Backbiting – The Most Graphic Scene in the Quran

By Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda

As-salamu alaikum wa rahmatullah. I wanted to talk to you all, inshAllah today, about a very serious issue – the issue of backbiting. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala in the Qur’an in Surah Al-Hujurat, surah 49, which is the surah of etiquette, the surah of adab. In ayah number 12, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala starts off by saying,

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا (Yā ‘Ayyuhā Al-Ladhīna ‘Āmanū) – Oh you who believe.


All those people who have claimed faith, have claimed iman. Something very interesting is that every single place in the Quran where Allah says  يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا (Yā ‘Ayyuhā Al-Ladhīna ‘Āmanū)- He is either then afterwards either telling us to do something or He’s forbidding us from something. Because when Allah says  يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا (Yā ‘Ayyuhā Al-Ladhīna ‘Āmanū)- Allah is saying that you’ve claimed that you believe, now here is a chance, an opportunity for you to prove whether you are actually a believer or not. If you are a true and sincere believer then you will do the following. If you are a true or a sincere believer then you will not do the following. So here, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us اجْتَنِبُوا (Ajtanibū) – in the Arabic language means stay away from something, abstain from something. Alright. And what’s very fascinating about this is another place in the Qur’an where Allah uses the word اجْتَنِبُوا (Ajtanibū) to tell us to stay away from something, He says stay away from alcohol. Stay away from gambling. The word that Allah uses to stay away from drinking wine and gambling is the word اجْتَنِبُوا (Ajtanibū). Think about the gravity of it and think about the association that what follows after this word اجْتَنِبُوا (Ajtanibū) is so bad you need to completely stay away from it, it’s completely haram. Absolutely, unequivocally haram, forbidden – you can’t do it. So whatever Allah is saying here in surah 49, ayah 12 is about to be very, very serious. Well what does He say?  كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ (Kathīrāan Mina Až-Žanni)- stay away from most assumptions. Don’t assume things about people. Stay away from most assumptions. Why?  إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ ۖ  (‘Inna Ba`đa Až-Žanni ‘Ithmun)- because some assumptions are sinful. Allah teaches us something here – when something is so problematic, it is sometimes better to stay away from it all together. So Allah says ‘Stay away from most types of assumption because some assumptions are very bad.’ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ ۖ  (‘Inna Ba`đa Až-Žanni ‘Ithmun)- now Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us why. What’s so terrible about assumptions? Because you are assuming something on someone’s behalf. Well what makes it worse? Because it leads to other bad things. That’s why Allah uses the word إِثْمٌ (‘Ithmun) is a type of sin, a sin of the heart and the type of sin that leads to other sins because it is in the heart. So Allah says وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا (Wa Lā Tajassasū)- don’t spy on people. Don’t spy. When you start assuming things about people you become suspicious of people, then you want to confirm your suspicions so you go snooping around, poking into peoples’ business, creeping and stalking. Right? Trying to confirm your suspicions about people  وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا (Wa Lā Tajassasū). So don’t spy on people, don’t creep on people, don’t stalk people. Then Allah says once you start spying and creeping and stalking people, guess what? You might be able to confirm some of your suspicions and you find out, “Oh my God! He is doing this! Oh my God! She is doing that!” Now you confirmed some of your suspicions. You know what happens when you have a juicy piece of information like that? You develop the worst stomach ache that you’ve ever had in your entire life. Because you have to now tell somebody about this. You have to talk to somebody, you have to text somebody, you have to tell somebody, you have to message somebody, you have to put it on Facebook, you have to put it on Twitter, you’ve got to tell somebody. Until you don’t tell somebody, that thing is going to start causing you stomach pains and stomach aches. And so what happens? You go to somebody and you tell them, “Hey listen. I’m going to tell you something but please don’t tell anybody. Promise me you won’t tell anybody.” Which is basically code for – “Right after I’m done telling you, make sure you go tell somebody just like I told you.”

It’s called backbiting. Right? وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا ۚ (Wa Lā Yaghtab Ba`đukum Ba`đāan)- Some of you should not backbite about others. What is the definition of غيبة (gheeba)- backbiting? So the Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam told us ذكرك أخاك بما يكره (Dhikrik Akhaak limaa yakrah)- it is you saying something about somebody else that they would not appreciate you saying. The companion asked the Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam, “Well what if what you go around saying is true? What if what I’m saying is true?” The Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam said, “Then that is the very definition of backbiting. If what you are saying about that person isn’t true that’s slander. That’s an even bigger crime and even a bigger issue. But saying something that somebody else would not appreciate you saying about them is the definition of backbiting.”

