Last week I asked my students to make a list of what they thought were some of the worst sins they could commit as Muslims. I told them that they could name only five, but, if they really wanted to add any more, they could add two more in brackets next to number four and five. This task was performed for me to prove a theory I always had. A theory which maintained that most people, myself included, fail to recognize how gross a sin backbiting truly is. Usually, as in this case, if Muslims were asked to compile what they perceived to be some of the worst sins they could commit, most, if not all, would neglect the sin of backbiting. But the reason for the omission, as it appears to me, isn’t because many view backbiting as a positive thing, or only as an unnecessary thing, and nothing more, but because a  lack of consideration regarding this practice exists, and sometimes, even a denial or a justification of it. Hopefully, if this article serves its purpose, such a thing will be no more, and the sin, which should never occupy our idle time, is soon seen within the parameters of an Islamic understanding, and for what it is.

  In the Holy Quran, amid the volumes of powerful verses which exist within it, one verse truly grabs the attention of the reader because of its powerful and descriptive imagery. The verse is found in Surah 49 verse 12 of the Quran and reads as follows: 

 . . .  [N]either backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Ye abhor that (so abhor the other)! And keep your duty (to Allah). Lo! Allah is Relenting, Merciful.

 The imagery is powerful. Here one sees just how abhorrent the sin of backbiting is considered within the religion of Islam. But such imagery isn’t only reserved for the Quran, the book of hadiths are also filled with equally articulate admonishments:

 The Prophet (s) said: “No fire is faster in consuming dry wood than gheebah in consuming a devotee’s virtues.”

Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) narrated from the Prophet (s) who said: “The havoc wrought on the believer’s faith by backbiting is swifter than the one wrought by aklah (a disease that consumes the flesh) in the side of his body.”

Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) narrated from the Noble Messenger (s) who is once said to have forbidden both backbiting and listening to it. Then he (s) said: “Lo,whoever does a favour to his brother by refuting his backbiting upon hearing it in a gathering, God shall save him from a thousand kinds of evils in this world and in the Hereafter. And if he does not do so despite his ability to refute it, on him shall be the burden of one who commits his backbiting seventy times.”

The Prophet (s) said: “The listener is one of the two backbiters.”

  As one can easily see from the above hadiths, backbiting is truly considered to be a great sin in Islam. It is not merely an unnecessary and unfortunate thing; it is a sin which destroys the very fabric of a Muslim. It consumes him in sin, and tears his good nature, and it because of such affects that the Lord of the Worlds and his chosen representatives have warned against it.

Side note: I have not given the citation for any of the hadiths found above. The hadiths can all be found here. The reason is because since I did not find the sources myself, it would be unfair for me to use them as if I did, and therefore would like all my brothers and sisters to go to the actual source.

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