Allah, the Wise, has said:
وَ لا يَغْتَبْ بَعْضُكُمْ بَعْضاً
The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) said:
إن الغيبة أشد من الزنا
Backbiting is prohibited for every Muslim and one who indulges in it is a sinner.
Whenever backbiting about a person has taken place, and he comes to know of it, forgiveness ought to be sought from him.
Backbiting eats away the good deeds just as fire eats away the fire-wood. Backbiting could occur for several reasons: out of envy, for beautifying one’s speech, for mitigating one’s anger, due to hatred towards the person, and the likes of these - all of which are detrimental for the soul, and shall cause a person to face numerous punishments on the Day of Judgment.3
Once during the time of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny), a person happened to pass by a group that was seated. Seeing the person pass by, one of them said: I harbour enmity towards him for the sake of God. The others retorted: By God! You have surely uttered an evil utterance! We shall inform him of what you have stated. And they did just that.
Coming to know of this talk about him, the person approached the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) and complained to him about that person’s statement. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) summoned him and sought to know if he had uttered such words. The man replied: Yes, I did say it.
The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) asked: Why do you possess animosity towards him? He replied: I am his neighbour and am fully aware of his state. By God! I have never seen him offer any other prayer save the obligatory ones!
The other man spoke out: O’ Prophet of God! Ask him if he has ever seen me delay my obligatory prayers, or perform ablutions incorrectly or not perform my ruku’ and sujood correctly?
When the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) asked, the other person replied in the negative, but then continued: By God! With the exception of the month of Ramadhan, in which every person, whether pious or a sinner, observes fasts, I have never seen him fasting!
The other person countered: O’ Prophet of God! Ask him if he has ever seen me not fasting in the month of Ramadhan, or disregarded any of the religious rulings associated with it?
When the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) enquired, the person again replied in the negative, but then added: By God! With the exception of the zakat, which every person – pious or otherwise, does make it a point to pay, I have never seen him give any alms to a pauper or a fakir!
Defending himself, the other person again said to the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny): Ask him if he has ever seen me pay out the zakaat less than what was due upon me, or haggle with those who had come to collect it from me? When asked, the man said: No.
The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny), then turning to that man, said: Go away from my presence, for it is highly probable that he may be better than and superior to you.4
Sheikh Bahaai (may the mercy (of God) be upon him) says:
Once it so happened that in a prominent gathering, in my absence, I became the topic of conversation. I came to know that one of those present in the gathering, although claiming to be my friend was not truthful in his claim, began backbiting about and speaking ill of me; fully heedless of the verse in which God says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ ۖ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا يَغْتَبْ بَعْضُكُمْ بَعْضًا ۚ أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَنْ يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَحِيمٌ
“…nor let some of you backbite others. Does one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? But you abhor it.”5
Later when he came to know that I had become aware of his act, he wrote me a lengthy letter in which he expressed his repentance over the deed and sought forgiveness from me.
Replying to his letter, I wrote:
May God reward you for the gift that you sent for me! This is because your gift shall cause the scale of my good deeds to become heavier on the Day of Judgment!
It has been narrated that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) said: “On the Day of Judgment, a person shall be brought forth for the reckoning of his deeds; his good deeds shall be placed in one pan of the balance while his evil deeds would be placed in the other and it would be observed that the pan of evil deeds was heavier than that of the good deeds. At this juncture, a sheet of paper would be placed upon his good deeds as a result of which, the pan containing his good deeds would become heavier than the one containing his sins.
Astonished, the person would ask: ‘O’ Lord! All the good deeds that I possessed had been placed in the pan, so what is this sheet of paper?’ I have never performed this good act.
`He would be informed: ‘This is in exchange for those evils that were spoken about you but which you did not possess’.”
(Sheikh Bahaai continues in his letter): This tradition compels me to thank you for the gift that you have presented to me.
