Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Gibat (Backbitting)

I've been wondering lately about why we human beings like to gossip so much. I'm referring here to that whole family of actions that go by such names as gossip, slander, backbite, whisper, talk behind someone's back, criticize and so on. I realize each term is slightly different from the other, but I'm concerned here with their over-arching commonality. Please try to feel this with me for a moment.
You're sitting with a person, perhaps a casual friend whom you're hoping will become a close friend. You're both laughing, actively listening, affirming each other in the dozens of subtle, non-verbal ways that friends do, consciously or not. In the midst of your enjoyable conversation (you can almost feel the strengthening bond that's growing between you), Abid's name comes up. Your friend exclaims, "Oh, Abid! He's kind of odd, isn't he? He's quite a talker. And you know he struggles a little with needing to be the center of attention." Now, I think the world of Abid. I really do like him. But…….. At that very moment, a certain warm, delicious rush just shoots through your body. You lean closer. There's something inexplicably enjoyable about your new friend's having suddenly taken you into his confidence. You feel special somehow. A new, more intimate bond is developing between you two. It's not that you hate Abid - it's just that you want to keep moving forward with your new friend. "Yeah, I know what you mean," you reply. "I was with him last week, and he said . . ." And away you go.

So Why Do We Do It? Why is it that we enjoy (come on, admit it) talking about others behind their backs - and why do we enjoy listening to others who do it with us?  I think we enjoy backbiting so much because it makes us feel superior. If you and I feel a bit insecure with our friendship to start with, a false intimacy can quickly arise when we both identify a common inferior. For a brief moment we feel better about ourselves as you and I look down together on someone else. In a rather perverse sense, it's one way we go about being accepted by each other.

The Trust Factor -- I can't tell you how very, very secure this made me feel around Arwa. How much respect I had for her! Often I'd see her chatting with a friend, huddling close together and laughing. And I knew, with 100% certainty, that they were not talking negatively about me. Have you ever wondered to yourself, Gosh, if this person finds it so easy to drop little negative comments to me about others, I wonder what she's saying to others about me when I'm not around? I have wondered several times. It takes a little bit of the zing out of enjoying a session of backbiting, knowing that this present momentary thrill of intimacy will most likely be eclipsed by a betrayal in the near future.

I think our great fear about not joining in when gossip starts is that our friend will like us less, will pull back, and will now refrain from sharing other intimate things with us. But that's wrong thinking. In the very short term, it may seem so.  But in the long run, if over time we have developed a reputation as people who keep confidences and never backbite, we will find our friendships increasing and deepening.

Think of all the friends you have right now. Who are the ones you feel quite certain do not gossip about you? Who are the ones who wouldn't surprise you if they did talk about you behind your back? Whom do you respect more? Wouldn't it be great if Mumineen had the reputation (at work, at school, with neighbors) of not speaking negatively behind others' backs? We should be more like Arwa. Such a pledge may mean gently changing the topic when we sense backbiting is coming on, or even confronting someone about his or her loose tongue. But most of all we should want to develop the kind of character that takes a secret delight in saying positive things about another person - someone who can trust us to guard our tongue.

If you are unable to do three things, then you must do three (other) things: if you cannot do good, then stop doing evil; if you cannot benefit people, then do not harm them; if you cannot fast, then do not eat the flesh of the people. Remember What Maula who is Quran-e-Natiq quotes from the Quran that a person who does Gibat  is like a person who eats the flesh from his brother's dead body.

There are many methods and guises that are employed when one mentions another in a negative way:

Under the pretense of being informative, one could say that it is not one's habit to mention others, except for the sake of relating another's condition to someone. Or one could state that by Allah, indeed so-and-so is one to be pitied, thereby showing superiority over one who is to be rejected. Another method might be to say that so-and-so is a good person; however, he has such and such qualities. Again, one is justified in revealing another's faults. One could also simply state that we should forget so-and-so, and make supplication for their forgiveness as well as our own, intending only to belittle the one that was mentioned. There are some who are jealous about someone and hence backbite- just to criticize and defame him in the company of others.

Some people also backbite for the sake of humor, playfulness and lightheartedness. A person finds a certain amount of satisfaction from being appreciated for his story-telling abilities; speaking ill of someone in a humorous fashion adds flavor to a tale.

Others engage in backbiting by showing surprise and amazement at another's actions: "'How is it that someone could do such a thing?"

Another form of backbiting is relating someone's misfortune to their enemies, so that they, too, may find pleasure in putting them down.

In reality, all these tactics are designed to try to deceive Allah (the Exalted) and to please the creation; and in reality, the many that follow these methods only serve to deceive themselves.

From these examples, one can surmise that backbiting pertains to a disease of the mind... But you can get rid of it through Nuero Linguistic Programming (NLP). NLP is a science which deals with behaviour modification. It deals with your unconscious. Permanent  behavior modification can only take place when we reach our unconscious mind. Vows and pledges may help temporary change as this is done at the conscious level. I am an NLP practitioner and offer my khidmat  to help whoever wants to bring about any change in behaviour may it be backbiting or any behaviour which maybe against shariat..

 May Allah save us from this most evil of actions and protect us from its temptations.

Amte Syedna(TUS)
Nisreen Sh Abbas Merchant