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What Is Considered Slander?

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch

Question: What is considered slander?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, The Most Merciful and Compassionate

Slander is to mention something false about someone and is strictly prohibited.

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Do you know what backbiting is?” They said, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He said, “To mention your brother in a way that he dislikes.” It was said, “What if what I said about my brother is true?” He said, “If he is as you’ve said, then you have backbitten him. If it is not true what you said, you have slandered him.” [Muslim]

Argumentation

Even though what you said is not slander, it is best to leave argumentation. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever leaves dispute, while they are incorrect, a house will be built for them in the outskirts of Paradise. And whoever abandons it, while they are correct, a house will be built for them in the center of Paradise, and whoever’s character is made beautiful, one will be built for them in the highest part (of Paradise). [Tirmidhi]

May Allah bless us all with beautiful character

Allahu A’alam

[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a graduate from Tarim; student of Habib Umar and other luminaries; and authorized teachers of Qur’an and the Islamic sciences.

What is the Etiquette in Warning Others from Slandering?

Shaykh Farid Dingle outlines the approach and etiquette that one should adopt when advising others to stop slandering.

 

Question:

As-salaam alaikum,

If someone is being slandered by someone else and I defend them saying that what the person who’s slandering is saying is wrong by way of insulting the words that they used to refer to the person slandered. Does that mean I slandered that person by insulting what they said?

 

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Dear questioner,

An even keel

The believer sees the world and other people from a certain vista that prevents him from lowering his standards to harsh words or insults.

Allah Most High has described his slaves:

‘And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk lightly upon the earth, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say, ‘Peace!’ ‘ [25: 63]

And the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, ‘The believer  neither curses, nor backstabs, nor is he immoral in words, nor foul.’ [Tirmidhi and Hakim]

In light of this, the believer does not respond in an insulting, demeaning, or pontifical way to anyone, be they on the right or wrong. The believers hatred to directly solely to the actions or words that are being done or said, no the person who is saying or doing them.

The case at hand

If one were to hear, for example, some say, ‘Zayd is an idiot.’ and then you defended him by saying, for example, ‘No, you are the idiot,’ that would be verbal abuse and it would not be halal. If you were to say, ‘These are stupid words,’ or ‘That is a stupid thing to say,’ you are attacking the action (the initial insult), and what you are saying is true.

If what you said was clearly condescending or vulgar, then it would be a different kettle of fish.

I pray this helps,
Farid

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Imam al-Ghazali on Guarding the Tongue

Shaykh Walead Mosaad presents Imam al-Ghazali’s thoughts on guarding the tongue to protect the heart from nonsense and make room for dhikr of Allah.

Imam al-Ghazali puts a particular emphasis on the importance of guarding one’s tongue and that the tongue is indeed like a double-edged sword. It can do much good but it can also do much harm. There are two major things we need to know about what we say.

    1. 1. What we say is significant, it’s not insignificant.

 

    2. It has an effect.

It affects other people who are in earshot of it. It can affect people who may not even be in earshot of it, by hearsay. Someone might say, “Well, I heard NN say this and this about you.” And if you actually said that or you disseminated that, then it does have the potential to do a lot of damage.

Speech Is Not Just Verbal

While the pre-modern books such as the Ihya are talking about things we actually say, that we pronounce [verbally], obviously, that extends to any which way we may communicate. That includes not just what we say, but what we write, what we tweet, what we disseminate. Even what we retweet. What we propagate. We may not have said it, we may not have originated it, but if we contribute to its dissemination, then we have a role in whatever they said or what is retweeted in affecting other people. It’s significant.

How often have people’s reputations been completely maligned, if not destroyed, based upon something that happened on the social media, or something along the lines of the Internet? This is particularly important because as some of our ulama have stated, there’s this type of call you out, gotcha, culture that we have going on. Many people assume that somehow that’s supported by our Islamic principles. That if someone makes a grievous error, then we need to name and shame.

If they’re caught on camera doing something or saying something or maligning someone or even saying something that’s racist or abusive to other people, and we catch them on camera, then there’s this automatic assumption: name and shame. Let’s make these people famous. Let’s put them out on the Internet. Let’s get their photo everywhere, so everybody knows who they are.

When I see stuff like that, my next question is, and then what? Now we know who they are. Now what? Are we supposed to completely erase them from humanity, because they said something under their breath, even if it was to one of our Muslim sisters that was offensive? Does that fit the offense? Can they be completely maligned and destroyed, and lose their job, and publicly humiliated?

It’s a very powerful tool, especially now when we have access to these tools that – depending on how many followers someone may have or other people may have – within a matter of minutes something can exponentially be spread to all parts of the globe. That power, and it is powerful, wasn’t there ten years ago, let alone 20 and 30 and 40 and and 50 years ago.

