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In Islam, Backbiting Is Forbidden, But What About Exposing Injustice In Order To Restore Justice? What Is The Position Of Whistleblowers In Islam?

Is It Permissible For A Muslim To Reveal The Fault Of Others?


1.    Is it considered backbiting to expose the wrongdoings of others?

2.    It is forbidden to speak badly of others in public.

3.    Only in the case of justice and in the face of oppression is it allowed to reveal the mistakes or misdeeds of others.

4.    The oppressed have the right to speak out against injustices that have been done to them.


By Kaniz Fatma, New Age Islam

10 December 2021

The verse of the Quran provides answers to the questions under discussion:

“Allah does not love the utterance of evil words except in the case of someone who has been wronged. God hears all and knows all.” (4:148)

Here, Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, warns us that He does not like anyone to speak ill of others in public. In other words, He dislikes and despises it, and He will punish those who do it. This covers any offensive and upsetting words, such as insulting, slandering, reviling, and so on. All of this is forbidden and Allah despises it. This shows that He appreciates good words like zikr, as well as loving and kind words.

The sole exception in this verse is for oppressed people who make their oppression public in order for others to defend them from it. As a result, oppressed people may receive assistance, while oppressors may be restrained once they realise their reputation is being slandered.

In this regard, Hazrat Abu Hurairah related that once a person complained to the Holy Prophet about a neighbour who was causing him undue hardship. The Holy Prophet recommended the individual put all of his personal belongings on the road. When the person followed the Holy Prophet's counsel, everyone who passed by inquired as to why he was outside. People began cursing his neighbour after he replied that it was due to the problems his neighbour was causing him. As a result, the neighbour was humiliated, and he eventually told the individual to return to his home, swearing to Allah that he would never cause him any trouble in the future.


Also Read:  Whistleblowing Is a Form of Goodness, Righteousness, Justice and Truth, That Emanates from God's Command to Enjoin Good and Forbid Wrong (Amr Bil-Maroof wa Nahi an al-Munkar)


This above-mentioned verse is interpreted to mean that the oppressed people are allowed to pray against the one who has wronged them, to complain about him, and to speak hurtful things back to him, without lying about it, going beyond the level of damage done to them, or crossing the boundary and reviling others. However, it is best to forgive him and not respond in kind, as Allah instructs, “...But whoever forgives and reconciles, his reward is with Allah” (42: 40)

According to verse 42:40, if a person is injured by another, the best course of action is to forgive the wrongdoers. If he is unable to pardon, he may seek justice for himself, but only to the extent of the injury, he has suffered. He will become the oppressor himself if he goes beyond the harm that has been done to him.

Muhaddithin narrates a beautiful hadith about the reason for the revelation of this verse (4:148):

Narrated Sa'id ibn al-Musayyab: While the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was sitting with some of his companions, a man reviled Abu Bakr and insulted him. But Abu Bakr remained silent. He insulted him twice, but Abu Bakr controlled himself. He insulted him thrice and Abu Bakr took revenge on him. Then the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) got up when Abu Bakr took revenge. Abu Bakr said: Were you angry with me, Messenger of Allah? The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) replied: An angel came down from Heaven and he was rejecting what he had said to you. When you took revenge, a devil came down. I was not going to sit when the devil came down. (Sunan Abu Dawud, No. Hadith: 4878)

This verse (4:148) is known to have been revealed in the prohibition of speaking ill of others. Several Hadiths also provide guidance in this area, demonstrating that speaking ill of others is forbidden.

We may answer the questions asked under this topic based on the above-mentioned understanding of the verse (4:148). It is forbidden for a Muslim to point out the faults of others. Exposing others' wrongdoings is likewise forbidden, but not when it comes to bringing or seeking justice for the downtrodden. It is only permitted to divulge the faults or wrongdoing of others in the sake of justice and in the face of persecution. In other words, those who have been oppressed have the right to speak out against injustices committed against them.

This verse also states that for an oppressed person who goes around talking to people about the injustice that has been done to him or her, this will not be considered backbiting (Gheebah), which is forbidden, because it is the oppressor who has provided the victim with the opportunity to complain. On the one hand, the holy Quran permitted oppressed people to employ the option of retribution against injustice. On the other hand, it has persuaded the victim of injustice to make a small sacrifice in this matter of his legitimate right and take no revenge for the injustice by teaching him to practise high morals, forgive and forget, and by focusing before him a great gain of the hereafter. The Holy Quran says,

“If you do good openly or keep it secret or overlook an evil deed, then, Allah is All-Forgiving, All-Powerful” (4:149)

The following are some of the most notable Ahadith in this regard:

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) as saying:

“When two persons indulge in hurling (abuses) upon one another, it would be the first one who would be the sinner so long as the oppressed does not transgress the limits”. (Sahih Muslim, 2587)

'A’ishah reported the Messenger of Allah (May peace be upon him) as saying: “When your companion dies, leave him and do not revile him” (Sunan Abu Dawud, 4899)

Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Make a mention of the virtues of your dead, and refrain from (mentioning) their evils.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, 4900)

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) as saying, “Do you know what is backbiting? They (the Companions) said: Allah and His Messenger know best. Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: Backbiting implies your talking about your brother in a manner which he does not like. It was said to him: What is your opinion about this that if I actually find (that failing) in my brother which I made a mention of? He said: If (that failing) is actually found (in him) what you assert, you in fact backbited him, and if that is not in him it is a slander.” (Sahih Muslim, 2589)

Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah; AbuTalhah ibn Sahl al-Ansari:

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “No (Muslim) man will desert a man who is a Muslim in a place where his respect may be violated and his honour aspersed without Allah deserting him in a place where he wishes his help; and no (Muslim) man who will help a Muslim in a place where his honour may be aspersed and his respect violated without Allah helping him in a place where he wishes his help.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, 4884)

The Prophet is reported to have said, “A backbiter will not enter Paradise” (Sunan Abu Dawud, 4872)


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