What is Backbiting & When is it Allowed in Islam?

Definition Backbiting has been defined by the Sunnah of Prophet Mohammad S.A.W to mention something about your brother behind his back that he does not like to be mentioned.

So this is a factual thing which you have said i.e you mention an awkward, and embarrassing issue, you mention something that will bring shame to that person. He doesn’t want it to be known and you mention it in front of other people, this is backbiting and you should not do that.

As for lying, this is even worst as our Prophet Mohammad S.A.W said; this is slander.

So the Question is When is backbiting allowed?

Imam An-Nawawi mentions six positions and Imam As-Shawkani wrote treaties about raising about the doubts what is and isn’t allowed in Geebah. All of these treaties and tracks are really not comprehensive, they are simply trying to give you the examples and illustrations about When can you do Geebah?

In this post, some of these examples and exceptions will be mentioned but we must realize that these are only exceptions.

The rule is that you never do Geebah, do not think that every second thing that you say will be an exception. Exceptions remain exceptions.

So here are the exception where backbiting is allowed.

  1. When Zulm Has Been Done.

    When somebody has taken your Haq, lied, cheated and stolen your money, when somebody doublecrossed you. You have the right to get your Haq back, to go to the people of authority, you go to judge.
    So you are allowed to mention the falsehood of another person when your Haq has been taken.

  2. When You Are Warning Against a Generic Public Evil.

    So, this is a person whose presence is evil i.e He might be selling drugs to the children, this is the person who has no sanctity, you need the warn the community that this is a bad person, we don’t want him coming to the community because of this.

    In this case, this is for the protection of the community, not a private sin, a person’s private sin remains between him and Allah.

    Even if you see a person drinking, its none of your business to go and tell other people.

    But suppose he is selling drugs to other people, selling drugs to teenagers and kids. In this case, this is something else and you need to prevent that, even if it is mentioning what he is doing in public.

  3. If somebody comes to you for personal advice about a person that he wants to do business with or he is interested in marriage prospectus or any reason where it greater good where you mention.

    It is mention in the Sahih Bukhari that; Fatima-Bint-Kais, she came to the Prophet Mohammad S.A.W and said;

    “Oh, Messenger of Allah, Muawiya proposed for me and Abu-Jahm proposed for me, What should I do?”

    The Prophet S.A.W in public (i.e Muawiya was not there Abu-Jahm was not there) said; as for Muawiya, he has no money, you will not be successful marrying him.

    As for Abu-Jahm, he beats his wife, you will not be happy, go and marry so and so.

    In this case, He mentioned false about the other person and they were not sitting there.

    What gives the right to mention false, no she is coming for is Istishara.
    So, Istishara is a piece of specific advice.

    For Example, I want to enter a business partnership with (e.g Amr, Zaid, so and so) another person and I know that you had a business partnership with him, you will say that; I found him to be someone who double-crossed me, multiple times.

    This is not Geebah, you are now Istishara, you are giving the advice to protect me.

    So, this is something that is also allowed InShallah.

Now, the grey area, where our scholars have differed over in this regard is that it is very common is talking about what happened to you.

For example, So and so did something to me, you are hurt, you want to tell somebody else, what so and so did.

In this case, something happened to you and you are mentioned about the other person with another person.

So, in this case, we need to look very carefully that What is the Niyyah behind mentioning this awkward conversation about another person, behind mentioned what happened.

If the Niyyah is to, Name and Shame, if the Niyyah is to Humiliate, then it is Geebah.

But if the Niyyah is to get advice what should I do, to get the reconciliation, if Niyyah is to bring Sulah then InShaAllah it is not Geebah.

But if the Niyyah is to Name and Shame, Humiliate, then this would constitute Geebah because what’s the purpose of telling the false of another person, even if that has happened to you and Allah S.W.T knows the best.