The Varying Forms of Wrongful Backbiting
by Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah
There are found amongst the people those that will backbite in accordance to his gathering and his companions and his associates. Whilst his knowing that the one being backbitten is free of what it is they say – or of some of what they say. However; he sees that if he were to forbid them, then the sitting will cease and the people of the sitting would become sullen with him just as they would become estranged from him. So he sees compliance with them through good social relations as well as good companionship; so when they become angered then he likewise becomes angry due to their being angered – so he takes it up with them.
Then there are those that take backbiting out into many forms. So at times it would be in the form of Religion and rectification, so he will say: ‘I am not in the habit of mentioning anyone except in good; and I neither like backbiting nor lies. However I shall inform you of his affairs.’ So He will say: ‘By Allaah – he is Miskeen (weak/pitied) – or he is a good man; however he has in him such and such.’ Or he may say: ‘let us leave off him; may Allaah forgive him and us.’, whilst his intent is to belittle him as well as causing a wrong to his flank. Thus taking the backbiting out from the form of rectification and religion. They seek to deceive Allaah with that, just as they deceive the creation; for we have seen this and its like from them in many varying colors.
Then there are those that will elevate other than himself out of showing off – and then raise himself. So he will say: ‘If I had supplicated for so and so last night in my prayer; then there would have reached me from him such and such.’ So as to raise himself whilst putting him down with the one that may have faith in him. Or he may say: ‘so and so is dull in intelligence and has little understanding.’ whilst his intent is the praise of himself and establishing his awareness of him – and that he is better than him.
Likewise from them are those that are carried by envy upon backbiting; and so will gather between two ugly affairs: backbiting as well as envy. So when an individual is praised, then he will try to remove that from him through showing his deficiencies in the form of Religion and rectification – or in the form of envy and immorality and dispraise – in order to remove that from him.
Then there are those that take backbiting out into the form of mockery and play; in order to bring laughter to other than himself through his joking and his mimicry and his belittling of the one he is joking about.
Then there are those that take backbiting out into the form of amazement; so he will say: ‘I am amazed at so and so at how he does not do such and such?! And from so and so as to how he fell into such and such; and how he did such and such.’ Thus pronouncing his name during the course of his amazement.
There are those from them that show sorrow; so he will say: ‘so and so is weak/pitied, it has caused me sorrow for what has happened to him and what the outcome was for him.’ So he who hears him thinks that he has sorrow for him and that he is regretful and that his heart is covered in the attainment of recovery for him; and if it were possible then he would add to that which was with him. He may also mention him in front of his enemies so that they may profit from it. So this; and other than it is from amongst the greatest of the sicknesses of the heart as well as deceitfulness to Allaah and His creation.
From them are those that make apparent backbiting through the form of anger and disapproving something abominable. So there becomes manifest in this aspect certain things from the adornment of speech which contains fallacies. Whilst his intent was other than what he made apparent. And Allaah’s aid is sought.