Subject : Specifying Person is Conditioned in Backbiting
Fatwa Number : 1996
Date : 05-02-2012
Classified : Things that doom one to Hell
Fatwa Type : Search Fatawaa

Question :

When I say that the people of a certain country are not religious or the people of a certain city are stingy or the people who work in a certain profession are swindlers, is this considered forbidden backbiting or it is conditioned that they are said about a specific person?

The Answer :

All perfect praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. May His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions.

Every Muslim is required to safeguard his tongue against slander and deingeration. Therefore, he should avoid using general statements; rather, he should specify a certain person, to the exclusion of others, if his intention is to warn of such an individual or draw attention to him and not to defame or backbite him.

Since the Quran teaches that we should avoid generalization when talking about evil scholars of other faiths: "O ye who believe! there are indeed many among the priests and anchorites, who in Falsehood devour the substance of men and hinder (them) from the way of God." {At-Tawbah, 34},  then a Muslim should apply such noble manners with fellow Muslims and avoid running his mouth loose about certain categories of people. In this regard, Allah the Almighty says:" O ye who believe! Let not some men among you laugh at others: It may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): Nor let some women laugh at others: It may be that the (latter are better than the (former): Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames: Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be used of one) after he has believed: And those who do not desist are (indeed) doing wrong." {Al-Hujurat, 11}.

However, we are of the view that saying negative things about certain people isn`t a form of backbiting since when scholars defined backbiting, they stipulated that the backbited person is specified and known to the listeners. They have based this view on the following narration: 'A'isha reported that (one day) there sat together eleven women making an explicit promise amongst themselves that they would conceal nothing about their spouses. The first one said:………………………………………………………………………………………..

. One day Abu Zara' went out (of his house) when the milk was churned in the vessels, that he met a woman, having two children like leopards playing with her pomegranates (chest) under her vest. He divorced me (Umm Zara') and married that woman (whom Abu Zara') met on the way. I (Umm Zara') later on married another person, a chief, who was an expert rider, and a fine archer: he bestowed upon me many gifts and gave me one pair of every kind of animal and said: Umm Zara', make use of everything (you need) and send forth to your parents (but the fact) is that even if I combine all the gifts that he bestowed upon me, they stand no comparison to the least gift of Abu Zara'. 'A'isha reported that Allah's Messenger (PBUH) said to me: "I am for you as Abu Zara' was for Umm Zara" {Agreed upon}.

An-Nawawi (May Allah be pleased with him) says: "AL-Maziri said: "Some said: In this narration, it is mentioned that some women said, about their husband, things they (husbands) detested and it wasn`t backbiting because the husbands aren`t known to the listeners or mentioned by their names. Rather, forbidden backbiting is running one`s mouth loose about a specific person or group of people." Judge Eiaad said: "If the person about whom negative things are said isn`t known to the listeners, then this isn`t backbiting because the former is only harmed by being specified." { Shareh Muslim, V.15: 222}.

In addition, Ibn Hajar says: "A form of backbiting is when it is said: "Those who passed by today did so and so." If the addressed understood that it refers to a certain group of individuals, then this is forbidden backbiting." {Al-Zawajir, V.2: 28}.

It is stated in the Hanafi book "Al-Bahar, V.8: 381":" A man was running his mouth about the people of a village, it is called backbiting only if he specified those people."

Moreover, it is mentioned in "al-Fatawa al-Hindiah" : "If someone ran his mouth about the people of a village without specifying them, then this isn`t backbiting."

In conclusion, slandering the people of a certain country or profession is amongst the evils of the tongue, which should be avoided, but it isn`t considered a form of the forbidden backbiting. And Allah the Almighty Knows Best.



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