Islam lists bribery, usury, consuming alcohol, killing, disrespecting parents, backbiting, slandering and adultery as major sins. They are indeed the cause for all misery, evil and torment in this world and the Hereafter. It, however, singles out backbiting as a more severe sin than adultery.
Backbiting and slandering have become a common phenomena in our society and a powerful tool in the hands of political parties to reach the seat of power by resorting to it through systematic campaigns against their opponents.
Media, which is referred to as the fourth pillar of democracy, has fine-tuned the art of slandering to demonise the opposition parties to serve the vested interests of their paymasters.
The common people are not to be left far behind in committing this grave sin. In fact, it has become a favourite pastime for them and a mode of their entertainment. They indulge in backbiting to hide their own imperfections and harm others.
Backbiting and slandering are more destructive in nature. These two sins are forbidden by Allah because they create bad blood, enmity, discord, disquiet and evil among people and society. They cause hostilities between members of the same household and between neighbours and relatives.
Allah decries backbiting by comparing it to consuming a dead brother’s flesh:
“O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it.. And fear Allah, verily, Allah is the One who accepts repentance, Most Merciful” (Quran 49: 12)
Definition of Backbiting and Slandering:
The Prophet’s Companion Abu Hurayrah, May Allah be pleased with him, has quoted Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as saying:
“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?” Allah’s Messenger said, “If what you say about him is true, you are backbiting him, but if it is not true then you have slandered him.”
A “Hadees” describes backbiting as a more severe sin in nature than adultery.
In adultery, the sinner may seek pardon from the Almighty and he might be forgiven by His Mercy but in slandering and backbiting the sinner will not be forgiven unless he seeks forgiveness from the one whom he wronged.
A Hadees articulates that on the Day of Resurrection both the wrongdoer and the wronged will stand before Allah who is the Just Judge and the wronged will appeal to Allah to avenge the wrong done to him, Allah will then give this wronged person from the good deeds of the wrongdoer and burden him with the sins committed by the wronged.
The Holy Quran in Sura “Al Qalam” mentions the characteristics of backbiters and slanderers and exhorts the believers to take cognizance in staying away from them and not give in to their sinning ways:
“Do not, then, yield to those who reject the Truth, decrying it as false; And do not yield to any contemptible swearer, the fault-finder who goes around slandering, the hinderer of good, the transgressor, the sinful; the ill-mannered (quarrelsome), and above all mean and ignoble.” (Al Qalam 8-13)
The Holy Quran also enlightens the believers in how to deal with fake news of backbiting and slandering:
“O believers, if a hypocrite brings you any news, verify “it” so you do not harm people unknowingly, becoming regretful for what you have done.” (49-6)
Yet in another verse, it exhorts people – men and women – to stay away from slandering, ridiculing, insulting and calling names to one another even in jest:
“O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule (another) people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule (other) women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by (offensive) nicknames. Wretched is the disobedience after (one’s) faith. And whoever does not repent – then it is those who are the wrongdoers.” (49-11)