Published in  
Matters of the Heart
October 9, 2020

Family Politics - An Open Buffet?

“Mom can I have some Biryani?”

“There’s some left in the fridge I think check it out, but I think only the rice is left, meat is all over. I think the guests really liked it yesterday.”

“WHAAAT! That makes it second grade Biryani, actually its not even worth the name. Its just colored rice now.” *Give an accusing death stare to younger brother*

“Eat if you want or I could add some of your meat to it!”

Ok so now there’s no Biryani and the little that’s there has no meat in it. Life’s cruel at times isn’t it? So thing are going to get pretty dark and gloomy in this post now as we investigate the case of the missing meat.

Investigation Report – The Case of The Vanished Meat

“Those amongst us with the most sins are those who spend their time talking about the sins of others. – Muhammad Ibn Sireen رحمه الله

The Ummah of Muhammadﷺ is made from various people of different race, color, region and culture from around the world. So technically speaking different types of Biryani all over. Ok getting back to the main point then. At the very core of his blessed teachings was family life. Family constitutes and is the building block of the nation of Muhammadﷺ. Now if the very core starts to rot then slowly but surely the base falls away and then all of a sudden the building collapses. People talk away the whole day on the political changes happening everywhere, how Muslims don’t have a leader to guide them and how life is in shambles but the very irony is man himself is the khaleefa or the leader of his home. He doesn’t have to run elections for that, he CAN and HAS to look after his house yet he doesn’t. He is more interested in whats happening outside and that’s where the problem lies. Be happy with the Biryani your mom/sister/wife makes. Drifting off again but back on point, if we start fixing and affirming the base of our family life then with perseverance and patience the help of Allah will come.

When we say open buffet, we didn’t mean the good old family get together on a stormy night where everyone comes together to share their happiness and sorrow. Those things look like a part of a fairy-tale now.  From sitting in gatherings amongst family and friends to the gatherings on online media, people need to catch up, interact and socialize. But during this social indulgence just like small stones start an avalanche people start of with simple conversation but slowly Shaytaan trick them into speaking about their brothers and sisters and it becomes a whole discussion on its own. They pass judgments like they are the judge of a court and forget that every word that is being spoken, every breath taken is being recorded by the angels who never sleep. They have seen everything that you do and yes you reading this, everything that YOU have eaten.

No more Biryani jokes now.This is a topic that has the potential to literally tear apart happy families. Its about time we see the shadow lurking in the corner of our lives and illuminate it. Whats saddening to see if how the very fabric of family life is being torn away by just mere words passed from one person to the other. Brothers carrying tales of their sisters to another brother. Uncles carrying tales of what his niece said to another uncle. Aunties passing on stories of what the other sisters son did the other night with added spice, don’t even get me started on the Desi aunties and their get together,  its a whole 7 course meal there.  Its like some people cannot digest their daily dinner unless and until they pass on anything and everything that they might have heard of on that day. Its like water to the fish, banana to the monkey or drugs to the hippie. Its ADDICTION!

So what was the whole buffet thing that we were talking about and what is “Gheeba”? Well here goes.

Gheebah or backbiting means speaking about a Muslim in his absence and saying things that he would not like to have spread around or mentioned.

Buhtan or slander means saying things about a Muslim that are not true, or in other words telling lies about him.

Nameemah or malicious gossip means telling one person what another said in order to cause trouble between them.

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allahﷺ said: “Do you know what gheebah (backbiting) is?”  They said, “Allah and His Messengerﷺ know best.” He said, “Saying something about your brother that he dislikes.” It was said, “What if what I say about my brother is true?” He said, “If what you say is true then you have backbitten about him, and if it is not true, then you have slandered him.” [Muslim]

Backbiting and slander is so widespread that it has become the topic of people’s meetings and a way of venting their hidden anger, misgivings and jealousy. Those who indulge in backbiting are oblivious of the fact that they are only harming themselves. This is because of the fact that on the Day of Resurrection both the wrongdoer and the wronged will stand before Allah, Who is the Just Judge, Allah will then give this wronged person from the good deeds of the person who wronged him in accordance with his wrong by backbiting. If you have time to judge other people you have way too much time on your hands. Stop judging people and do something meaningful.

