Thursday, November 29, 2007

A deadly social evil

By Dr Syed Rizwanul Hasanat

A MUSLIM is expected to establish a strong relationship with the AllLord, on one hand, and with humanity at large, on the other. His relationship with his Maker develops through his acts of worship and is the manifestation of the Divine attributes in his own limited way.

The relationship with one another, on the other hand, becomes more cemented, when rights and duties of one another are observed and when the numerous aspects of social evils are avoided. So the All Wise Creator has given clear guidance as to the causes and effects of social evils.

Among the foremost of those things which destroy the good relationship in society is backbiting. Backbiting or ghibat as it is termed in the Qur’an originates from the root gha-ya-ba which means any thing that is absent or hidden from the eyes, invisible, unseen, nonapparent, whether it be or be not perceived by the heart or mind; anything absent from the range or beyond the reach of perception by senses, or beyond reach except through revelation. For example, in reference to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the Qur’an says: (The Prophet) does not grudgingly withhold knowledge of the unseen. (Qur’an, 81: 24).

Because the Prophet had knowledge of the unseen from Allah, and he did not hesitate to make it known what was necessary with knowledge of life meaning contained in the root, it is easy to understand the meaning of ghibat or backbiting. The Qur’an uses this to mean:

1. Evil speech with respect to a person in his absence; 2. Something said, which may not always be true although it may have a lot of truth in it; 3. Saying something about a person, in his absence, that if he should hear it, it would grieve him; 4. Imputing to a person what he dislikes of vices or faults, even though such might be true; and 5. Mentioning about a person what is in him of evil.

The Quran has expressly prohibited backbiting. It says: “0 you who believe! Do not backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Certainly you would loathe it. So fear Allah, surely Allah is OftMost Merciful. (Qur’an, 49:12).It is not permissible to speak ill about anyone, even if that person has already passed away.

Backbiting can create confusion, enmity, hatred and above all, it breaks the good relationship with one another in society.

A nation is doomed if its people are backbiters. Backbiting can be with the tongue, through signs, with the hands, eyes, by making funny faces or by imitating another person. In short, all those gestures, which are meant to degrade another, are in the domain of backbiting and are prohibited. If one joins in the act of backbiting, or listens, or remains amongst the backbiters when he / she could have left that company, that person is also guilty. Allah has expressed disapproval for backbiting, and as a result, He says: “Woe to every backbiter”. (Qur’an, 104: 1)

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has left with us many traditions concerning backbiting. He says: Abdullah ibn Mas’ood reported that the Messenger of Allah said: To backbite a Muslim is transgression, and to fight with him is infidelity. Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “Do you know what is backbiting? They replied: “Allah and His Apostle know best.” He said: “Your talk about your brother which he dislikes.” He was asked: “What, if what we say about him is actually there?” He said, “If what you say is in him, still you will be backbiting him, and if what you say is not in him, you will be slandering him.”

Abdur Rahman Ibn Ganam reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “The best of the servants of Allah are those, who, when seen, remind one of Allah, and the worst of the servants of Allah are those, who roam about slandering people, with slanders, who create differences among the pious.”

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