Gossip (Ghibah) and Tale-Bearing (Namimah)

We start with the name of Allah; praise be to Him. We humbly ask Allah to raise the rank of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him and his kind Al and Companions and to protect his nation from that which he fears for them. May Allah grant us sincere intentions and facilitate for us the rewardable deeds and their acceptance.

Thereafter, Allah, the Exalted, endowed upon His slaves uncountable endowments. Allah said in Surat Ibrahim, Ayah 34:

وَإِن تَعُدُّواْ نَِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَآ

It means: [Should you attempt to count your endowments from Allah, you would be unable.]

The tongue is one of many endowments Allah bestowed upon His slaves. Although the tongue is a tiny organ, the person who uses it to comply with the orders of Allah, the teachings of the Qur’an, and the teaching of the Prophet peace be upon him earns blessings in this world and in the Hereafter. However, the one who uses his tongue in disobedience does not display thankfulness to Allah[1] and leads himself to his own destruction. Certainly, being thankful to Allah means to avoid using the endowments bestowed by Allah in what is forbidden.

One needs to know that the sins of the tongue can be small or enormous. Also, one should be aware that some of these sins take the person out of Islam, as the Prophet peace be upon him, sallallahu ^ alayhi wa sallam, said in the hadith, related by at-Tirmidhiyy:

إِنَّ العبدَ لَيَتَكَلَّمُ بالكَلِمَةِ لا يَرَى بِها بَأْسًا يهْوِى بِهَا في النَّارِ سَبْعِينَ خَرِيفًا

It means: [A person may utter a word he thinks harmless, which results in his falling the depth of seventy (70) years into Hellfire.] This hadith clearly refers to the bottom of Hellfire, a place only the blasphemers will reach. Included among the sins of the tongue are gossip (ghibah) and tale-bearing (namimah). Ibn Abid-Dunya related that the Prophet peace be upon him, sallallahu ^ alayhi wa sallam, said:

خَصْلَتَانِ ما إنْ تَجَمَّلَ الخَلائقُ بِمِثْلِهِمَا حُسْنُ الخُلُقِ وَطُولُ الصَّمْتِ

It means: [One can greatly beautify oneself with two traits: good manners and lengthy silence]. In this hadith, lengthy silence means to refrain from speaking, except for what is good, such as remembering and praising Allah, and teaching others what is good. Al-Bukhariyy and Muslim related from the route of Abu Hurayrah, that the Prophet peace be upon him said:

مَنْ كانَ يُؤْمِنُ باالله وَاليَوْمِ الآخِرِ فَلْيَقُلْ خَيْرًا أَوْ لِيَصْمُتْ

This hadith means: [Let the one who believes in Allah and the Hereafter utter good words or let him be silent.] We are responsible for our words. Allah said in Surat al-Isra’, Ayah 36:

إِنَ ٱلسَّمْعَ وٱلْبَصَرَ وٱلْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُوْلَئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْئُولًا

It means: [One is responsible for what he hears, sees, and believes.]

At-Tirmidhiyy narrated a saying of the Prophet peace be upon him to the Companion, Mu^adh Ibn Jabal, in which he responded to Mu^adh by saying:

وَهَلْ يَكُبُّ النَّاسَ في النَّارِ على وُجُوهِهِم إلا حَصَائِدُ أَلْسِنَتهِم

In this hadith, the Prophet peace be upon him answered the question of Mu^adh Ibn Jabal, confirming that what makes the people fall into Hellfire on their faces is what they reap from their tongues. Hence, wisdom entails that one uses one’s tongue in remembering Allah, performing obedience, ordering the lawful and forbidding the unlawful. Let us remind ourselves of what Allah said in Surat QafAyah 18:

مَّا يَلْفِظُ مِنْ قَوْلٍ إِلَّا لَدَيْهِ رَقِيبٌ عَتِيدٌ

It means: [Raqib and ^Atid[2] write down every uttered word.] However, it is known that these sinful words will be erased if the person repents. On the Day of Judgement would not each one of us want to have all the good words in one’s record and not those disliked or sinful words? Thus, it is important to emphasize matters related to the tongue. The Prophet peace be upon him advised us in a hadith related by At-Tirmidhiyy:

مَنْ صَمَتَ نَجَا

It means: [The one who adheres to the lengthy silence (except from that which is good) will be saved on the Day of Judgement.] In this hadith related by al-Bayhaqiyy, the Prophet peace be upon him said:

إِنَّكَ لا تَزَالُ سَالمًا ما سَكَتَّ فَإذا تكَلَّمَتْ كُتِبَ لَكَ أَوْ عَلَيْكَ

It means: [You shall be saved as long as you are silent, for if you speak, it will either be in your favor or will stand against you.]

