Q: I have backbitten and hurt many people, I have asked those whom I have hurt or wronged to forgive me but never mentioned that I have backbitten them. What I have done so far is:
1) I asked Allah sincerely to forgive me and all those whom I have backbitten ( by saying O’Allah Forgive me and all those whom I have backbitten, forgive all their sins and purify their hearts)
2) I have not directly asked people that I have backbitten them as I am scared. al-Hasan al-Basri said: the expiation for gheebah is to pray for forgiveness for the person about whom you backbit.
3) I have asked some of those whom if I have hurt to forgive me. And those whom I don’t know whether I have or not I will ask just Allah swt.
Is this all sufficient to erase the sin of backbiting and doing wrong to others? I could also pay some money on behalf of all the people that I have backbitten and wronged in other ways as perhaps this may replace the evil that I have done to them.
الجواب حامدا ومصليا ومسلما ومنه الصدق والصواب
A: There is a difference of opinion amongst the scholars of Islam as to what exactly is required for the acceptance of one’s repentance for backbiting. Does one have to ask the one whom one has wronged to pardon them, and furthermore, does one have to mention the exact nature of what was said? Al-Faqih Abu Al-Laith al-Samarqandi has written in Tanbih al-Ghafileen as follows: “The people have discussed the repentance of a backbiter; is it valid without seeking exoneration from his brother? Some of them have said that it is valid whilst others have said it is not valid until he does not seek exoneration from his companion. And this is in two ways according to us. If that speech has reached the one whom he has backbitten, then his repentance is that he should seek exoneration from him and seek forgiveness from Allah. If it does not reach [him] then he should seek forgiveness from Allah, Most High, and resolve in his heart that he will not repeat the like thereof. It is reported that a man came to Ibn Sirin and said, “Verily, I have backbitten you so put me in to lawfulness.” He replied, “How can I make lawful that which Allah has made unlawful?” It is as though he indicated to him that, as well as seeking exoneration from him, he should seek forgiveness and turn to Allah, Most High. And if that backbiting does not reach his companion, then his repentance is that he should seek forgiveness from Allah, Most High, and turn to Him. He should not inform his companion, for that is better, so that his heart is not preoccupied by it.” [p. 125] In his commentary on Mishkaat al-Masaabeeh titled Mirqaat al-Mafaateeh, Mulla Ali al-Qari first cites the above statement of Al-Faqih Abu Al-Laith al-Samarqandi and then adds: “Is it sufficient for him to say, ‘I have backbitten you so put me in to lawfulness.’ [i.e., exonerate me], or is it necessary to explain what he has said in the action of backbiting? Some of our scholars have said in relation to backbiting that he should not inform him of it but should rather seek forgiveness from Allah if he knows that informing him will create sedition. This is supported by what is firmly established in the principles that absolution from unidentified rights is permitted according to us.” [9:167] Ibn Aabideen states in Radd al-Muhtaar: “Some scholars have said, ‘When the backbiter repents before the backbiting reaches, his repentance will benefit him without seeking absolution from his companion. If it reaches him after his repentance, it is said that his repentance is not void and Allah will forgive both of them. The first on account of the repentance and the second for the adversity he has suffered. It is [also] said, rather, his repentance is suspended. If the second individual passes away before it reaches him, his repentance is valid. If it reaches him, then no. On the contrary he has to seek absolution and seek forgiveness. If he utters slander, then he must also return to those in whose company he spoke and call himself a liar. … Otherwise [if the backbiting does reach him] it is a condition to explain all that he has backbitten him by. i.e., along with seeking repentance and forgiveness. The intent is that he should explain it to him and apologise so that he may earn his pardon through giving him high praise and expressing his affection and gaining favour. He should persevere until his heart is pleased with him. If his heart does not become pleased, then his apology and expression of affection will be a virtue that will be used to oppose the backbiting in the Hereafter. It is necessary for him to be sincere in his apology, otherwise it is a further sin. It is possible then, that his opponent will retain the right of demand in the Hereafter because, if he knew that he was insincere he would not have been satisfied with him. Backbiting is indeed a very serious sin from which one must abstain. In light of the above, if your backbiting has not reached your victim then you should simply repent sincerely before Allah swt whilst praying for your victim and resolving firmly not to repeat the same. By informing the victim in such case, it is possible that you will make matters worse. However, if by informing the victim matters will not get worse, then as a precaution you should explain to your victim how you have wronged them and seek their pardon. This will also serve to rectify your conduct for the future as you will know you will have to face your victims again. If your victim has come to learn of your backbiting, then as well as repenting sincerely before Allah swt and resolving firmly not to repeat the same, you must make every effort to seek his/her pardon in person. If, by approaching your victim, matters will simply get worse, or your victim refuses to pardon you, you should simply pray for the forgiveness of your victim and, if you are able, donate something to charity in their name. It is hoped that this will help to make up for the backbiting in the Hereafter.
