I’m not sure if any of you have noticed this, but I certainly have: people gossiping, backbiting and slandering others, as though they have the right to judge them. It’s a sad reality, and is very scary, especially when I see Muslims doing it despite the warnings given in Islam about it.

A friend of mine posted this reminder, which I just so happened to see after I had become infuriated and annoyed by someone gossiping and being judgmental of others:

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, “Do you know what backbiting is?” They said, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He (SAW) then said, “It is to say something about your brother that he would dislike.” Someone asked him, “But what if what I say is true?” The Messenger of Allah (SAW) replied, “If what you say about him is true, you are backbiting him, but if it is not true then you have slandered him.” (Muslim)

This gives you a basic idea of what backbiting and slandering entails. If we take a moment to reflect, we’ll find that we do things like this so often without realizing it. It’s definitely a wake up call towards seeking repentance and making changes. This isn’t merely a reminder to Muslims, but a reminder to all people that we should be more aware of our words, so as to ensure that we are not doing things like this.

It’s just something to talk about.

The ingredients needed to create this habit within ourselves is startling to say the least. It opens our eyes to recognize how much we need to work on to become better people, if not for ourselves and our own Hereafters, then at least for our children and the generations to come after them. When we gossip, we are often saying something out of arrogance (“He went ahead and married some insert different race/culture/nationality here girl! What a disgrace!”), jealousy (“She thinks she’s all that with her degree and job. Ugh! So full of herself!”), or sometimes just sheer ignorance (“Why should she take care of his son from a past marriage? It’s not hers, so it’s not her responsibility!”). Arrogance, jealousy, and ignorance; three traits that are considered amongst the worst characteristics by Islamic standards, and in civilized society altogether. Yet, these are also perhaps the most rampantly flooding traits in people today. It’s human, yes; we all fall into these things every once in a while, but I felt it important to share the reminder with all of you, as being reminded opened my eyes again as well.

What’s the harm?

O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.” – Quran (49:12)

Take a second, close your eyes, and picture that. It’s a horrific thought. Allah makes it clear in the Quran that these actions are equivalent to eating the flesh of your dead brother! So, why do we do these things?

Often, we need some form of rectification for our actions or thoughts, and feel that putting down someone else will take the spotlight off of us. Sometimes, we just seem to need something to talk about, and so we indulge in idle talk like this. And sometimes, we just feel that the only way to gain acceptance is to collectively bash someone else.

Judgement is something that can only be valid when expressed by someone that has reached the state of perfection. And the ONLY One that is perfect is Allah, and so, judgment lies with Allah, Alone.

There’s nothing more to it. We are all full of sin. We are all forgetful of what is right and what is wrong. We constantly go through a roller-coaster of  faith and morality. It’s human. It’s how Allah has created us. But, what He has also given us is intellect and the ability to make conscious choices. Having the ability to do something doesn’t validate doing it. The extremity of the examples to be given with this are high, as we can relate back to the verse, and express how just as we may be able to eat the flesh of our dead brothers, it doesn’t make it acceptable for us to actually do it. In the same way, to judge, backbite, slander, and gossip are abilities we all have, but that does NOT validate them.

How To Make A Change

“Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change that which is within themselves.” – Quran (13:11)

We are living in a world where what is immoral, unethical, disrespectful, and ignorant is considered normal. To act otherwise is found to be backwards, barbaric, and just plain unheard of. The above verse holds so much weight, because we must realize our mistakes and change as individuals so as to see not only our personal conditions become better, but to see society as a whole change for the better as well. Good is contagious. If we stand as individual examples, goodness will begin to rub off on those around us, and the benefits will quickly flow and reveal themselves.

During this process of bettering ourselves, if we find others not making changes as quickly as we did, or not making any changes at all for that matter, then we should be careful as to not fall into judgment or slandering again. Too often, when we get excited about an idea, we begin to rush towards it, and after sharing our epiphanies with others, expect them to feel the same rush of ambition towards that change. That isn’t always the case. All people take their own time to learn their own individual lessons. When the time is right, those lessons help them take their steps towards new phases of life. When you are struggling to accept someone else’s lack of ambition compared to yours, ask yourself how you would feel if someone tried to force you to make a change you just weren’t ready for yet. Do your part, and remind them of it once. After that, leave it aside, and make dua for them. They heard you. Allah just has to give them your message when the time is best for them. And only He knows when that is.

As for habits of gossip, backbiting, and slandering, approach them just as you would any other habit you hope to change. Watch yourself as you face the day, and try to catch yourself if you feel you might be saying or doing something wrong. If that leaves you silent throughout most of the day, then so be it. That only allows you the opportunity to remove the negative from your speech, so you have more space to fill it with positive speech, or even silence (which is sometimes even better than words).

Look at it this way: Why carry a basket of 1 good apple and 19 rotten apples? The rotten ones will make the good one rot. Instead, carry only good apples, even if they are few. This way, you may have less in quantity, but the apples you carry won’t rot.

Look at your thoughts and speech in the same way. Remove the negative thoughts and words, and replace them with positive ones. An ounce of negativity could spoil a ton of positivity. If you’re still left with space in your thoughts or speech, add more positivity, or just leave it open and free, as this will allow the opportunity for meditation, pondering, and more beneficial things (in moderation).

All in all, change is possible. Making changes in matters like these are crucial to a person’s well-being in this life and the Next, and are helpful in developing better habits and better futures. May Allah help us all in changing ourselves for the better, so that our conditions may change in the same way. Our Ummah needs it. Ameen!