Speaking ill of someone in their absence

Assalamu alaikum respected Mufti,

If we speak about the incident where one has wronged us, but we don’t talk about the person in an insulting manner, would that still be backbiting?

Does it matter if we insult the person or not when we talk about the shortcomings of anyone behind his/her back?

Also, please answer this question as well; Would that be gheebah if we’re describing an incident where someone has wronged us (unless we’re doing this for seeking help)? We’re talking about his wrongdoing in that situation But we’re not talking about the person in an insulting manner?

Answer

Wa’alaykum as Salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu,

If there is a valid reason to disclose the faults of others, it will be permissible to disclose the same. Imam Nawawi (may Allah be pleased with him), has summarized the occasions when it is permissible to reveal the shortcomings of a person in the following text:

باب مَا يباح من الغيبة
اعْلَمْ أنَّ الغِيبَةَ تُبَاحُ لِغَرَضٍ صَحيحٍ شَرْعِيٍّ لا يُمْكِنُ الوُصُولُ إِلَيْهِ إِلاَّ بِهَا، وَهُوَ سِتَّةُ أسْبَابٍ:
الأَوَّلُ: التَّظَلُّمُ، فَيَجُوزُ لِلمَظْلُومِ أَنْ يَتَظَلَّمَ إِلَى السُّلْطَانِ والقَاضِي وغَيرِهِما مِمَّنْ لَهُ وِلاَيَةٌ، أَوْ قُدْرَةٌ عَلَى إنْصَافِهِ مِنْ ظَالِمِهِ، فيقول: ظَلَمَنِي فُلاَنٌ بكذا.
الثَّاني: الاسْتِعانَةُ عَلَى تَغْيِيرِ المُنْكَرِ، وَرَدِّ العَاصِي إِلَى الصَّوابِ، فيقولُ لِمَنْ يَرْجُو قُدْرَتهُ عَلَى إزالَةِ المُنْكَرِ: فُلانٌ يَعْمَلُ كَذا، فازْجُرْهُ عَنْهُ ونحو ذَلِكَ ويكونُ مَقْصُودُهُ التَّوَصُّلُ إِلَى إزالَةِ المُنْكَرِ، فَإنْ لَمْ يَقْصِدْ ذَلِكَ كَانَ حَرَامًا.

الثَّالِثُ: الاسْتِفْتَاءُ، فيقُولُ لِلمُفْتِي: ظَلَمَنِي أَبي أَوْ أخي، أَوْ زوجي، أَوْ فُلانٌ بكَذَا فَهَلْ لَهُ ذَلِكَ؟ وَمَا طَريقي في الخلاصِ مِنْهُ، وتَحْصيلِ حَقِّي، وَدَفْعِ الظُّلْمِ؟ وَنَحْو ذَلِكَ، فهذا جَائِزٌ لِلْحَاجَةِ، ولكِنَّ الأحْوطَ والأفضَلَ أَنْ يقول: مَا تقولُ في رَجُلٍ أَوْ شَخْصٍ، أَوْ زَوْجٍ، كَانَ مِنْ أمْرِهِ كذا؟ فَإنَّهُ يَحْصُلُ بِهِ الغَرَضُ مِنْ غَيرِ تَعْيينٍ، وَمَعَ ذَلِكَ، فالتَّعْيينُ جَائِزٌ كَمَا سَنَذْكُرُهُ في حَدِيثِ هِنْدٍ إنْ شَاءَ اللهُ تَعَالَى.
الرَّابعُ: تَحْذِيرُ المُسْلِمينَ مِنَ الشَّرِّ وَنَصِيحَتُهُمْ، وذَلِكَ مِنْ وُجُوهٍ:
مِنْهَا جَرْحُ المَجْرُوحينَ مِنَ الرُّواةِ والشُّهُودِ وذلكَ جَائِزٌ بإجْمَاعِ المُسْلِمينَ، بَلْ وَاجِبٌ للْحَاجَةِ.
ومنها: المُشَاوَرَةُ في مُصاهَرَةِ إنْسانٍ أو مُشاركتِهِ، أَوْ إيداعِهِ، أَوْ مُعامَلَتِهِ، أَوْ غيرِ ذَلِكَ، أَوْ مُجَاوَرَتِهِ، ويجبُ عَلَى المُشَاوَرِ أَنْ لا يُخْفِيَ حَالَهُ، بَلْ يَذْكُرُ المَسَاوِئَ الَّتي فِيهِ بِنِيَّةِ النَّصيحَةِ.
ومنها: إِذَا رأى مُتَفَقِّهًا يَتَرَدَّدُ إِلَى مُبْتَدِعٍ، أَوْ فَاسِقٍ يَأَخُذُ عَنْهُ العِلْمَ، وخَافَ أَنْ يَتَضَرَّرَ المُتَفَقِّهُ بِذَلِكَ، فَعَلَيْهِ نَصِيحَتُهُ بِبَيانِ حَالِهِ، بِشَرْطِ أَنْ يَقْصِدَ النَّصِيحَةَ، وَهَذا مِمَّا يُغلَطُ فِيهِ. وَقَدْ يَحمِلُ المُتَكَلِّمَ بِذلِكَ الحَسَدُ، وَيُلَبِّسُ الشَّيطانُ عَلَيْهِ ذَلِكَ، ويُخَيْلُ إِلَيْهِ أنَّهُ نَصِيحَةٌ فَليُتَفَطَّنْ لِذلِكَ.
وَمِنها: أَنْ يكونَ لَهُ وِلايَةٌ لا يقومُ بِهَا عَلَى وَجْهِها: إمَّا بِأنْ لا يكونَ صَالِحًا لَهَا، وإما بِأنْ يكونَ فَاسِقًا، أَوْ مُغَفَّلًا، وَنَحوَ ذَلِكَ فَيَجِبُ ذِكْرُ ذَلِكَ لِمَنْ لَهُ عَلَيْهِ ولايةٌ عامَّةٌ لِيُزيلَهُ، وَيُوَلِّيَ مَنْ يُصْلحُ، أَوْ يَعْلَمَ ذَلِكَ مِنْهُ لِيُعَامِلَهُ بِمُقْتَضَى حالِهِ، وَلاَ يَغْتَرَّ بِهِ، وأنْ يَسْعَى في أَنْ يَحُثَّهُ عَلَى الاسْتِقَامَةِ أَوْ يَسْتَبْدِلَ بِهِ.
الخامِسُ: أَنْ يَكُونَ مُجَاهِرًا بِفِسْقِهِ أَوْ بِدْعَتِهِ كالمُجَاهِرِ بِشُرْبِ الخَمْرِ، ومُصَادَرَةِ النَّاسِ، وأَخْذِ المَكْسِ ، وجِبَايَةِ الأمْوَالِ ظُلْمًا، وَتَوَلِّي الأمُورِ الباطِلَةِ، فَيَجُوزُ ذِكْرُهُ بِمَا يُجَاهِرُ بِهِ، وَيَحْرُمُ ذِكْرُهُ بِغَيْرِهِ مِنَ العُيُوبِ، إِلاَّ أَنْ يكونَ لِجَوازِهِ سَبَبٌ آخَرُ مِمَّا ذَكَرْنَاهُ.
السَّادِسُ: التعرِيفُ، فإذا كَانَ الإنْسانُ مَعْرُوفًا بِلَقَبٍ، كالأعْمَشِ، والأعرَجِ، والأَصَمِّ، والأعْمى، والأحْوَلِ، وغَيْرِهِمْ جاز تَعْرِيفُهُمْ بذلِكَ، وَيَحْرُمُ إطْلاقُهُ عَلَى جِهَةِ التَّنْقِيصِ، ولو أمكَنَ تَعْريفُهُ بِغَيرِ ذَلِكَ كَانَ أوْلَى، فهذه ستَّةُ أسبابٍ ذَكَرَهَا العُلَمَاءُ وأكثَرُها مُجْمَعٌ عَلَيْهِ،

