Picture this. Your phone buzzes and you see a screenshot of a group chat where your best friend is gossiping about you. You feel gutted and betrayed but then you remember how frequently you gossip about your friend, too.
So, is it really such a big deal?Yes, it is. Gossiping is a sneaky act which can somehow be slotted into your daily routine and become a habit if you aren’t careful. It may start out as seemingly innocent by you having a break with colleagues or classmates while discussing someone or making fun of someone online.
You may find comfort in telling yourself that everyone does it or that what’s being said about the person is true, but it doesn’t make it right.
The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) informed us, backbiting is:
“to say something about your brother that he would dislike.”
Someone asked him:
“But what if what I say is true?”
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) said:
“If what you say about him is true, you are backbiting him, but if it is not true then you have slandered him.” [Sahih Muslim]
Gossiping and backbiting should be avoided as it can cause a lot of harm which may include the following:
It is a big sin!
Firstly, backbiting is a big sin and is hated to Allah (swt). Our Lord warns us in the Qur’an:
“neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One Who forgives and accepts repentance, Most Merciful” [Qur’an – 49:12]
Our religion even teaches us that if we are sitting in a gathering in which backbiting is taking place, we should try to change the subject, and failing to do so, we should leave.
It harms reputations
One of the biggest reasons why gossiping should be avoided is because it can ruin someone’s reputation. For example, gossiping about a colleague at work may cause others to spread rumours about them and this could cost them their job or a promotion. They may also struggle to socialise as the gossip about them may prevent others from wanting to get to know them. Remember, everyone deserves a fair chance to show who they really are, and gossiping can fog their true nature.
A famous incident alluded to in the Qur’an is when slanderous rumours regarding the chastity of the wife of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) – A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) – were circulated by the hypocrites. This severely upset her, the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him), her family, and was such a reprehensible act that Allah Himself vindicated her in the Qur’an (Surah An-Noor verses 11-21).
You could hurt someone
Just as words have the power to heal and spread good, they can also be destructive. You have no idea what someone is truly going through or their life experiences. Therefore, everyone has different limits for what they can cope with. Gossiping can really hurt someone. This can range from making them cry and withdrawing socially to causing extreme mental distress. Always remember, whatever you choose to gossip about may be a sensitive issue for someone which they are struggling with internally.
It puts you in a bad light
In order to create and maintain healthy relationships, trust is key. But can you be trustworthy if you’re spreading gossip and discussing others? Gossiping can not only give others a bad reputation, but people may not want to associate themselves with you if you become known as someone who is offensive and fake. They may also start to wonder about what other bad qualities you have and if they can confide in you.
Stop gossiping in its tracks
Gossip is everywhere, but there are ways that you can fight it.
- Do a fact check
As the saying goes, “Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see”. If someone begins to gossip, suggest that they verify what they are saying in the presence of the person they are talking about. By doing this you are preventing someone’s reputation from being tarnished and encouraging your friends not to spread rumours.More importantly, Allah (swt) Himself warns us about spreading false information without fact checking first:
“O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.” [Qur’an – 49:6]
- Fight gossip with praiseIf someone says something negative about someone else, defend them! The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:“Whoever defends his brother’s honour, Allah will protect his face from the Fire of the Day of Resurrection.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhi]It may feel difficult at first, but you will feel good about doing the right thing. For example, if someone tells others that your friend is lazy, talk about how hard working your friend really is.
- Put yourself in their shoesHow would you feel if people were gossiping about you? You’d feel ashamed and embarrassed, right? Having empathy for the feelings of others and reminding others of the damage that comes from gossiping can help to repel people from indulging in it. Asking someone who is gossiping to picture how it would feel to have rumours being spread about them can help them stop the nasty habit.
- Explain that it’s none of your businessIn order to stop a gossip in their tracks, tell them that what they are spreading about someone is none of their business and suggest another topic to discuss. This will encourage them not to speak badly about others and will show them that gossip is a waste of time.
- Walk awayIf all the above fails, leave by excusing yourself politely. Sometimes even your best efforts can’t stop others from gossiping but it’s still important not to indulge in gossiping in any way, even if it’s just by sitting with a group who does.
Lastly, if you’ve found yourself gossiping in the past and would like to stop indefinitely, you can try the following:
- Firstly, make tawbah (repent) and instighfar (seek forgiveness from Allah) as backbiting and gossip is a sin. If someone is aware that you’ve gossiped about them, apologise sincerely. You could also tell others good things about this person.
- Learnt to notice when you’re about to make a comment about someone else and then stop yourself in your tracks by talking about something else (something positive).
- Remind yourself of a time where someone has talked negatively about you or the repercussions of gossip before you indulge in it.
- Surround yourself with people who aren’t gossips and who remind you to abstain from it.
- Gossip is a waste of time. When you have the urge to sit around and discuss others, do something productive instead, like working on a project, writing in a journal or doing an activity you enjoy.
On your journey to abstain from gossiping, remember this hadith by the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him):
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak goodness or remain silent”. [Sahih Muslim]