Assalaamu alaykum. Is it backbiting if you say something that the person would not like you to say even if you are actually giving him a compliment? For example, you say that a person looks very strong behind their back but that person hates to look strong and keeps getting compliments all the time. Would that be backbiting, or is it only backbiting when it is done with a bad intention or dislike? For example, what if you are just giving your opinion behind a person's back and say that you do not like what they are wearing and you know that that person would not like that comment, but you are not saying it to be nasty; you are merely saying that you do not like the color or what they were wearing and so on; is that backbiting? Or, again, is it only backbiting when it is done with malice?
All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.
The scholars defined backbiting as mentioning a person in his absence with something bad, even if it is true; please refer to fatwa 81748.
If what is mentioned about that person is something good, then this is not backbiting.
Shaykh Abdul Muhsin Al-‘Abbaad when interpreting Sunan Abu Dawood, was asked: What is the ruling on a brother who mentions something good about another brother, but the latter does not like that? He answered:
“There is nothing wrong with that, because what is meant by backbiting is the prohibition of mentioning him with something that hurts him; as for mentioning him with something good for a need despite the fact that he does not like that if he hears about it, then there is nothing wrong with this. It might be that if he is praised face to face, he might not like that, but mentioning him with something good in a gathering of people in order to encourage them or so that they would follow his example and so that other people would become good, even though he does not like that because of his humbleness and because he does not like people to speak about him but rather likes to remain unknown and not become famous, then there is nothing wrong in this because of the possible benefit, that other people may follow his example.”
The same applies – in our view – to saying, ‘I do not like what he is wearing’; this is not backbiting as this is not in order to find a defect in him or to belittle him.
Based on the above definition of backbiting, it becomes clear that mentioning someone with what is bad in him in his absence is considered backbiting, and that the presence of malice and hatred in the heart is of no consideration.
In any case, the Muslim should be concerned with what benefits him in his religion and his worldly affairs and not be concerned about the people. Ali ibn Husayn narrated from his father that he said, “The Prophet said, 'Among the good traits of a Muslim is abandoning that which does not concern him.'” [Ahmad]
Allah knows best.
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