Today I want to share with you a topic that scares me a lot because many (if not all) of us are falling into this trap.
There are two main reasons which cause about two thirds of the punishment of the grave. If you get rid of those two, then you have escaped most of the punishment of the grave (In Sha Allah). These are:
1. Al Gheebah (Talking ill about others behind their back; or backbiting) The major problem here lies not just in committing Gheebah, but in understanding that some of us don’t even realize that they’re committing Gheebah.
For example: When someone criticizes their friend or neighbor, and when you tell them to stop, and yet they say, “But I am not lying! They are actually like that,” then this person does not understand the meaning of Gheebah.
Al-Gheebah does not mean lying about someone, but it is to speak that which is true about someone’s weaknesses behind their back. If one makes up a lie about someone and then speaks behind their back, then that is not Gheebah, that is called Buhtaan — and it’s worse than Gheebah. But here we’ll just focus on Gheebah and not Buhtaan.
Our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “Do you know what backbiting is?” They said, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He then said, “It is to say something about your brother that he would dislike.” Someone asked him, “But what if what I say is true?” The Messenger of Allah 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)
Some of us would sit and backbite a friend or a player or a politician until their hearts are contented, and then they would move on speaking about the next person, and so on. This has become so normal and casual that some of us may think that they’ll be fine and that their graves will be made easy for them. To that I say, “No! It’s not that easy.”
Let me tell you why.
The Prophet ﷺ passed by a grave of a person who was being punished, and he ﷺ said: “This man used to eat the flesh of people.” Meaning that this man used to backbite people.
There are some people who indulge in Gheebah and justify their behavior by saying, “It’s okay because I’ve said this to their face already!” Well, if you’ve said this to their face, then that does not change the fact that you’re committing Gheebah now when they aren’t here. If you’ve already mentioned their weaknesses to them then you’ve advised them, and that is good. But the moment you mention the same thing behind their backs, then you’ve committed Gheebah, and that has harmed both you and them. What was the point of doing that then?
I read a hadith which really scared me and made me conscious about my speech. I now think twice before I talk about anyone:
The Prophet ﷺ said, “When I was taken up to heaven (i.e. during the Mi’raj), I passed by people who had nails of copper with which they were scratching their faces and their breasts. I said, ‘Who are these [people], O Gabriel?’ He replied: ‘They are those who consumed the flesh of people [i.e. by backbiting them] and aspersed their honor.’”
Think about this — What benefit can speaking about someone behind their back bring about to you? What if someone spoke about you behind your back? Will you benefit?
Maybe, in a way, you will. How? You will take from their hasanaat or good deeds as much as their Gheebah. And if their good deeds end and they have no more to give, then they will be taking from your sins equivalent to the amount of Gheebah that they did behind you. This person has no idea about how much they are losing here.
Abdul-Rahman Al-Mahdi said, “I don’t want Allah to be disobeyed on His earth,otherwise I would have wanted everyone on earth to backbite me for me to earn all those hasanaat. There is nothing better than finding hasanaat on your book of deeds on the Day of Judgment which you did not expect.”
It’s amazing how someone would spend their time backbiting and distributing their hasanaat and Ibaadaat (acts of worship) to people so generously!
Al-Hassan Al-Basri was once told that someone was backbiting him. So, he got a gift and went to the house of the man who backbit him. When the man opened the door and saw Al-Hassan standing with a smile and a gift of dates, the man became surprised as he had no relation with Al Hassan. As he handed him the gift, Al-Hassan said to him, “I was told today that you gave me some of your hasanaat, so I came to thank you!”
Abdullah Ibn Mubarak said, “If I was to backbite anyone, I would rather backbite my parents because they have the most right to my hasanaat.”
2. An-Nameemah (telling someone that so and so said this about you; or tattle-taling)
The Prophet ﷺ once passed by two graves and those two persons (in the graves) were being tortured. He ﷺ said, “They are being tortured not for a great thing (to avoid). One of them never saved himself from being soiled with his urine, while the other was going about with calumnies (to make enmity between friends).”
In Gheebah, you are one of three: you are either the person who is doing the Gheebah (and I hope that it’s not you); or you are the person to whom Gheebah is done (if this is you, I congratulate you for getting so many hasanaat effortlessly); or you are the person listening to the Gheebah. If you are the listener, then you are in charge of a mission — one that if you succeed in, then you will be the recipient of an incredible reward: The reward of getting protection from Hellfire on Judgement Day.
