Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer


Our New Testament reading for today included this passage:

Galatians 5: 13-15
13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

I love the way this passage describes the truly awful way the things we can say about one another can destroy. “Devour” is a very strong word, and fits perfectly with backbiting, doesn’t it?

I remember one of my first Ramadans, and my friends who were explaining Ramadan to me explained how one of the most important things during Ramadan was absolutely NO BACKBITING. says this:

Secret slander; detraction.

Backbiting, and bearing of false witness.

so I wonder if this is exactly the same in Arabic as in English. The impression I got is that backbiting in Arabic is more like gossip. Backbiting seems to imply that it is not true, but gossip can hurt even if it has a thread of truth. My impression from what my friends were telling me was that saying anything negative or unkind about another during Ramadan was severely discouraged, true or not.

Can you clarify this for me?

June 29, 2007 - Posted by | Books, Communication, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Language, Lies, Relationships, Social Issues, Spiritual, Words


  1. I can try insha Allaah 🙂 Here is what I know regarding backbiting.

    gheebah = backbiting
    buhtaan = slander
    nameemah = malicious gossip

    Gheebah (backbiting) is a serious sin in Islam. Backbiting isn’t just gossiping about someone behind their back, it’s talking about them in general, behind their back.

    The qur’an says this (in the english translation):

    “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 Allaah. Verily, Allaah is the One Who forgives and accepts repentance, the Most Merciful” [al-Hujuraat 49:12]

    There’s a group of really strong, practicing muslim sisters that I was part of before I moved to Kuwait, and it was common for one of us to be reminding another “hey sistah, I REALLY don’t wanna be eating your dead flesh on the day of qiyamah (day of judgment) eh?” because inevitably when we women got together, the gossip/backbiting would start to happen.

    Not intentionally, and even at times just in honest, sincere fun (as in sharing an anecdote or story or just teasing the person in conversation) – but the ayah is clear. Allaah (SWT) doesn’t make mistakes.

    Backbiting is haram and is to be avoided. How many of us have been hurt by the tongue of another? Usually if we stop and think about it, the thought sobers us up fairly quickly I think. As humans, we’ve all harmed someone with our tongues in our life.

    And as a muslim, the thought of eating my dead sister’s flesh is enough to make me turn green (and not with envy eh). Actually, the thought of standing before my Lord and having to account for every word I’ve spoken is enough – never mind tasting dead flesh.

    I just pray that I’ll remember more often to guard my tongue, and that forgiveness will be there for the countless times that I haven’t.

    Take care

    P.S. Shaykh Al Munajjid has a thorough article on his website (islamic Q & A)on gheebah, here’s the link:

    Comment by Huda | June 29, 2007 | Reply

  2. Backstabbing is more common
    And yes it is true, Ghaiba and buhtan u should stay away from these
    Ghaib: Talking about a person behind his back
    Buhtan: talking about a person behind his back but falsely
    Am not sure exactly on the terminology been a long time… could anyone correct the terms if they were3 not right?

    Comment by Vinnie | June 30, 2007 | Reply

  3. Thank you, Huda and Vinnie!

    first, I am delighted that your scripture so closely parallels our own, even to the sense that speaking in any way that lessens the object of the speech is considered sinful.

    Second, thank you for the illustrations and the vocabulary lesson!

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 30, 2007 | Reply

  4. Ramadan is considered a special and holy month so behavior ought to be even better at that time – that is, more charity, more reading of the Quran, and even more prayer. One woman described Ramadan to me as a Good Deeds Sale Season so to speak 😀 That is, whatever good deed you do it counts even more in Ramadan so you might as well “buy” a lot of good deeds at that time to take advantage of that “sales season” 🙂

    So gossiping is haram throughout the year and not just in Ramadan. But in Ramadan you’re expected to be in a more spiritually enlightened mode so it’s even more shameful if you do it then.

    Comment by 1001 Kuwaiti Nights | June 30, 2007 | Reply

  5. What I’d like to clarify is that these shouldn’t be done EVER. I don’t know where people got the idea that they should stay away from sins during Ramadan and then go back to doing them after.

    Comment by Elijah | June 30, 2007 | Reply

  6. Zin, Elijah, thank you. I agree, it shouldn’t be done ever, and it is a good thing to use the “sale season” of Ramadan to develop new, spiritually healthy behaviors.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 30, 2007 | Reply

  7. Sorry just to clarify, the “sales season” was just an analogy used by a religion teacher humorously so if you refer to it to other people they may not know what you’re talking about and instead think of the actual sales in shops that sometimes go on in the Ramadan season 😀

    Comment by 1001 Kuwaiti Nights | June 30, 2007 | Reply

  8. OOps! but I did get what you were saying. That Ramadan seems to be a time for inner reflection, and forming new and better behaviors, getting rid of old, self destructive behaviors – with God’s help! 🙂 thanks, Zin

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 30, 2007 | Reply

  9. I agree with Elijah. Everyone feel religious at times but then forgets the existence of morals once the moment passes by

    Comment by KJ | July 1, 2007 | Reply

  10. Thanks be to God that he is merciful, as we are too human, eh, KJ? I would like to think I play by the rules, but I know only too well my own weaknesses, my own secret sins. And guarding the tongue – whew! That is a really really hard one, don’t you think?

    Comment by intlxpatr | July 1, 2007 | Reply

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