Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Social Ill of Talking Behind One's Back

After many years of interacting with people from all walks of life, one pertinent matter has stood in my mind: the social ill of talking behind one’s back. This is so prevalent in our society today that sometimes you can get more than a dozen version of one story arising from “coffee shop” talks and “empty talks” among peers and colleagues which are rather sinful and grave in nature.

Let us observe this from the spirit of the leader of a religious community such as those who originate from the “People of the Books”. When the respected apostle Paul who had been with the Prophet Jesus wrote a letter to a young pastor named Timothy, he indeed addressed the kind of demeanors which a leader of a church must possess. In the Book of 1 Timothy, Paul specifically touched on the problem and dangers of false doctrine, public worship and leadership, the defense against false teachers, the prescriptions for widows and elders, the duties toward others, wealth, dealing with riches, and pastoral motivations. Some of the qualifications for such a position include someone who is blameless, temperate, sober minded, well behaved, hospitable, not violent, not greedy for money, gentle, not covetous, not double-tongued and the list goes on. It requires one to prove himself first before the post can be taken up.

It further mentioned the coming of apostasy (murtad) when men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemous, unthankful, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, brutal, despisers of good, and traitors. These unbecoming qualities are considered to be synonymous with apostasy which is worse than being a hypocrite (munafik). This can be seen in the Book of 2 Timothy. Now lets fast forward to our Rasul’s (SAW) time and let us pick on one real nasty and mean quality seen in everyday life: talking and slandering behind one’s back regardless if the tales are true or not. In most cases, they are always told by a third party without any hard facts or evidence.

It is clear in Surah Al Tawbah that slanderers are men without faith and are to be excluded from the mosques, a sacred place. The Holy Quran is very specific about talking behind one’s back, likening the heinousness of talking behind one's back to sins committed through eating the flesh of one’s own brother of the same faith. Such forgiveness must come from the aggrieved party because the sins committed are so grave in nature that perhaps the tales have been propagated to countless parties and the aggrieved party must forgive the persons who have been talking behind their back. Such sins committed are considered to be a grave sin in Islam. Even our Rasul (SAW) forbade his close associates from carrying tales of his friends because he did not want such tales to affect his judgment of his friends. There are at least 5 verses from various Surahs describing this sinful act for the muslims.

In the work environment such demeanors are most rampant even among friends. Two things are always present when such things occur: the person who relates the tales are generally “losers”, having no sense of purpose in life and attracting sins with such empty talk. Second, the motive for such tales is almost clear i.e., to show off one's superiority in knowing more than one's peers when telling such tales. You will see the same person doing the same thing all the time with different tales. It reminds me that our Prophet (SAW) mentioned of the speck of darkness in our heart that will continue to “poison” our body and soul until it is removed. Such talks will only create these dark specks. The unrepentant person will continue to carry on doing this all the time. It is most difficult for the leader of an organization to stop their staff from carrying tales because such behaviour comes from the individual. It is sad, but a reality in life. I have seen many people affected by such tales, including chaste women who are not spared of the malevolence.

In my life, I have tried my very best to avoid hanging around such people but this is a great difficulty because this behaviour is too rampant. At best, when I cannot avoid such a person, I would almost always tell them to be sure of what they are saying and not to hold false witnesses in life. Although I am not perfect, I am guilty of the fact that I have shied away from many social gatherings because of this and that I consciously refuse to be labeled an “accomplice” by our great Allah SWT.

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