The Book and the Wisdom

I think it behooves us to be even even more careful. To heed the words of our Imams, of our ulama, like Imam al-Ghazali and others, who pondered these issues and studied the Qur’an and Sunna very closely. They arrived at this articulation of the hikma, the wisdom. And the Qur’an refers to the Sunna itself as hikma, as wisdom. Everything about our Sunna is wise. Everything about what the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, did – the way he acted, his mannerisms, the way he treated people. There was a wisdom about it. Nothing was done in vain. Nothing was haphazard.

One of the Sahaba asked him, “Are we taken to task by what we say?” You read the hadith and it is as if he’s surprised. Is that like a big deal? The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, replies back very emphatically: “Are people not dragged on their noses [or on their faces] to Hellfire as a result of what their tongues harvest?” In other words, it does have an effect. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, talked about the night of ascension where he saw some of the types of punishment people go through. Among them were the people who backbite, who slander. They will have punishments that reflect what they did in the dunya.

Think of the dunya the life that we live now. It’s representative of something that is more figurative and metaphoric. When we get to the Akhira, those things that are metaphoric will now be literal. The one who slanders will, literally, be carrying the weight of his tongue. It will become huge and he’ll have to carry it on his back like a satchel or a burdensome thing. Why? Because that’s exactly what happened in the dunya.

Speak Only of What Concerns You

Sura al-Hujurat 49:12 gives us a very physical description of the person who backbites. “Would you like to eat the dead flesh of your brother?” One of the hadith mentions that there were two women who were fasting and they started backbiting people and they became very ill. Then they regurgitated, they threw up, and the hadith says that meat and bones and blood came out. And the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “These two were backbiting.” It became literalized within them, because that’s how ugly it is in the eyes Allah, Exalted and Most High.

Imam al-Ghazali goes in an order of least worst to the worst. From the one that is it’s bad but not really bad to the last thing he talks about; the one that’s really bad. He says, “The first one is to speak about those things that do not concern you.” We know the hadith. “From the good Islam, the good din, of the person – the woman or the man – is to leave that which does not concern one.”

The question will be, “What is it that concerns me then?” Well, the Sunna makes tafsir of the Qur’an, and the Qur’an makes tafsir of the Sunna. So when the verse says, “There is no good in their private conversations (najwa),” talking about the Quraysh, “except for three things: to enjoin to charity or something that is good or to rectify between two people or two parties; ” (Sura al-Nisa 4:114) This is good speech. These are examples of things that would concern us. It means that pretty much everything else is going to fall at least in the category of not concerning us.

Giving Yourself a Break

Obviously, there is the other concept also. What we call istijmam (recreation), which is like tarwih (relief). You do need to go to less serious times in order to have aid and help for your more serious times. We are human beings. We can’t be very on 24/7. We’re not angels in that regard.

Some of the Sahaba complained to the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. They said, and I paraphrase, “You know, when we’re with you we find that we are on, but when we go back to our families and our homes and so forth it’s not the same thing. Is this a sign of nifaq (hypocrisy)?” – Even Umar ibn al-Khattab and Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, Allah be pleased with them, were part of this conversation. – The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “No. If you were to do that, then, the Angels would have greeted you in the streets as you walk, but some time for this and some time for that.”

So there is a halal type of taking a break, istijmam, and things like this. But we have to be careful that that thing of itself doesn’t lead us to falling into something that would be blameworthy, something that would be either makruh, disliked, reprehensible, or haram. People want to take a break and watch a little bit of the game, and enjoy the athleticism of the athletes. I’m not going to say that’s wrong. Athleticism and paying attention to one’s physical prowess and things like this, that is part of the din. We can’t deny that. If you’re not healthy physically, it’s going to be very difficult for you to be healthy spiritually. They go hand in hand.

At the same time we should recognize that it’s very easy to fall into a cycle where these things dominate our thoughts and our attention and our time. It’s about indibat. It’s about trying to do it in a way so that we’re not falling into a place where we lose sight of what’s important.

Excessive Speech

So fudul al-kalam, it’s about leaving that which is doesn’t concern one. It’s better to err on the side of caution. The Sahaba used to count the number of words they would say in the day. I’ll bring up social media again because social media makes you feel like whatever you have to say is important. It also makes you feel like “I need to have an opinion about this thing.” If you see other people putting their opinions, “Well, I have more followers than them I should have an opinion too. I should be getting those likes and comments as well, because I have to say when I need to say and so forth.

We have to be very, very careful with that impulse and recognize it as a nafsani impulse. It’s an impulse of the nafs. It’s an impulse of the ego. It’s not something that the din is going to exhort you to. The din will tell you that you have good counsel for the people, no matter where it comes from. It doesn’t have to be you, and actually, preferably, it shouldn’t be you. I prefer it not to be me. I prefer that it be someone else who can do a better job than I can.

Imam al-Ghazali is strict in that sense. He’ll say, “Where you went on your trip and who you saw and what you did and how much you pay for the onions at the market are all things that are in the category of not that important.” Obviously, he’s addressing people who are not from the awwam. He’s addressing people who have made a commitment to living a life dedicated to the prophetic principles and ideals.

