Changing people's names in autobiography frees it of backbiting
Fatwa No: 364687

  • Fatwa Date:20-11-2017 - Rabee' Al-Awwal 2, 1439
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Question

I plan to write an autobiography about my life and all the injustice that I suffered throughout it. Of course, I do plan to change people's names in my book so that it is not associated with them and hurts their privacy. Would this be a form of backbiting given that I am talking about all bad things those people did to me (even though their names are changed), or not?

Answer

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, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.

Scholars held that mentioning an unspecified person in a manner that he dislikes does not fall into the category of the prohibited backbiting. Imaam An-Nawawi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote in his commentary on the hadeeth about Umm Zarʻ:

"It is stated in the hadeeth that some of these women mentioned their husbands in a manner that the husbands would dislike. This was not considered backbiting because the listeners did not know the husbands or their names. The prohibited backbiting is when someone mentions a specified person or group ... If a woman describes her husband in a manner that he dislikes and the listeners know him in person, this is prohibited backbiting. However, if the listeners do not know the concerned person except with further investigation, there is no problem with that, according to some scholars, as underlined above. This is similar to the situation when someone says, 'Someone in the world drinks (alcohol), steals, or does such-and-such'... Al-Qaadhi ʻIyaadh said, 'This is true. It is not backbiting if the mentioned person is unknown to the listener and whoever is informed of that talk, because the harm is only afflicted on the backbitten person by identifying him.' Ibraaheem said, 'It is not backbiting unless a person is mentioned by name or a hint that makes him identifiable is given.'"

For more benefit, please refer to fatwa 124620 about some of the rulings and etiquettes of writing biographies or autobiographies.

Allah knows best.

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