Me any harm nor can you do Me any good. O My servants, even if the first amongst you and the last amongst you and even the whole of human race of yours, and that of jinns even, become (equal in) God-conscious like the heart of a single person amongst you, nothing would add to My Power. O My servants, even if the first amongst you and the last amongst you and the whole human race of yours and that of the Jinns too in unison become the most wicked (all beating) like the heart of a single person, it would cause no loss to My Power. O My servants, even if the first amongst you and the last amongst you and the whole human race of yours and that of jinns also all stand in one plain ground and you ask Me and I confer upon every person what he asks for, it would not. in any way, cause any loss to Me (even less) than that which is caused to the ocean by dipping the needle in it. My servants, these for you I shall reward you for thern, so he who deeds of yours which I am recording finds good should praise Allah and he who does not find that should not blame anyone but his ownself. Sa’id said that when Abu Idris Khaulini narrated this hadith he knelt upon his knees. Sahih Muslim 2577 a.
 Narrated Ibn `Abbas: The Prophet (ﷺ) once passed by two graves and said, “These two persons are being tortured not for a major sin (to avoid). One of them never saved himself from being soiled with his urine, while the other used to go about with calumnies (to make enmity between friends).” The Prophet (ﷺ) then took a green leaf of a date-palm tree, split it into (pieces) and fixed one on each grave. They said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Why have you done so?” He replied, “I hope that their punishment might be lessened till these (the pieces of the leaf) become dry.” (See the footnote of Hadith 215). Sahih al-Bukhari 218
 Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Do you know who is the bankrupt?” They said: “The bankrupt among us is one who has neither money with him nor any property”. He said, “The real bankrupt of my Ummah would be he who would come on the Day of Resurrection with Salat, Saum and Sadaqah (charity), (but he will find himself bankrupt on that day as he will have exhausted the good deeds) because he reviled others, brought calumny against others, unlawfully devoured the wealth of others, shed the blood of others and beat others; so his good deeds would be credited to the account of those (who suffered at his hand). If his good deeds fall short to clear the account, their sins would be entered in his account and he would be thrown in the (Hell) Fire”. [Muslim] Riyad As Salihin Book 1, Hadith 218
 Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Whoever has wronged his brother, should ask for his pardon (before his death), as (in the Hereafter) there will be neither a Dinar nor a Dirham. (He should secure pardon in this life) before some of his good deeds are taken and paid to his brother, or, if he has done no good deeds, some of the bad deeds of his brother are taken to be loaded on him (in the Hereafter). Sahih al-Bukhari 6534