If that’s what you want to do, then what it’s saying is, if you’re going to go that route, then go all in. Do it the right way. Don’t just focus on the ritual aspects of the din: the number of prayers and number of days that you fast and things like this, and then neglect what really is the important underpinning of the whole thing altogether, which is to avoid those things that the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, avoided. Avoid the haram and embody the character of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him.

What Distinguishes the Awliya

How many of the people who can boast of their ritual prayers, how many prayers they’ve done, how many days they’ve fasted, how much money they give to sadaqa. Then this comes emblematic of the din. It’s an aspect of the din, even pillars of the din, but it doesn’t mean that that’s the measure of where one is with one’s relationship with Allah Most High. Especially if you want to have a committed, dedicated, principled way about living your life. These are the things one has to be aware of. These are the things that separate the people who are true awliya and then those who just make claims.

Another thing is talk that is a trivial or repetitive of something that’s not important. Sometimes people just speak so that they can bring people’s attention to themselves. They’re looking for people’s attention. This is called fudul al-kalam. Remember these are in increasing order, so these are the two least bad ones. As we go to the three, four, five, six, all 20 of them, they get worse and worse.

The third one is to talk about things that are actually haram to be doing. Haram to do, but then you go speak about them. You talk about some illicit type of gathering that took place. “I couldn’t believe I saw that roulette wheel on TV, and look at how much money that guy made from a slot machine, and wow, that’s interesting. Look at that drunk person and how much of a fool he made out of himself,” and things like this.

That’s talking even in a condemning way. To talk about it in a praiseworthy way is even worse. I would also include in this, the mushahadat, the things that we see, that we look at, that also depict things that are haram. They should also be avoided. There’s a general principle: “Everything that is not permissible to speak about, it’s also not permissible to look at or to engage with. The images that enter us, we think that are innocuous and don’t have a long-term effect, they do have an effect. They stay with you. Especially images, pictures, or video, because any type of simple reminder will have you recollect them, as long as they’re imprinted on your heart.

Free Up Your Memory

Ibn Ata’illah al-Sakandari says, “How are you going to reach a greater understanding of the divine, Allah Most High, and the pictures of the forms are imprinted on your heart?” They occupy your thoughts. Your subconscious works continuously and your subconscious can work for you or against you. You may not be actively watching that last movie or listening to that last pop song or rock song but your subconscious may be busy with it. And when your subconscious is busy with it that means it’s not busy with other things.

One of the things about creative people is that even when they’re not actively doing something creative their subconscious is helping them do that creative thing. That’s why ideas come to them sort of spontaneously, but they’re not really that spontaneous, because in the background you were working on it to begin with. If we’re going to use an example of software: you have an app running in the background. Your subconscious is kind of like that app. It’s running in the background. If you have too many other apps open that are nonsense, then they’re taking up all of your computer power, your RAM, your memory, and as a result the thing that’s in active mode doesn’t run that well.

The app that you’re on right now which is you as well as the things that you’re doing. I would venture to say that this is one of the the secrets of dhikr, of the remembrance of Allah Most High. It is one of the reasons why the ulama say that it’s better to do dhikr and with no hudur, no presence of mind, than to avoid dhikr. It’s obviously better to have dhikr and have hudur or presence of mind and heart, but that doesn’t preclude you from doing dhikr even without that, because that has a benefit as well.

Even when only the tongue is working it’s at least getting you on a spiritual level, so that even when you’re not doing the dhikr actively with your tasbih or reading the Qur’an, it begins to get imprinted upon the conscious of your spirit. Then it’s working for you even when you’re not actively doing it. And the adverse is true. When you’re working with nonsense things, those things are also working against you even when you are not actively doing them.

Increasing Presence with Allah

That’s why when people ask, “How do I have more presence of mind and heart in the prayer? I just get in the prayer and I’m just busy and I can’t focus and I can’t concentrate.” The problem is not your prayer, the problem is what you’re doing outside of the prayer. When you begin to have hudur or presence outside of the prayer, then you have presence inside of the prayer, because they feed off one another.

That is why in the hadith of Bukhari, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, mentioned that “If the prayer time is upon us and the food is ready at the same time, then begin with the food.” Why begin with the food? Because that is what’s keeping you busy. You’ll be not focused in your prayer. So when you go into the prayer and you’re not focused on the food, you’ve at least removed the busyness and the lack of focus at least with the food.

During Ramadan for example ,also a hadith of Bukhari, the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, would single out a particular space in the Rawda, in his masjid, and pray in that space consistently, because it helps one focus better. All the things that would lend us to focus more not just in the prayer but outside of the prayer, if it leads us to a greater focus, then that thing becomes meritorious in and of itself.

Imam Malik is reported to have said, “If I knew that sitting on a pile of trash would bring my heart closer to Allah, then I would do it.” Because the point is to bring you closer to Allah Most High. That’s the whole idea. Sometimes a sin brings you closer to Allah. Ibn Ata’illah al-Sakandari said, “Perhaps a sin that breeds within you, that engenders within you humility and a sense of poverty towards Allah Most High, a sense of a need of Allah Most High, is better than obedient acts that breed within you arrogance and haughtiness.” If it makes you arrogant and it makes you feel like you’re better than everybody else, and that you have a degree over others. If that’s what your ‘ibada is doing for you, it’s having the opposite effect.

