Riyad Us-Saliheen (Gardens of the Righteous)
The Prohibition of Backbiting and the Commandment of Guarding one's Tongue
Allah, the Exalted, says:
"And backbite not one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One Who forgives and accepts repentance, Most Merciful.'' (49:12)
"And follow not (O man, i.e., say not or do not or witness not) that of which you have no knowledge. Verily, the hearing, and the sight, and the heart, of each of those ones will be questioned (by Allah).'' (17:36)
"Not a word does he (or she) utter, but there is a watcher by him ready (to record it).'' (50:18)
1511. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) said, "He who believes in Allah and the Last Day must either speak good or remain silent.''
1512. Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I asked the Messenger of Allah (PBUH): "Who is the most excellent among the Muslims?'' He said, "One from whose tongue and hands the other Muslims are secure.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
1513. Sahl bin Sa`d (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "Whosoever gives me a guarantee to safeguard what is between his jaws and what is between his legs, I shall guarantee him Jannah.''
Commentary: What is between the jaws and what is between the legs refers to the tongue and the sexual organs, respectively. The Prophet (PBUH) has given the assurance of Jannah to every Muslim who protects these two parts of the body. Protection here means their use permitted by the Islamic Shari`ah. They should be guarded against every act that is prohibited by the Shari`ah.
1514. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard the Prophet (PBUH) saying, "A person utters a word thoughtlessly (i.e., without thinking about its being good or not) and, as a result of this, he will fall down into the fire of Hell deeper than the distance between the east and the west.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
Commentary: This Hadith shows the disadvantages which can be caused by the improper use of the tongue. It is, therefore, essential that one should think before he speaks.
1515. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) said, "A man utters a word pleasing to Allah without considering it of any significance for which Allah exalts his ranks (in Jannah); another one speaks a word displeasing to Allah without considering it of any importance, and for this reason he will sink down into Hell.''
1516. Abu 'Abdur-Rahman Bilal bin Al-Harith Al-Muzani (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "A man speaks a good word without knowing its worth, Allah records for him His Good Pleasure till the day he will meet Him; and a man utters an evil word without realizing its importance, Allah records for him His displeasure till the day he will meet Him.''
[Imam Malik and At-Tirmidhi].
Commentary: This Hadith tells us a fact which can be observed in our everyday life. Sometimes a person utters a good sentence which pleases an individual and he reforms himself or holds himself from doing something wrong. Such a sentence or utterance is highly rewarded by Allah. Similarly, sometime a person utters a mischievous sentence, the ruinous effects of which he does not realize. This utterance hurts someone's feelings and leads him to sin and evil. Almighty Allah is displeased with such a person. The lesson that this Hadith has for us is that one should strictly guard his speech and weigh his words to avoid Allah's Wrath.
1517. Sufyan bin `Abdullah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I asked: "O Messenger of Allah! Tell me, of something to which I may remain steadfast.'' He (PBUH) said, "Say: My Rubb is Allah and then remain steadfast.'' Then I said: "O Messenger of Allah! What do you fear most about me?'' He took hold of his own tongue and said: "This.''
Commentary: Faith in Allah and all His Attributes is the basis of all virtuous deeds. No act or deed is acceptable by Allah without this faith, "and then remain steadfast'' means to comply with what Allah has ordained and to keep away from what He has forbidden so that one can win over His Pleasure. Every Muslim is required to guard his speech strictly because even the slightest carelessness on this account can cause Allah's displeasure.
1518. Ibn `Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "Do not indulge in excessive talk except when remembering Allah. Excessive talking without the Remembrance of Allah hardens the heart; and those who are the farthest from Allah are those whose hearts are hard.''
Commentary: The hardening of the heart is a condition where one neither learns any lesson from Allah's Signs nor does one accept anyone's good advice and religious preaching. If one indulges in idle talk rather than the remembrance of Allah, his heart becomes hardened, which is a sign of being far from Allah's Mercy. One should therefore occupy himself with the remembrance of Allah.
1519. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "He whom Allah saves from the evil of that which is between his jaws and the evil of that which is between his legs will enter Jannah.''
1520. 'Uqbah bin `Amir (May Allah be pleased with him) said: I asked the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), "How can salvation be achieved?'' He replied, "Control your tongue, keep to your house, and weep over your sins.''
Commentary: It is better for one to spends his surplus time at home in the remembrance of Allah, the recitation of the Qur'an and the performance of acts of obedience, if one feels unable to benefit others or if one fears that he, as well as his religion will not be safe if one mixes with others. Allah greatly likes it that one repents of his own sins and weeps over them.
1521. Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (PBUH) said, "When the son of Adam gets up in the morning, all the limbs humble themselves before the tongue and say: `Fear Allah for our sake because we are with you: (i.e., we will be rewarded or punished as a result of what you do) if you are straight, we will be straight; and if you are crooked, we will become crooked.'''
Commentary: This Hadith shows the importance of guarding one's tongue against that which is prohibited. Even the slightest carelessness on the part of the tongue can make all the organs suffer for it.
Crookedness of the tongue means the careless use of the tongue which lands the whole body in trouble; and keeping the tongue straight means keeping oneself safe from all kinds of troubles and ordeals.
