Avoiding Evil Habits
Deception means to be deceived by a devilish trickery or a wrong idea, such as spending the usurped property in fields of charity. It causes many people to believe in the validity of their acts, but if they examine them precisely, they will understand that their deeds were only delusion. Thus, deception is the most dangerous snare, weapon, and trickery of the Devil.
There are however different forms of deception varying according to the trends of the deluded individuals. Some people are deluded by the charming pleasures of this world and others are deluded by knowledge, leadership, wealth, worship, and the like.
Forms of Deception
Faithless individuals are mostly deceived by the false charms of this world. They neglect the inevitable termination of this world and forget that there is an endless life to come; therefore, they put two inaccurate reasons as the justification of their being deceived by this world:
FIRST, they claim that this world is cash while the life to come is credit.
SECOND, they claim that the pleasures of this world are certain, while the pleasures of the world to come are uncertain.
This is in fact a big mistake. Regarding the first claim, it is true that cash is better than credit if they are equal in the measurement of benefit. But when the credit is preponderant to the cash, it becomes preferable. This is the big difference between the pleasures of this world and these of the world to come. As a matter of fact, the pleasures of this world will come to an end, while those of the world to come are everlasting.
Regarding the second claim, it is also inaccurate to doubt the life to come. The prophets, their successors, scholars, and many nations proved undoubtedly the existence of the life to come. Hence, to doubt it is insanity denied by religion and reason.
In the same manner, the sick believes in the benefit of the medicine that is prescribed unanimously by physicians. If he belies them, he is then dull and foolish.
"Know that the worldly life is only a game, a temporary attraction, a means of boastfulness among yourselves and a place for multiplying your wealth and children. It is like the rain, which produces plants that are attractive to the unbelievers. These plants flourish, turn yellow, and then become crushed bits of straw. In the life hereafter there will be severe torment or forgiveness and mercy from Allah. The worldly life is only an illusion (59:20)."
"The example of the worldly life is like the water sent down from the sky, which becomes mixed with the earth's produce that people and cattle consume. When the land becomes fertile and pleasant, people think that they have control over it. At Our command during the night or day, the land becomes as barren as if it had no richness the day before. Thus, do We explain the evidence (of the truth) for the people who reflect. (10:24)"
"Those who have rebelled and preferred the worldly life, Hell will be their dwelling. However, those who had feared their Lord and restrained their souls from acting according to its desires, Paradise will be the dwelling (79:37-41)."
Imam as-Sadiq (a) said: "For him who begins and ends his day considering this world as his main concern, Allah will put poverty between his eyes, scatter his affairs, and he will not gain anything of this world except that which is decided for him. For him who begins and ends his day considering the world to come as his main concern, Allah will install richness in his heart and will manage all his affairs." 247
Imam al-Kadhim (a) said: "Husham, the intelligent have abstained from the worldly pleasures and desired for the world to come because they have known that world, as well as the world to come, is demanding and demanded 248. This world will surely trace the seeker of the world to come to give him his provisions perfectly. The world to come will trace the seeker of the worldly pleasures when death overcomes him to deprive him of the pleasures of this world and the world to come." 249
The Everlasting Law
Unanimously, people have complained about this world, because they suffer its pains. Any pleasure in this world is roiled by griefs and any rest is roiled by sufferance. It does not conform to anybody and no man can find true happiness in it. However, they have different courses about it. Some loved it maniacally, rushed madly upon its transient wreckage; therefore, they lived in states of enmity and wrangle. Others disregarded it and sought the refuge of the temples and places of worship escaping its charms and pleasure; therefore, they changed into scattered groups that lived in the margins of life.
In the midst of such two different tendencies, Islam, out of its comprehensive reformation, came to enact the everlasting law that combines the world and religion and unites the purposes of this life with the spiritual desires in such a high method befitting man's nature and guaranteeing pleasure and comfort.
In some situations, Islam has warned the adorers of this world against its deceptions so that they will be freed from slavery. In other situations, Islam has brought gradually the extremists who escape the charms of this world near its innocent sweets and pure desires so that they will not withdraw from the caravans of life and become the subject of poverty and humility.