Humility Is the Child of Dhikr

The effect it should have is to make you more humble, to make you more agreeable with people. Not more difficult with people. More agreeable, more humble, easier to get along with. The Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said, “The closest people to me on the day of judgment will be the ones who are best in character,” the ones who get along with people very easily and people get along very easily with them “and they lower their wing for people.” He always had a smiling face. He always greeted people with a smiling face. He had that quality about him, Allah bless him and give him peace.

So, aimless disputatious and arguing about things that may in and of themselves be haram to argue about and discuss. These would be discussion many people have about political realities or political situations and things like this, and then people have heated arguments. It happens in Ramadan so much too, because our routines are upended a little bit and we see each other more often and so there’s more of a opportunity for people to start talking about things like that. That has a you know a damaging effect on the heart. You come away with conversations like that and you feel constricted.

Obviously, it takes two people to to engage in it. What do you do when somebody is talking about things like that? How do you disengage? Either you try to change the topic or you could say, “You know what? I rather talk about something else.” Sometimes you just have to walk away, but exhaust the other possibilities first. Do it in a nice way, but if that doesn’t work … at the end of the day we’re all responsible for ourselves.

 


Calumny and the Prophetic Response

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat details the evils of calumny and how to respond.

I want to know what Shari‘a says of a women who falsely accuses husband of impotence and rejects all medical evidence. Not only that, she has spread word about the impotence of the husband throughout the community, thereby bringing him into disrepute.

I pray you are well.

Calumny

What you are describing is calumny (buhtan). It is a serious sin. Sins against oneself are bad – but sins against others are much worse.

The Messenger of Allah said, “Five particular sins have no expiation: Worshipping another besides Allah (this can be extended to disbelief in general), unjustly killing a person, calumny against a believer, fleeing from a battle, and a false oath causing a believer to lose his property.” (Ahmad).

What is understood from the hadith is that good deeds, Ramadan, etc., usually expiate and remove sins from a believer – even if he does not repent from them. These sins, however, are not expiated automatically. Whoever commits them must repent from them specifically, otherwise he will have to answer for them on the Day of Judgement.

The Prophetic Response

The best thing you can do is to respond as the noble Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, did, with patience and forgiveness.

Abu Hurayra narrated that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace said, “No wealth has ever been diminished by charity; and Allah has never raised a servant due to his pardoning [those who wrong him] except in honor; and whoever humbles himself for the sake of Allah – Allah raises him.” (Bukhari). These are tried and tested truths – do your best to follow this advice.

You are not, however, expected to be a doormat to anyone. The believer does not allow people to humiliate him. If there is active harm coming your way from people you can do what you need to prevent it, and preserve your reputation. But beware of going to excesses in your response. We are human, and emotionally charged situations can take people there.

Get out of harm’s way, and keep forgiving internally to please Allah; and whatever happens externally will go in your favor – that I guarantee you.

May Allah inspire us to adopt the prophetic response in all situations.

Abdul-Rahim

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Just Forgiving–Shaykh Abdul Rahim Reasat

Forgiving someone is perhaps one of the most difficult virtues we are called upon to practice. Shaykh Abdul Rahim Reasat discusses the theme of forgiveness in the life of the Prophets, as well as the Companions.

We all are wounded at some time or another. Some wounds afflict the flesh, sapping our strength and affecting our ability to function as we did before. Usually, the skilled hand of medicine can mend these wounds.

Others, however, are deeper. They cannot be nursed, bandaged or even seen by those around us; yet their pain is just as keenly felt, if not more. Sometimes it is a harsh sentence from a loved one; or the betrayal of a friend; or unfair treatment from others. Whether real or perceived, these wounds are a part of life felt by everyone – even the elite of the Messengers, those of great resolve (Uluʾl-ʿAzm): Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa, ʿIsa and Muhammad (Allah bless them and grant them peace).

The followers of Musa frequently said hurtful things about him, despite all that he had endured and done for them, which made it all the more painful. The Qurʿan tells us his pained response to them, ‘My people! Why do you keep offending me when you know that I am the Messenger of Allah [sent] to you?’ (61:5).

When wrongfully accused of being unfair, the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) consoled himself with the knowledge that people have treated other Messengers like this before him. He said, ‘May Allah be kind Musa; he was insulted with worse than this and was patient’ (Bukhari).

The Example of Abu Bakr

If this is the case, then how are we – as believers – to treat those who wrong us and cause us pain? What kind of response should we demand from ourselves? But, more importantly, how can we transform what hurts us into what heals us?

To answer these questions, let us look at a significant event in the life of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace): the false accusation of infidelity which was levelled against his wife ‘Aʾisha, the daughter of Abu Bakr. In this incident and the verses revealed regarding it, are a multitude of lessons for us all, as well as foundational principles for a healthy society. It behoves every believer to study it detail.

