Compensation for Backbiting:
- Regret, Repentance, Resolve to never do it again
- If it reached the person, then apologize and show regret
- Prophet: "Whoever has oppressed another person concerning his reputation or anything else, he should beg him to forgive him before the Day of Resurrection when there will be no money (to compensate for wrong deeds), but if he has good deeds, those good deeds will be taken from him according to his oppression which he has done, and if he has no good deeds, the sins of the oppressed person will be loaded on him." [B]
- If it did not, revealing it would cause problems
- Correct it – Mujāhid: Compensation for eating your brother’s flesh is to praise and supplicate for him
It is so dangerous that when you want to rid yourself of it and the company of those who do it, you might start backbiting them because of their backbiting: “I don’t want to be in their company because they backbite others.”
“Beware of obscene language [fuḥsh]. Allah hates obscenity and the foul [tafaḥḥush].” [Ḥ, IḤ]
“A believer is not defamer, a curser, one who uses foul language, or one who is obscene.” [T]
“When you curse the dead, it harms the living” [T]
“If someone curses and insults you for something, and you know something about him, do not insult him with what you know about him. You will have the reward and he will get the sin, so don’t insult anyone.” [A]
It is forbidden. Foul language is to articulate distasteful matters with unreserved wording. It is that which is clearly obscene according to the specific culture. Obscene language usually describes acts related to sexual intercourse or answering the call of nature in the most direct of ways. The way in which it is employed is usually to describe a person or situation in an explicit way rather than in a reserved and beautified way.
Ibn Abbas: “Allah is discreet and noble…He refers [in the Qur’an] to intercourse as ‘touch’.”
Allah and His Prophet used metaphors and symbols like touching, entrance, placing, etc. out of modesty and respect whenever referring to these things.
Choose polite language over coarse expressions
“…or if you have touched [lāmastum] women and cannot find water, then use dirt…” 5:6
“and those who guard their private parts [furūj]” 23:5
“Those who swear off [relations] with their wives must wait four months. If they retract, then Allah is forgiving and merciful.” 2:226
The main causes of using foul language are:
- Caused by viciousness.
- To intend to harm another person due to hatred or malice.
- Being accustomed to using such language from bad influences.
- To emphasize a point and gain attention. These words are often used for shock value, and the one listening to these words should not give the attention craved by the one using such language.
Cure: realize that you are polluting the environment around you, anger of Allah
Mocking & Insulting Others
This is with the intention to debase someone and mar their reputation. Caused by meanness.
O ye who believe! Let not a folk deride a folk who may be better than they (are), not let women (deride) women who may be better than they are; neither defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. Bad is the name of lewdness after faith. And whoso turneth not in repentance, such are evil-doers. [49:11]
Prophet said in a sermon to not laugh when someone passes gas. “Why should anyone laugh at what he himself does?” [B, M]
The definition of mocking a person is to point out a fault about someone to amuse others. It is forbidden if it hurts someone. The only exception is if they aren’t bothered by it. Mockery can be through either action or speech.
“…and speak nicely to people” 2:83
“The most hated of all people to Allah are those who are argumentative fighters [for falsehood or without knowledge].” [B]
Ibn Abbas: Even if Pharaoh were to speak nicely to me, I would respond nicely to him.
Malik ibn Anas: Arguing hardens the heart and sows hatred.
The definition of arguing, for the present discussion, is to engage in a dispute without any beneficial objective. Arguing means to object to another’s opinion by criticizing the other person, their words, or their intentions. The permissible type of arguing is to object for the aim of achieving some benefit, not to dispraise the person or the speech. Elevating yourself or your knowledge should never be the intention. Arguing becomes a sin when it either harms another or harms yourself.
Arguing may lead to one or more of the following traits: hatred, anger, arrogance, showing off, desire for fame, or delusion. Arguing usually causes the other person to back up their views with whatever means they can and usually results in a dispute. The remedy for these types of arguments is to reduce the arrogance that prompts you to show your knowledge and debating skills in front of your opponent. First, think about whether the thing being discussed needs to be corrected or not, and whether or not you may be in the wrong. When necessary, people should be advised privately, unless it is necessary to undo their harm publicly.
Arguing when you are in a state of ignorance is like a lawyer who defends a person even when they are guilty. The reason is because the goal is to defeat the opponent and win the case. Arguing is permissible out of necessity, but one must be careful of the harms that can still accrue.
The cure is to control the desire for exhibiting your own excellence.
Debating for the Truth
A debate for the sake of learning the truth or making it evident is allowed when there is a purpose or need. Most people who debate try to trick others, and sometimes themselves, into believing that their sole purpose is to arrive at the truth, or to bring the truth to light. The truth is better sought during a meeting for the purpose of consultation, rather than in a debate. Cooperating with one another in searching after the truth is something that is necessary, but many people are deluded about when this really occurs. To clarify the matter, these are the preconditions that one must observe before engaging in a justified debate:
- Fulfilling their individual obligations [farḍ ʿāyn] first: Searching for the truth collectively is a collective obligation [farḍ kifāyah]. Whoever has not fulfilled their individual obligations first must not give priority to a collective obligation. Whoever does that, claiming that they are searching for the truth is a liar. It is like a person who neglects their prayers but focuses their time on making garments with the claim that they are helping those people who have no clothes to pray in so they can complete their prayers properly. It is also similar to a person who has to return a trust that has been in his possession immediately, but instead he starts praying to Allah. Even though the prayer is one of the best acts of worship, he has neglected the priority of first returning the trust, which is due now.
