Islam is a religion of real life. It doesn’t isolate itself in the Masjid (mosque) or confine its teachings to religious rituals. It is rather a religion that coheres with people’s all aspects of life. Its divine guidance rules their behavior, their dealings, their relations, their sayings and even their thoughts. And because Islam is a social religion which is meant to organize and elevate people’s life, it undertakes providing treatments for all socially undesirable behaviours such as hatred, envy, gossip, spying and backbiting. Those social illnesses have destructive effects not only on communities but on human souls as well.

In this article we try to analyze “backbiting” as one of those destructive social illnesses to find out its reasons, effects and treatment from an Islamic perspective.

Backbiting in Islam?

The Arabic term of backbiting is al-Gheebah or al-Gheebatu. It is defined as speaking ill of people behind their backs. To mention a Muslim in a manner which he/she dislikes is considered as a major sin in Islam that drives away from Allah’s mercy and leads to His severe punishment.

Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) once asked his Companions if they know what backbiting is, they said: “Allah and His Messenger know best.” Then he said: “Backbiting is talking about your Muslim brother in a way which he dislikes.” It was said to him: “What if that brother is as I say.” He said, ” If he is actually as you said, then that is backbiting; but if it is not in him, then that is slandering.”

In Quran, there is a very antipathetic depiction of backbiting which indicates the awful sin a Muslim may fall in. Those who amuse themselves with backbiting can never find it amusing when imagining themselves eating the flesh of the dead. “Believers avoid making too many assumptions– some assumptions are sinful– and do not spy on one another or speak ill of people behind their backs: would any of you like to eat the flesh of your dead brother? No, you would hate it. So be mindful of God: God is ever relenting, most merciful.” 

(Chapter 49, Verse 12)

Why do people indulge in backbiting?

I always ask myself why people find such repulsive behavior alluring and many cannot resist it. To understand this point we should always remember the Quranic fact that we are not alone in this life. Allah warns us continuously in Quran that we have a deadly lurking enemy which spares no effort to lead us astray all the time. The Shaytan‘s (devil’s) trick is to make backbiting tempting to our minds by provoking envy, hatred, disdain and mockery among Muslims. Some people deceive themselves and justify backbiting by coating it with showing pity and mercy for their victims, or even showing they do it out of anger for the sake of Allah.

Human soul (Nafs) carries both factors of elevation and descent at the same time; if not trained regularly to be strong, pious and responsible, it becomes weak, fragile and ready to be deceived and manipulated by devils of Jinn and humans. Those of weak and deceived souls (Nafs) find it easier to speak ill about others instead of exerting effort to be aware of their own deficiencies and to work towards improving themselves.

Effects of Backbiting on community

Allah (SWT) created man to be honored, and He imposed strict instructions aiming at preserving man’s dignity. Backbiting and gossip tarnish people’s reputation and kill their dignity. Moreover, it implants seeds of hatred and grudge among people. Therefore, it deprives them of living peacefully and being productive and creative.

When communities are afflicted with such illnesses, it causes hatred and grudge to prevail. Then people fail to build strong relations, and teamwork becomes difficult and fruitless. Hence, the whole society will be in trouble.

Islam gives priority to the integrity of the Muslim society. It asserts the concept of brotherhood and sisterhood in Islam, and it instills in Muslims’ hearts that sincerity of faith is dependent on loving goodness for each other.  The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:  “Don’t envy one another, and don’t increase prices for each other, and don’t hate one another, and don’t turn away from one another, and don’t undermine each other in trade, but rather be servants of Allah and brothers among yourselves. A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim: he doesn’t wrong him, nor does he fail him, nor does he lie to him, nor does he disdain him. Piety is here (and he pointed to his heart three times). It is evil enough for a person to disdain his Muslim brother. The whole of a Muslim is inviolable for another Muslim: his blood, his money and his honour.” (Muslim)

However, there are few exceptional situations in which backbiting could be allowed according to views of religious scholars:

–  When a person is wronged and he/she makes a formal complaint to a judge or someone responsible.

– Warning Muslims from an evil person who intends to get married, or have a business or friendship with someone you know. ,

– When a Muslim intends to change what is wrong and render the wrongdoer back to the right way by telling someone who has power on him/her.

How to avoid backbiting and how to repent

Avoiding backbiting, gossip and other major sins is a process of self- striving (Jihad al-Nafs) towards self-reform. A good Muslim should always keep in mind the serious consequences of indulging in such repulsive sins. The worst of those consequences can be losing reward (thawab) of all good deeds a Muslim does because all reward may go to the victims of backbiting in the Hereafter.

There is nothing except repentance can rescue a Muslim from such consequences. Repentance should be accompanied by asking for forgiveness from victims of backbiting. If asking for their forgiveness will cause bigger harm, then praying for them, and praising them before people may expiate the sin.

It is certain that reciting Quran regularly, adhering to piety, beneficial reading, developing human skills and being engaged in righteous deeds are basic steps in the process of self-reform. They are the best training to strengthen human soul and protect it from indulging in such major sins.