Imam as-Sadiq (a) said: "He who dedicates his worldly life totally to the world to come is not one of us, and he who ignores his world to come for sake of enjoying his worldly life is, too, not one of us."250
One of the Imams (a) said: "Work for your worldly life as if you will live forever, and work for the world to come as if you will die tomorrow." 251
Following this law, the Islamic civilization flourished, and Muslims could find themselves places in the scales of perfection. In the light of this law, we can conclude the following facts:
To have the pleasures and legal desires of this world is not discommended so long as it does not contain a forbidden matter or extravagance:
"(Muhammad), ask them, "Who has made it unlawful to maintain beauty and to eat the pure foods which Allah has created for His servants? They are made for the believers in this world and are exclusively for them in the life hereafter." Thus do We explain Our revelations to the people who have knowledge. (7:32)"
Amir ul-Mu'minin (a) said: "Know, creatures of Allah, that the God-fearing have shared the joys of this transient world as well as the next coming world, for they shared with the people of this world in their worldly matters while people did not share with them in the matters of the next world. They lived in this world in the best manner of living and ate the choicest food and consequently they enjoyed herein all that the people with ease of life enjoyed, and secured from it what the haughty and the vain secured. Then, they departed from it after taking provision enough to take them to the end of their journey and after doing a profitable transaction. " 252
To have the precious acquisitions of this world is not discommended unless they are usurped, ill-gotten, or diverting from the reference and the acts of obedience to God. To acquire such things for dispensing with people or seeking the contentment of God, such as regarding the relatives, aiding the poor, or establishing charitable projects like schools, mosques, and hospitals, is among the best acts of obedience.
Imam as-Sadiq (a) said: "He who does not collect fortunes legally for dispensing with people, repaying his debts, and regarding his relatives is worthless." 253
As a man said he sought the worldly pleasures and hope he would collect them for sake of spending them on his dependants and himself, regarding others, and performing the hajj and umrah, Imam as-Sadiq (a) commented:
"This is not the seeking for this world. It is surely the seeking for the life to come." 254
The desire to survive in this world is not discommended at all, since its purposes are acceptable. He who desires for survival in this world so as to provide more acts of obedience to God or have more virtues is praised, but he who desires for survival so as to commit sins is surely dispraised.
Imam as-Sejjad (a) said: "(O Allah) give me long life in this world so that I will spend it in the fields of Your obedience. But if it will be a hotbed for the Shaitan, then grasp my soul."
Disadvantages of the Worldly Deception
(1) The most serious danger of deception is that it casts a screen between the intellect and reality and, therefore, the defects and shortcomings, such as gluttony, greed, madly rushing upon the false pleasures that cause disrespect, cannot be noticed.
(2) Deception causes unhappiness because it pushes into the midst of the life sufferance and closes the eyes before satisfaction.
(3) Deception is on the top in the list of the matters that distract from being ready for the life to come and taking along provisions of righteous deeds:
"Those who have rebelled and preferred the worldly life, Hell will be their dwelling. However, those who had feared their Lord and restrained their souls from acting according to its desires, Paradise will be the dwelling (79:37-41)."
Treatment of the Worldly Deception
It is recommended to keep in mind the Quranic texts and narrations that dispraise this world and display its horrible dangers, and to keep in mind the unanimous agreement of the prophets, their successors, and people of wisdom upon the inevitable termination of this world and the certain immortality of the life to come. Hence, man of reason should prefer that which will last forever to that which will inescapably come to an end, and should get ready for the everlasting pleasure and bliss:
"However, (the disbelievers) prefer the worldly life even though the life hereafter will be better and will last forever. This is what is written in the ancient heavenly Books; the Scriptures of Abraham and Moses (87:16-9). "
It is also recommended to benefit by the sermons, maxims, and expressive stories that show the regret of the tyrants because of their having been deceived by this world. The most effective sermon in this regard is the word that Amir ul-Mu'minin addressed to his son al-Hasan (a):
"Enliven your heart with preaching, kill it by renunciation, energize it with firm belief, humiliate it by recalling death, make it believe in mortality, make it see the misfortunes of this world, make it fear the authority of the time and the severity of some changes during the nights and the days, place before it the events of past people, recall to it what befell those who were before you and walk among their cities and ruins, then see what they did and from what they have gone away and where they have gone and stayed. You will find that they departed from (their) friends and lodged in the house of loneliness. Call in their houses: empty houses, where are your habitants? Then stop on their graves and say: ragged bodies and separated organs, how have you found the lodge in which you are living? Shortly, you too will be like one of them. Therefore, plan for your place of stay and do not sell your next life with this world." 255
People of wisdom have shown a very fascinating picture that depicts man's madly rushing upon this world. They said: "The deceived by this world is like a person who is hanging in a well with a rope tied to his waist. In the depth of that well, there is a huge dragon waiting for his falling and opening its mouth for swallowing him. In the upper of that well, there are two black and white rats gnawing that rope continuously. Although that person can see that dragon and the gradual cutting of the rope, he pushes himself towards little honey found on the wall of that well and mixed with dust. In addition, there are many bees fighting for gaining that honey. In the midst of all this, that person engages himself in licking that honey and competing with those bees on it, without paying attention to the horrible situation above and under him as long as he could find sweet that licking."
