Backbiting Off More Than You Can Chew
The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ has defined backbiting as “talking about your brother in a manner which he dislikes”. [Muslim]
If my understanding is correct, there is a very interesting subtlety in this statement. The Prophet ﷺ did not say that backbiting is mentioning something negative about your brother, or something that you wouldn’t like being said if it were about you. He ﷺ said that it is saying what your brother would dislike to be said about him. But that begs the question, ‘how do you know what he would dislike?’ You don’t. Yes, there are certain things we can deduce he would dislike based on societal norms, what you personally know about his sensitivities, objective negative traits dictated by the religion, etc. But what about everything else? You do not and cannot know what your brother dislikes being mentioned about him…
Prudence. We know that the words of the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ are divinely inspired and a form of revelation. Perhaps what is being implicitly reinforced here is that which is explicitly enforced elsewhere – prudence.
It is reported that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Leave that which makes you doubt for that which does not make you doubt.” [an-Nasāʾī]
May Allāh grant us prudence with regards to our tongues. Amīn.
Disclaimer: Translations are given to the nearest meaning.
By: Brother Beard