“Know that backbiting is permissible for valid reasons which are approved by Shari`ah. There are six reasons, which are as follows:




1. Oppression;
It is permissible for an oppressed person to reveal the oppression before the leader, judge, or anyone else in a similar position of authority so that his rights can be established. (This could be done) by saying, ‘A certain person has wronged me by doing such and such to me’,

2. Seeking aid (from a third person) to change a wrong and reform the sinner;
One can say to the person who can offer such assistance, “A certain person does these type of evil actions. can you exhort him?” etc. This is permissible as long as one intends to forbid evil. If one intends something else apart from this, then this act becomes unlawful,

3. Seeking a legal ruling;
In this case, one can say to the religious scholar: “My father/ brother/wife (for example) treated me unjustly. was it correct for him to behave in that way? How can my right be established?” etc. This will be fine only if need be. Then too, it is better to use word as: `What do you think of someone who did such and such?’ Here his objective of seeking a legal ruling is attained, without disclosing the fault of another. However, (although that is better) disclosing the name is permissible,

4. Warning other Muslims of the evil of a person and advising them, This could be done in various ways:
a) Criticizing weak narrators of Hadith. There is consensus that this is permissible , and in fact compulsory,
b) If someone asks advise about marrying, going into business partnership, dealing with a certain person, moving to stay next to a particular individual etc. In this case, it is compulsory upon the advisor to not hide anything. Rather, he should disclose the evils with the intention of giving good advice,
c) If a student is attending lessons of an innovator or a sinner and taking knowledge from them, and it is feared that this will affect and harm the student, then it is necessary to expose this to the student, with the intention of giving advice. Sometimes people talk about flaws of a teacher because of jealousy, and the devil makes him think that he is doing something good (therefore, he should insure that he has the correct intention),
d) If a person appointed to do something is unable to fulfill it, or he betrays the trust, or he is neglectful,then it will be necessary to inform the person who appointed such a person, so that he can remove him and appoint someone more capable, or atleast he can learn of his actions and not be deceived by him,

5) A person openly does wrong or innovates,
Like a person drinks wine openly etc. It is permissible to mention that particular sin openly (since he himself does it in public). It is not permissible to mention other sins of this person,

6) Identifying a person,
Like if a person is known for being blear-eyed, crippled, deaf, blind etc, it is permissible to identify them as such, and not use these terms in a derogatory manner. If he can describe such a person with other terms, it would be better.
These are six occasions when scholars mention that it is permissible to talk of the wrong of another person. There is consensus on most of these points.” (Riyaadh as-Saliheen, page 436)

The above text clearly answers all your queries.

And Allaah Ta’aala knows best
Wassalaam,
Ismail Moosa (Mufti)
Iftaa Department,
Euro-Sunni & Islamic Research and Welfare Academy