In short, ʿAʾisha was accidentally left behind when the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and a group of his followers we returning from a military campaign. She waited where they had camped the night before only to be noticed by Safwan b. al-Muʿattal, a young, righteous man of Quraysh, whose job was to pick up any items the army may have left behind. Upon seeing her he said nothing more than ‘We belong to Allah, and we are to Him returning’ expressing that he realised that the whole scenario was a test from Allah. He then gestured to ʿAʾisha to mount his camel and, without a word or a backwards glance, led her to where the rest of the army had next set up camp.

ʿAbdullah b. Ubayy, the chief of the hypocrites, wasted no time in spreading false rumours about the two; and unfortunately, several of the good believers, in moments of weakness, got caught up in the matter: Hassan b. Thabit, Hamna bint Jahsh, and Mistaḥ b. Uthatha all spread the vicious rumours. They circulated around Medina, causing a great deal of trouble amongst the Muslims for a month until Allah revealed verses exonerating ʿAʾisha. The latter three repented, and were given the punishment for falsely accusing a chaste woman. Ibn Ubayy was not punished because Allah had promised a terrible punishment for him in the Afterlife.

Our focus here, however, shall be on Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, the foremost of this umma, and the father of ʿAʾisha. His virtues and rank in Islam are unrivalled by anyone who is not a prophet, and his close relationship to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) is known to all. He was also the cousin of Mistah b. Uthatha, who, incidentally, was also related to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace).

Let us now imagine what Abu Bakr and his family must have endured during this time. The pain this rumour brought on them must have been immense. As must have been the pain he felt on behalf of his daughter and the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) due to his immense love for them. When ʿAʾisha learned of the accusations he expressed that his family had never been accused of such a thing in the jahiliyya, so how was it possible that they do such a thing after having been honoured with Islam?

Not knowing the facts with certainty for over a month must also have taken its toll on him. In fact, as the verses were being revealed, ʿAʾisha – unfazed due to being her being certain of her innocence – noticed fear on the faces of her parents, lest the rumours be proved true.

It is difficult to imagine the full impact of these rumours on Abu Bakr given his social and religious standing, righteousness, great love for ʿAʾisha, and close relationship with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace). However, what is clear is that he must have felt betrayed, and a great deal of anger towards Mistah. Mistah was a close relative – and not only that – but Abu Bakr had been financially supporting him since they left Mecca due to Mistah’s poverty.

Before progressing, it is important to realise that events which hurt us  are always beneficial for us in the long term. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, ‘No Muslim experiences any  tiredness, illness, worry, grief, offence, depression – not even being pricked by a thorn – except that Allah wipes out some of his sins [because of it]’ (Bukhari). Everything benefits the believer. The intelligent believers seek to maximise this benefit.

How Abu Bakr Was Called to Forgive

Abu Bakr did not respond by directing any verbal or physical aggression towards Mistah – which speaks volumes about his virtue and the supreme standard of conduct he imbibed from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) over the years. But, due to the pain caused to him by Mistah, he vowed that he would never give Mistah any more money after that day. This is a very understandable and human response; it embodies the restraint he showed due to the impact of religion on his life, and that he deeply felt the pain of this incident – something which makes his overall reaction even more amazing.

Allah, however, wanted to call him – and by extension, us – to an even higher standard of conduct. He revealed a verse addressing Abu Bakr primarily, but we are more in need of its instructions than he was.

‘Those of great religious virtues and wealth from amongst you should not swear that they will not give [anything] to close relatives, nor the destitute, nor to those who have emigrated for the sake of Allah. So pardon fully and overlook out of kindness. Do you not greatly desire that Allah forgives you? And Allah is All-Forgiving, Ever-Kind’ (24:22).

First, the verse clearly established the great virtues of Abu Bakr, which is a way of praising him, appealing to those praiseworthy qualities, and preparing him for another great quality he can add to these virtues. We should take this as in invitation for us to take on this noble quality too, as we are in much more need of virtues than Abu Bakr.

Next, Allah reminded Abu Bakr of the wealth that he had, which he spent on Mistah. In this is a reminder to us that all that we have is a gift from Allah, and that any favours we do to others are purely from the favour of Allah upon us.

Also, if those who we have been kind to do something to hurt us, then we should think of our sins in the face of the uncountable favours of Allah. Realising this means that we should go out of our way to embody the kindness Allah shows us despite our sins when dealing with those who have hurt us.

Allah then used a very interesting rhetorical device in the verse: He mentioned three qualities of Mistah – being a close relative, being poor, and being someone who left his home, wealth and property, to emigrate to Medina for the sake of Allah. Allah separated each of them with  the conjuction ‘wa’. The effect of this is that we are made to think that there are three individuals being discussed – not one. This a common usage in the Qurʾan, and its purpose here is to highlight each quality as being important enough to make Mistah deserving of the financial support he was getting.