Due to the importance of this subject the scholars of Islam were compelled to write extensively about it. Among the great scholars of Islam is Imam Al-Ghazaliyy, who said about the tongue:

اللِسَانُ نِعْمةٌ عَظِيمةٌ جِرْمُهُ صَغِيرٌ وَجِرْمُهُ كَبِيرٌ

It means: ‘The tongue is a great endowment from Allah; though small in size, its crime is enormous.’ A person may utter words of praise and thankfulness to Allah for which he earns reward. One may also utter a word that takes him out of Islam, thereby losing the reward of all his previous good deeds.

Reported in the texts of the scholars are narrations that highlight significant matters of the tongue. Among these is what Imam an-Nawawiyy reported:

Qiss Ibn Sa^idah and Aktham Ibn Sayfiyy met together. One of them asked the other, “Generally how many errors have you found the children of Adam [human beings] commit?” The other replied, “I have counted 8000 such errors, but let it be known that we cannot count them all. However, there is one good trait that would cover up for all of those errors and mistakes: To have control over one’s  tongue.”

Imam ash-Shafi^iyy, in addressing his companion, ar-Rabi^, said:

لا تَتَكَلَّمْ فِيمَا يَعْنِيكَ فَإنَّكَ إذا تَكَلَّمْتَ بالكَلِمَةِ مَلَكَتْكَ وَلَمْ تَمْلِكْهَا

It means: ‘Do not haphazardly speak without a need. Once uttered, you no longer control the words, but they control you.’ That is, once you speak a word it will be to your benefit if it is good. However, if it is sinful, then it will be written against you and will require a valid repentance.^Abdullah Ibn Mas^ud said:

ما شَىْءٌ أَحَقّ بالسجنِ مِن اللّسانِ

It means: “Nothing deserves imprisonment more than the tongue.” Other scholars said:

مَثَلُ اللّسَانِ مَثَلُ السَّبعِ إِنْ لَمْ تُوثِقْهُ عَدَا عَلَيْكَ

It means: ‘The tongue is like a beast. If you do not tie it up, it attacks you.” Various scholars talked at length about issues related to the tongue to highlight for Muslims the importance of keeping control of one’s tongue. When asked about the one who controls and protects one’s heart the most, Dhun-Nun al-Misriyy (Thawban Ibn Ibrahim), replied: “The one who controls one’s tongue the most.’ Allah made the tongue a witness to what is in the heart, as mentioned by the great scholars of Islam. Words of goodness reflect what is in the heart, as sinful or blasphemous words reflect what is in the heart.



Gossip (ghibah) is a disease prevailing in many societies. In addressing this issue, let us remind ourselves and others to be cautious of spreading this disease. Allah said in Surat al-Hujurat, Ayah 12:

وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا أَيُحَبُ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوُهُ وَٱتَّقُوا ٱللهَ إنَّ اللهَ تَوَّابٌ رَحِيمٌ

In this verse, Allah ordered us not to commit gossip (ghibah) amongst one another as it is similar to one eating the flesh of one’s dead brother. Allah gave us this comparison to show the ugliness of this sin and to guide us to clear ourselves of it. There are many hadiths of the Prophet peace be upon him highlighting the unlawfulness of gossip (ghibah). Among them is one related by al-Bukhariyy and Muslim from the route of Abu Musa al-Ash^ariyy:

قُلْتُ يا رَسْولَ الله أَيُّ المُسْلِمِينَ أفْضَلُ قالَ مَنْ يَسْلَمُ المُسْلِمُونَ من يَدِهِ ولِسَانِهِ

