Introduction

There are many evils prevalent among people which adversely affect their lives. One such common evil is backbiting. In this lesson, the evil effects of backbiting have been highlighted through various religious and non-religious sources.

The Evils of Backbiting 

Our tongue has the power to do good or evil to others. Humans often hurt others by speaking ill of them behind their backs. The Qur’an scolds those who do such things. It says that woe should come to every scandal-monger and backbiter.

This Aayat (Holy verse) condemns two vices- scandal-mongering, that is talking or suggesting evil of somebody, and belittling someone’s character behind their back with an evil motive.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), said that a person who indulges in backbiting is like a man who has eaten the flesh of his dead brother.

It is reported by Hazrat Ibni Hameed (RA) that when he had once asked the Prophet (PBUH) to give him a prayer for reciting, he had suggested this prayer- “O Allah! I seek refuge in thee from the evil of ears, eyes, heart and tongue.”

It is not only Islam which criticises backbiting. All the religions in the world do the same. The Bible says that we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man.

The Gita says that freedom from fear, purity of heart, perseverance in pursuit of knowledge, freedom from the habit of backbiting, compassion, and freedom from avarice are godlike qualities.

Similarly, the Guru Granth Sahib says that the slanderer carries the great burden of sins. Lord Buddha in his Eightfold Path says that one should live a life based on right speech.

The Power of the Tongue

Rabbi Simeon Ben Gamalie once told his servant to go to the market and buy him something good to eat. The servant went and bought a tongue.

Another time, the Rabbi told him to go to the market and buy him something that is not good. The servant went and bought a tongue once again. This Rabbi angrily asked him what this meant.

The servant replied that the tongue gives rise to both the good and the bad. There is nothing better than a good tongue and nothing worse than an evil one.

Soon after that incident, the Rabbi invited his disciples to a meal at which both soft and hard tongues were served. The disciples ate the soft ones and left the hard ones untouched. Seeing this, the Rabbi told them that as they had chosen the soft tongues, they should use only a soft tongue in their conversation with one another.

Quarles once said that we must not give our tongue too much freedom, or we will become its slave. A word unspoken is like the sword in the scabbard. If spoken, this word is in another’s hand. If we desire to be held wise, we should be wise enough to hold our tongue.

One should always refrain from the evil of scandal-mongering and backbiting. We should always recite an important prayer asking God to guard our tongue from evil and our lips from speaking deceit.

Conclusion

Backbiting and spreading rumours are great evils that cause harm to society as a whole. All great religions of the world condemn these evils and ask us to stay away from them. In order to lead honest and good lives, we must never speak behind people’s backs. We must also understand the power that words hold and therefore use them wisely.