His being related to Abu Bakr meant that Abu Bakr should take care of him for the sake of Allah, and the ties that bind them. In fact, those closest to us can usually cause the deepest pain, as was the case here, but that pain does not end the relationship.

His poverty made him deserving of financial aid because Allah has distributed His blessings amongst His servant so those who have more can give to those who have less. Helping the poor should not be seen as a favour to them; rather, it should be seen as means of thanking Allah for what we have been given.

Emigrating from Mecca to Medina was a great act Mistah did for the sake of Allah, and consequently, Allah praised him by mentioning it, and deemed him worthy of receiving continued financial support from Abu Bakr for it. Leaving one’s home, loved ones, friends, and comforts for the sake of Allah is a difficult experience, and usually riddled with tests and trials. In this is a reminder to us that we should never forget the good others have done, whether it is to us, or in general.

The verse then calls to two monumental character traits: ʿAfuw and Ṣafḥ. The former has a meaning of covering up and looking away from something which is usually given a lot of focus. Khalil b. Ahmad al-Farahidi, the great polymath, genius and authoritative scholar of Arabic, said the word implies not punishing someone who deserves punishment.

How Do We Forgive?

This is significant because the Qurʾan does not call us to put ourselves in the life of fire from someone who is actively trying to harm us. Rather, we learned from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) that ‘the believer is not bitten [by an animal] from the same hole twice’ (Bukhari). Practical steps to ensure one’s safety should be taken.

However, this does not mean that one should fixate on the harm others cause us as this usually makes the pain worse and longer lasting. Pardoning someone despite their wrongs is beneficial to one’s mind, body, and soul. Fixating on wound makes one angry, resentful and mistrusting of others. The constant dwelling triggers the body’s fight or flight response, exposing oneself to more stress and illness in the long term. It also prevents one from being a kind, forgiving person who wishes well for all of humanity – which is central to good character and the sunna of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace).

The latter trait discussed is ṣafḥ, which has a sense of turning oneself from something so one’s side faces it, and not focusing on the cause of pain. Some Qurʾanic philologists have suggested that this implies an underlying sense of kindness which would be the motive of such an act.

The verse then focuses on a very strong motive indeed: self preservation. It asks ‘do you not greatly desire that Allah forgives you?’ We are told to respond to the offences we receive from others in the way we wish Allah to respond to our crimes: forgiveness. There is a great dichotomy in not forgiving the servants of Allah, yet wishing for Him to forgive our sins.

Rather, what is implied in the verse is that forgiving – just forgiving – is a means to being forgiven by Allah. The verse ends with a strong, emphatic statement which can only be understood as a promise of forgiveness and more favours from Allah to those who forgive others: ‘And Allah is All-Forgiving (Ghafur); Ever-Kind (Rahim).’

The word gha-fa-ra – the root of the name al-Ghafur – has a sense of forgiving something that deserves punishment. Coupled with it is a nuance that implies Allah’s hiding one’s faults from others, and protecting one. The name al-Ghafur has a sense that no matter how great the amount of sins one has, nor their severity, Allah is prepared to forgive them.

The name al-Rahim comes from a root which implies a strong, inherent desire to do good to others and to be kind to them, and the name itself suggests that Allah is eternally like this. Exegetes of the Qurʾan mention that coupling these two names together means that Allah not only forgives criminals, but He then goes on to shower His gifts on them too. If that is the case with criminals, how will He be towards the righteous such as Abu Bakr.

Upon hearing this verse Abu Bakr exclaimed, ‘Of course; I do greatly desire that Allah forgives me!’. Thereafter, he not only forgave Mistah, but he actually doubled the amount of money he regularly gave him, and thereby embodying the meanings of the two names too.

All that remains is for us to to ask ourselves how we will respond to those who have hurt us…


Shaykh Abdul Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. He moved to Damascus in 2007 to study and sit at the feet of some of the most erudite scholars of our time, such as Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh Abdurrahman Arjan, Shaykh Hussain Darwish and Shaykh Muhammad Darwish.
In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies in Fiqh, Usul al Fiqh, Theology, Hadith Methodology and Commentary, Shama’il, and Logic with teachers such as Dr Ashraf Muneeb, Dr Salah Abu’l Hajj, Dr Hamza al-Bakri, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Dr Mansur Abu Zina amongst others. He was also given two licences of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabr and Shaykh Yahya Qandil.

His true passion, however, arose in the presence of Shaykh Ali Hani, considered by many to be one of the foremost tafsir scholars of our time who provided him with the keys to the vast knowledge of the Quran. With Shaykh Ali, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic Sciences, Tafsir, Arabic Grammar, and Rhetoric.

When he finally left Jordan for the UK in 2014, Shaykh Ali gave him his distinct blessing and still recommends students in the UK to seek out Shaykh Abdul Rahim for Quranic studies. Since his return he has trained as a therapist and has helped a number of people overcome emotional and psychosomatic issues. He is a keen promoter of emotional and mental health.


