Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahmad
I told my friend that if someone wrongs another, one can speak about it to express sadness about it. But she took it to mean that if someone wrongs someone, one can backbite about them. I am no longer friends with her, but she still uses what I said in the wrong way. What should I do? Do I have to go back and correct her even though that was not what I intended?
Thank you for your question. May Allah reward you for wanting to spread correct information about Islamic law and spread goodness.
You are not responsible for her misunderstanding what you told her, but it would do her great good if she was taught the ruling correctly. Please forward her the following information; this way, you no longer have to worry.
It says in the Reliance of the Traveller:
Slander, though unlawful, is sometimes permissible for a lawful purpose, the legitimating factor being that there is some aim countenanced by Sacred Law that is unattainable by other means. This may be for one of six reasons.
One: Redressing Grievances
The first is the redress of grievances. Someone wronged may seek redress from the Islamic ruler, judge, or others with the authority or power to help one against the person who has wronged one. One may say, “So-and-so has wronged me,” “done such and such to me,” “took such and such of mine,” and similar remarks.
Two: Eliminating Wrongdoing
The second is seeking aid in righting a wrong or correcting a wrongdoer, such as by saying to someone expected to be able to set things right, “So-and-so is doing such and such, so warn him not to continue,” and the like. The intention in such a case must be to take the measures necessary to eliminate the wrong, for if this is not one’s purpose, it is unlawful.
Three: Asking for a Legal Opinion
The third is asking for a legal opinion, such as by saying to the mufti, “My father (or ‘brother,’ or ‘So-and-so,’) has wronged me by doing such and such. May he do so or not?” “How can I be rid of him,” “Get what is coming to me,” “Stop the injustice,” and so forth. Or such as saying, “My wife does such and such to me,” “My husband does such and such,” and the like. This is permissible when necessary, but to be on the safe side, it is best to say, “What do you think of a man whose case is such and such,” or “A husband (or ‘wife’) who does such and such,” and so on, since this accomplishes one’s aim without referring to particular people. But it is nevertheless permissible to identify a particular person, as is attested to by the hadith in which Hind said, “O Messenger of Allah, Abu Sufyan is a stingy man …” and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not forbid her.
Four: Warning Muslims of Evil
The fourth reason is to warn Muslims of evil and advise them, which may take several forms, including:
- Impugning unreliable hadith transmitters or court witnesses, which is permissible by consensus of all Muslims, even obligatory, because of the need for it.
- When a person seeks one’s advice about marrying into a certain family, entering into a partnership with someone, depositing something for safekeeping with him, accepting such a deposit, or some other transaction with him, it is obligatory for one to tell the person asking what one knows about the other by way of advising him. If one can accomplish this by merely saying, “Dealing with him is of no advantage to you,” “Marrying into the family is not in your interests,” “Do not do it,” and similar expressions, then one may not elaborate on the individual’s shortcomings. But if it cannot be accomplished without explicitly mentioning the individual, one may do so.
- When one notices a student of Sacred Law going to learn from a teacher who is guilty of reprehensible innovations in religious matters (bid‘a, def: w29.3) or who is corrupt, and one apprehends harm to the student thereby, one must advise him and explain how the teacher really is. It is necessary in such a case that one intend to give sincere counsel. Mistakes are sometimes made in this, as the person warning another may be motivated by envy, which the Devil has duped him into believing is heartfelt advice and compassion, so one must beware of this.
- And when there is someone in a position of responsibility who is not doing the job as it should be done, because of being unfit for it, corrupt, inattentive, or the like, one must mention this to the person with authority over him so he can remove him and find another to do the job properly, or be aware of how he is so as to deal with him as he should be dealt with and not be deluded by him, to urge him to either improve or else be replaced.
Five: Someone Unconcerned with Concealing Their Disobedience
A fifth reason that permits slander is when the person is making no effort to conceal his corruption or involvement in reprehensible innovation (bid’a), such as someone who openly drinks wine, confiscates others’ property, gathers taxes uncountenanced by Sacred Law, collects money wrongfully, or perpetrates other falsehoods, in which cases it is permissible to speak about what he is unconcerned to conceal, but unlawful to mention his other faults unless there is some other valid reason that permits it, of those we have discussed.
The sixth reason is to identify someone. When a person is known by a nickname such as “the Bleary-eyed,” “the Lame,” “the Deaf,” “the Blind,” “the Cross-eyed,” or similar, it is permissible to refer to him by that name if one’s intention is to identify him. It is unlawful to do so by way of pointing out his deficiencies. And if one can identify him by some other means, it is better.
These, then, are six reasons Islamic scholars mention that permit slander in the above cases (al-Adhkar (y102), 455-69).
Please see these links as well:
- When is Backbiting Permissible?
- Prohibitions of the Tongue for Youth: Guidelines for Protection from Harmful Speech. [Course]
- What Constitutes Slander, Backbiting and How to Avoid It?
May Allah give you the best of this world and the next.
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria, for two years, where she studied aqidah, fiqh, tajweed, tafsir, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin and completed her Master’s in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan, where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She later moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.