But the question arises is why would someone indulge in so much gossip in the first place. Abu Productive brilliantly summarizes this in a few points. When someone loves to gossip, it is usually for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Ignorance
  • Low Self-Confidence
  • Envy
  • Boredom/Wasting time
  • Trying to impress you
  • Low faith

Envy and wasting time are the clearest of indicators why this happens but then what can a person gain by impressing a man by pulling down another man. You don’t blow out the candle of another person just to make yours brighter. That just shows what failure truly is.  You can just seal the fate of a person when he swears in the name of Allah that he heard something but in reality it was just to pull someone down. Its high time we just don’t look and sound all high and mighty but actually act it out and show it in our actions. Invest in the betterment of your family life, don’t discuss anything and everything that goes on under your roof with others no matter how close they are to you.

Then again there are some situations allow us to inform others of what someone has done. It is allowed for us to inform the authorities when someone does injustice to us or others. It is allowed for us to inform someone who can help a perpetrator from committing further vice. It is also permissible for us to tell whoever seeks our advice on a person for business dealings or marriage. In this case it is not allowed for us to hide what we know about the person so that the enquirer will not be deceived. All these types of speaking about others are lawful.

Islam teaches us that if people are being ridiculed or backbited in our presence, we should defend their honor. What will we do the next time we are tempted to backbite or hear slander in our presence? Public gatherings might be easy to avoid, but what about on social media and WhatsApp groups where sometimes people don’t even realize that they are speaking ill of their brother.  The person who listens to Gheebah is also a sinner unless he opposes with his tongue or with his heart if he fears harm. If he can leave the gathering or interrupt and change the subject, then he should do so. One should take it seriously and defend his brethren quite explicitly.

“I was only joking”. We treat lies as being trivial. Allah’s Messenger did not hate anything more than lying. Its just these jokes that act like bullets to your friends heart and once this bond of friendship, trust and brotherhood  is shattered then just like glass even though it can be put back together, it would never remain the same. Don’t lose such precious people from your life for the sake of a few words.

Allah says and emphasizes so many times in the Quran on how we as Muslims must think and interact with one another.

“Why do not the believing men and women, whenever such [a rumour] is heard, think the best of one another and say, “This is an obvious falsehood”? … When you take it up with your tongues, uttering with your mouths something of which you have no knowledge, you deem it a light matter. Whereas in the sight of God it is an awful thing!” (Quran 24: 12-15).

Islam teaches the believers to validate their sources, and not engage in conjecture. Because when we sit in gatherings its just about what this man said and what the other said. No one really checks if it was actually said and when the news spreads it causes a person to harbour ill feelings and anger towards the other.

We as an Ummah are very diverse. We come from many different backgrounds and cultures yet the beauty of Islam is such that it binds us stronger than any force on Earth. We have to see that we are careful that we do not insult or make fun of others just because we do not understand their situation or practice because this as a whole will act as a slow poison and have a huge impact on the Ummah and its future.

“O you who believe! Let not some men among you laugh at others; it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former). Nor let some women laugh at others; it may be that the (latter are better than the (former). Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames. Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be used of one) after he has believed. And those who do not desist are (indeed) doing wrong.

We see just how hateful backbiting is to Allah as he likened it to eating the dead meat of our own brother. We are not ready to eat meat a few days old or that which has expired than how can we think of gulping down so easily the meat of our very own brother. Gatherings are becoming more of putting down some to a status which they don’t deserve and elevating some to those positions they would never deserve. At the end of the day it becomes a buffet of meat, no not that tasty, tender and juicy steak but the rotting meat of our brothers.

“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” [Quran 49:12]

Sitting and talking about others might sound fun to those present, but would they like it if the same was said about about them and their loved ones. Life has enough ups and downs without us having to pry into the lives of other people and take on their worries and tensions too.

