Today Muslims now suffer from two rampant diseases, though immunity from them is easy for those who are protected by Allâh. These two diseases are backbiting and tale-bearing. Backbiting (Gheebah) denotes maligning a person and speaking evil about any of his characteristics or deeds. Many Muslims today are not free from indulging in backbiting people and criticizing them, despite the fact that those backbiters themselves are not free from fault! They harm themselves aswell as those who listen to their backbiting, those who listen without denouncing them.
O Muslims! Allah depicts those who backbite their fellow Muslims in the most repulsive state, as eating the flesh of the dead body of one who is backbitten.
Your duty when you hear others backbite your brothers and sisters in faith is to be earnest in forbidding and stopping the backbiter and to defend the honors of Muslims, just as you would stop the one who eats from the flesh of a dead body infront of you. Allah, the Almighty, says, "O you who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin. And spy not on each other, nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, ye would abhor it. But fear Allah, for Allah is Oft Returning, Most Merciful." (Al-Hujuraat: 12).
A backbiter will be punished on the Day of Resurrection by ordering him to eat from the flesh of the dead bodies of those whom he backbit in the world, they will be presented as dead bodies in front of him. It was narrated in the Hadith relating the story of Mi'raaj (Ascent) that, "The Prophet (sallallahu'alayhi wasallam) passed by people with copper fingernails, with which they scratch their own faces and chests. He asked, 'Who are those, Jibreel?' It was answered, 'Those are the people who eat the flesh of other people and vilified their honor.' The Prophet (sallallahu'alayhi wasallam) then said, "O you who have declared faith with your tongues, but your hearts are not imbued with faith! Do not backbite Muslims, and do not search for their faults, for if anyone searches for their faults, Allah will search for his fault, and if Allah searches for the fault of anyone, He disgraces and exposes him in his house".
O Muslims! Sometimes when backbiters are advised to give up such bad habit, they plead innocence by stating that they are telling the truth. The Prophet (sallallahu'alayhi wasallam) was asked concerning backbiting, "Suppose that there are (these) actual faults in the one I am talking about?" The Prophet (sallallahu'alayhi wasallam) replied, "If what you say regarding your brother (in faith) is truth, then you will still be guilty of backbiting, but if what you say concerning him is untrue, you will be guilty of committing falsehood against him".
Hence, the Prophet (sallallahu'alayhi wasallam ) explained to his Ummah that backbiting denotes mentioning the real faults of a person. However, the worse evil is to backbite a believer by mentioning faults, which are not even in him. Imaam Ahmad, as well as the scholars who adopted his school (i.e. methodology), maintained that backbiting is one of the major sins. This gives a warning to Muslims to stop backbiting others and to be concerned with their own faults. Once a person finds a fault within his brother or sister in faith, he should advice him/her and guide them towards how to eliminate these fault rather than vilifying them. This is the requisite for establishing a real bond of brotherhood based on faith, and the torch that guides towards Islaam.
The other rampant disease is Nameemah (tale-bearing, or going around with calumnies), which denotes carrying the statements made against some people and transmitting such statements to those backbitten people, with the aim of spreading corruption and sowing enmity and hatred among people. This kind of Nameemah is considered the most grievous of all, and the one who is guilty of it is to incur torture in the grave, as well as the torment of the Fire of Hell. The Prophet (sallallahu'alayhi wasallam) said, "No talebearer shall ever enter Paradise." The Prophet (sallallahu'alayhi wasallam) also once passed by two graves and said,
"They (the dwellers of these graves) are now being tortured due to something which was not difficult to resist: One of them neglected cleansing his genitals after urinating and the others used to carry tales."
O Muslims! Anyone, to whom a report is carried of someone vilifying him/her, should condemn such an act and forbid the tale-carrier from persisting in his sin. He should also sort out such a talebearer for, just as the talebearer carries tales of people to him, he most likely carries tales regarding you to other people. Allah the Almighty says,
"Heed not the type of despicable man, ready with oaths, a slanderer, going about with calumnies." (Al-Qalam: 10 -11).
May Allah guide you and I to the best of manners and deeds and keep us away from bad manners. May he guide us to His straightforward path, for He is Most Bounteous, Most Generous.
May Allâh bless our Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu'alayhi wasallam), his family and his Companions.