Advising, Criticising, Blaming and Backbiting


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As-salaamu `alaykum warahmatullaahi warabarakaatuh

I've thought about the need of this topic in the past due to our ignorance of it. In addition, considering recent events on TTI I feel a stronger need for posting something of this sort. What follows is taken from the works of various scholars, past and present.


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The Difference Between Advising and Condemning - Ibn Rajab

These are some interesting points I found while reading Ibn Rajab's treatise, Al-Farq Bayna An-Naseehah wat-Ta`yeez. I have added the titles myself, for the sake of summing up the point, but I strongly urge that the whole book is read, since it is a valuable piece.

Mentioning People's Mistakes

"Know that mentioning something about a person that he hates to have mentioned (about him) is forbidden, if the objective behind that is for nothing else but to dispraise and declare (his) faults and defects. However, if there is found in this mentioning, a beneficial good for the general masses of the Muslims - specifically for some of them - and the objective behind it is to accomplish this beneficial good, then it is not forbidden, but rather recommended"

Retracting Opinions for the Truth

`Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab (radiy Allaahu `anhu) once said, "A woman has spoken the truth and a man (himself) has erred." Ibn Rajab continues,

"Imam Ash-Shafi`ee used to go to great extents with regard to this understanding, for he would advise his companions to follow the truth and accept the Sunnah, even if it should appear to them in contradiction to their (own) opinions...

... And what is more profound than this is his saying: "No one ever debated me except that I noticed; either the truth was manifested on his tongue or my tongue." "

It was said to Imam Ahmad, "You are a non-Arab and do not speak elequently, yet no one debates you, except that you silence him. So with what do you gain victory over your opponents?" So he responded, "By three things: I become happy when my opponent speaks correctly. I become grieved when he errs, and I withhold my tongue from him, lest I should say something that would harm him." "

Describing One's Speech as a Lie

"When a statement would reach some of the Salaf that they rejected they would say: "This person has not spoken the truth." This example is taken from the Prophet (sall Allaahu `alayhi wasallam), "Abu As-Sanaabil has not spoken the truth" " [There is something important to note here, the Arabic verb used here means to lie/not speak the truth, so the statements are the same as "This person has lied" and "Abu As-Sanaabil has lied".]

Hating what we Hear

"And from this discussion is: when it is said to a man in his face that which he hates to hear. So if this is done with the intention of sincerely advising him, then it is good...

...But if this advising is done with the intention of (only) blaming him due to a sin (he committed), then it is reprehensible and condemned. It was said to one of the Salaf: "Would you love that someone inform you about your faults?" So he replied: "If he does so with the intention of blaming me then no.""


The Difference Between Advising and Condemning [pdf]


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What Type of Backbiting is Permissible - An-Nawawi

An-Nawawi lists six categories for when backbiting is permissible, in his Riyaadh Us-Saaliheen and Al-Adhkaar. Some of us may think that backbiting is completely haraam and that the scholars who have said otherwise have erred. This is not the case as all the categories mentioned by An-Nawawi, Al-Ghazali etc. are supported with hadeeth directly from the Prophet, sall Allaahu `alayhi wasallam.

Also, if you ponder carefully over the permitted instances, you would notice that although they fall under gheebah as an Arabic word, the same isn't the case for English and other languages. So for example, when we complain about someone's oppression, in their absence, is it not gheebah? The answer is yes, but it is allowed. Something I don't think anybody here denies. The difference is perhaps they would prefer to word it 'complaining of oppression' as oppose to 'backbiting'.

What Type of Backbiting is Permissible

Know that although backbiting is forbidden, it becomes permissible under certain circumstances when done for a beneficial reason. That which makes it allowable is a valid and legitimate goal, which cannot be acheived except by doing it (i.e. backbiting). These goals can be broken down into six categories.

1. Oppression

It is permissible for the one who is oppressed to complain about his situation to the ruler or the judge or anyone else who holds authority or has the ability to grant him justice against his oppressor. He should say, "Such and such person wronged me", and "he did such thing to me" and "he coerced me in this manner" and so on.