This hadith refers to when the Prophet peace be upon him  was asked about the best among the Muslims, to which he replied: [The one from whose hands and tongue the Muslims are safe.] Also, in a hadith related by Abu Dawud from the route of Anas, he said:

قال رسول الله : لما عُرِجَ بى مَرَرْتُ بِقَوْم لَهُم أَظْفَارٌ مِنْ نُحاسٍ يَخْمِشُونَ وُجوهَهُمْ وَصُدُورَهُمْ فَقُلْتُ مَنْ هَؤُلاءِ يا جِبْريلُ؟ قال هَؤُلاءِ الذينَ يَأْكُلُونَ نِىءَ لُحُومِ النَّاسِ(أي يَغْتابُونَهُمْ وَيَقَعُونَ في أَعْرَاضِهِمْ)

This hadith refers to when the Prophet peace be upon him ascended to the skies. He passed by people who were scratching their faces and chests with brass nails. The Prophet peace be upon him asked Jibril who those people were, and Jibril replied, “ The ones who were eating the flesh of other people.” This is a direct reference to those who commit gossip (ghibah). When the Prophet peace be upon him spoke about gossip (ghibah), he gave a very specific definition. In a hadith related by Muslim, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa’iyy and at-Tirmidhiyy, from the route of Abu Hurayrah, the Messenger peace be upon him when asked about gossip (ghibah), said:

ذِكْرُكَ أَجَاكَ بِمَا يَكْرَهُ. قِيلَ أَرَأَيْتَ إِنْ كَانَ في أَخِى ما أَقُولُ فِيهِ؟ قَالَ إنْ كَانَ فيهِ ما تَقُولُ فقد اغْتَبْتَهُ، وإن لم يَكُنْ فيهِ ما تَقُولُ فَقَدْ بهَتَّهُ

The Prophet peace be upon him defined gossip (ghibah) as mentioning one’s Muslim brother with what he hates. The Prophet peace be upon him was asked, “What if what I mentioned was something truthful about him?” The Prophet peace be upon him said, “If it was in him, then you have committed gossip (ghibah) against him, and if it was not in him, then you have committed buhtan against him”. Buhtan is a sin more enormous than gossip (ghibah). Hence, gossip (ghibah) is mentioning about your Muslim brother something that he hates, whether he is alive or dead. (the precept is that if the person spoken about would be hurt by your words reaching him, then it is gossip (ghibah).) Therefore, mentioning in the absence of your Muslim brother a matter about him that he hates to be mentioned, is gossip (ghibah), whether regarding his body, dress, house, character, or the like.

Many people fall into gossip (ghibah) as a result of negligence and lack of having proper control over their tongues. Examples of gossip are to say about another Muslim:

He is short.
He is cross-eyed.
He is rude.
He likes to sleep a lot.
He eats too much.
His house is messy.
His son is rude.
He is controlled by his wife.
He is too fat.
He does not have good taste.
His car is ugly.
His father is a garbage collector (with the purpose of slandering him.)

These are only a few examples of gossip (ghibah) recognized by most people. May Allah protect us from committing gossip (ghibah) which is an enormous sin when committed against a pious Muslim. However, if gossip (ghibah) is committed against sinful  Muslims. It is not always an enormous sin. Some people say gossip (ghibah) is an enormous sin by scholarly consensus (ijma^), however this is not a sound opinion. Hence, if one commits gossip (ghibah) against a non-pious Muslim, we do not generalize and say it is an enormous sin. However, if it is repeated over and over against the same person, it is classified as an enormous sin. This is known from the hadith of the Prophet peace be upon him related by Abu Dawud:

إِنَّ مِنْ أَرْبَى الرّبا الاستِطَالةَ فى عِرْضِ المُسْلمِ بِغيرِ حقّ

It means: [Gossiping over and over about the Muslim is as sinful as the highest levels of usurious gain (riba).] The Prophet peace be upon him likened gossiping (ghibah) repeatedly against the Muslim to the highest levels of usurious gain (riba), indicating the enormity of the sin. Furthermore, it is unlawful in Islam to listen to gossip. Praising the actions of the God-fearing Muslims in Surat al-QasasAyah 55, Allah said:

