Are You Gossip Guy or Girl ?

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In the name of Allah, the Most-Merciful, the All-Compassionate assalam.gif
“May the Peace and Blessings of Allah be Upon You”

Praise be to Allaah, we seek His help and His forgiveness. We seek refuge with Allaah from the evil of our own souls and from our bad deeds. Whomsoever Allaah guides will never be led astray, and whomsoever Allaah leaves astray, no one can guide. I bear witness that there is no god but Allaah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.

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Bismillah Walhamdulillah Was Salaatu Was Salaam ‘ala Rasulillah
As-Salaam Alaikum Wa-Rahmatullahi Wa-Barakatuhu


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Let’s face it, we live in a society that promotes, distributes, and thrives on gossip. It fuels our economy, provides us a seemingly endless supply of fodder for conversation, and can liven up even the most boring workplace—listen in on the crowd around your office water cooler next time they gather. Every single day there are endless and often up-to-the-minute reports all over the internet, on TV and radio, in newspapers, magazines and “gossip columns” that specifically detail the private affairs of people throughout the world.

In the literal sense, the famous idiom, “one man’s meat is another man’s poison,” fits perfectly with the Islamic view of gossiping or backbiting.

The Quran states, “O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, for some suspicions are a sin. Do not spy on one another, nor backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, you would abhor it, [so similarly, avoid backbiting]. And fear God. Indeed, God is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful”(49:12).

The mere thought of eating dead human flesh can make even the most intrepid person sick to their stomach. Yet despite that and the fact that many of us have heard this verse multiple times, gossiping is still a common problem in our community.

Contrary to what those who wish to marginalize women may say, the fact is that both men and women have the nature to gossip. The proof of that is in the verse quoted above wherein God addresses the believers, which includes both men and women. Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “O assembly of those who have believed with their tongues, but into whose hearts faith has not yet reached! Do not backbite the Muslims, nor seek out their secrets! For, whoever seeks out the faults of his brother, God will seek out his secrets. And, whoever has his secrets sought out by God, God will disgrace him, even [if he hides] in the depths of his house.”[1]

And in another tradition, “Beware of backbiting, for backbiting is more serious than adultery. A man may commit adultery, and drink [wine], and then repent, and God will forgive him. But, the backbiter will not be forgiven by God until his companion [the one whom he backbit] forgives him.”[2]

In addition to the act itself, the actual desire to “seek out faults” in others is also a disease that needs to be remedied. Such a person never stops to ask him/herself, “Why do I have this desire to know someone else private business?” “How does that knowledge benefit/effect me?” “How would I feel if the details of my life were suddenly made public without my knowledge?”

It makes no difference whether you are the one who initiates it or the one who listens to it; to gossip or engage someone else who gossips makes you an active participant. The only way to absolve yourself of the sin is to object verbally or in your heart if you are afraid.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever averts [an attack] from the honor of his brother, God will avert the fire from his face on the Day of Arising.”[3]

If you are unable to say something then at the very least you should try to change the subject to something of virtue instead.

It is also important to note that there is a difference between gossip that is based on truth and that which is unverified. The distinction is made clear in the hadith: “[Backbiting is] mentioning your brother with something about him that he dislikes [being spoken about].” Someone asked [the Prophet], “How about if my brother contains that [characteristic which I am mentioning]?” And he replied, “If he possesses that which you mention, then you have indeed backbit him. And, if he does not contain that which you say, then you have slandered him.”[4]

For obvious reasons, to slander someone is a worse offense because not only have you spoken ill of them behind their back but you have also lied doing so.

Both backbiting and slandering are reprehensible acts that can manifest in different forms and sometimes unknowingly.

Refer to the list below to find out if you are engaging in either form of gossip:

You Are a Gossiper if You…

  • Revel in being the one to “break the news” when you discover something private about someone else.
  • Lack emotional empathy upon hearing of a scandal in someones family, marriage, work, etc, and immediately become preoccupied with sharing the information with others.
  • Eavesdrop in on private conversations, especially when you suspect something is amiss.
  • Feel vengeful and take pleasure in peoples downfalls and shortcomings.
  • Are judgmental and can find something wrong in just about anyone if you have reason not to like them.
  • Lack the courage to stop someone else from gossiping and eventually join in.
  • Are afraid you wont be accepted by your friends if you dont gossip with them.
  • Disparage others to make yourself look better.
  • Enjoy mocking or ridiculing others to be praised for your humor.
  • Deliberately pry for personal information when talking to others but purposely withhold private information about yourself.
  • Delude yourself to think that everyone is out to get you so you live by the motto, “Get them before they get you.”
  • Try to disguise gossip as “sharing” about someones “problem” to seek advice or to pray for them.
  • Don’t have many true friends; in fact you have a high turn-over rate with friends.
  • Have a tendency to cut people out of your life and as a result have enemies.
  • Are a serial gossiper and as soon as one conversation is over you move on to the next.
  • Attend social events and mock people for what they’re wearing, how they walk, talk, dance, etc.
  • Mock someones possessions, such as the model car they drive, or the furniture/decor in their house, etc.
  • Make fun of peoples pictures and updates on Facebook/MySpace/Twitter.

And FYI, it doesnt make it okay to gossip and then say, “Well, its not really gossip because if so-and-so were here I would say it to them in their face!” This is an absolute cop-out and in no way justifies or absolves you of blame.
It’s also worth mentioning that there are circumstances that require us to disclose information about others but are not considered gossiping, as in the examples below:

  • It is NOT gossip if one is afraid for their safety due to abuse, oppression, or any other harm at the hands of another person and is compelled to get help. In fact, in this case it’s not just permissible but necessary for them to reach out to a qualified person who can help, such as a counselor, therapist, social worker, law enforcement agent or local imam/scholar.
  • It is NOT gossip if one wishes to warn a friend or family member about a potential business partner or suitor for marriage whom they know to be deceitful, untrustworthy or of questionable character.
  • It is NOT gossip if one is seeking a legal ruling from a scholar and must disclose pertinent details. An example would be if a person says to a scholar, “My husband/wife has done such-and-such to me. What can I do about it?” On the authority of Aishah: Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan, said to the Prophet (peace be upon him), “Abu Sufyan is a miserly man, and he is not giving me what would suffice me and my child, unless I take from him without his knowing.” He said, “Take what suffices you and your child according to common usage.”[5]
  • It is NOT gossip if one is trying to prevent a potentially harmful or evil act from happening and has no other ulterior motive but to help. An example would be if a teenager was planning a risky late night trip to a precarious location without his parent’s permission. In such a case it would be wise to inform the teenager’s parents of his plan and let them handle it.

The Negative Social and Spiritual Implications of Gossip:

  • Gossip can permanently ruin friendships and tear families apart
  • Gossip compromises your principles of trust and loyalty
  • Gossip discredits your reputation
  • Gossip distances you from God

So, next time you feel inclined to “share” something about someone or engage another person who is gossiping remember the verse in the Quran: “[Successful are] those who shun vain talk” (23:3).
[1] Abu Dawud
[2] Al-Suyuti, Al-Jami` as-Saghir
[3] Al-Tirmidhi
[4] Al-Muslim
[5] Al-Bukhari & Al-Muslim

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Permission is granted to circulate among private individuals and groups, to post on Internet sites and to publish in full text and subject title in not-for-profit publications.

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Our Lord! grant us good in this world
and good in the hereafter,
and save us from the chastisement of the fire

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