The person in the previous picture represents man, the rope is his age, the huge dragon is death, the two rats are day and night, honey that is mixed with dust is the worldly pleasures that are mixed with griefs and sins, and the bees are sons of this world who compete with each other for gaining its pleasures.
When the angel of death came to Prophet Noah (a), he was in sunlight. After greeting him, Noah asked: "Why are you here?" He answered: "To take your soul." Noah asked: "Will you permit me to go to the shade?" The Angel did. Then Noah changed his position saying: "Angel of death! What happened to me in life is like the change of position from sunlight to shade, now perform your mission."
In his final hours, al-Mansour; the Abbasid caliph said: "We have sold our life to come with a single slumber."
In his last agonies of death, Harun ar-Rashid 256was repeating (God's saying about the disbelievers): "Our wealth has been of no benefit to us and our belief has destroyed us. (69:29)" In his final hours, Abdul-Malik ibn Marwan, the Umayyad caliph, was asked about his feelings. He answered: "I am as exactly as the saying of God:
Allah will say, "You have come to Us alone just as We created you at first. You have left behind all those which We gave to you." (6:94)'
On the sea, Zaitoun, the wise man, saw a man excessively depressed due to the loss of worldly pleasures. He said to him, "Man, what for is this depression? Suppose you are greatly rich, and you are about to drown because the ship you have been on smashed up, will your one and only hope be salvation even if you lose all that which you have in possession?" "Yes, of course," answered the man. "Supposing you are a king," went on the wise man, "but you are surrounded by some people whose main intention is to kill you, will your one and only hope be to escape from them even if you lose all that which is under your control?" "Yes, of course," said the man. "Now," said the wise man, "you are that rich man and you, too, are that king." These words made that man feel happy.
An expert asked a rich man about the way he had been seeking the worldly pleasures. "It has been very tense," asked the rich man. The expert asked, "Have you attained that which you want?" "No," answered the rich man. The expert said, "You have spent all your days for attaining the worldly pleasures, but you have not attained anything. How will you attain the world that you have not worked for?"
Such lessons and examples influence only the sound hearts and the aware intellects. On the other side, even the most profound sermons, examples, and lessons will not find any ground or welcome by those whom are enslaved by the worldly pleasures. A wise man said: "If a heart is sealed by the fondness of this world, any amount of sermons and admonitions will not influence it. In the same manner, any amount of medicine will not be useful for the body that is completely predominated by a malady."
Deception of Knowledge
Some people feel arrogant for their scope of knowledge. Such feelings may take them beyond the limits and make them compete hideously with each other for attaining high ranks. Such ones should have believed that knowledge is not a purpose. It is a means achieving self-discipline, self-perfection, and happiness in this world as well as the world to come. If knowledge does not achieve such aims, it turns into a waste effort:
"Those who were to carry the responsibility of the Torah but ignored, are like donkeys laden with books." (62:5)
Knowledge is in fact like rainfall that drops on the fertile lands to change them into handsome gardens producing goodness and beauty. But if it drops on a barren land, it will surely be useless. In the same manner, knowledge spreads brightness on the virtuous people, while it only increases the naivety of the lowly.
Man should not take pride in his knowledge since he is not the only one in this field. In the old as well as modern ages, people recognized a great variety of noble men of knowledge who achieved great feats to humankind.
