Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
When I listen to backbiting intentionally, I get the same sin as the person backbiting, but to expiate my sin, I must talk good about the person and make dua for his forgiveness and in his favor. This is the scenario: Someone backbites person X. My colleague and I both see and recognize person X, although I do not know his name and do not know him personally.
I listen intently and get my colleagues in. I am confused about how it is done intentionally, though, as I do not know what comes out of the person’s mouth before speaking. Then I speak well of person X to someone who does not know him as part of my expiation. As I said, there was a man, and he had nice hair. Is this valid, or must I speak well of person X in front of someone who knows him?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
If one is sitting with others and they begin to backbite someone, it is an obligation on the listeners to stop that sin. This can be done in any of the following ways:
- Objecting and defending the one being spoken about
- Changing the subject
- Disengaging and disliking the speech in one’s heart [Ghazali, Ihya’ Ulum al-Din]
One must do whatever is of maximum benefit in the situation. If one fears that their advice would be rejected or reciprocated with harm or that it would cause an increase in the backbiting – one must leave the situation.
Regardless of which of the above one can do, one must dislike the action in their heart. [Ibid.]
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever is present when a believer is humiliated and does not come to his aid even though he can help, Allah will abase him on the Day of Judgment before all creation.” [Tabarani]
Repenting and Rectifying
If one intentionally participated in backbiting, even as a listener, they must first repent to Allah Most High for that sin. Secondly, if they can seek forgiveness from the one who was spoken ill, they must seek forgiveness for their listening and not objecting. [Ghazali, Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din]
If this is not possible, one may use any of the following options as part of their repentance:
- To defend the honor of the person spoken ill of. Those listening must know who one is talking for the desired effect. [Ibid.]
- Donate the reward of some good deeds to that person, intending that Allah Most High inspire them to forgive you. [Ibid.]
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabban
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.