Assumptions/Suspicion, Spying and Backbiting

Ethical standards set by Quran
Types of suspicion/assumption
Hurting one's feelings is the root to all social evil

Allah says in Surah Al-Hujuraat:

O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, Indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it, and fear Allah. Verily Allah is the one who forgives and accepts repentance, most merciful.

Here Allah teaches us moral rights and social etiquettes. We are instructed not to indulge in suspicion, spying nor backbiting in our daily life. Let us consider each of them one by one, starting with suspicion.

There are good assumptions and bad assumptions (suspicion). Imam Abu Bakr Al-Jassas divided assumptions into four categories as described in his book Ahkamul-Qur'an.

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These four categories are:

The example of unlawful assumption is to keep saying to himself that Allah will definitely punish or torture me and lose total hope in the forgiveness and mercy of Allah. The Prophet Allah's Peace and blessings be upon him said: "You should have good hope with Allah till your death-bed." The Prophet Allah's Peace and blessings be upon him also said in a Hadith-e-Qudsi: "I treat my servant the way he feels about me."

The example of Wajib assumption is that if, for example, you do not know the direction of Qiblah and there is nobody to guide you, it is permissible to use your best judgment.

The example of Mustahab assumption is to keep good feelings about every Muslim. It is, however, permissible to use precautions in daily dealings without considering another a thief or a traitor without a just cause.

The example of acceptable assumption is that if one is not sure of completing three or four rak'aats in Salah, it is acceptable to use the most prevalent assumption in your mind. Other forms of suspicion are unlawful in Islam.

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Let us now consider spying. It is not allowed to search and disclose secrets of others. Hence, to eavesdrop upon somebody while hiding or pretending to sleep is like spying on others. However, if there is a possibility of another party harming you or harming another Muslim, then such spying is allowed.

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Let us now consider backbiting. It is narrated by the Prophet Allah's Peace and blessings be upon him : "Backbiting is talking about somebody which if he/she heard, would grieve him/her."

Hence, it is not allowed to talk about somebody in his absence, even if what was narrated was true. If it was not true, then it would be a bigger sin and it is called Buhtan (false accusation).

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It is important to note that to find other's faults or to talk sarcastically or to defame a person is called 'Lumz'. In the Qur'aan, Allah states in Surah Al-Hujuraat: "Do not defame one another."

It means that when you find faults in others, they will turn around and find faults in you.

The beauty of this wording of the Qur'aan is that it says that finding faults in others is like finding faults in you. Just like Allah states: "Do not kill yourself."

Hence, if you kill others, they will try to kill you. Allah also says in the Qur'aan (Surah Al-Humazah): "Woe to every slanderer and back-biter!"

In the twelfth verse of Surah Al-Hujurat, Allah made it clear that defaming another Muslim in his absence is like eating the flesh of your dead brother, which obviously, everybody abhors. Hence, it is the most horrible sin. Note that if the person is present, he may have a chance to defend himself, although everybody does not have the courage to defend themselves in these circumstances. If, however, he is defamed in his absence, the damage is deep and somewhat permanent.

Backbiting is not done by the tongue alone, it can also be done with the eyes, hands and other movements. For example, copying somebody who is limping, in order to insult him.

The Prophet Allah's Peace and blessings be upon him said: " Backbiting is a worse sin than adultery." It is further explained in a saying of the Prophet Allah's Peace and blessings be upon him , narrated by Abu Sa'eed and Jubair in Bayhaqi: "Allah may forgive a person if he repents after committing adultery. However, Allah will not forgive the one who backbites, till his victim forgives him."

One time, the Messenger of Allah Allah's Peace and blessings be upon him pointed towards two graves and said to his companions that both of these people are being punished in their graves. One of them used to backbite people and the other was not careful about spilling drops of urine on his clothes and body whilst urinating.

During Me’raj, the Prophet Allah's Peace and blessings be upon him saw some people who had nails made of red copper. They were tearing apart their faces and chests with these nails. The Holy Prophet Allah's Peace and blessings be upon him asked the Angel Jibrail a.s about them, He said, “They are being punished because they used to eat people’s flesh in their lives, i.e. used to backbite and defame others.

Abu Huraira May Allah be pleased with himnarrates that the Holy Prophet Peace and blessings be upon him said, “The killing of a Muslim by another unjustly, usurping others’ wealth or defaming other Muslims is totally forbidden (or Haram).” (Muslim)

Note that listening to backbiting is the same as backbiting somebody. It is better to walk away from such individuals.

Backbiting violates the rights of Allah and the rights of people simultaneously. Hence, it is necessary to ask for forgiveness from the victim first, since Allah will not forgive until the victim forgives. If the victim has died or is untraceable, then ransom has to be paid. Anas May Allah be pleased with him narrates that the Messenger of Allah Peace and blessings be upon him said,

“The ransom for backbiting is to pray to Allah for forgiveness by saying, “ O Allah! Forgive my sins and his too.”

When backbiting, the person does not think about how the other person would feel if he knew what was said about him, he doesn't think as to how he would feel if the positions were reversed. We like backbiting but hate to be backbitten about. The Hadith says, “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”

Everyone would hate to be backbitten about so why do they backbite? We should bring into our hearts the fear of Allah to save us from this grave sin and all other sins.

Backbiting to save a Muslim from harm is permitted, but the best thing is not to talk unnecessarily about anyone in a good way as well because the devil will entice you into mentioning his faults. For example, “He's a good person but he has these habits……….”

To save ourselves from this sin and many others, one should act upon this Hadith which deserves to be written in gold. The Hadith states, “Whoever stayed quiet saved himself.”

This very sin which Muslims consider right is the sin which could send many to hell. The Prophet May Allah's peace and blessings be upon him said, “The tongue is what will cause people to be flung face down into hell.”

May Allah Taa'la save us from the hell fire and all sins that we have committed.

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