Knowledge should not be a subject of pride since responsibilities of people of knowledge are gravely serious. Moreover, people of knowledge are more answerable than the ignorant. Knowledge will be curse for those who do not take it as guide and do not apply it to themselves:
The Prophet (s) said: "All my people will be virtuous if two classes of them become virtuous and will be reprobate if these two classes become reprobate: the jurists and leaders." 257
"As some people of Paradise will look at people of Hell, they will be astonished as they will find the instructors that taught them the religious affairs among them. They will ask, 'How it is that you are in Hell while we are in Paradise only because we followed your instructions?' They will answer, 'That is because we did not apply these instructions to ourselves.'" 258
Imam as-Sadiq (a) said: "Seventy sins of the ignorant will be forgiven before a single sin of the knowledgeable is forgiven." 259
Thus, people of knowledge must be good examples for others and must apply the high standards to themselves. In addition, they should do their best to avoid the slips of deception.
Deception of Authority
High rank and power are strong incentives of deception; therefore, we notice men of authority treat people arrogantly out of their feelings of pride. All over ages, people suffered so painfully such arrogance from the reigning authorities who missed the fact that Islam has denied the excessive conceit and selfishness and threatened horrible forms of torment for the conceited in this life as well as the life to come.
However, the high ranking people should employ their authorities for attracting the others' attentions and admirations and increasing their popular accounts.
The strongest factor that alleviates the intensity of such category of conceit is to ponder deeply over the vicissitudes of time. In fact, the powerful is as same as the rider of a lion: he cannot expect the time it becomes angry and wild.
Abdullah ibn Abdurrahman narrated:
On Eid ul-Adha day, 260I visited my mother and found an old lady with ragged clothes with her. That old lady was so eloquent. When I asked my mother about her, she answered that she was the mother of Ja'far ibn Yahya the Barmakid! 261 Thus, I greeted her so warmly and said, 'How is it that time made you be in such a manner?' She answered, 'Yes, son. We were enjoying the loans of time, but it demanded us with them.' I then asked her to narrate to me some of her story. She said, 'Let me tell you in brief. On one of the past days of Eid ul-Adha, there were four hundred maidens in my service. At that time, I was claiming that my son was treating me impiously. Today, I am before you just for begging you for two skins of ewes so that I will use one as bed and the other as cover.'
I felt pity for her and gave her few dirhams that made her so happy. 262
Harun ar-Rashid asked the preacher who visited him for an advice. The preacher asked, 'Supposing you are very thirsty and you cannot find water, how much will you buy a single drink of water?' 'I will buy it even with half of my kingdom,' answered the caliph. The preacher then asked, 'Supposing you cannot emit that drink of water, how much will you pay just for making that drink of water be emitted?' The caliph answered, 'I will pay half of my kingdom.' The preacher then said, 'Hence, you should not be deceived by the kingdom whose value is a single drink of water.' 263
With no going back, the intelligent should realize that all the matters in which he takes pride, such as wealth, knowledge, and authority, are only graces the source of which is Almighty God. Consequently, gratitude, not pride, should be shown for them.
Authority between Praise and Censure
Seeking for authority is not absolutely deniable, since it varies according to its purposes. To seek authority for legal purposes, such as supporting the wronged, aiding the weak, and defending oneself, is a praised thing. On the other hand, to seek authority for overwhelming and controlling others is something dispraised.
Deception of Wealth
Wealth stimulates the latent of conceit and reflects the hideous pictures of cruelty that the wealthy hold in the hiddens. It charms the wealthy seekers of authority and encourages them to give their ill-gotten wealth in fields of generosity, thinking they are doing well, whereas, in fact, they are only deceived.
Other wealthy individuals may show sympathy toward the needy in public -while, in hidden, they treat them so niggardly- for obtaining good reputation. In fact, such individuals are deceived by their fortunes.
Others refrain from defraying the fiscal rights, while they satisfy themselves with performing the rites of worship that do not need any expenditure, such as prayers and fasting. Deceptively, they convince themselves that the performance of such rites is sufficient. Such individuals are also deceived. Like acts of worship, it is unavoidably obligatory upon every individual to defray the fiscal rights of the Sharia. In the world of the belief and Sharia, each act of worship has its individual significance.
The Prophet (s) said: "Dinars and dirhams have terminated those who lived before you. In the same manner, they shall terminate you." 264
Imam as-Sadiq (a) said: "Eblis says: Son of Adam may triumph over me in every situation except three: seizing a fortune illegally, abstaining from defraying a fortune in an obligatory field, and exploiting a fortune in an unsuitable field." 265
Wealth between Praise and Censure
Besides disadvantages, wealth has many advantages. It may be a means of happiness or a means of grief, according to the ways of its acquisition and the fields in which it is spent. It is the active means that achieve good livelihood. It is also the strong reason achieving dignity and disdain against the mean. Finally, wealth can be exploited for achieving religious goals.