Resources for Seekers

Day 7: Stop Gossip-30 Deeds 30 Days

Day 7: Stop All Gossip

The tongue can kill or heal, build or destroy. A physical scar heals faster than the scarring from harsh words. In the Quran, we are promised spiritual success -and also material success-if we speak well and are conscious of Allah. We also hear hadiths that say that a good  Muslim leaves what doesn’t concern them.

This Ramadan, stay alert during iftar gatherings and while browsing social media. Watch yourself and make sure that you don’t engage in anything hurtful, degrading, or pointless. If someone comes out, try to change the subject, or kindly advise them if you’re sure you can do it in a beneficial way. It’s harder than it sounds, but the effects are better than they sound.


Bring new life to this Ramadan by enrolling in a FREE On-Demand course.

How to Apply the Rules Regarding Backbiting and Slander in Historical Sources?

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

1. How should one view the material rights of others that were taken by one during childhood?

2. As a student of history, I often find myself confused about how to apply the rules regarding backbiting and slander in historical sources, especially after reading Sheikh Gibril Haddad’s ruling in this matter(https://islamqa.org/hanafi/qibla-hanafi/34884). Could you please clarify what is permissible and impermissible to read/write in an academic context in light of the writings of great scholars such as Ibn Battuta and Ibn Khaldun?

Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. Thank you for your questions.

May Allah reward you for seeking to make amends for past mistakes. Allah is the One who guided you to this point, so rejoice in the fact that He desires good for you and that you settle your misdeeds in this life, and not in the next life.

1. Taking others rights before and after puberty

If an item was wrongfully taken or destroyed by a pre-pubescent child, then if the child’s guardian is aware of it, then the responsibility falls on the guardian to return / repay the item, as well as teach the child correct behaviour. The cost of the item may be taken from the child’s own money if they have money.

If the item has been returned / repaid, or the owner waived the issue and forgave, then the incident is settled and no further action needs to take place.

If the item was not returned or repaid by the guardian, due to neglect or not knowing, then the onus falls on the child when they reach puberty.

We should also note that the original ruling of paying other’s rights is that of non-fulfilment. For example, if one doubts whether they paid back a debt or not, the default ruling is that they did not and the debt still stands.

In your situation then, in those situations which you are certain that the item was returned or repaid, or the owner forgave you, then you can consider them finalised.

As for those cases where you are unsure if the matter was resolved properly, or there is a chance that you have forgotten some incidents, then the obligation to return items or repay the value remains upon you.

If you can remember what you took and from who, you could either a) try to find out if you did return the item or not, or b) consider that you did not and find a way to either return the exact item or pay the value of it. You do not have to tell them the reason why you are paying them, or giving them the item.

In those case where it is impossible for you to remember what you took and from who, or if it is not possible to locate the persons, then the most you can do for now is give charity on their behalf for the value of the amount taken. If you are unsure of the exact value, then estimate and give extra. You should not seek reward from giving the money in charity, and also know that if the person turned up one day to claim their right, then you must give them it, even if you have paid the amount in charity.

In all situations, you should pray two cycles of the prayer of repentance (tawba), asking Allah to forgive you for your past mistakes. It would also be advised to give some additional charity on your own behalf as a way of atonement.

[Tuhfa al Muhtaj, ‘Iyanat al Talibin]

2. Mentioning negative traits of historical figures

We asked this question to our teacher and mufti of Tarim, Habib Ali Mashur. His answer was that if there is some benefit for the listener / reader in knowing about these historical figures and their negative traits or bad actions, then it would not be considered ghiba (backbiting).

Benefit means that one is able to learn a moral lesson from the discussion and that it helps one more fully understand the context of the topic.

It would be very difficult for a person to read any history or biography without coming across some form of personal description or discussion on the motives of an event without referring to a leading figure’s character traits. At the same, when discussing any person, historical or not, the descriptions given should only be to the extent which it is necessary to make the point being made clear, and not unnecessary or exaggerated.

The intention of the author/speaker may or may not be totally pure, but as a reader we can make our intention pure for reading the text or listening, such as making the intention to learn about history so one can understand what had taken place among people and nations, and thereby strengthen our ability to assess current situations, to learn from the mistakes of others and thereby avoid similar pitfalls, as well as relate and compare worldly events to religious teachings, thereby clearly distinguishing good from evil.

I believe it is in this context that Shaykh Gibril gave his answer.

And Allah knows best.

Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.

How to Repent From Backbiting?

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

One of my friend has hurt me. I told this to another friend. But then this friend told this to the friend who hurt me. Now I realise that I have slandered him and despite my apologies he won’t forgive me. I feel very bad.

What can I do?

Answer: Assalam ‘alaykum. Jazakum Allah for writing in. I pray you’re well insha’Allah.

The general ruling in regards slander or backbiting is that one must make sincere repentance to Allah. As for informing the person slandered, then there is some difference of opinion as to whether it is obligatory to confess to them or not.

It would be permissible to follow the opinion that one does not have to inform the person of what was said, especially if it will result in bad feelings. [Al Majmu’, Al Hamidi ala Tuhfa]

However, if the person knows what was said, then one should apologise as the damage has already been done.

