Gossip or backbiting means saying something about a Muslim which may be true but which he does not like to hear spoken, whether it be about his physical appearance, his adherence to religion, his worldly affairs, his self, his behaviour or his character.
There are many forms of gossip, including talking about a person’s inadequacies and making fun of him.
Many gatherings produce nothing but gossip about other Muslims, slandering of their honour. This is something which Allah has forbidden His slaves, and has drawn the most repulsive analogy to put them off. He says (interpretation of the meaning): “. . . neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it . . .” (Q49:12)
The Prophet (s.a.w) elucidated on this verse saying: “Do you know what gheebah (gossip or backbiting) is?” His companions said, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” Then he said: “To say something about your brother that he does not want to be said.” He was asked, “What do you think if what is said about him is true?” He said, “If what you say about him is true, this is backbiting, and if what you say about him is not true, this is a lie.” (Reported by Muslim, 4/2001).
People take the matter of gheebah very lightly, although it is very serious in the sight of Allah, as is indicated by the words of the Prophet (s.a.w): “There are seventy-two forms of riba, the least of which is as bad as a man having intercourse with his own mother, and the worst of which is when a man slanders the honour of his brother.”
If we find ourselves in this gathering, we should discourage it and defend whoever is being talked about that is not there to defend himself. The Prophet (s.a.w) encouraged us to do this when he said: “Whoever defends the honour of his Muslim brother, Allah will protect his face from fire on the Day of Resurrection.” (Reported by Ahmad, 6/450)