1522. Mu`adh bin Jabal (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I asked the Messenger of Allah (PBUH): "Inform me of an act which will cause me to enter Jannah and keep me far from Hell.'' He (PBUH) replied, "You have asked me about a matter of great importance, but it is easy for one for whom Allah makes it easy.'' He added, "Worship Allah, associate nothing with Him in worship, offer As-Salat (the prayer), pay the Zakat, observe Saum (fasting) during Ramadan and perform Hajj (pilgrimage) to the House of Allah, if you can afford it.'' He (PBUH) further said, "Shall I not guide you to the gates of goodness? Fasting is a screen (from Hell), charity extinguishes (i.e., removes) the sins as water extinguishes fire, and standing in prayers by a slave of Allah during the last third part of the night.'' Then he recited: "Their sides forsake their beds, to invoke their Rubb in fear and hope, and they spend (in charity in Allah's Cause) out of what We have bestowed on them. No person knows what is kept hidden for them of joy as a reward for what they used to do.'' (32:17,18) Then he added, "Shall I tell you of the root of the matter, its pillar and its highest point?'' I replied: "Yes! Certainly, O Prophet of Allah.'' He said, "The root of this matter (foundation) is Islam, its pillar (mainstay is) As-Salat (the prayer) and its highest point is Jihad (fighting in the Cause of Allah).'' Then he asked, "Shall I tell you of that which holds all these things?'' I said: "Yes, O Messenger of Allah.'' So he took hold of his tongue and said, "Keep this in control.'' I asked: "O Messenger of Allah! Shall we really be accounted for what we talk about?'' He replied, "May your mother lose you! People will be thrown on their faces into the Hell on account of their tongues.''
Commentary: Besides describing Articles of Islam, this Hadith mentions the dangers which lie in the careless use of the tongue. All good actions can go waste if one does not guard his speech. One should, therefore, guard his tongue against that which Allah has made prohibited.
1523. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "Do you know what is backbiting?'' The Companions said: "Allah and His Messenger know better.'' Thereupon he said, "Backbiting is talking about your (Muslim) brother in a manner which he dislikes.'' It was said to him: "What if my (Muslim) brother is as I say.'' He said, "If he is actually as you say, then that is backbiting; but if that is not in him, that is slandering.''
Commentary: This Hadith elaborates the meaning of backbiting and calumny and points out the difference between the two along with the evils of each one of them. Both these evils are mischief of the tongue and entail great troubles. May Allah save us from both.
1524. Abu Bakrah (May Allah be pleased with him) said: Delivering the sermon during the Farewell Pilgrimage on the day of Sacrifice at Mina, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "Verily your blood, your property and your honour are as sacred and inviolable as the sanctity of this day of yours, in this month of yours and in this town of yours. Verily! I have conveyed this message to you.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Commentary: This Hadith tells us that the tenth day of the month of Dhul-Hijjah, and the city of Makkah are sacred. Similar is the case of blood, property and honour of a Muslim to another Muslim. In other words, a Muslim should neither kill another without any lawful reason nor should he usurp his property nor should he disgrace him. Since backbiting is also a kind of tyranny which defames a person, it should be strictly avoided.
1525. `Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) said: I said to the Prophet (PBUH): "Such and such thing of Safiyyah (May Allah be pleased with her) is sufficient for you.'' (She means to say that she was a woman with a short stature). He said, "You have indeed uttered a word which would pollute the sea if it were mixed in it.'' She further said: I imitated a person before him and he said, "I do not like that I should imitate someone even (if I am paid) in return such and such.''
[Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi].
Commentary: In Arabic, the word "Muhakat'' is often used for imitating someone's defect or deformity, etc. Every imitation of this kind also amounts to backbiting. This is the reason the Prophet (PBUH) used the analogy stated in this Hadith when `Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) said that Safiyyah (May Allah be pleased with her) was short-statured. Imam An-Nawawi regarded this analogy as based on Wahy and supported his contention by the Verse of the Qur'an: "Nor does he speak of (his own) desire. It is only a Revelation revealed.''
Thus, it is evident from this Hadith that to speak of somebody in a scornful manner, or ridicule someone's physical defect, or to imitate someone's deformity, or talk disparagingly about someone, is a great offense which should be avoided by every Muslim.
1526. Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "During the Mi`raj (the Night of Ascension), I saw a group of people who were scratching their chests and faces with their copper nails. I asked, `Who are these people, O Jibril?' Jibril replied: `These are the people who ate flesh of others (by backbiting) and trampled people's honour.'''
Commentary: "These are the people who ate flesh of others'' is a metaphor for backbiting. "To trample people's honour'' is akin to harming their goodwill and honour. The punishment for these things mentioned in Hadith makes their seriousness obvious.
1527. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: "The blood, honour and property of a Muslim is inviolable for another Muslim.''
Commentary: This Hadith also makes it clear that a Muslim is bound to protect his blood, wealth and honour and it is not lawful for any Muslim to attack another Muslim's honour and property. Nor is it lawful for him to kill another Muslim without a valid reason.