The prohibition against backbiting and the command to guard the tongue

Riyad as-Salihin (The Meadows of the Righteous)

by Imam Nawawi

254. Chapter: The prohibition against backbiting and the command to guard the tongue

Allah says, "Do not backbite one another Would any of you like to eat his brother's dead flesh? No, you would hate it. But have taqwa of Allah. Allah is Ever-Returning, Most Merciful," (49:12)

and He says, "Do not pursue what of which you have no knowledge of hearing, sight, and hearts will all be questioned." (17:36)

Allah says, "He does not utter a single word without a watcher by him, pen in hand." (50:18)

1511. Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Anyone who believes in Allah and the Last Day, should speak good words or be silent." [Agreed upon]

This hadith clearly indicates that he should not speak unless the words he speaks are good. That means speech whose benefit is clear. If there is any doubt about benefit occurring, he should not speak.

1512. Abu Musa said, "I said, 'Messenger of Allah, whose Islam is best?' He said, 'The one from whose tongue and hands the Muslims are safe.'" [Agreed upon]

1513. Sahl ibn Sa'd reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Anyone who safeguards for My sake what is between his jaws and what is between his legs, I will safeguard the Garden for him." [Agreed upon]

1514. Abu Hurayra reported that he heard the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, "A slave of Allah might say something, without realising its seriousness, which causes him to slip into the Fire by a greater margin than the distance between the east and the west." [Agreed upon]

1515. Abu Hurayra is that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "A slave of Allah might say something which pleases Allah Almighty without realising it on account of which Allah raises him some degrees. A slave of Allah might say something which angers Allah Almighty without realising it on account of which he falls into Jahannam." [al-Bukhari]

1516. Abu 'Abdu'r-Rahman Bilal ibn al-Harith al-Muzani reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "A man may say something which pleases Allah Almighty without him realising the full extent of its implication, and because of it, Allah prescribes His pleasure for him until the Day he meets Him. And a man may likewise say something which angers Allah without him realising the full extent of its implication, and because of it, Allah prescribes His wrath for him until the Day he meets Him. [Malik in al-Muwatta' and at-Tirmidhi]

1517. Sufyan ibn 'Abdullah said, "I said, 'Messenger of Allah, tell me something I can cling to.' He said, 'Say: "My Lord is Allah" and then go straight.' I said, 'Messenger of Allah, what is the thing you fear most for me?' He took hold of his tongue and then said, 'This.'" [at-Tirmidhi]

1518. Ibn 'Umar reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Do not say much without mentioning Allah. A lot of talk without mentioning Allah Almighty makes people's hearts hard. The furthest of people from Allah are the hard-hearted." [at-Tirmidhi]

1519. Abu Hurayra said, "The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'Anyone whom Allah protects from the evil of what is between his jaws and the evil of what is between his legs will enter the Garden.'" [at-Tirmidhi]

1520. 'Uqba ibn 'Amir said, "I said, 'Messenger of Allah, what ensures safety?' He said, 'Holding your tongue, keeping to your house and weeping for your sins.'" [at-Tirmidhi]

1521. Abu Sa'id al-Khudri reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "When the son of Adam starts the day, all his limbs supplicate his tongue, saying, 'Fear Allah in respect of us. We move by you. If you go straight, we go straight. If you go crooked, we go crooked.'" [at-Tirmidhi]

1522. Mu'adh said, "I said, 'Messenger of Allah, tell me of an action which will admit me to the Garden and keep me far from the Fire.' He said, 'You have asked about a great matter, but it is easy for the one to whom Allah Almighty makes it easy: worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him, do the prayer, pay the zakat, fast Ramadan and go on hajj to the House.' Then he said, 'Shall I direct you to the gates of good? Fasting, which is a protection, and sadaqa, which extinguishes mistakes as water extinguishes fire, and the prayer of a man in the middle of the night.' Then he recited, 'Their sides eschew their beds' until he reached 'what it used to do.' (32:16-17) Then he said, 'Shall I tell you of the head of the matter, its support and its peak?' I said, 'Yes indeed, Messenger of Allah.' He said, 'The head of the matter is Islam and its support is the prayer and its peak is jihad.' Then he said, 'Shall I tell you of the foundation of all that?' I said, 'Yes, indeed, Messenger of Allah.' He took hold of his tongue and said, 'Restrain this.' I said, 'Messenger of Allah, will we be taken to task for what we say ?' He said, 'May your mother be bereaved! Are people thrown on their faces into the Fire for anything but the harvest of their tongues?'" [at-Tirmidhi]

1523. Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Do you know what backbiting is?" They said, "Allah and His Messenger know best." He said, "To mention your brother in a manner he dislikes." It was said, "What if my brother is as I say?" He said, "If he is as you said, you have backbitten him. If he is not as you said, you have slandered him." [Muslim]

1524. Abu Bakra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said in his khutba on the Day of Sacrifice during the Farewell Hajj, "Your blood, your property and your honour are sacred to you, like the sacredness of this day in this month in this city. Have I not conveyed it?" [Agreed upon]

1525. 'A'isha said, "I said to the Prophet, 'Such-and-such should be enough for you in respect of Safiyya.' (Some of the transmitters say that she meant her shortness.) He said, 'You have said something that, if it were mixed with the water of the ocean, would still pollute it!' [She said,] I said, 'I related something unpleasant about someone to him and he said, "I would not like to relate anything unpleasant about someone, even if I were to receive such-and-such a thing [for doing it]."'" [Abu Dawud and at-Tirmidhi]

1526. Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "When I ascended through the heavens, I passed by some people holding copper nails with which they were gouging their faces and chests. I said, 'Who are these, Jibril?' He said, 'Those are the people who consumed people's flesh and attacked their honour.'" [Abu Dawud]

1527. Abu Hurayra stated that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "The blood, honour and property of every Muslim is sacred for another Muslim." [Muslim]