ففى تنبيه الغافلين: قد تكلم الناس فى توبة المغتاب ، هل تجوز من غير أن يستحل من صاحبه؟ قال بعضهم: يجوز ، وقال بعضهم: لا يجوز ما لم يستحل من صاحبه. وهو عندنا على وجهين: إن كان ذلك القول قد بلغ إلى الذى اغتابه ، فتوبته أن يستحل منه ، ويستغفر الله. وإن لم يبلغ فليستغفر الله تعالى ، ويضمر أن لا يعود إلى مثله. وقد روى أن رجلا أتى ابن سيرين فقال: إنى اغتبتك فاجعلنى فى حل. فقال: وكيف أحل ما حرم الله؟ فكأنه أشار إليه بالاستغفار والتوبة إلى الله تعالى، مع استحلاله منه. فأم إذا لم تبلغ إلى صاحبه تلك الغيبة فتوبته أن يستغفر الله تعالى ويتوب إليه. ولا يخبر صاحبه فهو أحسن لكيلا يشتغل قلبه به. [باب الغيبة ، ص 125[ وقال منلا على القارى فى شرح المشكاة : وهل يكفيه أن يقول اغتبتك فاجعلنى فى حل أم لا بد أن يبين ما اغتاب؟ قال بعض علمائنا فى الغيبة: لا يعلمه بها ، بل يستغفر الله له إن علم أن إعلامه يثير فتنة. ويدل عليه ما هو المقرر فى الأصول أن الإبراء عن الحقوق المجهولة جائز عندنا. [باب حفظ اللسان والغيبة ، 9/167[ وفى رد المحتار: قال بعض العلماء : إذا تاب المغتاب قبل وصولها تنفعه توبته بلا استحلال من صاحبه. فإن بلغت إليه بعد توبته ، قيل: لا تبطل توبته ، بل يغفر الله تعالى لهما جميعا. للأول بالتوبة وللثانى لما لحقه من المشقة. وقيل: بل توبته معلقة ؛ فإن مات الثانى قبل بلوغها إليه فتوبته صحيحة. وإن بلغته فلا ، بل لا بد من الاستحلال والاستغفار. ولو قال بهتانا فلا بد أيضا أن يرجع إلى من تكلم عندهم ويكذب نفسه ، وتمامه فى تبيين المحارم. ( قوله: وإلا شرط بيان كل ما اغتابه به ) أى مع الاستغفار والتوبة. والمراد أن يبين له ذلك ويعتذر إليه ليسمح عنه بأن يبالغ فى الثناء عليه والتودد إليه ويلازم ذلك حتى يطيب قلبه. وإن لم يطب قلبه كان اعتذاره وتودده حسنة يقابل بها سيئة الغيبة فى الآخرة. وعليه أن يخلص فى الاعتذار ، وإلا فهو ذنب آخر. ويحتمل أن يبقى لخصمه عليه مطالبة فى الآخرة ، لأنه لو علم أنه غير مخلص لما رضى به .(