What Constitutes Slander, Backbiting and How to Avoid It?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalamu Alaikum

I have recently been trying to attain more self-control in my everyday life, by holding back from doubtful things in speech and action. I am finding this challenging because I do not have an exact understanding of what backbiting, slandering entails. Do you have any advice?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

I pray that you are well, insha’Allah.

Masha’Allah, may Allah Most High grant you success in your desire to behave in a manner pleasing to Him.

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should say the good or remain silent.” [Bukhari]

The general rule is that you can talk about others insofar that the conversation is generic and not indicative of any derision against them, such as “so and so went to the park yesterday,” yet not that which is revealing of a sin, “so and so was in the pub again last night,” nor mere complaint or mockery of them, “so and so is an imbecile.”

Nawawi, for instance, writes, “Slander (ghiba) means to mention anything concerning a person that he would dislike, whether about his body, religion, everyday life, self, disposition, property, son, father, wife, servant, turban, garment, gait, movements, smiling, dissoluteness, frowning, cheerfulness, or anything else connected with him.”

The way of safety, thus, is clear. Otherwise, take things step by step, asking Allah Most High for His Good Pleasure, and then if you feel yourself slipping or you actually slip up, seek His Forgiveness, dust yourself down and proceed forth on your journey. If things are unclear, seek some clarification.

[Keller, Reliance of the Traveller (r2.0)]

I’d highly recommend taking the following two free courses at SeekersGuidance: (1) Fiqh of Life: The Everyday Halal and Haram and: (2) The Sunna of Speech: Prohibitions of the Tongue

Please also see: Backbiting (Ghiba) and Seeking Counsel and: What To Do When you Hear Slander and Backbiting and: How To Repent From Gossiping and: A Reader on Tawba- Repentance

And Allah Most High alone knows best.


[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Tabraze Azam holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Leicester, where he also served as the President of the Islamic Society. He memorised the entire Qur’an in his hometown of Ipswich at the tender age of sixteen, and has since studied the Islamic Sciences in traditional settings in the UK, Jordan and Turkey. He is currently pursuing advanced studies in Jordan, where he is presently based with his family.