Exemptions from Backbiting
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
(Friday speech was delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, N. C., on September 4, 1987)
I mentioned last Friday about the prohibition of backbiting, and the saying of Allah (S.W.T.), in surat Al-Hujurat, (Verse 12), what can be translated as, "Don’t backbit one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting)." I also mentioned how the prophet (S.A.W.) defined backbiting as, "You mention your brother with something that he hates." We also mentioned that backbiting is a result of being hateful or envious to others. We also mentioned that the cure to backbiting is by fearing Allah (S.W.T.), repenting to Allah and asking Him for forgiveness, and not allowing anybody to backbite in front of us.
Today we will talk about certain exceptions for backbiting:
Firstly, a person who was unjustly treated. He can go to who is in position to remove the unjustness, like a judge or leader, and talk about how the other person took away his rights. Because the people cannot preserve their rights except this way. This is not backbiting because Allah (S.W.T.) said in surat An-Nisa’ (Verse 148), what can be translated as, "Allah does not like that the evil should be uttered in public except by him to whom injustice has been done." Also reported by Imam Bukhari that the prophet (S.A.W.) said, "Not paying a loan back, when able to do so, allows a person, the loaner to mention it publicly, and the lender be punished." The point here, then, is that complaining to whom is in position to remove the unjustness, is not considered backbiting.
Secondly, asking for fatwah, (an Islamic legal opinion) from a person with knowledge. In such a request, he might mention things that happened between him and somebody else. Some of the things might not be good. But, Islam allows you to mention them as long as your intention is to know the hukum, (legal Islamic ruling) in those matters. The proof comes in the following of the prophets tradition, reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim that Hind, the wife of Abu-Sofian said to the prophet, "Abo-Sofian is a stingy man, and he does not spend enough money on me and my child; except if I take from his money without his knowledge. The prophet (S.A.W.) told her, "Take what is enough for you and your child, with fairness." In this narration, Hind mentioned Abu-Sofian, her husband, in a bad manner as a stingy man, yet prophet (S.A.W.) allowed it.
Thirdly, advising the Muslims about what is good for them in their daily life. For example, if somebody asks you about a man or women whom he intends to marry or is a partner in business. You are required to tell what you know about him in terms of his suitability for what you are asked about. The proof comes from the prophet’s tradition reported by the group of hadith collectors except for Imam Bukhari, that Fatemah, daughter of Ques came to the prophet (S.A.W.) and said, "Abo-Jahm and Moa’weyah both proposed to marry me who should I accept?" The prophet (S.A.W.) replied that, "Moa’weah is a poor man, and Abo-Jahm beats his woman." In this tradition, the prophet mentioned something that the two men hated to be mentioned; yet he said it because he was trusted for an advice.
Fourthly, warning Muslims and raising up their awareness of the enemies of Islam, especially if the enemies are from inside, such as they might be Muslims but they work, think, and plan against Islam. The proof comes from the prophet’s tradition, reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim, that a man asked for permission to enter to see the prophet (S.A.W.). The prophet (S.A.W.) said, "Let him come in. What evil, he is." (That person was a Muslim, but he’s not a good person). The prophet (S.A.W.) said so, to warn the Muslims around him from that man. Imam Bukhari also reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) said about two persons mentioning their names, "I do not think that those two persons know anything about our dean". He means that they are hypocrites, who show Islam, yet hide their unbelief. Imams Bukhari and Muslim also reported that Zaid Ibn-Arqam said that they were traveling with the prophet (S.A.W.) and there was a hardship on everybody. Abdullah-Ibn-Obai’, a well known hypocrite, said, "Don’t spend money on the companions until they leave the prophet (S.A.W.); When we reach Madinah we will kick the prophet (S.A.W.) out of Madinah. Zaid told the prophet (S.A.W.) about what was said. The prophet (S.A.W.) asked him about his sayings, but he swears that he did not say any such thing. Zaid was sad until Allah (S.W.T.) revealed, through, some, which proved that Zaid said the truth. In this tradition Zaid told the prophet (S.A.W.), what that hypocrite said, and the prophet (S.A.W.), agreed to what he said. The point then, is we are allowed to tell about the enemies of Islam.
The Fifth and the last case in which Muslims are allowed to talk about others, without considering it as backbiting, is when you identify someone as the blind, deaf, mute, and handicapped person. The objective is not to put him down, but only to identify him as he is known. However, if we can avoid mentioning his handicap, and finding other ways to identify him, such as his name, then this would be better.
Let’s be careful and watch our tongues from any backbiting. Tongues are one of the main reasons that make many people to enter the Hell Fire. Let’s stick to these exemptions we had mentioned, and not to extrapolate other.