By Adil Salahi
Hadith reported by Ibn Abbas: “For any Muslim who has two Muslim parents and who goes to them every morning obeying their requests, Allah opens two doors to heaven. If he has one parent Allah opens one door to heaven for him. If he displeases either of them, Allah will not be pleased with him until that parent of his is pleased with him. Someone asked: Even when they are unjust to him? He answered: Even if they are unjust.”
At the end of our article last month, we mentioned that nothing a son normally does for his parents may be considered adequate repayment for the love and kindness they showed him when he was young. Indeed, parents love, care and kindness overflow throughout their lives. We also quoted the Hadith in which the Prophet (Pbuh) specifies the only way to pay back one’s parents in full. The Prophet (Pbuh) says: “No child repays his father fully unless he finds him a slave, then he buys him and sets him free.”
It is not difficult to appreciate why the Prophet (Pbuh) considered this as full repayment of a father’s kindness. Incidentally, this applies to the mother as well. A slave is committed to obey his master, whatever he orders him. He cannot choose how or where he lives, or what job to do. He simply does what he is told. By setting him free, his son gives him back his freedom. He gives him a feeling of being reborn. Nowadays, we cannot imagine what it is like to be a slave, considering that slavery is non-existent. We can, however, imagine what it means to be committed to obey someone else every day of one’s life, to the extent that one is told when to eat, sleep and wake up.
It is important to note here that when a son buys his father or mother who have been slaves, the moment they come into his possession they are set free. He does not need to grant them their freedom, as it were. According to Islam, even in the blackest days of slavery, the mere fact that a father comes to be owned by his son or daughter means complete freedom for him. No slave can be owned by his own child. This is most noticeable in the case of a slave woman who gives birth to a child by her master. Once the child is born, she can no longer be sold to anyone. She remains, however, the slave of her master. When he dies, she is technically inherited by the child who is her own. That sets her free. This is one of the many ways through which Islam reduced slavery.
It is clear that nowadays no one can achieve full repayment of his parents, since slavery no longer exists, except perhaps in very remote and small areas of the world. It is possible, however, to be a dutiful child who tries hard to make his parents happy. We can achieve this better if we have a clear idea of how being dutiful compares with other Islamic duties. At the time of the Prophet (Pbuh), emigration to Madinah was the mark of being fully committed to Islam. It signified that a Muslim who emigrated disregarded all his past loyalties, including his tribal loyalty which used to be the most important bond in his life. By emigrating, a Muslim declared that he was fully committed to Islam, to the exclusion of every other commitment. A man came to the Prophet (Pbuh) and said: “I have come to pledge to you my loyalty and to emigrate. I have left my parents in tears. The Prophet (Pbuh) said to him: “Go back to them and make them smile as you have made them cry.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others). In other words, the Prophet (Pbuh) gave a very clear indication to the man that if his parents would be so miserable as to cry because he was leaving them in order to emigrate, then he was better off staying with them in order to make them happy. The Prophet (Pbuh) did not wish that sadness should be felt by parents as a result of a duty Islam required of its followers.
Someone may ask how does the Prophet (Pbuh) order someone not to emigrate, when emigration earns a great reward from Allah. The answer is that to be kind and dutiful to one’s parents can compensate for that. Consider this Hadith reported by Ibn Abbas: “For any Muslim who has two Muslim parents and who goes to them every morning obeying their requests, Allah opens two doors to heaven. If he has one parent Allah opens one door to heaven for him. If he displeases either of them, Allah will not be pleased with him until that parent of his is pleased with him. Someone asked: Even when they are unjust to him? He answered: Even if they are unjust.” (Related by Al-Baihaqi and Al-Bukhari in “Al-Adab Al-Mufrad”). This is another of the many ways in which the Prophet (Pbuh) explains to us that one of the surest ways to be admitted into heaven is to be a dutiful child. In this Hadith we are told that we must even tolerate injustice by our parents. There are certainly occasions when a parent may be unjust. If we can tolerate that injustice, then we should do so. But we should not obey them when their injustice is inflicted on someone else. In that case, we should counsel them against it. This is because injustice is forbidden. When we help them to do something forbidden, we are their partners in that. It is more dutiful to try to dissuade them from committing that injustice.
Where we must not obey our parents is when they order us to do something unlawful. If a parent commands a child of his to do something forbidden, then the child must not do it. The Prophet (Pbuh) says: “No creature may be obeyed in what constitutes a disobedience of the Creator.” If something ordered by the parents is suspiciously wrong, then we should still do what they ask us, because we are not certain that it leads to something forbidden.