2. Seeking assistance in changing an evil and returning a sinner back to what is correct

One should say to the individual whom he expects has the ability to put an end to the evil: "Such and such person did this, so prevent him" or something to that effect. His objective should be to look for a way to ultimately put an end to the evil. If he does not intend this as his goal, then it is forbidden (for him to mention it).

3. Seeking a fatwa (religious ruling)

One should do this by saying to the muftee (scholar capable of issuing a fatwa): "My mother" or "my brother" or "such and such person wronged me in this way, does he have the right to do so? How should I go about putting an an end to it and obtain my right and repelling oppression from myself?" and so on. Likewise, one may say: "My wife did such and such to me" or "my husband did such and such a thing" and so on. This is permissible due to the necessity for it, however, to be more cautious, it is better for one to say: "What do you say about a man who has done such and such thing?" or "concerning a husband" or "concerning a wife who did such and such" (without saying "my") etc.

4. Warning and advising Muslims against evil

There are several perspective to this, of which one is: Declaring one unreliable in the field of narrating hadeeth and giving testimony. This is permissible to do, according to the consensus of scholars. Rather, it becomes obligatory due to the need for it. Another case is when an individual desires to enter a relationship with another person either through marriage, business, the consignment of property, the consigning of something to him or any of the other daily affairs. It is obligatory on you to mention to that individual what you know about the person he wants to get involved with, with the intention of advising him.

If your objective can be achieved by simply saying: "It is not good for you to engage with him in business transactions" or "in a relationship for marriage" or by saying: "You should not do this" or anything similar to that, then anything more to this, such as by mentioning his bad characteristics is not permissible. And if the objective cannot be reached, except by specifically explaining that person's condition to him, then you may mention that to him in detail. Another case is when you see a person buying a product from an individual who is known for stealing or fornicating or drinking or other than these. It is then upon you to inform the buyer of this, on the account that he is not knowledgeable of it already. And this case is not specified to this example only. Rather, it also applies to when you have knowledge that the commodity being traded is defective. It is then obligatory upon you to clarify this matter to the buyer, if he is not aware of it.

Another case is when you see a student going to an innovator or a deviant, seeking to attain knowledge from him, and it may effect that student. In that situation, you must advise him about the state of that innovator, on the condition that your intention only be for the sake of advising. And this is something in which regard, many people fall into error, for perhaps the person speaking may do this because he is jealous (of the person he is warning against). Or perhaps the Devil may deceive him about this matter, causing him to believe that what he is doing is advising and showing compassion, so he believes this.

One last case is when a person has some leadership role, which he does not fulfil properly either because he is not fit for it, or he is a sinner or neglectful etc. So in this case, one must mention this to those who have general leadership over this person, so that he can be removed and someone fit can be put in charge. Or that those who have charge over him can know this about him so that they can deal with him accordingly and not be deceived by him, and so that they can make the right efforts to encourage him to be upright or to replace him.

5. When one exposes his acts of evil or his innovation

An example of this is when someone has openly exposed his consumption of alcohol, or his illegal confiscation of people's money and raising of their taxes unjustly and his usurping command wrongfully. It is thus permissible for one to talk about what the individual has made public in which we have mentioned that backbiting is permissible.

6. Defining someone

If someone is known to the people by his nickname, such as "the bleary eyed one", "the one who limps", "the deaf guy", "the blind guy", "cross-eyed", "flat-nosed", and other than that, then it is permissible to particularise him as such, with the aim of identifying him. If he can be identified with another (more appropriate) type of name, then that is more preferable. These are the six cases in which the scholars have stated that backbiting is permissible, if it is done in accordance to the guidelines we have mentioned.

From those who have reported similar to what we have stated is Aboo Haamid Al-Ghazaalee in his book, "Al-Ihya", as well as other scholars. The evidences for the permissibility of backbiting can be found in authentic and well-known ahaadeeth. Furthermore, there is an agreement of the scholars concerning the allowance of backbiting in these six cases...

See the linked file below for the proofs he gives.


Guarding the Tongue - Al-Adhkaar [pdf]