But what is the mission?
The mission is to defend the person to whom Gheebah is being done. But how? Simply by saying good things about them, or by stopping those who’re committing Gheebah.
The Prophet ﷺ said: “Whoever defends his brother’s honor in his absence, will be entitled to Allah’s protection from the Fire.”
Similarly, in Nameemah too, you are one of three persons as above: you are either the person who is doing the Nameemah, which I really hope you are not; or you are the person to whom Nameemah was done (meaning someone carried tales of you talking bad about someone else), and here, we have two cases – either you did not tell anything wrong about them, and they’re lying (in which case, you receive lots of hasanaat), or you actually did speak evil about someone (and here you are in trouble, and you must seek repentance). In this second case, although what they said about you was true, that does not justify them committing Nameemah on you, and they too, therefore, must repent. The third person in Nameemah is the one to whom Nameemah is brought, i.e., the one that is being told that so and so is talking about you. If you are this third person, then you have been attacked and you need to make sure you protect three things:
I. Protect your heart from changing against the person who you were told they spoke about you. Don’t believe this Nammam (tattletale) because their testimony is rejected and invalid even in Islamic law. This is because Nameemah is considered Kabirah-minal-Kaba’aer (or a big from the biggest sins) and it defeats a person’s honesty.
II. Protect your ears and don’t listen to the Nammam. Stop them as soon as they start — if they did not find someone to listen to them, they wouldn’t have spoken in the first place.
III. Protect your tongue from transferring what was said to you to others by saying, “So and so spoke ill about me,” so that you don’t become part of the Nameemah.
Finally, don’t trust a Nammam. The scholars say, “Whoever transferred words to you, will also transfer words from you or against you.”
The one who told you that your brother/sister spoke ill about you is actually the one who spoke ill about you.
How is that?
The person who spoke ill about you threw an arrow towards you, except it fell on the floor because you did not hear what he said. But then this Nammam came along, picked this arrow and struck it right at your heart!
If you’ve been somebody who has been directly involved in Nameemah and Gheebah, then at this point you might wonder – how can I repent from this?
Should I go to the people and tell them what all I said about them?
No, please don’t do that.
By doing that you will only create animosity and hatred between people and yourself, and that is actually the reason why Gheebah and Nameemah are prohibited in Islam. Instead, what you can (and should) do is simply pray for the people to whom you did Gheebah or Nameemah. Pray for them in secrecy and pray as much as the wrong you did to them — until they get as many hasanaat as they were going to get from you on the Day of Judgement.
The Prophet ﷺ said: “The Dua of a person for his Muslim brother in his absence will be answered. At his head there is an angel, and every time he prays for him for something good, the angel who has been appointed to be with him, says, ‘Ameen, may you have likewise.’”
Can you see how serious this matter is?
Please, my dear sisters and brothers, let’s not take Gheebah and Nameemah lightly. Let’s strive to stop this evil habit!
Lastly, try to speak good about the person you did wrong to in front of the same people you spoke to before so you can correct some of the damage you made.
I pray to Allah to guide us and protect our tongues from Gheebah and Nameemah and to make our graves a garden from the Gardens of Jannah! Ameen.
P.S. – Here are some tips to avoid gheebah or backbiting:
- Don’t talk about someone in their absence – It might save you from unnecessary fitnah.
- If someone abused you or argued with you, avoid telling that to anyone else in the spur of the movement as it too may cause fitnah.
3. Avoid being in places and companies that are known to indulge in gossiping.
- Don’t make friendships with backbiters and try not to sit with them – except if you think you can change their heart with your knowledge and wisdom.
- If people who are in your company begin to backbite, then change the topic or subject of the conversation. If they continue to persist in Gheebah, then try to direct their attention to the wrong that they’re committing.
- Usually, we find that it’s women who make it a habit to indulge in gossiping in their free time. If this sounds like you, or like someone you know, then you can help cultivate a habit that focuses on more productive activities, while gradually weeding out the dangerous acts of gheebah and/or nameemah from your (or their) lifestyle.
Written by: Sr. Amatullah B.M.