The Seventy Third Call: Avoiding Negative Assumptions
Almighty Allah says: "O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful." (Al-Hujurat: 12)
Almighty Allah commands the believers to avoid negative assumptions and doubts concerning their brothers and sisters in faith because the negative assumption of a Muslim is considered a sin. Almighty Allah forbids such act so it is sinful to have negative assumptions about one another.
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah, Peace Be upon Him, said, "Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tales. Do not look for other's faults. Do not spy one another, and do not practice Najsh (means to offer a high price for something in order to allure another customer who is interested in the thing). Do not be jealous of one another and do not nurse enmity against one another. Do not sever ties with one another. Become servants of Allah, and be brothers to one another as He commanded." (Bukhari and Muslim)
Almighty Allah commands the believers not to spy on each other, He also forbids them from backbiting and looking for others' mistakes or misgivings in order to expose them causing a disgrace for their brothers in faith.
He forbids them from gossip or offending other people in terms of their religion, life, manners, families, wealth, wives or children…
Narrated Abu Barzah al-Aslami: "The Prophet, PBUH, said: O community of people, who believed by their tongue, and belief did not enter their hearts, do not backbite Muslims, and do not search for their faults, for if anyone searches for their faults, Allah will search for his fault, and if Allah searches for the fault of anyone, He disgraces him in his house." Hadith Grade: Hasan Sahih (Al-Albani)
Almighty Allah compares the act of backbiting a believer by his brother with eating the flesh of his dead brother. Allah says to the believers if you hate eating the flesh of your brother after his death, then they should hate backbiting him alive.
Backbiting has three kinds:
Backbiting – Mentioning your brother with something in him that he dislikes.
Falsehood – Mentioning your brother with something that you heard about him which he dislikes.
Slandering – Mentioning your brother with something not in him which he dislikes.
Then, The Almighty encourages the believers to commit to piety and obedience by abandoning backbiting and observing Allah in secret and in public and remember that eHeHe sees them in every situation. If they repent, stop and seek their Lord's forgiveness for their sins, the Lord will answer them and forgive them because Almighty Allah forgives all sins for He is The Oft-Forgiving, The Most Merciful.
This verse establishes yet another fence in this noble society protecting the integrity and freedom of individuals, while at the same time teaching people how to cleanse their feelings and consciences- Following the pattern of the surah, it begins with the endearing address, believers. It follows this by issuing an order to avoid most suspicion, so that they do not leave themselves open to thoughts of doubt about others. It justifies this order by saying that some suspicion is sinful since the prohibition applies to most suspicions and the rule is that some suspicion is sinful, then the verse implies that all negative suspicion should be avoided, because no one knows which part of his or her doubts are sinful.
Thus the Qur'an purges a Muslims inner conscience so that it is not contaminated with evil suspicion and consequently incurs sin. It leaves it clean, free of doubt, entertaining only friendly and affectionate thoughts towards one's brothers in faith. In this way it steers society away from suspicion so that the community enjoys reassurance and is not marred by worry and apprehension. Life in a community where ill thoughts have no place is both serene and comfortable.
Islam does not, however, stop at this point in educating people's hearts and souls. The verse we are looking at establishes a principle that applies to people's dealings with each other. It protects the rights of those who live in its pure society so that they are not punished or tried on the basis of suspicion. Indeed, suspicion does not even form a proper basis for interrogating people or investigating their affairs. The Prophet is quoted as saying: "If you have doubts, do not investigate." [Related by al-Tabari] What this means is that people remain innocent enjoying all their rights, freedom and status until it is absolutely clear that they have committed some offence. It is not sufficient just to suspect them of having committed something so they are then pursued with the aim of establishing whether they are guilty or not.
This verse shows us the limit to which Islam goes in protecting people's freedom, integrity, rights and status. How does this compare with what even the best democratic countries boast of with regard to protecting human rights? This standard, which the Qur'an sets for believers, is far superior indeed. Moreover, Islam achieves this in real life, after it establishes it in people's hearts and consciences. The verse moves on to lay down another principle that provides social guarantees: "And do not spy or backbite each other" (Verse 12) Spying may be an action that follows immediately on entertaining suspicion.
On the other hand, it may be an independent action that seeks to look at other people's faults and errors. The Qur'an opposes spying because it is morally base. It aims to purge people's hearts from sinking into this vile pursuit in order to keep up its high moral standards. Yet the order goes beyond this. It states an essential principle of the Islamic social system and its legislative measures. People are entitled to have their freedom and integrity respected. These should not be violated or encroached upon in any way.