Given what you have mentioned, the person already knows what you said, and you also apologised many times to them. All that remains, if you haven’t already, is to pray two cycles of Salat al Tawba. The Prayer of Repentance, and then make sincere supplication for Allah to forgive you. Once done, then you have done all you can to make amends, so consider the matter closed and a lesson learnt.

If you want to do an additional act, you can give some charity as a way as atonement for the sin.

Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.

How Should I Apologize After Backbiting Someone?

Answered by Ustadh Sharif Rosen

Question: Assalam alaykum

How should I apologize after backbiting someone? Should I tell him everything that I said behind his back?

Answer: BismilLahir Rahmanir Rahim

as-Salamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatulLah.

Thank you for this important question.

Sins like backbiting [ghiba] — whether verbalized, typed or communicated otherwise — are a grave matter and among the most common to befall us when we forget, {No word does one utter save that there is an ever-present watcher}. [50:18]

In terms of atoning for backbiting, there is scholastic disagreement on the issue. Imam al-Nawawi was among many other elite jurists in the opinion that holds that the offender must seek to be forgiven by those subjected to their ghiba [Kitab al-Adhkar, 494]. Some argued that one is also required to detail exactly what one said, or wrote, in confessing to the aggrieved party.

Alongside the preceding opinions, the ‘ulema also recognize the complexities in any given situation. Thus, the jurists stress pausing to consider the dynamics of one’s case and specifically, whether confessing one’s ghiba to those affected will aggravate or improve the relationship(s). In cases where only more damage may ensue, scholars recommend against raising the issue with the one upon whom ghiba was committed. Case in point, the Shafi’i Imam, Ibn Qasim, in his commentary on Imam al-Nawawi’s Minhaj al-Talibin, wrote:

“Regarding atonement, it is sufficient for one to have sincere remorse, seek Allah’s forgiveness and make tauba for any sins of the tongue or limbs. One should not throw off the covering that Allah has placed over one by announcing one’s disobedience. In fact, public proclamations of sin is prohibited. As applied to ghiba, the correct opinion holds that it is not obligatory that one inform those one backbit.” [Hashiya Tuhtfa al-Minhaj, 10/244]

With this authoritative perspective in hand, we should underscore the initial point made by Imam Ibn Qasim which is that irrespective of inter-personal dynamics, one is unconditionally obliged to return to Allah from such offenses, through deep repentance [tauba]. Here, I would recommend for me and others to read and apply the steps outlined in the following post on the essentials to undertake therein:

Ten Duties of Those Truly Repentant – from Imam Abu Talib al-Makki’s Qut al Qulub

In addition to working to mend previous instances of ghiba, we should be as vigilant about assuring that we hold ourselves in check moving forward. This can include ending each night with some thoughtful moments of reflection on one’s days, what one said, emailed, texted, browsed online, and so forth. Doing so will usually uncover a number of things which are afoul of the conduct befitting the beautiful Prophetic example. For that which one can recall and that which one cannot, one should make a comprehensive tauba nightly in the hopes that their heart, tongue, limbs, and register of deeds, may be cleansed anew by the grace of Allah.

May we be so blessed to be shown our shortcomings, and then given the spiritual ambition to correct them.

And Allah Most High knows best.

wa-Salam,
[Ustadh] Sharif Rosen

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Sharif Rosen is the Muslim Chaplain at Williams College (in the Northeastern United States) where he works to enhance campus life through spiritual and pastoral care; advocacy and coalition building; and deepening mutual understanding within and between communities.  His formative Islamic studies, past and ongoing, have been at the hands of scholars connected via unbroken transmission to the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings.  Most of Sharif’s training occurred in Amman, Jordan from 2008 – 2013, with a focus on creed, ritual law, spirituality, Quranic recitation and exegesis and through which he has received permission to transmit his Islamic learning.  Sharif has a B.A. in History from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and is now completing his graduate studies.  He completed the Classical Arabic program at the Qasid Arabic Institute in Amman, where he was also the Director of Student Life.  He currently serves as the Vice President for Educational Chaplaincy with the U.S.-based Association of Muslim Chaplains.

Should I Apologize for Backbiting Someone?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaykum

I have heard that one must apologize to the person if he has backbitten the latter. However I have read that for backbiting, it is not mandatory to approach that person for forgiveness if the news has not reached him. How do I reconcile between these two views?

Answer: Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah,

There is no contradiction here.

The basis is that you seek forgiveness directly from the person in question. However, and in cases of [likely] greater harm or hurt, or when the slander has not reached them, it suffices to repent without specifically seeking the person out with an apology.

Note that seeking a general pardon for any wrongdoing suffices, and you need not state what you said, and subsequently apologize, for obvious reasons.

Please also see: What is Ghiba (Slander)? and What Constitutes as Slander, Backbiting and How to Avoid It? and Slander, Backbiting and Talebearing and A Reader on Tawba (Repentance)

And Allah Most High alone knows best.

Wassalam,
[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.