Monday, April 25, 2011

Gossip Girl

Maybe it's because I couldn't vow to lick the toilet bowl every time I did it (like a friend of mine did), but I was never able to completely kick the habit of backbiting.

Sure, a stern reminder from a teacher, speaker or scholar that backbiting (gheebah in Arabic) is like eating my dead brother's flesh often renewed my resolve to quit. But it usually only lasted until the next juicy phone call.

Recently, however, I've been roused anew after realizing that--unless I stop this vice pronto--I will most certainly be in the hole on Judgment Day.

Prophet Muhammad (S) warned: Backbiting affects a person's religion and does away with good deeds faster than fire consuming wood.

Consider: A man entered heaven and was shown his mansion, the recompense for building a mosque on earth. When he allowed that he had never done such a thing, he was told the person who built the mosque talked about him behind his back so he got his reward.

Not only do we deplete good deeds by backbiting, but we also nullify future ones. God does not accept, for example, for forty days the prayers of one who backbites.

Gheebah often lingers in our conversations because we're not sure what it all includes.

Prophet Muhammad (S) defined it simply: "Backbiting is remembering your brother in a way he dislikes."

This includes negative references (even if accurate, nonverbal or implied) to someone's physical appearance, character or even the skeletons in their closet.

"Some people say, 'Well, I can say it on his face,'" says scholar Abbas Ayleya. "Whether you have that negative courage to say the thing in the face of the person is not the point. The point is whether he would feel bad about it or not."

Repeating other people's gossip puts us in the same boat as the backbiter.

Zain-ul-Abideen, grandson of Fatima (one of the four perfect women), was told by his companion that someone was saying horrible things about him. He responded that the backbiter had shot the arrow and missed but his friend had picked it up and made sure it hit its target.  

Finally, listening to it--especially if we're egging conversations on with exclamations like "Really?!" and "AstaghfirAllah!" (I seek forgiveness from God)--is also backbiting.

Those of us well-experienced in bad-mouthing others need not quit altogether, though. God actually obligates us to reveal the wrongs of people in certain cases, such as inspiring opposition to oppressors.

Indeed, it was through the sermons of Zainab, the eloquent daughter of Fatima and survivor of the Battle of Kerbala, that people learned about the atrocities committed against the family of the Prophet (S) and turned against the rulers.

I end with this supplication of Zain-ul-Abideen:

"O God, bless Muhammad and his Household,
adorn me with the adornment of the righteous,
and clothe me in the ornaments of the God-fearing, through
...speaking the truth, though it be painful,
making little of the good in my words and my deeds, though it be much
and making much of the evil in my words and my deeds, though it be little!"


Anonymous said...

Excellent and timely because this is a reminder that is always relevant! Thank you for inspiring us to keep striving for better!

Fatima said...

very good one. I think that if we teach our kids about this, they will be used to not backbiting. By the way if I forget myself in a conversation my daughter remember me of the backbiting punishmemt from God. Thanks again.