وَإِذَا سَمِعُواْ ٱللَّغْوَ أَعْرَضُواْ عَنْهُ

It means: [If they hear gossip (ghibah) they walk away.] That is, they neither approve nor lend their ears to gossip. At-Tirmidhiyy related that the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said:

مِنْ رَدَّ عِنْ عِرْضِ أَخِيهِ رَدَّ الله عَنْ وَجْهِهِ النَّارَ يَوْمَ القِيَامَةِ

It means: [Allah shall protect from Hellfire in the Hereafter the face of the one who protects one’s Muslim brother from gossip.] Hence, if within a gathering of people, someone is gossiping, then it is obligatory on the others to forbid it. If they are unable to stop it by speaking or by force, then they must leave that gathering and hate the gossip in their hearts. In this way, they escape being sinful themselves.

To highlight the practice of some pious Muslims in that regard, it was related that Ibrahim Ibn Ad-ham was once invited to a banquet. When the guests were seated, some people mentioned the name of a person not in attendance by saying his presence was not pleasant anyway. Ibrahim Ibn Ad-ham immediately reacted by saying: “This is what I have done to myself; I have allowed myself to be present in a session with people who commit gossip (ghibah).” He immediately departed that banquet without eating anything. Moreover, he continued to abstain from eating for three days.

Furthermore, if a Muslim committed enormous sins then repented to Allah, it is not permissible for any of us to mention these sins as he has already repented. The criterion for judging the Muslim is by his current prevailing state. The prevailing state of the one who repented a valid repentance is that Allah has forgiven his sin. So we do not mention it. Al-Hakim related in his book, al-Mustadrak, that the Prophet peace be upon him, in highlighting this matter, said:

مَنْ رَأَى عورةً فَسَتَرَهَا كَانَ كَمَنْ أَحْيَا مَوْءُودَةً فى قَبْرِهَا

This means: [The reward of the person who covers up the previous mistakes of a Muslim is similar to the reward of the person who rescues a girl buried alive.][3]

At the time of our Master ^Umar Ibnul-Khattab, a man came to him and told him: “In the Era of Ignorance, I buried my daughter alive, but at the last moment I took her out. Then Islam spread, and we became Muslims. Time passed, and this same daughter fornicated and later attempted to commit suicide by slitting her wrists. Afterwards, she made a valid repentance. Some people asked me for her hand in marriage. I told them about her story so that I would not cheat them about my daughter.” ^Umar scolded that man and told him: “You have spread that which Allah ordered covered about your daughter. Let me warn you: If you tell anyone about this story again, I shall punish you in a manner that will make you an example for all the people.”

From this story, we understand that once a Muslim repents of his sins, it is unlawful to mention these sins about him. Therefore, the prevailing precept for the person must always be his prevailing situation. There are certain cases that the scholars of Islam excluded from being sinful gossip (ghibah). These are classified into six categories. A Muslim would not be sinful for committing gossip (ghibah) if one’s case fell into one of these six:

  1. To tell the Muslim judge or someone with jurisdiction about an injustice done to oneself in order to help one take one’s right.
  2. To talk about a person’s sins that he hates mentioned, in order to seek help in preventing the person from continuing these sins (because one is not able to prevent him from sinning). Hence, one is not sinful if one knows a Muslim who is committing particular sins, and informs another of that matter so that the latter will help the sinful Muslim refrain from committing those sins.

However, be advised here of a very fine line: Many times a person may let loose his grudges against another to break him and seek revenge. Still, this person bluffs himself by claiming his intention is to help that person clear himself of his sin. In such a case, one does not escape the sin of gossip (ghibah).