In an Islamic society people enjoy a high standard of values. They enjoy security in their lives, homes and personal affairs. Nothing whatsoever justifies any violation of these. Indeed, the investigation of a crime does not provide, in the Islamic system, justification for spying on people. We take people by their appearances and no one is entitled to delve into others' affairs. Indeed, people may not be taken to task except for what is evident of their offences. No one may suspect anticipate or even know that others are secretly committing some violation and resort to spying on them so as to establish this as a factor to catch them red-handed. All that may be done against such people is that they be put to trial when they actually commit a crime.
Some people said to Abdullh ibn Mas'oud, a learned scholar and a Companion of the Prophet: "We saw this man with his beard dripping wine." He said: "We have been forbidden to spy. If we see something evident, we act on it." [Related by Abu Dawud-]
Mujahid says; "Do not spy on one another. Take people on the basis of what is apparent and do not look into what Allah has left concealed."
Imam Ahmad quotes Dujayn a clerk employed by 'Uqbah, saying: "I said to 'Uqbah that we have neighbors who drink and I want to call the police to take them to account," He said to me: "Do not do that. What you should do is to advise and warn them." Dujayn did this but his neighbors persisted in their prohibited ways. So he said to 'Uqbah again: "I have warned them, but they will not desist. I am calling the police." 'Uqbah said to him: "Do not do that. I heard the Prophet say: 'Whoever keeps to himself a fault of another believer is like one who rescues a girl buried alive.'" [Also related by Abu Dawud and al-Nasa'i]
Abu Dawud quotes Mu'awiyah ibn Abl Sufyan as saying: "I heard the Prophet saying: 'If you pursue people's faults you corrupt them or almost corrupt them." Abu al-Darda', a learned Companion of the Prophet, said: ''This is a word Mu'awiyah has heard from the Prophet, and Allah has enabled him to benefit by it."
This was the divine order implemented in practical life. It did not stop at being a form of practical education to purge hearts and consciences. It became like a fence protecting people's rights, freedom and sanctity, so that they could not be touched under any pretext. Far superior is this level to any achieved today, 1,400 years later, even by those societies which respect human rights and freedom most.
Next comes the order that forbids backbiting. This is given in such a way that it provides a graphic description of the disgusting nature of this action: "And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it." (Verse 12) The order tells Muslims that they must not backbite. It then paints a scene that fills even the most insensitive of people with disgust, showing someone eating his dead brother's flesh. It immediately declares that they have, of course, a very strong and natural aversion to such behavior. Hence, they also have a strong aversion against backbiting.
Following all these prohibitions against suspicion, spying and backbiting, the surah awakens believers' Allah-fearing instinct, inviting anyone who has committed any of these unlawful acts to hasten and repent in the hope of Allah's mercy: "And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful." (Verse 12)
Once again we say that this text is meant in practice to be like a high boundary protecting people's sanctity and integrity. It provides Muslims with a profound sense of morality. The Prophet follows the Quran's example in making backbiting appear so disgusting. Abu Hurayrah reports that the Prophet was asked to define backbiting. He said: "To say about your brother something he dislikes." Someone asked: "Suppose that what I say is true of my brother." The Prophet answered: "If you say what is true, you are guilty of backbiting; but if it is untrue, you are guilty of willful defamation." [Related by al-TirmidhT who states that it is an authentic hadith.]
Aishah reports that she said to the Prophet: "It is enough that Safiyyah [another wife of the Prophet] is so and so [referring to the fact that she is short]." The Prophet said to her; "You have said a word that would contaminate the entire volume of seawater." She added that she imitated someone to him, but he said: "I would rather not imitate anyone, even if I would get so and so for it." [Related by Abu Dawud,] Anas ibn Malik quotes the Prophet as saying: "When I was taken on my ascension to heaven, I passed by people with copper nails, scratching their faces and chests. I said; O Gabriel, who are these?' He said: 'These are the ones who eat the flesh of others and detract from their honor." [Related by Abu Dawud]
Ma'iz and the Ghamidi woman confessed to the Prophet that they had committed adultery insisting that the Prophet should administer the mandatory punishment to cleanse them. Hence he ordered that they be stoned. The Prophet subsequently heard one man say to another; "Have you seen this man whose offence Allah has concealed? Yet he insisted on being punished until he was stoned like a dog." The Prophet marched on with his Companions and soon passed by a dead donkey. He asked for the two men, and when they came forward, he said to them: "Get down and eat of this." Shocked, the two men said: "May Allah forgive you. Messenger of Allah! Is this something to be eaten?" He said: "What you said about your brother a short while ago is even more disgusting."
With such consistent treatment the Muslim community was purged and attained its high standard. It became like a dream that came true, a model to be followed and relished. Having addressed the believers in such a way as to elevate them to a superior level of refined manners and morality the surah then addresses all mankind, of all races, colors and communities, reminding them that they all share one origin. One standard applies to them all: it is the same one that elevates the Muslim community to its superior level of unparalleled purity.