So Allah says don’t backbite one another. Then Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala gives us an example. He presents a parable, an example, an image to us in the Qur’an. And I’m going to go ahead and let you know real quick. A disclaimer: this is one of the most graphic images that is presented to us in the entire Qur’an. Now let’s take a look at what Allah is telling us. أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ (Ayuĥibbu ‘Aĥadukum)- Would any one of you like, would any one of you love… And now Allah uses the word يُحِبُّ  (yuĥibbu) Right? To love something. Would you love to do the following? أَحَدُكُمْ (‘Aĥadukum)- anyone of you, right? Because Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is saying, think about you doing this yourself. أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا  (Ayuĥibbu ‘Aĥadukum An Ya’kula Laĥma ‘Akhīhi Maytāan)- To eat the flesh of his or her own sibling, brother, sister, brother, sibling. Would any one of you love to eat the flesh, the meat of his brother? مَيْتًا (Maytāan)- that is dead. Corpse. The word مَيْت (Mayt) in the Arabic language means a corpse, already dead. So now, here let me talk this out to you, let me explain this to you real quick. What this basically means is that imagine somebody’s… Imagine your brother or your sister or your sibling died. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala protect all of us and our family members. But imagine your sibling died and their body is laying there in front of you. And you’re sitting next to their body, crying and mourning their loss. You’re crying and you’re sad that you’ve lost your brother, your sister, your sibling. And then all of a sudden you reach down, you pick them up, you pick up their hand, or go to their leg and you chew, you take a bite out of them and you start to chew and eat their flesh – the corpse, the body of your dead sibling. How graphic, how disgusting, how crazy is that image, is that idea? Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, ‘Would any one of you love to do that?’ And Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ (Fakarihtumūhu)- Of course you would hate that. You hate just hearing about it. Just talking about it, just listening to it. Just reading about it makes your skin crawl. That’s how disgusting you would be. Similarly, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, gives the example of when you backbite somebody. That’s just as disgusting of an act.

Now I’m going to answer a quick real quick right here. Qur’an is the speech of God, the word of Allah, guidance and mercy and rahma from Allah. رحمة (rahma) from Allah. نور (Nur) and هداية (hidaaya) from Allah. Why would Allah give us such a disgusting image in the Qur’an? Because when you picture that in your head and it makes you jump backwards, it’s so disgusting it shakes you to your core, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala wants you to feel disgust. Because He is saying just as disgusting as that would be – somebody eating the flesh of their own dead sibling. It is even more disgusting when you backbite about somebody. When you violate somebody’s dignity, somebody’s honor, somebody’s respect and you talk about them. That’s even more disgusting than that. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala takes it a step further.

I actually, I want you to think about this for a second further. You know a lot of times there is a question – I don’t back bite anybody. Well, what if somebody else is? Are you a party to that? Are you entertaining that? Are you there while they are doing it and therefore giving them a sympathetic ear? You’re becoming a part of this by listening to it. So let’s look at the example. The example the Qur’an, the examples the Qur’an gives are so powerful and eloquent because there are so many angles and features to this. Can you imagine if it’s not your sibling, somebody elses’ brother dies, somebody elses’ sister dies and that person’s sibling’s dead body, their brother and sister’s dead body is lying there and they reach down and start to eat and chew and devour the dead body of their own brother or sister. Would you sit there and would you watch? If you were there, the third party, if you were there, you’re not the one doing it but if you were there, what would you do? You would stop that person. You would tell them, “Don’t do that! That’s gross, that’s disgusting. That’s terrible! What are you doing?” And if you could not stop them, at the very least you would run from there, you would leave there. You wouldn’t sit there and keep watching and be like, “Oh ok, I’m just gonna mind my own business.” No, you would run from that place. When somebody else backbites, don’t be a party to it. Don’t listen to it. If you have the type of relationship where you can gently, kindly, nicely say “Please don’t do that. Please let’s not talk about somebody.” Then remind them. And if, if they won’t listen to you and you can’t tell them that, then at the very least change the topic, change the subject, get up and walk away. Go busy yourself with something else but don’t be a party to that. Because that’s like sitting there watching somebody eat their own dead sibling’s body. That’s how disgusting that is.

وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ (Wa Attaqū Al-Laha) and always think of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Whether something else hears you or not, whether somebody else sees you or not, whether somebody else knows about this conversation or not, Allah knows, Allah watches, Allah hears, Allah sees. So think about Allah, be conscious of Allah. And then finally Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ (‘InnaAl-Laha Tawwābun Raĥīmun) – look, none of us are perfect. I’ve made this mistake. Y’all have probably made this mistake as well in the past. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us no worries if you’ve done it. إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ (‘InnaAl-Laha Tawwābun)- Allah is extremely, extremely forgiving. Like, He accepts our repentance. All we got to do is say, “Oh Allah, I’m sorry. I messed up”. Go and apologize to the person. “I’m sorry for saying bad things about you.” And Allah is extremely Merciful. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will… Allah’s mercy will welcome you with open arms. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala will accept you into His Mercy. And Allah will put mercy in your heart and Allah will put mercy in the heart of the person when you go to apologize to them. So don’t worry if you’ve messed up, just ask Allah for forgiveness and ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for His mercy.

And a really cool story, just to kind of close things off Al-Hasan Al-Basri was a great scholar, a great taabi’ee and a student of the sahaba, a real boss. He said something really awesome one time. He said that somebody came and told him, “You know that guy. He’s backbiting about you. He goes around talking about you to everybody and saying bad things about you.” He said, “Ok.” He put together a nice, little gift; packaged together a nice little gift and he gave it to his assistant, his student, and he said, “Here. Take this gift and please go deliver it to that person.” And he gave him a note along with it. He wrote a note and he gave him the note along with it. When that person goes to that person who’s been backbiting about Al-Hasan Al-Basri and he gives him the gift and he’s like, “Al-Hasan Al-Basri has given you this gift” and he’s like, “Really? Why? Just out of the blue?” He sent this note along with this gift. When he opened the note and he read it, the note said that “Since you have been backbiting about me, and therefore, gifting me all of your good deeds, I thought I should repay you the favor and give you a gift as well.” When you backbite somebody else, you give your good deeds away to that person. So, just something to think about. And if somebody is backbiting you, just know they are giving you their good deeds and that should be more than enough comfort and solace for you.

InshAllah, that’s all I’ve got for you here today. Until next time, JazaakumAllaho khairan. Wasalamu alaikum warahmatu Allahi wabarakatohu.


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