Friday Sermon: Backbiting and the Perils of indulging in it

December 26th, 2003

In today’s Friday sermon, Huzoor focused on the issue of backbiting and the perils of indulging in it. Huzoor reminded us that some of the vices may apparently look insignificantly small, but they have long-lasting and widespread effects on the entire society. Backbiting is one such vice, among others. A hadith describes backbiting to be equivalent to eating the flesh of a fellow Muslim brother. Even the most cruel tyrant would be reluctant in engaging himself in such a filthy act. Huzoor related an account where a companion of the Holy Prophet , along with his friends, walked by the body of a dead mule, whose stomach had swollen after its demise. The companion said that it is better to eat the flesh of this mule than backbite against a Muslim brother.

Huzoor explained that cultured and sensible people know better not to eat the flesh of another human being, but they freely indulge themselves into the habit of backbiting without any qualms. If one does realize his mistake and vows to refrain from such activities, he should ask for forgiveness from Allah, seek His divine help and strive to become righteous. Allah is most Forgiving and most Merciful.

Some people don’t know the definition of backbiting and they pass nasty remarks about others without realizing that they are backbiting. The Promised Messiah explains that anything which may be said in the presence of a person and would be unpleasant to him becomes part of backbiting when said in the absence of that person. Generally, backbiting about the following in a person’s absence would be unpleasant to him if he found out: his spirituality, his worldly matters, his physical appearance, financial status, his spouse, his servants, his personality and his relationships with others.

People often talk about others fearlessly but they do not like it if they become the subject of such talk. Therefore, as a rule, one should never participate in any activity that would be hurtful if someone else does the same to you. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih I advised that one should abstain from being too curious about the lives of other people because that leads to backbiting which in turn leads you away from becoming righteous. The Promised Messiah advises us to abandon the habit of backbiting because Allah abhors those who backbite. Ask for forgiveness and Allah, the Almighty, has the power to set you towards the right path.

Some people take pleasure only in listening to others while they gossip and think that they are not backbiting, but gradually, they become part of the talking circle and commit this grave sin. Children from the very early stage should be trained not to participate in any gathering where such conversations are taking place. The promised Messiah notes that backbiting is more common among women. They should make an extra effort to refrain from it. There is a hadith that states that in Paradise, there will be an abundance of poor people, whereas in Hell, an abundance of women. Some vices are more common among women, such as vanity, superiority complex, backbiting, rivalry, etc. Whether it is a male or a female who possess these weaknesses, they should strive against them. Even though we don’t find many people in our jama’at who possess these ill habits, but because the society that we live in affects us all, we should always protect ourselves against them, and assess ourselves periodically.

A hadith reminds us that the beloved of Allah are those who possess His attributes and one is reminded of Allah when one sees such a man. We should strive to become such a person who is the beloved of Allah.

The Holy Prophet was so cautious that he would warn against the slightest indications of a sinful activity. At one occasion, all Hazrat Ayeshara said to the Holy Prophet about someone was that she is short. The Holy Prophet said that even this is backbiting. At another occasion, the Holy Prophet said that on the day of Qiyamah, a man’s deeds will be read out to him. He will remind Allah of the good deeds he had done, but Allah will say that those good deeds have been taken away from your account because you participated in backbiting. Such is the gravity of this sin that it takes your good deeds away from you.

Hazrat Musleh Mauood explains that the wisdom behind this tenet of Islam i.e. prohibition of backbiting is that a person forms an opinion about another based on false rumors he has heard through gossip. Since such an opinion is based on misunderstanding, it creates differences among the community members and prevents harmonious relationships to form between them. The Holy Prophet says listening to gossip and indulging in gossip are both forbidden.

Huzoor reminds us that no one is perfect, therefore we must look at our own condition critically before we raise our finger towards another person. It takes a courageous man to look at his own faults. Once he starts to observe himself, he will refrain from talking about others. The Promised Messiah has reminded women that they should avoid dishonesty, criticism of others, exaggeration and false accusations.

Huzoor said that we should not be the judge of another person’s good or bad disposition, but let Allah be the Judge because only He knows the true state of a man’s heart. If we see a weakness in another person, we should pray for that person with a sincere heart instead of criticizing him.

In the end, Huzoor said that we should busy ourselves in doing astaghfar at all times. He prayed for the Jama’at that Allah enables us to follow the advice of the Promised Messiah and to become righteous, Ameen.