Yusuf Omar - Opinion | 23 November 2016
I come across a lot of people these days that speak out against the internet, the evolution of social networking and technology on the whole. They are quite vocal in their stance that technology and everything surrounding it has no part in Islam. They even go to extent of labelling it a ‘Fitna’. I really don’t agree with such opinions for I firmly believe that technology and social networking, if used correctly, can actually be a means of benefiting millions around the globe. Of course, it all depends on how you use it. If used incorrectly, it has the potential of destroying your Imaan. If a person listens to music on a radio, you cannot say the radio itself is Haraam. He could have listened to Qiraat but he chose music. Similarly, what we tweet or post is a choice that we make. In this article I want to focus on backbiting, specifically on social media. To make it easy to understand, I decided to base my discussion on Twitter. You need to understand the basic concept and apply it to all social networking platforms.
I have noticed many accounts with tweets that contain backbiting. In some cases, the innocent tweeter is not aware that he/she is backbiting. They are not aware that what they are tweeting is destroying their Paradise. In this light, I have decided to explain in detail what constitutes backbiting and what type of tweets will be regarded as backbiting…
We know that Islam has given a stern warning with regards to backbiting. In one hadith it is mentioned…
“Backbiting is worse than adultery.”
Let’s take a closer look at the definition of backbiting. A statement or tweet will be classified as backbiting when…
- The person or people being tweeted about are not aware of the tweet.
- The person or people being tweeted about will not like it if they found out about the tweet.
- That which is mentioned in the tweet is true.*
*If it is false info, it is much worse that backbiting. In this case, along with backbiting, it falls under the category of “spreading rumours’ and ‘false accusations’.
Once we understand the definition mentioned above, let’s go through a few examples…
@user1: “@user2 did you see what Fatima wore last night? What was she thinking? She was the only one that thought she looked good. I couldn’t stop laughing”
Fatima is not aware of the above tweet. She wouldn’t like it if she read this tweet therefore, @user1 is backbiting. If @user2 replies in a similar manner, she will also commit the sin of backbiting.
@tweeter1: “@tweeter2 Yo dude what’s up with Zain! He act like all the girls are after him. I can’t stand him he is such a show off. He act like Brad Pitt. When last did he look in the mirror lol.”
Zain is not aware of the above tweet. He wouldn’t like it if he read this tweet therefore, @tweeter1 is backbiting. If @tweeter2 replies in a similar manner or even just replies with a “lol”, he will also commit the sin of backbiting.
Let’s look at an example that does not fall under the category of backbiting…
@user1: “@user2 Wow did you see Fatima’s dress at last night’s function? She looked really pretty. I think she was easily the best dressed. She has beautiful features.”
Fatima is not aware of the above tweet but if she does find out about it, she wouldn’t have a problem. Therefore, the above conversation will not be regarded as backbiting.
Next, well take a look at a tweet that is even worst that backbiting…
Scenario: Zain studied hard but he failed an exam. He is feeling bad. He doesn’t want anyone to know about his results.
@tweeter1: “@tweeter2 Did you hear that Zain failed the exam. Well if you high on drugs all the time and you never get down to studying what do you expect.”
Zain doesn’t know about this conversation. He wouldn’t like it if he knew that people are discussing his results. Also, Zain was never high on drugs and he did in fact study so this tweet contains a lie as well. Therefore the above tweet will not only be classified as backbiting but ‘spreading rumours’, ‘carrying tales’, ‘speaking lies’ and ‘false accusations’ as well.
Sometimes we backbite without mentioning any names. One way of doing this is by generalising or as they say ‘painting everyone with the same brush’. A scholar once said that if you speak ill of a country, nation or family as a collective unit, you would be backbiting and what’s worse, you would have to apologise to every single one of them in order to be completely forgiven. Let’s look at a few examples to make us understand better…
@user1: “All Muslims are terrorists”
@tweeter1: “All Americans are oppressors”
In the above example, @user1 has gossiped about every Muslim on the planet. @tweeter1 has gossiped about every American on earth. By labelling every Muslim on earth a terrorist, you have called 2 billion people something that they do not like to be called. The same goes for @tweeter1 who labelled all Americans ‘oppressors’. Surely every single American can never be an oppressor. So your tweet can never be correct. According to some scholars, it is necessary to ask the people for forgiveness when asking Allah to forgive you. How is it possible to go to every single one of them and apologise?
Yes, there is a way around this. If you really have to describe certain people then there is way to do this without involving yourself in backbiting. Keep in mind though, what you are saying should be the truth. This is how you do it…
Scenario: @user1 just returned from Italy. She found that some people were very arrogant. @user2 asked her about her trip…
Instead of saying…
@user1: “@user2 Italy was awesome but Italians are an arrogant bunch”
@user1: “@user2 Italy was awesome but I found some Italians to be really arrogant”
Can you see the difference between the two tweets? The second tweet will not be regarded as backbiting because it implies that not all Italians are arrogant, only the ones that I found to be arrogant.
A hint can also be classified as backbiting. This happens when a person’s name is not mentioned in the tweet but there is something in there that gives a subtle indication towards him. Let’s look at an example…
Scenario: @tweeter1, @tweeter2, @tweeter3, @tweeter4 and @tweeter5 are all classmates. There is a big exam coming up tomorrow and they are discussing tomorrow’s exam on twitter. @tweeter5 is not very thin. He is quite fat and he doesn’t like when people tease him etc.
@tweeter1: “@tweeter2 @tweeter3 @tweeter4 I just hope some people would be able to fit through the door of the exam room tomorrow hehe”
What happened there? Because @tweeter5 is the only one that is overweight from the group, it means that the joke is about him. Even though his name is not mentioned, it’s clear that the tweets is directed at him therefore, this will be regarded as backbiting. If @tweeter2, @tweeter3 or @tweeter4 replies with a ‘lol’ or anything similar, then they would have also gossiped about @tweeter5. Remember @tweeter5 (The overweight one) doesn’t know about this tweet.
What happens if @tweeter5 was part of the tweet…
@tweeter1: “@tweeter2 @tweeter3 @tweeter4 @tweeter5 I just hope some people would be able to fit through the door of the exam room tomorrow hehe”
In the above case, it would not be regarded as backbiting because @tweeter5 knows about it. Remember, as I mentioned in the start of this post, part of the definition of backbiting is that the person being spoken about doesn’t know that he/she is being spoken about. If @tweeter5 is cool with it and he doesn’t mind his friends teasing him then it won’t be a problem. The above tweet would be sinless. If @tweeter5 feels bad, then @tweeter1 will be sinful for breaking his heart and teasing him but it won’t be regarded as backbiting.
Keep the above points in mind and before you send out a tweets, read it again and ask yourself if it falls in the category of backbiting. I know that sometimes you really tempted to hit the ‘tweet’ button. The ‘juicy’ info you have is too good to keep it to yourself but that’s the whole point. Shaytaan makes it juicy to ensure that we always pass it on and fall prey to this despicable sin.
Any other ways of backbiting on social networks? Tell us in the comments section or drop me a tweet. I’m waiting.
P.S. Names mentioned in the article are purely fictional.
About the author:
Yusuf Omar resides in South Africa and holds a BA in Islamic sciences. He is currently a writer/presenter at Radio Islam. He loves playing with words and he believes in mermaids. Check him out on Twitter and Instagram.