On the other hand, there are many disadvantages that wealth brings about-it is a strong reason causing involvement in suspicions and commitment of sins.
Furthermore, wealth is the strongest means that takes away from the reference to God and discourages readying for the life to come:
"Believers, do not let your wealth and children divert you from remembering Allah. Whoever is diverted will suffer a great loss (63:9)."
From the previous, we conclude that wealth is not something dispraised at all so long as its means of acquisition and fields of spending are noble. It becomes a subject of denial only when its means and purposes are ill. Because man's nature is fondness of collecting wealth, it is important for the faithful believer not to be deceived by its glittering appearances. It is also proper for him to learn lessons from those who are excessively charmed by the collection of wealth to the degree that they become deprived of the rewards of the life to come. Finally, such people will depart this life without taking anything of their fortunes with them. In other words, they will leave this world completely bankrupt! Hence, they are only honest keepers who suffered very much for collecting such fortunes, but they left them for their heirs who gained them so peacefully. The result is that the collectors of such fortunes will be completely responsible for these fortunes, while their heirs will enjoy them completely delightfully.
Deception of Lineage
Some people may feel conceited for their high lineage and their being the descendants of a noble family, such as the family of the Prophet (s). Such people may feel they are right and they will be saved only for their being the descendants of a noble family, even if they disregard following and imitating the acts and morals of their forefather. This is in fact an illusion. God honors him who obeys Him even if he is 'Abyssinian' slave, and humiliates him who disobeys Him even if he is 'Koreishite' celebrity. The The Ahl ul-Bayt (a) have won such unparalleled ranks and everlasting virtues only because they worked diligently in the fields of obedience to God and devoted all their lives and efforts to seeking the satisfaction of Him.
To be deceived by the forefathers' reputation, without imitating them, is no more than daydream. It has never happened that an ignorant individual turns into knowledgeable only because he is the descendant of a knowledgeable man. God never accepts to treat the obedient and the disobedient equally, or regards the mujahid and the coward as the same.
The holy Quran tells about the story of Prophet Noah (a) when he implored to God to save his son from the sweeping flood that covered all the disbelievers on this earth. Nevertheless, such imploration came to nothing, because his son was disbeliever:
"Noah prayed to his Lord saying, "Lord, my son is a member of my family. Your promise is always true and you are the best Judge." His Lord replied, "He is not one of your family. He is a man of unrighteous deeds. Do not ask me about that which you have no knowledge. I advise you not to become an ignorant person." (11:46)"
The Prophet (s) also taught his family a never-ending lesson in the field of obeying and fearing God and avoiding depending upon their family relation to him:
Abu Ja'far Imam al-Baqir related that the Prophet (s) stood on Safa Mount and said: "O sons of Hashim and sons of Abdul-Muttalib, I am the messenger of Allah to all of you. I feel pity for you. I have my own deeds and you have your own deeds. Do not depend on the fact that Mohammed is from you and that you will be taken to wherever he is taken. By Allah I swear, my followers, whether they are from your clan or any other clan, are only the God-fearing. I will not admit you on the Day of Resurrection if you come to me burdened with the worldly disadvantages while others come with the advantages of the world to come. I am excused regarding my mission to you and the commandments of Allah for you." 266
Envy stands for the wish that amenities of others were to lapse and move to the envious. To hope for having the same amenities of somebody is called emulation, and it is not ill-favored. It is a hideous vice that leaves the worst influence on morals. The envious in fact lives in incessant grief since he dissatisfies himself with acts of God. As the envious feels horrible malice towards the envied, all his endeavors came to nothing. He therefore encounters the results of his envy alone:
"In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. (Muhammad), say, "I seek protection from the Lord of the Dawn against the evil of whatever He has created. I seek His protection against the evil of the invading darkness, from the evil of those who practice witchcraft and from the evil of the envious ones (113:1-5)."
The Prophet (s) said to his companions: "Surely, the malady of the past nations has crept to you. It is envy. It is shaving-not the hair, but the religion. To be saved of it, you should control your hand -power- and tongue -wording-, and you should not insinuate evil into your faithful brother." 267
"Envy consumes the good deeds in the same way as fire consumes wood" 268
Amir ul-Mu'minin (a) said: "I have never seen like the wrong envious who is most similar to the wronged. The envious lives in endless care with grieved heart and inherent sorrow." 269
Incentive of Envy
Some individuals have ill will and malignity as natures. Thus, you notice them feel miserable when others are happy, and feel happy when others are grieved. They envy the others for that which God has given to them out of His graces, even if there is no hostile situation between the two- the envious and the envied, but only because of ill will.