  1. To tell the mufti about someone else’s sin, that one hates mentioned, for the purpose of seeking the judgement of that particular matter. For example, telling the mufti that one’s wife leaves the house against one’s permission does not make one sinful if one is seeking religious judgement on that matter. However, the scholars said in such a case, one is recommended not to mention names, but to phrase the question in the third person. For example, one can say: “What is the judgement according to the Religion, if a wife leaves the house without her husband’s permission?”
  2. To depict a person with one of his attributes that he hates mentioned with the purpose of identifying him. For example. It is allowed for someone to tell his son to go and give some money to ‘the one-legged man next door,’ to clarify for the son exactly which man is meant.
  3. To tell about another person’s sin which he himself openly declares. Hence, it is not sinful for one to tell about a person who himself declares he drinks alcohol or does so publicly.
  4. To warn other Muslims against a sinner. This is a very important issue. It is our obligation to warm against those who cheat Muslims. If, for example, one knew of a waylayer targeting a route along which Muslims intend to travel, one would be sinful to keep silent from warning the Muslims of this, thereby letting them fall prey to the waylayer. Moreover, it is a greater obligation to warn against those who cheat Muslims in their Religion than to warn against those who cheat in the worldly matters. If one knows of people who cheat Muslims in their Religion, by falsely claiming to be knowledgeable, teaching them blasphemy, and/or giving them incorrect answers to Islamic questions, then it is an obligation upon one to warn the Muslims against them.

In a hadith related by al-Hakim, which he classified as sahih, and was agreed upon by adh-Dhababiyy, the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him said:

إِذَا رَأَيْتَ أُمَّتِى تَهَابُ أَنْ تَقُولَ للظالمِ أَنْتَ ظالمٌ فَقَد تُوُدّعَ مِنْهُمْ

This hadith means: [If you see my nation fearful of telling the unjust person, ‘You are unjust, then know that the support of Allah is withdrawn from them.] Also, in a hadith related by al-Bayhaqiyy, the Prophet peace be upon him said:

حَتَّى مَتَى تَرِعُونَ عَنْ ذِكْرِ الفَاجِرِ

اذْكُرُوه بِما فِيهِ حَتَّى يَحْذَرَهُ النَّاسُ

The meaning of this hadith is: [Until when will you withhold mentioning the person who commits enormous sins? Mention what is in him so that the people would be warned against him.] Thus, we are encouraged to go out and warn the people against those who cheat and harm the Muslims, so that Muslims may heed the warning. Muslims who practice this methodology of the Prophet, peace be upon him and adhere to the teachings and the principles of Ahlus-Sunnah do stand up and defend the creed of the Prophet peace be upon him. They defend and protect Muslims against the swindlers who do injustice to themselves and others.

Praise be to Allah, the imams and teachers of Darulfatwa Australia implement these teachings. Teachers at the various centres managed and coordinated by Darulfatwa-The Islamic High Council of Australia around Australia stand up and warn the Muslims against the sayings of ignorant people which lead to blasphemy or wrong rulings. Be firm in the knowledge that when we expose wrongdoers, it is in fulfilment of the great obligation: to order the lawful and forbid the unlawful. The Muslims are obligated to order the lawful and forbid the unlawful. May Allah enable us to proceed with our endeavours and complete our tasks.



Tale-bearing (namimah) is defined as spreading words amongst believers with the purpose of stirring up enmity and problems among them. This matter is forbidden. It is unlawful and sinful. Allah dispraised such people in the Qur’an in Surat al-Qalam, Ayah 11:

هَمَّازٍ مَّشَّآءِ بِنَمِيمٍ

This ayah highlights how ugly the sin of tale-bearing (namimah) is. In the hadith related by al-Bukhariyy, the Prophet peace be upon him said:

لا يَدْخُلُ الجَنَّةَ قَتَّاتٌ

It means: [The one who commits tale-bearing (namimah) shall not enter Paradise with the first group.] that is, the Muslim who dies without repenting of his tale-bearing (namimah) sin deserves to be tortured in Hellfire before entering Paradise. Moreover, know that the reasons for most of the torture in the grave are gossip (ghibah), tale-bearing (namimah), and negligence to clear oneself of urine.[4]

We ask Allah to protect us from falling into gossip (ghibah), tale-bearing (namimah), and other sins. May Allah make us among those who soundly prepare themselves for the Day of Judgement and among those who use the endowments Allah bestowed upon them in sincerity and obedience.

 Allah knows best.


[1] The tongue may also say some disliked matters. If one abstains from committing these disliked matters for the sake of Allah, one gains reward.
[2] With every person there are two angels who write that person’s deeds. One angel is named Raqib and the other ^Atid.
[3] During the Era of Ignorance, some Arabs used to bury their female babies alive.
[4] It refers to when one urinates and neglects to clear oneself of the urine so that it contaminates one’s body and clothes.