What Should One Do If They Hear Sinful Speech, Such as Backbiting?

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch


If someone hears sinful speech, such as backbiting, slander, gossip, and so on, but does not speak out against it, must they speak well of and make dua for the one being spoken about?


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.

All that is sinful to say is sinful to listen to. If one hears sinful speech, the following steps must be taken:

  • One must object to the speech with their tongue;
  • If they fear that this will cause reciprocal harm or make the matter worse, they will object to it with their heart;
  • However, in the latter case, if they are able to get up and leave or interrupt the speech and change the subject, it is necessary for them to do so. [Nahlawi, al-Durar al-Mubaha]

Expiating for Sinful Listening

Aside from the above legal steps to absolve oneself of the sin of sinful speech, a higher standard would dictate defending the person.[Ibid.]

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever defends the honor of his brother, Allah will defend from his face the Fire on the Day of Judgment.” [Tirmidhi]

It is narrated that the Messenger of Allah (Most High) stood up to pray and asked, “Where is Malik ibn al-Dukhshum?” So a Bedouin man said, “He is a hypocrite who doesn’t love Allah and His Messenger.” The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Don’t say that! Have you not seen that he testified saying, ‘There is no god except Allah’ seeking Allah’s countenance thereby!? Indeed, Allah has forbidden the Fire for anyone who says ‘There is no god except Allah’ seeking His countenance thereby.” [Bukhari; Muslim]


Regarding backbiting and slander, if the backbiting hasn’t reached the person being spoken of, it is sufficient to repent via remorse and seeking Allah’s forgiveness. [Nahlawi, al-Durar al-Mubaha]

This applies to the one who committed the backbiting and the listener (who didn’t object). [Ibid.]

Regarding gossip, one should not relay what was said to anyone to stop the gossip’s spread. [Bin Tahir, Sullam al-Tawfiq]

In all cases, if one did not take the above steps to absolve them of the sin, one must repent to Allah (Most High) sincerely.

Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch teaches Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he 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 studied for three years in Dar al-Mustafa under some of the most outstanding 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 Quran and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Quranic exegesis, Islamic history, and several texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.