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How Do We Reconcile With Someone Whom We Backbit?

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by Seekersguidance.org
Question: Do we have to tell someone if we have backbit about them? Can we just pray for them? Also, can we pray collectively about those who we backbit about without mentioning their name? Also, if we backbit about a non-muslim, and we cannot tell them, can we pray for their hidayah? If we tell them, then there is much fear of hurting them.
Answer: 
In the Name of Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate,
I hope you are doing well, insha’Allah. Thank you for the question.
Process

Tawba from backbiting is a process.  It entails:

·        desisting from backbiting
·        resolving not to backbite again
·        expressing remorse
·        seeking Allah’s forgiveness for yourself and the victim of your backbiting

Scholars differ as to whether the backbiter must seek pardon from the victim. Some opine that it is not stipulated as informing him might cause greater distress and anguish. The expiation would then be for the backbiter to praise the person in the very same gatherings in which he backbit him. In addition, the backbiter should stop others from backbiting the victim to the best of his ability. [Tafsir Ibn-Kathir]

According to the Shafi’i school of thought, if the backbiting did not reach the ears of the person, it would suffice him to be remorseful and seek forgiveness for the person as per the detail provided above.

However, if the backbiting has reached the person, then ibra (exoneration) will not be valid unless the details are disclosed to the person. This is because a person may forgive certain things to exclusion of others. [Mughni al-Muhtaj, Nihaya al-Muhtaj]

Backbiting a Non-Muslim

As for backbiting against a non-Muslim, Shabralmillisi has the following to say, “The more correct view is that he (the backbiter) prays a prayer of forgiveness for him other than forgiveness of shirk (associating partners unto Allah) or for an increase in his wealth, etc. whilst expressing remorse.” (Hashiya al-Shabramillisi) Moreover, as per your suggestion in the question, the best prayer for a non-Muslim is that of guidance.

Furthermore, a collective prayer for those whom we backbit would not suffice.

Conclusion

The expiation requirements for backbiting are telling of its severity. It should serve as a deterrent from this major sin. The devastating impacts of backbiting on the familial and social fabric of our Muslim community cannot be overstated. May Allah grant us the tawfiq (knowledge and practice) to follow through on His commandments and desist from His prohibitions.

[Shaykh] Muhammad Carr
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

This answer was collected from Seekersguidance.org. It’s an online learning platform overseen by Sheikh Faraz Rabbani. All courses are free. They also have in-person classes in Canada.

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