- Fulfilling more important collective obligations first: Engaging in debate may be justified if the one debating is not needed to be preoccupied with another more important collective obligation. This would be like a person who meets a group of people in the desert who are dying of thirst. Instead of helping them, he sits down and begins to study medicine with the claim that the village they belong to is in need of a doctor, and that it is a collective obligation. This is especially true of people who debate over hypothetical cases when there are so many other collective obligations to take care of first.
- Being qualified in the topic: One should understand the argument of the opposition as well as understand the evidence behind one’s own argument before engaging in debate, rather than just defending a position on the authority or merits of a particular person.
- Addressing actual issues or ones which are likely to happen: This is opposite to debating hypothetical issues just for the sake of debating. Many people enjoy feeling like an intellectual by discussing spectacular cases involving complex variables.
- Holding it in private, whenever possible: A private atmosphere is more suitable to understanding and reconciliation rather than the ostentation and hatred that arises out of public gatherings of debate. Public gatherings make the person debating more inclined to defending himself, whether he is right or wrong, in order to protect his honor. There are people who only crave public discussions and will not discuss with their adversary in private. They may even remain quiet when meeting that person in private. However, as soon as they get in front of an audience, they speak so much so that their rhetoric can be applauded.
- Desiring to seek the truth: The truth should be sought when debating a topic that one might be mistaken about, the way that a person who has lost something is searching for it. It does not matter whether he finds it himself, or a friend or foe finds it. He is happy that it is found. He might even thank his enemy for finding it for him, rather than criticizing him or changing the topic and focusing on some other fault of his. ʿUmar was addressing a crowd of people when a woman interrupted him and pointed out his mistake. He accepted it and publicly declared that she was correct.
- Not preventing a person from modifying his argument in the middle of a debate or retracting something he already had said: If the goal is to mar the reputation of the person or to show his fickleness, it is neither a search for truth nor does it help the other person to accept something when they realize it is wrong.
- Be willing to debate with someone more intelligent: This would be in order to learn something rather than simply to win the argument. However, most people prefer to debate with less competent people in order to win the battle because that is their real goal.
Debates which are intended to overcome and silence opponents, receive praise from observers, and to show off are all prohibited in the sight of Allah.
Ibn Qutaybah was in an argument and decided to leave. He got up, and the disputant said, “What’s wrong?” He said, “I will not argue with you anymore.” The man said, “So you have realized that I am right.” He responded, “No, but I respect myself more than to argue with you.” The man responded, “Then I will not claim something that I have not earned.”
Umar: Do not acquire knowledge for any of these three reasons: to argue, to become proud, or to show off. Do not give up acquiring knowledge for any of these three reasons: out of shame, wanting to not have to act on it, or desiring to remain satisfied with ignorance.
“Successful indeed are the believers…who avoid vain talk.” 23:1-3
“He does not utter a single word without an ever-present watcher” 50:17-18
The Prophet said, “From the good qualities of Islam is to leave that which doesn’t concern you.”
Speech is your wealth. You can spend it on something which hurts you, like buying a knife and cutting yourself. Unnecessary speech is like buying a broken device which gives no benefit at all. Every moment of life is an opportunity to earn reward.
Imagine you have a business and time is your capital. The goal is to make a profit from your capital. If you waste it, there is nothing left for you to make a profit from. Such is the example of a person who speaks about useless things, there will not be any time left to say useful things.
Indulging in useless speech is like a person who enters a mine full of precious jewels. Instead of picking up the jewels, he collects the dirt from the ground and leaves with that. That is the example of the one who indulges in useless speech when he had the opportunity to say something of benefit.
Whoever speaks much will have to account for more on the Day of Judgment, which will be a form of anguish, similar to a person who has a lot of business transactions and is audited by the IRS.
There is no sin on a person who engages in useless talk but he could have done so much more to earn good deeds by remembering Allah or speaking something which Allah would be pleased with. Silence would have been better than this form of speech, because the silence of a Muslim is actually for the purpose of contemplation, not just to avoid sin, the same way that vision is used to learn important things.
Use your time in more beneficial things. Try to make every statement have value. Idle chatter deters you from remembrance of Allah.
The criteria to distinguish between what does and does not concern you is through a simple test: when you stay quiet, there is neither harm nor benefit, neither in this life or the next. This is a reminder that you don’t have to share every story and every experience you have ever encountered with everyone.
There are three main causes why people engage in useless talk:
- They desire to know something which is not necessary to know.
- They enjoying speaking with a certain individual.
- They desire to pass their time away to prevent themselves from falling into boredom.