Sometimes parents disagree with each other. One of them may ask their child to do something which displeases the other. How does a child behave in this case? Muslim scholars answer that he should give priority to his father’s right to be honoured and respected, because he adopts his name. At the same time, he gives priority to the mother’s right to be served and supported. If both of them enter his home or his room, he stands up to show his respect to his father. If both of them ask him to give them something, he begins by giving his mother. If he has to support them both financially and he can support only one of them, he gives priority to his mother, because a woman is normally supported by her relatives in Islamic society. The other reason is that one’s mother takes more trouble on herself looking after her child from pregnancy to birth to breast-feeding and then bringing him up through the different stages of his childhood, looking after him when he is ill and so on. This shows how Islam takes a reasonable, practical and balanced attitude in looking after parents.
Gheebat (backbiting) is perhaps the most commonly committed sin of the tongue. Most people who are religious conscious would refrain from lying, swearing, slandering, etc. However, even such people invariably become entrapped in the snare of Shaitaan and allow their conversation to drift into gheebat. Indeed only the one who has a firm control of his tongue can be saved from this malady, What is Gheebat?
It is thus imperative that Gheebat be accurately identified and recognized in order to be able to refrain from it. The Ahaadith have defined this malady very simply and clearly. It is reported in a hadith that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) once enquired of the Sahaaba (R.A.): "Do you know what is gheebat"? "Allah and His Messenger know best" they replied. "To mention something about your brother which he would dislike" Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) informed them.
A person then asked: "What if this is true?" (That the person being spoken about is actually involved in that sin). The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) replied: "If it is true then you have indeed backbitten about him. But if it is untrue, then you have slandered him (which is worse)." Hence to mention anything about a person in his absence which he would dislike is gheebat.
The magnitude of the sin The gravity of this malady could be gauged from the following Ahaadith. Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) is reported to have said: "Gheebat is worse than zina (adultery)." In another hadith it is reported that there are more than seventy stages of consuming interest, the lowest of which is equivalent to cohabiting with one's mother. To consume one Dirham of interest is worse than committing adultery thirty five times. However, a sin more severe than interest is the dishonouring of a Muslim (which is a natural consequence of gheebat). (Baihaqi)
Engaging in gheebat is also an extremely costly affair. It is reported in a Hadith that on the day of Qiyamah the person that who was backbitten about would claim retribution from the one who spoke ill of him. Allah Ta'ala will compensate the victim by handing over the good deeds (the currency of the Hereafter) of the culprit to him. If the latter has no good deeds to his credit, the sins of the victim would be transferred to him. Hence the Salaah, fasts, charity, Hajj etc. of a person would all be lost due to gheebat. A tremendous loss indeed! How often do we engage in gheebat, yet regard ourselves as free from this crime? This is due to certain misconceptions. Many people assume that gheebat does not apply if one could mention the same facts about a person in his presence. How often does a person not retort: "This is not gheebat. I can say it 'on his face'". This, however, is the deception of Shaitaan. The Ahaadith contains no such restriction which excludes the above from the purview of gheebat. Likewise many people believe that gheebat only applies if the sin of the spoken person is not known. This is another misconception. If the sin is well known, it is gheebat only. However, if such a sin of a person was discussed which the next person was unaware of, two severe sins have been incurred. One is the sin of gheebat. The other is the sin of disclosing the fault of a Muslim.
Types Of Gheebat
Gheebat has an extremely extensive meaning. Some forms of this malady are understood by most people. However, due to lack of knowledge, many instances which fall within the category of gheebat are often not regarded as such. For instance to mention something ill of a little child who cannot yet understand anything is also gheebat, since the parents would be hurt if they had to hear this being mentioned. The same applies to an insane person.
Among the forms of gheebat is to mention some physical defect or weakness of a person. Mua'wiyah bin Karyah (R.A.) says that if a person with one hand had to pass by you and you mentioned this physical deficiency to someone, you have backbitten him (Durre Manthoor). Similarly it is reported that once a woman came to Aisha (R.A.) . When she left, Aisha (R.A.) commented on her being very short. Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) reprimanded her saying: "You have backbitten her 0 Aisha." Likewise, to comment about a person being 'fat' or 'skinny' or being a 'slowcoach'; 'Iazybones'; 'glutton' etc. is also gheebat. The same applies to negative comments about a persons dressing habits, eating habits, manner of walking or speaking or the way in which a person performs a certain action. Negative mimicry (physically imitating the action of a person - often done merely to amuse others) also falls in the category of gheebat.
To pass an otherwise innocent remark in a sarcastic manner also tantamounts to gheebat. For instance, Zaid is being praised in the presence of Bakr. In response to this Bakr sarcastically says "definitely" or "really" or he merely makes a sarcastic facial expression as if to say "that's what you think!". All these responses are gheebat.
Thus in a mere facial expression, one is passing over his hard-earned precious good deeds to the next person. Can we really afford to do this?