On Backbiting ..
Sheykh Muhammad Nazim Adil al-Hakkani
ISLAM teaches only one thing: how to fight against your ego. This fight is also a way of worshiping Allah Almighty.
We will now take a verse about which our master has spoken very often. This verse mentions one of the worst characteristics of our ego and thus, something which gives it a great deal of pleasure – backbiting.
The ego feeds on it and feeds it. It insists on it and consists of it. It does not want to let go of it under any circumstances and it knows the reason very well. If you take away backbiting and other similar habits to which the ego clings, it will collapse. For the ego is nothing but its attributes. Take them away, and you take it away.
It is a Divine Order to fight against our ego, to catch it, and to force it to surrender. The means for this fight is our will-power. Everyone has this will-power, but only a few use it. It has been given to us to help us in the fight against our ego, and not for any other reason. Will-power has nothing to do with the desire for food, drink, or sex. Those are habits of our animal nature which make themselves felt without will. Will only appears when we try to free ourselves from our habits.
Our body consists of habit patterns and it does not want to give them up willingly. It is averse to praying, to fasting, to reading the Qur’an, and so, for the performance of any of them, will-power is necessary. If it could, our ego would also turn them into habits and add them to all the others. But this is not possible, and so the ego tries, by hook or by crook, with all its tricks and traps, to deceive you. The clearest sign is your resistance with regard to praying, fasting, keep/ ing ritual purity, and the remembrance of Allah. If you can keep these up only through some effort of your will, take it as a good sign.
Now, here is a verse that says: You, who believe, do not backbite! For each act of backbiting is an injury and causes enmity between brothers and friends. However, Islam does not tolerate enmity caused by human beings towards each other. Therefore, the enemy of what is human in man is also the enemy of Islam. Just as the enemy of Islam is also the enemy of mankind.
The enemy of mankind, Satan, is most powerful when he can provoke us to insult and to defame one another. For he knows very well that love between us strengthens Islam and that a strengthened Islam is the greatest helper of mankind. Satan is the biggest and most dangerous enemy of the children of Adam. His aim is the destruction of mankind. But Allah Almighty warns us of him and tells us about the weapons of the destroyer. As a result, the evil one must find a way to make us savor our own self-destruction.
Before the time of the Prophet, may peace and blessings be upon him, Satan even appeared to ordinary people in his true form. Afterwards, this was forbidden to him, and only the friends of God, the saints, see him from time to time. One day a saint met him holding ashes in one hand and a jar of honey in the other. When the devil saw the friend of God, he immediately wanted to turn around and run away. But the saint called him, saying, ‘Hey, what’s the hurry ? Wait a bit and tell me what you’ve got there in your hand.’ The devil answered,’These are ashes. I’ll blow them into the face of an orphan, so his eyes will swell and fill with pus and nobody will want to come close to him.’ Satan knows, of course, that Allah Almighty has ordered us to take care of orphans. ‘I will blow ashes in their eyes’, he thought, ’so people will chase them away.’
The saint said, ‘I understand about the ashes, but what is the honey for?’
And Satan answered: ‘Oh, the honey! Wherever people meet, in any association, I will be with them. It doesn’t matter if they are two or more, I like all kinds of gatherings. As soon as I hear of one, I am there with my honey. This isn’t just any old kind of honey, you know. It’s my specialty, home/made. So I take a bit and smear it on their mouths so that their backbiting will be very sweet to them and the words will just melt on their tongues. Then they will be happy, the idiots.’
You have certainly seen how it works. We meet and sit together. Then someone makes a light remark about someone who is not present but whom everybody knows. A second remark follows, this time a little bit stronger, then a third, and one is in the midst of things, one is excited and amused, the atmosphere heats up, we are going full sail, and with full sails we sail into the abyss. The person they are backbiting about is destroyed, and as a result the slanderers themselves are destroyed.
The backbiter harms himself to the same degree that he harms the one who has been denigrated. He destroys himself,destroys humanity, and destroys Islam. Allah Almighty gives a striking image of what happens in His verse.
He asks: ‘Who likes to eat the flesh of his dead brother;’ Whoever has ears to hear will jump up from his slumber and notice what was so pleasantly lulling him to sleep. The Prophet also says that backbiting is like preying on a corpse. You speak about someone absent, someone who cannot defend himself. He is lying there like a corpse in your midst.
In this way Allah Almighty teaches us adab, good manners. He says, if you eat from your dead brother’s flesh, you will lose all honour. Do not participate. Your refusal to participate is a way of glorifying your Lord.
It is not easy to get rid of this terrible addiction. However, even if it takes a long time, do not lose courage. Why do you eat your dead brother’s flesh; All ties will be severed between the slanderer and the one who has been defamed. They will never get together and never be friends again.
Fear Allah Almighty, and follow His Prophet. Then you will be able to put this habit aside, as well as all the other terrible habits of your ego.