The remedy for useless talks is to remember the purpose of life and that we will be judged for everything we have said. Reflect on your deeds and remember that you are in need of more good deeds to tip your scales on the Day of Judgment. Also, one who engages is useless speech often falls into harmful speech more easily than someone who speaks less, and they will be accountable for that. It is important to train oneself to either speak good or remain silent, and to reflect before speaking.
Example of the harms of useless speech: Someone asked whether or not you fasted on a certain day. If you say yes: you have revealed an act of worship and might be showing off. It is better to keep these acts of worship between you and Allah. If you say no, then you are lying. If you remain silent, the person might think you are ignoring him. If you evade the answer and change the subject, it requires a lot of effort and makes your life difficult. So this type of question is an example of useless speech. The same applies when asking about other things like: “What happened to so and so.” The motive behind these questions is to ask about something you did not need to know.
The general remedy for asking these types of questions is to remember that death may be near and you will have account for each word you speak. Remember that the tongue is like a fishing pole which can be used to catch good deeds, or you can engage in useless speech and catch nothing. A more practical remedy is to either seclude yourself from time to time or set a reminder to talk less until you become accustomed to speaking about things which are better. This remedy may be more difficult for people who are very socially inclined, but it may also be more necessary for them as well.
Practice keeping silent and see how you feel. Only speak when there is something of value to say.
Reflect on how pious people used their time and what their words consisted of. Looks what they achieved due to their proper use of time.
Ibrahim al-Taymī: When the believer wants to speak, he first thinks deeply. If it is correct, he speaks, otherwise he stays silent. On the other hand, an insolent person has a loose tongue.
Umar II: My fear that I will indulge in vain talk prevents me from speaking much.
Excessive speech is to talk more than necessary. It is ironic that people withhold excess money but freely spend in excess speech, although both are a form of capital that people possess. This may not be a sin but is disliked when there is no need or any benefit. The difference between excessive speech and useless speech is that the former refers to the mode of expression while the latter refers to the subject matter.
One way to test yourself to see whether or not you have this problem is to try to remain silent when you feel like speaking, but there is someone else who can say what you wanted to say. If you feel that you want to be the one to speak rather than the other person, then this illness afflicts you.
ʿAmr ibn Dīnār: A man talked too much in front of the Prophet. He said, “How many barriers does your tongue have?” He said, “My lips and teeth.” The Prophet replied, “Are they not sufficient? [i.e. to prevent you from speaking]” [Ibn Abī Dunyā, ṣaḥīḥ]
Ibrahim: Two things can easily destroy a person: excessive wealth and speech.
Excessive Joking & Laughter
“If you knew what I know you would have laughed little and wept much” [B, M]
Joking and laughter has the ability to harden the heart, and is disliked when it is excessive. Excessive laughter takes away a person’s reason, the same way anger and wine can. It also removes respect and admiration that people may have for the one who jokes a lot. Another danger is that some people may attempt to use any means to make another person laugh, such as by making up stories, exaggerating, etc.
Joking is allowed as long as it does not hurt anyone and is not excessive. The Prophet would joke sometimes. “Messenger of Allah. You joke with us?” He said, “I do joke with you, but I say nothing but the truth.” [T]
- “Hey, you with the two ears.” T AD
- ʿĀ’ishah [the wife of the Prophet] said, “I once raced the Prophet and beat him. Then, after a while, when I gained more weight, he raced me and won. Then he said, ‘This day for that one.’” [IḤ]
- He told an old woman: “An old woman will not enter paradise.” She began to cry. He clarified, “You won’t be old then [when you enter paradise].” [Q 56:35-36]
- Umm Ayman said, “My husband is calling you.” The Prophet responded, “Who? The one with the whiteness in his eyes?” She said, “I swear by Allah, he doesn’t have that.” He said, “Yes he does.” She said, “No, I swear.” He said, “Everyone has some whiteness in their eyes.” [IAD]
- A woman asked the Prophet: “Let me ride on one of the camels.” He said, “Ok, but you will get a child of a camel.” She said, “What good will that do? It won’t be able to carry me.” He responded, “Every camel is the child of another camel.” [AD, T]
- ʿĀ’ishah prepared some food for the Prophet and offered it to Sawdah who responded, “I don’t like it.” She said, “I swear by Allah you will eat it or I will smear it in your face.” She responded, “I don’t even want to taste it.” So she grabbed some of it from the plate and smeared it on her face. The Messenger of Allah was sitting in between them, so he lowered his knee so she could retaliate. Sawdah grabbed some from the plate and smeared it on her face. The Messenger started laughing. [AY]
- Ṣuhayb was eating dates although he had an inflamed eye [not supposed to eat dates]. The Prophet said, “You’re eating dates while you have this eye condition?” He responded, “I’m eating it with the other eye, Messenger of Allah.” A huge smile lit up the Prophet’s face. [IM, Ḥ]
Conditions when joking must be observed:
- It should not be a lie.
- It should not harm anyone.
- It should not be out of place.
- It should not be excessive.
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