Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Assalam ‘aleykum.
Is it permissible to backbite someone when your interlocutor has no way to discover the identity of this person?
I have said bad things about my teacher to a friend who doesn’t know his name but who is able to look it up.
Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray that this message finds you well, insha’Allah.
Backbiting is mentioning another person with something they would dislike. And it is decisively established to be impermissible in the Qur’an itself.
Allah Most High says, “Do not spy on one another or speak ill of people behind their backs: would any of you like to eat the flesh of your dead brother? No, you would hate it. So be mindful of God: God is ever relenting, most merciful. ” [49.12]
Accordingly, if what you said was left general such that the specific person could not be identified, this would not be backbiting. Otherwise, it would appear to fall under the interdiction.
By saying “my teacher is such and such,” the person has been specified even if their name wasn’t used, and specification is precisely what makes such comments impermissible.
Safety lies in holding the tongue. 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]
And Allah alone knows best.
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani