Is reading or watching defamatory content the same as listening to backbiting?

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by Askimam.org

 

 

I require clarification on two fatwas, and two extra questions on gheebat.

1) I seek one clarification on Fatwas 34441.

http://askimam.org/public/question_detail/34441

 

It’s really this bit:

 

“In the same analogy, avoid reading literature defaming someone. If one does read such a literature then do not accept the information and do not have negative thoughts about the person. If possible, negate the information to the best of one’s ability .”

 

Do you mean if someone read it without realising what they were reading initially they should then refuse to believe any of it, OR can you can read/view any related content that is defaming someone providing you DON’T believe then it won’t be gheebat? Normally, you’re definitive with your answers if something is haram or halal then you’ll say it, but here the answer (to me) is a bit vague or unclear.

 

2) Also, in relation to fatwa 35443.

http://askimam.org/public/question_detail/35443

 

If I simply had watched the content in this case (it’s not reading anything), but not shared it would it still be regarded as gheebat? I’m aware of your position on “watching” anything just so you know, and respect that position.

 

3) Does someone who listens to gheebat actively in any form have his good deeds put in the account of the victim or is it the main perpetratorr?

4) If one does gheebat of a non-Muslim then can their good deeds be put in the account of a non-Muslim?

 

Jazak’Allah.

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.

1.) Yes, reading defamatory content is the same as listening to backbiting. This ruling is governed by the following principle as mentioned by Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (may Allah have mercy on him): 

 

Writing an article (and likewise authoring content through another form of media) carries the the same ruling as speaking. 

 

Reading an article (and likewise consuming content through another form of media) carries the same ruling as listening to someone speak. 

 

As a result, that content which would be considered a sin (backbiting, slander, etc.) when spoken or heard will also constitute a sin when written, broadcast, read or watched. [i]

 

In addition, the author of that impermissible content will get more sin than the one who commits backbiting by speaking in a private setting. The reason is that the content authored by the former will stay in the public domain long after it has been written or broadcast which means that the author will continue to receive sin as long as people view or read that content. [ii]

 

Here, it would be pertinent to note how lax we have become, especially with the popularity of social media, by writing posts or tweets which backbite or slander others and thus fall within the ambit of authoring impermissible content as mentioned above. The more such posts and tweets are read the more sin the author will incur. May Allah protect us. Ameen.

 

To summarize, one should not read an article which appears to backbite an individual as this will be the same as listening to someone backbiting. 

 

If by error, the reader was not aware of the impermissibility of the content, then he should stop the second he notices it and negate that information. Headlines and titles easily allow the reader to gauge what the general content of the article is about and thus avoid impermissible content. 

 

The ruling of reading general-subject newspapers that contain both beneficial and harmful content (such as articles that involve backbiting or slandering someone, etc) will depend on the person reading them.

 

Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (may Allah have mercy on him) in Imdad al-Fatawa has stated that if a person is able to avoid the harms and detriments [mafasid] contained in such newspapers, then it is permissible for him to read the beneficial content.

 

However, that person who is not able to do so (he will read both the beneficial and the harmful content), for him it is more important to save himself from these evils (and thus avoid falling in sin), than gain that beneficial information. [iii]  

 

2.) Yes, as mentioned in #1 above, this will also constitute as gheebah.

 

3.) The one listening to gheebah is also guilty of sin of because he is a partner in that sin.

 

4.) Backbiting non-Muslims is also not permissible just as it is not permissible to backbite Muslims. [iv]  

 

And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best 

Mufti Sohail ibn Arif,
Assistant Mufti, Darul Iftaa
Chicago, USA

Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.

 

صحافت أور أسكي شرعي حدود، ص. ٥٤ إدارة إسلاميات [i]

امداد الفتاوى، ٤/ ١٦١ [ii]

المرجع السابق، ٤/ ١٦٠ [iii]

قوله الغيبة أن تصف أخاك) أي المسلم ولو ميتا وكذا الذمي لأن له مالنا وعليه ما علينا، وقدم المصنف) [iv]

 في فصل  المستأمن أنه بعد مكثه عندنا سنة، ووضع الجزية عليه كف الأذى عنه وتحرم غيبته كالمسلم، وظاهره أنه لا غيبة للحربي 

 رد المحتار، ٦/ ٤١٠ 

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