Enmity is within the strongest incentives of envy.
The competition of the owners of common interests and purposes is another incentive that arouses envy. Under this title lies also the envy among sons for the favor that one, or some, of them enjoy with fathers. The retinue of the ruling authorities also envy each other for the favor that some of them enjoy with the authorities. In few words, envy is common among the individuals of the same goals. It is absent among the individuals of divergent trends. The merchant, for instance, does not envy the engineer or the farmer.
Envy may control some people because of their feelings of precedence and selfishness that prompt them to precede others and enjoy exclusive standings.
Envy may be arisen in the inner self of a person who despises others and regards as too much the graces that God confers upon them.
It happens that all the previous incentives of envy gather in the personality of an individual to change him into a volcano of oppression.
Disadvantages of Envy
Exclusively, envy is the most serious moral defect that inflicts the religion and the life of the individuals that they carry.
The worldly disadvantage of envy is that it roils the life and brings about care and grief. This is because the envious is disturbed when he notices graces of God shade people. Moreover, such scenes inflict him with disastrous mental and physical defects. Envy, too, influences badly the dignity and reputation; therefore, we notice that the envious are the subject of dispraise. Besides, envy inflicts the moralities; hence, it is noticed that the envious does not refrain from trapping others by various nasty means of false accusations. The envious, also, does not spare any effort for arising seditious matters.
The famous and excelling personalities are the subjects of envy, because their standings are resented by the envious. This is the secret beyond the wrong treatment and deprivation of appreciation that most of the virtuous individuals have to suffer. It frequently happens that the envious does not hit the target; therefore, his share becomes only agony and grief, while the targeted individual wins good reputation and respect.
The religious disadvantage of envy is that the envious uses all wrong and nasty means for trapping the envied so as to impute dishonor to him. This will certainly make him encounter the wrath and punishment of God. In addition, the behaviors and feelings of the envious, such as rage and dissatisfaction with acts of God, are spiteful spunk.
Treatment of Envy
(1) One must avoid looking forward to gaining the graces enjoyed by those who are of higher ranks than he is, so that he will feel the divine care. Such feelings will surely alleviate the tendencies of envy.
(2) It is necessary to keep in mind the worldly and religious disadvantages of envy in addition to the various sorts of crises and misfortunes that it results.
(3) It is also necessary to keep God in mind, believe in the wisdom beyond His acts, submit to His plans, and beware of the initiatives of envy.
Fathers must avoid making any distinction among their sons in fields of custody so as to avoid seeding envy in their mentalities.
Backbiting is to speak ill of a believer behind his back, including matters concerning his moralities, appearance, or personality. Not only is backbiting restricted to words, but also it includes every behavior and deed, whether suggestive or direct The Prophet (s) defined backbiting by saying:
"Do you know what is backbiting? … It is to mention things that your brother dislikes. … To mention things that are really found in the personality of your brother is backbiting. To mention things that are not found in the personality of your brother is slander."
Backbiting is however one of the meanest manners and most serious crimes and sins. God likens the backbiter to the one who eats the flesh of the dead:
"Believers, stay away from conjecture; acting upon some conjecture may lead to sin. Do not spy on one another or backbite. Would any of you like to eat the disgusting dead flesh of your brother? Have fear of Allah; Allah accepts repentance and is All-merciful (49:12)."
"Allah does not love public accusation unless one is truly wronged. Allah is All-hearing and All-knowing. (4:148)"
The Prophet (s) said: "Backbiting destroys the religion in a way that is more destructive than canker." 270
"He who publicizes an ill matter is regarded as him who originated it, and whoever disregards a faithful believer for a matter will not die before that very matter sticks to him." 271
Imam as-Sadiq (a) said: "For him who publicizes an affair of a believer for disgracing and disrespecting him, Allah will dismiss him from His custody and deliver him to the Shaitan's." 272
"Do not backbite (others) so that others will not backbite you. Do not dig a whole for making your brother fall in it, lest you yourself may fall in it. As you condemn others, others will surely condemn you." 273
Disregard of Backbiting
It is necessary to avoid being in conformity with the backbiters or listening to them, for the listener of backbiting is regarded as partner in the sin. To do so can be achieved by denying backbiting verbally, changing the subject into another innocent one, leave the session of backbiting, or, in the least, deny backbiting in heart, so as to be saved from the partnership of that sin.