Although, had you acted in this manner or even worse, in front of me, let me assure you that you would not have witnessed any response from me except forgiveness, pardon, friendship and faithfulness. The years of life that remain are much too precious to waste in attempting to punish individuals for their deeds; rather, it ought to be spent in reflecting over that which has been lost and attempting to make amends for that which has passed.6
One year, the Bani Israel were afflicted with famine and drought. When Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) had offered the prayers for rain on numerous occasions and yet there was no sign of rains, God revealed to him (peace be upon him): I have not answered your prayers because of one person from amongst you, who constantly engages in backbiting and calumny.
When he (peace be upon him) asked: O’ Lord! Who is that person?, God revealed: O’ Musa! How can I backbite when I command you to refrain from backbiting? Tell all the people to seek forgiveness in order that I answer their prayers.
When all the people had sought forgiveness, God showered them with His mercy in the form of rains.7
(In another tradition it has been reported that the person had backbitten about Musa (peace be upon him), who then requested God to reveal the person’s identity to him. Hearing this God said: I consider carrying of tales to be abhorrent and reprehensible, and yet you desire that I should indulge in it Myself?
Once Haroon al-Rashid, received some distinguished, classy and pricey garments as gifts, which he gifted to his (Shiite) minister Ali Ibn Yaqteen; amongst them was a cuirass of fur and golden embroidery that, due to is grandeur and magnificence, resembled the garments worn by emperors.
Ali Ibn Yaqteen sent those garments to Imam Kadhim (peace be upon him) along with numerous other riches. The Imam (peace be upon him) however, returned the cuirass back to him and wrote him a letter advising: Keep it with you and do not take it out of your house; a time shall come when you shall be in need of it.
A few days later Ali Ibn Yaqteen happened to become infuriated with one of his slaves, and had him dismissed from service. This slave presented himself before Haroon al-Rashid and complained: Ali Ibn Yaqteen believes in the Imamate of Musa Ibn Ja’far (peace be upon him) and sends his khums to him (peace be upon him) every year. Even the cuirass that you had gifted to him was sent to Musa Ibn Ja'far (peace be upon him) on such and such day!
Haroon was furious when he heard this and said: I must get to the bottom of this mystery, and then ordered that Ali Ibn Yaqteen be immediately summoned before him.
When he had arrived, Haroon hollered: What have you done with the cuirass that I had given to you?
Ali Ibn Yaqteen replied: It is in the house. I have wrapped it up in a piece of cloth and every morning and evening I open it for the sake of blessedness.
Haroon ordered: Bring it to me right away.
The cuirass is wrapped in a piece of cloth inside such and such trunk, which is located in such and such room, Ali Ibn Yaqteen directed one of his slaves, and asked him to bring it to him. The slave did as he was told and brought the cuirass.
When Haroon observed that the cuirass given by him was perfumed and wrapped in a piece of cloth, his fury subsided and he said: “Take this back to your house; henceforth I shall never pay heed to anything is spoken against you”
He then gave numerous presents to Ali Ibn Yaqteen. As for the slave, he ordered that he be subjected to a thousand lashes; hardly had he been lashed five hundred times when he died.8
A person wished to purchase a slave and so set out for the slave market. There, a slave was shown to him and told: This slave possesses no flaw except that he is a telltale. The person agreed and, purchasing the slave, brought him to his house.
After a few days had passed, this slave approached his master’s wife and said to her: “Your husband does not love you anymore and intends to take another woman as a wife for himself. If you wish, I could cast a magic charm on him so as to spellbind him for you; however, for that I would need you to procure a few strands of his hair for me.
How can I bring his hair for you?, the wife asked.
The slave said: When he is asleep, cut some of his hair by means of a razor and bring them to me so that I can do something by means of which he begins to love you!
He then approached the husband and said to him: Your wife has found a paramour for herself and desires to kill you, so beware.
The man feigned himself to be asleep; observing this, his wife entered the room with a razor in hand. The husband, thinking that his wife had come to kill him, jumped up from his place and killed her.
Coming to know this incident, the wife’s relatives came and murdered the husband.
When the husband’s tribe was informed of this act, they rose up in arms against the wife’s tribe which led to violence, battle, killing and bloodshed between the two tribes; this enmity and confrontation between the two tribes continued to exist for a very long time!9