Q: as-salamu alaykum, I was recently told that backbiting a non-Muslim wasn’t a sin. For some reason this didn’t really settle well with me. So I was wondering does the Hanbali school have an opinion on this topic? I don’t really need an extensive answer a simple one will do. JazakAllahu Khayr!
A: wa alaykum salaam. The books of Hanbali fiqh typically do not discuss such issues however numerous Hanbali scholars of the school have authored works on etiquette such as al-Adab al-Shar’iyyah by Ibn Muflih and Ibn Abd al-Qawiy’s 1000 line poem of a similar title. An abridged version was explained by both al-Hajjawi and al-Saffarini. In that work he wrote,
“Backbite, calumny, slander; forbidden
Cursing too and leaking secrets hidden
Lewdness, vulgarity, harm, and deceit
Mockery, ridicule, lying discreet!”
In those works, backbiting, in general, is considered a terrible sin with very few exceptions. All means should be exhausted to avoid backbiting others be they Muslim or of another faith unless it is justified e.g. warning others of harm, seeking counsel, etc.
Allah knows best.
Source: al-Adab al-Shar’iyyah