If the word of Allah was not heavy enough we have so many ahadith from the Prophetﷺ where he warned us about this.

“Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tales; do not spy on one another; do not look for other’s faults; do not be jealous of one another; do not envy one another; do not hate one another; and do not desert (shun) one another. And O Allah’s servants! Be brothers!” (Al-Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Dawood).
We may say that we know all of this, yet backbiting and gossip remain the main causes of the destruction of personal relationships. It destroys friendships and families, and fuels mistrust among community members. Islam guides us in how to deal with our human tendency towards gossip and backbiting:

  • Recognize that Allah sees and knows all things, while our own understanding and view of a topic is limited.
  • Recognize that nobody is perfect; we are all lacking in some way. You wouldn’t want someone to speak ill of you in a full gathering now would you?
  • If you don’t like something or felt it was wrong, walk upto the person and inform him, not his entire family.
  • Recognize that Shaytan seeks to fuel doubt and mistrust among believers so he can make them divided and hence lead to destruction.
  • Speak well or keep quiet. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “One can greatly beautify himself with two habits–good manners and lengthy silence.” On another occasion, he said: “Let the one who believes in Allah and the Hereafter utter good words, or let him be silent.”
  • If you hear a rumor about someone’s misfortune, strive for compassion rather than continuing the gossip. Remind others not to gossip, and if they don’t listen, walk away. Allah praised such action in the Quran: “If they hear gossip, they walk away” (Quran 28:55).
  • Avoid spying. Spying fuels the trade of secrets and misinformation, and creates a climate of mistrust. Especially don’t ask kids about whats going on at home because that’s just falling down to a whole different level.
  • Seek to make excuses for others. If a person does something that you think is wrong in some way, try to think about the issue from other person’s point of view. Engage in making excuses for the person. If we do this, we are less likely to dwell on the negative and seek to talk about it with others. We as Muslims seem to have completely forgotten this concept taught to us. When we apply this, it acts as a cohesive glue that hold the Ummah together. The Leader of the Faithful Umar Ibn Al-Khattab said: “Never think ill of the word that comes out of your believing brother’s mouth, as long as you can find a good excuse for it.”

Many of us back bite and gossip without thinking. We think it is minor matter, however Allah reminds us to be careful and even though we think we are doing something little it is in fact very big in the sight of Allah!

It was narrated that Abu Hurairah said: The Messenger of Allahﷺ said: “Whoever has wronged his brother with regard to his honour or anything else, let him seek his forgiveness today, before there will be no dinar and no dirham, and if he has any good deeds to his credit they will be taken from him in a manner commensurate with the wrong he did, and if he has no good deeds, then some of his counterpart’s bad deeds will be taken and added to his burden.” [Al-Bukhari].

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah رحمه الله summarized this brilliantly when he said: Whoever wrongs a person by slandering him, backbiting about him or insulting him, then repents, Allah will accept his repentance, but if the one who was wronged finds out about that, he has the right to settle the score. But if he slandered him or backbit about him and the person did not hear of that, then there are two views according to the scholars, both of which were narrated from Ahmad, the more correct of which is that he should not tell him that he spoke against him in his absence. It was said that he should rather speak well of him in his absence just as he spoke badly of him in his absence, as Hasan Al-Basri رحمه الله said: the expiation for gheebah is to pray for forgiveness for the person about whom you backbit.

This is sometimes easier said than done. It takes a person of great courage and a heart yearning for goodness to do this, not everyone can just do it.

We should think twice before we speak or even press that “Send/Post” button. Furthermore, we should be more careful and remember that there are two angels sitting on our shoulders recording every word we utter. Think about this information and reflect on it the next time you are in a conversation, a debate, or in a meeting with others. By using this etiquette, we will always have fruitful speech.

“Indeed sometimes the tongue strikes deeper and worse than a dagger, so be careful how you use it”

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