A wise man said: "Try your best to avoid introducing yourself to the backbiter, because the greatest share of harm is burdened by the closest to him."
In the same manner, it is important to honor the dignity of the believer who is backbitten.
The Prophet (s) said: "Paradise is unquestionably the share of him who defends the honor of his believing brother."
It is worth mentioning, here, that the illegality of backbiting does not include the deviants and apostates.
Incentives of Backbiting
(1) Enmity and envy are the strongest incentives of backbiting.
(2) Joking is another incentive of backbiting, because it is regarded as fresh subject for arising joking and laughter at others.
(3) Boasting is also an incentive of backbiting, because the boastful, in most cases, tries to refer to the others' defects to prove that he disdains and does not enjoy such defects.
(4) It frequently happens that an individual who associates with backbiters tries to be in conformity with them by according them in their ill speech of others so that they may not reject him.
Disadvantages of Backbiting
Through its regulations, Islam intends to reinforce fraternity of Muslims to make it a never-ending constitution. Thus, it has gone on enjoining to cling to all matters that develop mutual amicability and achieve fraternity; such as well mannerism, truth, fulfillment of trusts, and paying attention to Muslims' affairs and general interests. Islam also has warned against any matter that roils the pure hearts or arises malice, such as lying, cheating, treachery, and contempt.
Since backbiting is a destructive element that devastates the social construction and spoils the tied up relations, the Islamic code has forbidden and regarded it as a grand sin. It sows the poisonous seeds of spite among Muslims. When the ill speech reaches the one about whom it is said, it will arise the feelings of hatred in his inner self; so, he tries to revenge himself upon the backbiter by answering him by ill speech. In so many cases, backbiting has caused serious problems and unwelcome tragedies.
The Prophet (s) said: "On the Day of Resurrection, one of you will not find the good deeds that he did in his life in his record 274 when he will be interrogated. He will ask the Lord about this, and the Lord will answer him: 'Your Lord never makes a mistake and never forgets. Because you backbit people, your good deeds were erased from your record.' Another one will find many good deeds that he did not do in his record. He will ask the Lord about such deeds, and the Lord will answer: "Because you were backbitten by so-and-so, I added his good deeds to you." 275
Reasonable Grounds of Backbiting
Backbiting is decided as forbidden so long as it is intended to disgrace others, but if it is not intended for so or if a reasonable ground relies upon it, it is not forbidden. Muslim jurisprudents have mentioned a number of reasonable grounds for backbiting:
(1) If backbiting represents the complaint of a wronged person so as to prove his right before a judge, it is not forbidden, even if it includes the ascription of injustice and criminality to the other party.
(2) The person whose advice is sought in definite matters, such as marriage or trust, is permitted to backbite the other party -by mentioning his defects-. It is also acceptable to warn a believer against the association with deviants, by referring namely to their defects, provided that such reference is intended to protect the believer. It is also acceptable to defame a testifier when it is necessary.
(3) Backbiting is acceptable when it is intended to disavow the claim of a false lineage.
(4) Backbiting is acceptable when it is intended to refute an untrue saying or an illegal claim.
(5) Backbiting is acceptable when it takes the form of testimony against wrongdoers.
(6) It is acceptable to mention certain epithets (such as 'the blind', 'the one-eyed', and the like) of certain people if this is necessary for introducing them.
(7) Backbiting is acceptable when it is intended to forbid evil, by mentioning the defects of a person before somebody who is able to guide him.
(8) It is acceptable to backbite those who declare publicly their commitment of sins, such as the drunk and gamblers, provided that such backbiting should not exceed the limits. It is said that to backbite a sinful is not offensive.
Finally, well intention and sound objective must be proposed. Likewise, it is improper to aim at evil intentions, such as enmity, envy, and the like.
Treatment of Backbiting
It is necessary to keep in mind the fore cited disadvantages of backbiting.
It is necessary to pay the greatest attention to self-discipline by applying the noble traits to oneself.
