يٰأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ ٱجْتَنِبُواْ كَثِيراً مِّنَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ ٱلظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ وَلاَ تَجَسَّسُواْ وَلاَ يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضاً أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتاً فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ وَٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ
G’d says in the Qur’an [49:12]: Oh you who believe! Avoid most suspicion, for surely a portion of suspicion is sinful. And do not spy on each other, nor backbite one another. Would any of you love to each the flesh of his dead brother? You would surely despise it. So have reverance for G’d. Surely G’d is the Oft-Returning, the Merciful Redeemer.
One of the major sins in Al-Islam is backbiting/gossip called gheebah. Gheebah is related to the word hidden in the Arabic language. It is a conversation behind someone’s back that spreads information about the person. In many cases, the information being spread is something negative and is even true.
When the Prophet Muhammad (SAAS) was about gheebah he said – ذكرك أخاك بما يكره – “Mentioning something about your brother that he would dislike.” He also stated:
هُوَ أنْ تَقُولَ لأخِيكَ ما فِيهِ، فإنْ كُنْتَ صَادِقاً فَقَدِ اغْتَبْتَه، وَإنْ كُنْتَ كاذِباً فَقَدْ بَهَتَّهُ
If you say something about your brother concerning him even if it is true, then certaintly you have backbit him. But if tell a lie about him, then certaintly you have slandered him.
All humans sin, and all humans do not like to have their shortcomings exposed and made mockery of. This is a rational reason why gheebah should be avoided besides the most important reason that G’d forbade it. Gheebah belittles and causes enmity between individuals and even between families and groups. In essence, gheebah is anti-social behavior and causes problems in society.
Telling the truth about a person when they are not present is, however, acceptable under certain circumstances:
*Complaining about a person in front of a judge for being wronged or an injustice.
* Giving advice after it being sought out for important matters relating to the character of a potential spouse or a person connected with a potential business transaction.
* Refuting an untruthful saying or an illegal claim.
* Testifying against a criminal.
* Warning people about specific sins or crimes of a person after that person has openly declared them.
The golden rule as taught by Jesus (AS) to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is the point. If you do not want others spreading your business, keep your mouth shut about theirs. If you gossip about others, know what goes around comes around.
And surely G’d knows best.