It’s ok to backbite the kuffar?

A picture of a Sikh man with a *very big* adorned turban on his head had been posted in the “humour section” of a forum and some of the comments were coming across a little “taking the mick”/ backbitey to some. A couple of days ago I was sitting with a few friends and somehow the Sikh man and his turban came up in discussion to which one of us said we should be careful not to backbite. “But it’s ok to backbite non Muslims...” one said. “Huh? that’s not very Muslim is it? Be one way with your Muslims but another way with the non Muslims?” I replied, a little confuzzled. “I heard it at a talk by a knowledgeable brother that it’s ok to backbite kuffars, it’s not a sin because they’re not Muslims. Allahu’alim.”

It didn’t seem right to me so I wanted to find out whether it’s permissable to backbite the “kuffar”. I really don’t understand why some Muslims think it’s okay to curse and talk ill and generally behave so harshly with non Muslims/”kuffars” and think that the rules of being kind, soft hearted and good mannered only apply to fellow Muslims-Ugh. Anyway, Here’s what I found:

‘O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion; indeed, some suspicions are a sin. And do not spy, nor backbite one another.’ [Qur’an, 49:12]

Hence, one may mistakenly conclude that backbiting non-Muslims is permissible. However, one should beware of relying on first impressions, and especially in matters related to the Sacred Law, one should refrain from pronouncing one’s own, unlearned opinion on a matter based on one’s own impressions…The verdict here requires consideration of the evidence and texts in their totality, for only such can yield a full picture of the situation.

…Firstly, the fact that the address is made to the Muslims, rather than to mankind in general, is understandable when one takes into consideration that the unbelievers, although also subject to all of Allah’s commands, and technically obligated to follow them, (as evidenced by the clear texts of the Qur’an, and backed by the consensus of Muslim scholars) are first and foremost called upon to believe. This is because rectitude of doctrine is a prerequisite for the acceptability of a good deed, and without belief in Allah and all His Messengers, deeds are rendered worthless, like floating dust or scattered ashes, not earning their doer any reward in the Hereafter. It is only by accepting the message of Allah, and all his Prophets, that one can ‘validate’ one’s good deeds so as to earn reward for them in the Hereafter…

That the address is made to the believers does not rule out its applicability to unbelievers; i.e. the command, `Do not backbite one another,’ does not, logically, imply a permission to backbite others…

Imam al-Nawawi says, ‘It is obligatory for every sane adult to guard his tongue against talking, except when it contains a clear benefit. If talking and remaining silent are of equal benefit, it is sunnah to abstain, for permissible talking might lead to something undesirable or forbidden, as in fact is very often the case, and nothing matches safety.’

…From the above Qur’anic and hadith texts, it becomes clear that a Muslim should only speak if there is some benefit in his words, and in particular, it does not become him to engage in harsh or hurtful speech. This forms a basis for not engaging in backbiting, even if it be against a non-Muslim. If we consider the underlying reasons and implications of this, our idea is reinforced. The motive for backbiting is often anger and a thirst for revenge, whereas the believer is supposed to control his anger. Or, it may be intended to degrade the one being backbited and to thereby exalt oneself, which tends to indicate a feeling of arrogance, and arrogance is prohibited by clear scriptural texts. Furthermore, the enmity and other such bad consequences of backbiting are detrimental to society and its smooth functioning. In general, a Muslim is supposed to deal well with people, except if there is some justifying misconduct from the opposite party.

We conclude with the following hadith, which mentions the punishment for backbiting people (without distinguishing between believers and unbelievers; it therefore serves as support for the verdict we have mentioned).

Abu Dawud has reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘When I was taken up to heaven (i.e. during the Mi`raj) I passed by people who had nails of copper with which they were scratching their faces and their breasts. I said, ‘Who are these [people], O Gabriel?’ He replied: ‘They are those who consumed the flesh of people [i.e. backbite them] and aspersed their honor.’

Taken from The Rules Of Backbiting.

Sometimes we let things slip too easily 😦

May Allah forgive us for things we have said that we shouldn’t have.


~ by usma on 8, April, 2007.

8 Responses to “It’s ok to backbite the kuffar?”

  1. wow u have stupid friends

  2. LOL!

  3. What about the one who mentioned that in his talk then? Some responsibility falls on him for relaying such opinions?

  4. Salaams Usma,

    Thank you for this. It is really useful. You’re right to challenge this kind of idea. The idea is stupid (and not the people, who are perhaps misguided). At any rate, there are two issues here:

    1. Is a non-Muslim automatically a kafir?
    2. Is it OK to do haram things to non-Muslims?

    1. The answer is no. A kafir (and it’s an extremely strong word) is someone who rejects the truth after they understand it clearly. Given the misrepresentation of Islam today, can we say that many people (even here in the UK) actually understand Islam?

    2. A simple look at the Prophet’s (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) sira will show you that the answer to this is no. Indeed, a resounding NO.

    May Allah give your friends and all of us, hidayet.

    Ma’as salama,
    Abdur Rahman

  5. salamu `alaykum

    Sidi `Abdur Rahman: A non-Muslim is technically a disbeliever, and there is scholarly consensus on this point. There is no “middle ground” when it comes to labels in this regard – as it applies in the worldly sense. This is true for he who has not heard the message, has heard a tampered version of it, or is from the Ahl al Kitab.

    Of course, there is a difference between [1] being a disbeliever (kafir) and [2] attaining God’s amnesty, since the attainment of amnesty does not imply, or necessitate, correctness of belief and nor does it imply God’s pleasure with the belief of one receiving His amnesty.

    So, here it would probably be pertinent to distinguish between [1] the worldly life and [2] the afterlife.

    For the former, there is no doubt that whoever is not a Muslim is a Kafir. Rather, even he who is a “hidden” Muslim i.e. he does not proclaim his Islam publicly/openly, he is considered a “kafir” in the sense of application of worldly rulings.

    However, for the latter, if what we mean by Kafir is one who will reside in hell (we seek refuge!) forever, then – according to mainstream Ash`ari theology – not all non-Muslims are “kafirs”. So, in that sense you are correct.


  6. Salaams Sidi Salman,

    Al hamdu lillahi ala kulli hal. Thank you for your kind corrections. I accept them and submit to Allah, the Lord of All Being.

    Ma’as salama,
    Abdur Rahman

  7. Salaams again Usma,

    An interesting link:

    Abdur Rahman

  8. walaykumusalam,

    Jazakallah khair br Abdur Rahman and Salman for your contribtutions and for the link:

    “Am I not your Lord?” We were all present on that day – looking to our Lord, talking to Him, knowing Him – and we replied: “Yea, verily. We testify that You are our lord.” (Surat-ul-Araf : 172).

    Subhanallah! This gives me goosebumps.

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