(From the book of Imaam An-Nawawee,Guarding your Tongue, Chapter 2: Prohibition of Backbiting & Gossiping, Page 27-40)
Backibiting (Gheebah) is mentioning something about a person (in his absence) that he hates (to have mentioned) whether you mention that about him with words, through writings, or whether you point or indicate him by gesturing with your eyes, hand or head.
Gossiping (Nameemah) is when one conveys and carries the talk of people from one group of individuals to another with the intent of causing discord between the two of them.
The following written below are few of the many clear evidences in the Qur’an, the Sunnah and consensus of the Ummah regarding the prohibition of Backbiting & Gossiping (that I selected by myself because there are too many listed in the book):
Allah subhannahu wa ta’ala says:
“And do not backbite one another.” [Al-Hujuraat (49):12]
And He says:
“Woe to every slanderer and backbiter.” [Al-Humazah (104):1]
And He says:
“A slanderer going about gossip.” [Al-Qalam (68):11)
Hudhayfah radiyallahu anhu reported that the Prophet ﷺ said:
“The one who spreads gossip (Namaam) will not enter Paradise.”
Abu Hurayrah radiyAllahu anhu reported that Allah’s Messenger ﷺ once said (to his Companions):
“Do you know what backbiting is?”
They said: “Allah and His Messenger know best.”
He said: “You’re mentioning something about your brother (in his absence) that he hates (to have mentioned).”
It was said: “What if there exists in my brother, that which I say (of him)?”
He said: “If there is found in him what you say, then you have backbitten him. And if there is not found in him what you say, then you have slandered him.”
Anas radiyAllahu anhu reported that Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said:
“When I was ascended (to the heavens), I came across a people that had nails made of brass, with which they were scratching their faces and their chests. So I said: ‘Who are these people, O Jibreel?’ He said: ‘They were the ones who eat the flesh of people and dishonour them.”
It was also reported from Sa’eed bin Zayd radiyAllahu anhu that the Prophet ﷺ said:
“Verily, one of the worst forms of Ribaa (interest) is being condescending with regard to a Muslim’s honour, without due right.”
Abu Hurayrah radiyAllahu anhu reported that the Messenger said:
“A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim. He does not betray him, nor does lie to him, nor he forsake him. All of the Muslim to (another) Muslim is sacred – his honour, his wealth and his blood. Taqwaa (fear and obidience to Allah) is right here (pointing to his chest). It is enough evil for a person to look down upon his fellow Muslim.”
Backbiting of the heart
What the backbiting of the heart means, is: When the heart has firm conviction and holds bad thoughts about someone. But as for the notions that occasionally display in one’s mind or when one talks to himself, then as long as these thoughts do not remain established and continues in him, it is excused according to the consensus of the scholars.
The Messenger of Allah said:
“Indeed, Allah has permitted for my Ummah that which their souls whisper to them, so long as they do not speak it out (audibly) or act upon it.”
The scholars say:
“This refers to the notion that form in one’s mind, but do not become settled or established there.”
And they said:
“This is regardless if the notion consists of backbiting, disbelief or so on (i.e it is pardoned, so long as it is not settle). So (for example) whoever’s mind becomes flooded with thoughts of disbelief, but they are only thoughts, without intending to have them carried out, and he then rids himself of these thoughts right after they occur, he is not a disbeliever nor is there any sin on him.”
Abu Haamid Al-Ghazalee rahimahullah said in Al-Ihyaa:
“If bad thoughts should occur in your heart, then these are from the whisperings of the Devil, which he has placed in you. So you must deny and reject them because he is indeed the most wicked of evildoers (Fasiq).
And Allah subhannahu wa ta’ala has stated:
“O you who believe! If a wicked person (i.e Fasiq) comes to you with news, then verify it, lest you harm people without realizing it (i.e out of ignorance) and afterwards you become regretful for what you’ve done.”
And he said: “Anyone that has gossip (Nameemah) conveyed to him, and it is said to him: ‘Such-and-such person said this about you’, then there are six things required from him:
1. He must not believe him because the one conveying the news is gossiper (Namaam), and the gossiper is a wicked person (Faasiq), so his reports are rejected.
2. He must forbid him from doing that, advise him and declare the detestability of his action.
3. He must hate him for the sake of Allah, for indeed, he is hated in the sight of Allah and hating for the sake of Allah is an obligation.
4. He must not think evil thoughts about the person he is relating from, based on Allah’s saying: “Avoid much type of suspicion.” [Al-Hujuraat (49): 12]
5. What has been related to you (about someone) should not cause you to spy or investigate further into the matter, because Allah subhannahu wa ta’ala says: “And do not spy on one another.” [Al-Hujuraat (42):12]
6. He should not be pleased for himself with what he has forbidden for the gossiper. Thus he should not report the gossip that was conveyed to him by saying: “Such and such person told me this”, for then he would become a gossiper himself and he would become committing that which he has forbade.