Written by: Amany el-Morshidy






Charity in Islam


The beauty of Islam is that it values every good deed a Muslim does for the sake of Allah, nothing goes in vain. Giving some water to a thirsty animal can wipe out all your past sins. Birds and animals eating from the plants you grow in your garden is a charity. A compassionate touch on an orphan’s head is appreciated by Allah. A smile and a good word are highly praised. Putting a morsel in your wife’s mouth is a righteous deed. Cherishing your own family is a charity. Honoring your parents is highly estimated and rewarded. Even your pains; physical and emotional, big and small, nothing of them is wasted or meaningless, all are counted and compensated. This is the nature of having a trade with Allah, The Most Generous.

In Islam, there are two terms referring to giving money to the needy; the term (Sadaqa) which indicates to voluntary charity. Its religious meaning extends to include not just giving money, but also all aspects of goodness a Muslim presents for the sake of Allah. Thus Islam encourages all altruistic acts of kindness and considers them as charity that is abundantly rewarded by Allah.

“Allah is never unjust in the least degree: If there is any good (done), He doubleth it, and giveth from His own presence a great reward.” (An-Nisaa, Chapter 4, Verse 40)

Charity (Sadaqah) in Quran:

When you finish reading the whole Quran with concentration, you notice that the command of giving charity is being the most asserted and repeated after establishing prayer. You realize the immense importance of giving charity, not only because it is a proof of the sincerity of faith, but also because it establishes the principle of social solidarity, and it prevents wealth from being monopolized by the rich elite. The rich of a family are encouraged to give their Sadaqah to the closest poor relatives. Thus if every family and community undertake to solve the problem of poverty within themselves, then the whole society will change to the best.   This way, the poor can work towards trying to achieve their potential rather than being worried if they will have food on the table or not.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that “prayer is a light, and charity is a proof, and patience is illumination…”

When you give charity, out of free will and pure intention, you do an act which goes against human nature of desiring to possess and keep loved and valuable things. To go against your desire in order to help others in distress, seeking the pleasure of your Creator, is a proof of pureness of heart and sincerity of faith. That is why Allah (SWT) stated in Quran that:

“By no means shall ye attain righteousness unless ye give (freely) of that which ye love; and whatever ye give, of a truth Allah knoweth it well.” (Chapter 3, verse 92)

Conditions of accepting charity 

For charity to be accepted by Allah, it should be purified from showing off, hypocrisy or hurting the needy. That is why the secret charity is highly appreciated and greatly rewarded. Millions of money spent for showing off weighs nothing in the scales of Allah; while a kind word said from a faithful heart outweighs.

“O ye who believe! Cancel not your charity by reminders of your generosity or by injury, – like those who spend their substance to be seen of men…….” (Chapter 2, verse 264)

“Kind words and the covering of faults are better than charity followed by injury. Allah is free of all wants, and He is Most-Forbearing.” (Chapter 2, verse, 263) 

The benefits of charity in Islam:

Before charity reaches the poor, it first falls in the Hands of Allah Who raises and multiplies it for His servant to be a shield from Hellfire. Charity extinguishes the servant’s sins as water extinguishes fire. It may open the way for suspended livelihood, heal a sickness and relieve a distress. 

Zakat (alms-giving) in Quran

The other term mentioned in Quran is Zakat which is an Arabic word meaning to grow, to purify. It’s mainly mentioned in Quran to indicate a form of alms-giving which is a religious obligation in Islam.  Zakat is compulsory on a Muslim who saves what is above a certain amount of money, wealth or valuable possessions for a whole year. All Muslims who meet the conditions of giving alms ( Zakat) should pay 2.5% of their total savings to the needy, the new converts to Islam, the poor orphans, those employed to collect it, those in debt, the wayfarers and in the way of Allah. It is no longer difficult to work out how much Zakat you need to pay as many people use Zakat calculator for that purpose.

The word Zakat is also related to another kind of charity which is only given to the poor at the end of Ramadan; that is Zakat ul-Fitr. It is required of every Muslim; young or adult, male or female since he/she can afford it. Its amount can be estimated as about three kilograms of dates, barley, wheat, rice or any common food.

Why is giving alms (Zakat) compulsory in Islam? 

Zakat is one of the five pillars on which Islam is established. It comes directly after establishing prayer. While prayer is meant to mend and strengthen the Muslim’s relation with Allah (SWT), Zakat is supposed to mend the relation between the rich and the poor and guarantee social peace in Muslim community. It also helps achieve a side of social justice and prevent widening the gap between the rich elite and the poor.

According to Islam, money and wealth shouldn’t be monopolized and hoarded by the rich elite in a closed circuit. Money in Islam mainly belongs to Allah (SWT), and He bestowed it upon people to test their ability to give willingly seeking His pleasure in this life and the Hereafter. The wealth of the rich is also meant to be used to reinforce social solidarity, and to protect the poor from being drifted to commit crime out of desperate, or being exploited by moneylenders. Thus giving Zakat can help dry some of usury sources in society, and find solution to the chronic crises of poverty, hunger and unemployment in Islamic world. .

The dignity of the poor should be taken into account while giving them Zakat or Sadaqah. That is way collecting and distributing them by Islamic institutions is the best way for showing respect and keeping dignity of the needy.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) swears by Allah that a man’s wealth will not diminish by Sadaqah (charity). And Allah states in Quran that Sadaqah leads the wealth to grow by Allah’s blessings, and it purifies the souls (Nafs) of the rich from stinginess, and the souls of the poor from envy and hatred.

Written by: Amany el-Morshidy