10th May 2013
Question:The sin of backbiting/slandering is well understood, my question is in what circumstances is it permissible to backbite/slander. Please provide detailed reply with examples.
الجواب حامداًَ و مصلياًَ
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Before answering your question, it is necessary to explain what slandering and backbiting is as both are different from each other thus implying different injunctions. Backbiting is to converse about someone behind his/her back in the presence of someone else whereby the person about whom he or she has backbitten would be offended if he/she heard about the conversation even if what the person has said is true. If what the person has said behind his/her back is not true then that is known as slandering. This is clear from the following Hadeeth;
Sayyidunā Abū Hurairah radhiyallahu anhu relates that that the Messenger of Allāh sallallahu alayhi wasallam once said, “Do you know what Gheebah (backbiting) is?” The said, “Allāh and His Messenger know best.” He said, “You relating about your brother that which he dislikes.” He was asked, “What if it is (true) about my brother of what I have said?” He said, “If it is in him of what you have said then you have backbitten about him, and if it is not in him of what you have said (i.e. not true about him) then you have slandered him.” (Muslim)
Slandering under any circumstances would not be permissible because what someone says about another person behind their backs is not true at all. Thus, it becomes false accusation. In regards to backbiting the classical scholars have enlisted stringent rules for it to be permissible. If any of those rules are not complied to then backbiting will not be permissible.
It is stated in Fatāwa Hindiyyah;
“If a man fasts and performs Salāh but harms people with his hands and tongue and mentions that which is in him then that will not be regarded as backbiting (for other to be warned). If he informs the Sultān (leader) in order to discipline him then there is no sin upon him.” (442/5)
Imām Ghazāli rahimahullah enlists six scenarios where backbiting is permitted;
1: To disclose someone’s faults by complaining to the judge or those in authority of him committing oppression or any unlawful act so that the judge or those in authority can discipline him. This is permissible only for the one who is the victim of the crime.
2: To disclose someone’s faults to a reliable person in order to seek his assistance to change the perpetrator’s evil habits so that he returns to the right path. The prime reason for mentioning his evil habits to that individual must be so that he could admonish the perpetrator and make him repent from his sins.
3: To disclose someone’s faults to a qualified jurist (Mufti) e.g. he says my father, my mother or my husband etc is oppressing me or is involved in such unlawful habits, in order to request for some legal advice or a legal verdict about such person. [In such circumstances it is preferable to say “What is the ruling regarding such and such person…” rather than specifying the name though it would still be permissible].
4: To disclose someone’s faults in order to warn others of his evil habits e.g. seeing a learned person being inclined towards evil habits or possessing heretical beliefs, thus not reliable. [This category was practiced by many great scholars of Hadeeth when doing a critical analysis of the chain of narrators in order to grade the ranks of Hadeeth accordingly and to ensure that the Hadeeth is transmitted through reputable source].
5: Someone is famously known by that natural defect therefore relating that to someone else e.g. A’mash (blear-eyed) was the name of a famous Hadeeth scholar etc.
6: Someone indulging in open sin therefore disclosing that to others e.g. Drinking alcohol, impinging on other people’s affairs, gathering people’s wealth unjustly (or stealing) etc. The Messenger of Allāh e said, “Whosoever takes off the veil of shame from his face then there is no backbiting against him.” (See Ihyā-Uloomud-Deen 140-142/3 for more details)
[Allãh Knows Best]
Written by (Mufti) Abdul Waheed
Answer Attested by Shaykh Mufti Saiful Islam
JKN Fatawa Department