Severity of the Sin of Gossiping

What is the severity of the sin of Gossiping?

Gossip, it is a culture. We live in a culture of gossip. We have become acculturated to gossip. And Allah (سبحانهُ وتعالى) told us that gossip is like eating the flesh of our dead sisters/brothers. The animal which most commonly known for eating dead flesh is the vulture. And that’s why I call it the vulture culture. Something which most of you smile when I mention the topic, because we know how common or popular, and how much a part of us and socialization is caught up in it.

 We should realize the severity of gossips with regard to very purpose of our life, where each and every one of us will automatically say that my purpose here is to worship Allah. And my goal in life is to attain paradise. Worshipping Allah is the mean to that goal. We are worshipping Allah not because Allah needs our worship; we are all clear on that. But we need to worship so that in worshipping Allah, with our lives, we then live life which are good and righteous. By worshipping Allah, our life become truly good. And the goal of that good life is paradise, as this life is only a bridge. The life to come is a greater life. So therefore, our focus should be on that greater life. We should be trying to do whatever we can to attain the good of that life to come. We do attain the good of this life,

“…Our Lord, give us in this world [that which is] good …”[1]

We try to attain the good of this life. But the good of this life is not nearly the pleasure of full things. But that we would attain those of full things in a way which pleasing to Allah. So this is truly good. Because if we attain those full things but they are displeasing to Allah then we are really not good. It is not a good of this life. So, we should be striving to attain the good things of this life, which are truly good, as well as the life to come. And the life to come is become greater life then the life which we are focused on now. So we focus on the good thing on this life and it will help us to gain the good life to come. At the same time, we have to also avoid whatever will prevent us from gaining the good of that life to come. And whatever will cause us to lose paradise, for whatever causes us to lose the good of the life to come must be the greatest of evil. We know that the most evil thing we could possibly do which will cause us to lose the good life to come is shirk. As Allah describes it,

“…Shirk is the greatest form of evil (oppression)[2]

Ultimately, it is evil to ourselves.

Among the great evils, which would prevent us from achieving paradise, not necessarily on the level of shirk, but still in the enormous significance, is that of gossip. Because Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), as authentically reported to us said,

“A person who gossips frequently will not enter paradise”[3]

Those who gossips regularly will not enter paradise. So it means that this is something very dangerous, something which we need to abrupt from our life to purify ourselves so that its evil effect would not prevent us from achieving our very goal in our life. It is related to the very roots of our faith. It has to do with believe in Allah and believe in the last day. Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said,

“Whoever believes in Allah and the last day either speaks good or silent”[4]

This is a golden principle that we try to ensure that what come from our mouth are things which are pleasing to Allah. Believe in Allah, because Allah has described this culture as the vulture culture, something displeasing to him. And on the last day, because we know that we will have to meet it on the last day, our good deeds will be taken from our scales, to make up for our gossip. So, we need to tackle this problem seriously. We cannot afford to treat it lightly. Shaikhul Islam Ibnu Taimiyah said “it is amazing that people find it easy to protect themselves from eating haram, injustice, adultery, theft, drinking alcohol, and lustful acts, but find it so hard to restrain their tongues. How often do we see people who are very cautious about falling to shameful deeds or injustice, while their tongues lash in the living and the dead? And they don’t seem to mind at all.”

That we are careful about our Salaah, our fasting in Ramadan, making Hajj etc, that are good deeds, we try to do them correctly, on time in the best way, but the message that is in these good deeds are not reflected in our life. So our tongues violate the honor of our brothers and sisters. We have no problem in violating their honor. We have justified it. Sometimes we will even say “Oh, I said this when they were present, so it is OK”. They know that we find ways and means of justifying. But the reality is there is no justification.

Gossip is among the most dangerous cultural practices that we face today. And what makes it particularly difficult is that it has become a part of our culture. It has become a norm. It is the foundation of our conversation and our socialization. When we get to gather, what would we talk about? “You know so and so? She has done this, She was there, someone said about them, this, that” And of course, everyone wants to hear, everyone wants to know. And we may think: “OK, I’m not actually gossiping, I’m just listening”. But, gossip can only take place if there is a listener. So, the person who sits there and listens is an active participant in gossip. They are not as bad as the one actually says it, but they still carry the sin because without them, the gossiper will be quiet. They will only talk if people want to listen. And maybe they are talking because of our encouragements.

So, gossip is generally divided into two parts:

  1. Ghibah; speaking true things about people behind their backs
  2. Buhtan; telling lies about them behind their backs

But both fall under the overall heading of gossip. So whether what are you saying is true or false, it is all sinful. You are saying what people will not like said about themselves, whether it is true, or whether it is false, this is gossip. And as I said that because of the facts that it is so deep rooted in the society, and it was also so deep rooted in the society of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ).  It is everywhere, because it is very difficult to avoid because people see it as something minor. We have turned our eye blind toward it because everybody is doing it. To not do it is to become anti-social.

One of the key principles we talked about it involves us getting up and leaving the conversation if we advise people and they don’t want to stop gossip. It is something very difficult. I know when one of my wives telling me that after Hajj she had made the intention to stop gossip completely. And she found her close relatives objecting: “What happened to you? You have changed, you don’t want to be with us anymore, you are not a social, and I can’t even talk to you anymore”. They are not external friends, but close relatives. It is very very difficult. Because we still need to maintain family ties.

So, as Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:

“The believer who mixes with people and bears their harm is better than the believer who doesn’t mix with people and bear the harm”. [5]

So it is better to be among them, when they start to gossip, try to advise them, and when they refuse it, and get up and leave it. But it is not easy. For example when our mother starts a gossip, and we say “Mom, please don’t say this”, she will insist to talk it, and we want to leave the conversation? It is very difficult, but that is what you have to do. We have the duty to be good to our parents, our mothers, more so even than another people. But at the same times, Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:

“Obedience should not be due to the creations if it involves disobedience to the Creator.”[6]

So if we obey our parents, our father and mother usually start to gossip, by staying there and listening to them, and it means that we disobey Allah, then we love our parents more than Allah. And it is an element of shirk, an open shirk. It is among the characteristics of disbelievers and hypocrites, because their love to the Allah’s creation is greater than that to Allah or equal to their love to Allah. But Allah describes the believer as being:

“Their love for Allah is greater” [7]

So in order to please Allah, if it means to displease Allah’s creatures, there is a success in it. But if we please creatures to displease Allah, it is a failure and a lost. So let us not get confused about our relationship to parents and our duty to maintain relationship to Allah.

References:

[1] [Qur’an 2:201]

[2] [Qur’an 31:13]

[3] [Bukhari and Muslim]

[4] [Sahih Muslim]

[5] [Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (5207) and Ibn Maajah (4032)]

[6] [Narrated by Ahmad, 1098]

[7] [Qur’an 2:165]

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