As he was asked about his educator, Mohammed ibn al-Hanafiyya said: "It is my Lord Who educated me in myself. I have followed and imitated any element that is enjoyed by men of sense when I found good, and I have avoided any element that is practiced by the ignorant when I found ugly. Hence, I could attain the treasures of knowledge." 276
It is advisable to speak of joyful things, such as pleasant stories and nice purposeful talks, instead of backbiting.
It is worthwhile, finally, to control one's wording and abstain from the initiatives of backbiting.
Penance of Backbiting
To make amends for it, one must feel regret and repent from the sins of backbiting. Then, he must curry favor with the one he backbit and ask him for acquittal. If the backbitten forgives, it will be satisfactory. If not, to curry favor with him and apologize will be equivalents of the commitment of backbiting. The previous acts should be done when the backbitten is alive and when such confessions before him do not arise his rage. If they do, or if he is dead, it is necessary to seek God's forgiveness to him.
The Prophet (s) said: "The penance of backbiting is to seek Allah's forgiveness to him -the backbitten- whenever you mention him." 277
As a completion of the subject of backbiting, let us refer to slander, which means to accuse a believer falsely. It is in fact more serious than backbiting:
"One who makes a mistake or commits a sin and ascribes it to an innocent person, he only burdens himself with slander and a grave sin. (4:112)"
The Prophet (s) said: "For him who accuses falsely a male or female believer or ascribes to them false things, Allah will detain him on a hill of fire, on the Day of Resurrection, unless he provides justifiable excuse." 278
Talebearing is to inform against people matters that they dislike to divulge, for the purpose of entrapping them. The talebearer is in fact the meanest and most malicious individual since he is characterized by backbiting, betrayal, hypocrisy, spoiling the mutual amicability, and seeding divergence among people:
"Do not yield to one persistent in swearing, backbiting, gossiping, obstructing virtues, a sinful transgressor, ill-mannered, and morally corrupt or that because he may possess wealth and children. When Our revelations are recited to him. (68:14)"
"Woe to every slanderer and backbiter. (104:1)"
The Prophet (s) said: "May I tell you of the evilest of you? … They are the talebearers who sow enmity between associates and stick defects to those who are acquitted of defects." 279
Imam al-Baqir (a) said: "It is forbidden for the revilers and the talebearers to be in Paradise." 280
Imam as-Sadiq (a) said to al-Mansour; the Abbasid caliph: "Do not accept the wording of those whom Allah forbid to be in Paradise and whom Allah decided to make Hell their eternal abode if they speak ill of your relatives and folks whose right is obligatory upon you. The talebearers are surely perjurers. They are the partners of Eblis in his efforts of exciting enmity between people. Allah says:
Believers, if one who publicly commits sins brings you any news, ascertain its truthfulness carefully, lest you harm people through ignorance and then regret what you have done. (49:6)" 281
Incentives of Talebearing
There are two incentives of talebearing:
(1) To defame the one against whom information are said, or
(2) To curry favor with and to flatter slavishly the one to whom information are carried.
Disadvantages of Talebearing
Talebearing is the result of two serious vices: backbiting and tattling. Every item of backbiting is tattling, but not every tattling is backbiting. Hence, the disadvantages of talebearing are more serious than those of backbiting, since it includes the divulgement of secrets and defamation of the one against whom tales are born. In certain cases, talebearing result in bloodshed, usurpation of properties, violation of sanctities, and abuse of dignities.
How to Deal with the Talebearer?
Because the talebearer is the most dangerous corruptive, it is necessary to beware of him, as well as his plots and corruption. This may be achieved by following the advices bellow:
It is obligatory to belie the talebearers, because they are sinful and distrustful.
It is necessary to avoid mistrusting one's faithful brother just because some information are told against him:
"Believers, stay away from conjecture; acting upon some conjecture may lead to sin. (49:12)"
One must not spy and inspect the talebearers' news:
"Do not spy on one another or backbite. (49:12)"
One must avoid bearing the tales of the talebearers, lest he becomes talebearer and backbiter in the same time.
It is related that, once, a man bore some tales about another before Amir ul-Mu'minin (a) who said to him: "We will inspect that which you have born to us. If it is true, we will hate you. If it is not, we will punish you. If you like, now, we may overlook the matter." The man asked Amir ul-Mu'minin (a) to overlook it. 282
Mohammed ibn al-Fudhayl narrated that he asked Imam al-Kadhim (a) what he should do if trustworthy people inform him against a man, but that man would deny when he is faced. The Imam (a) instructed: "You should belie even your hearing and sight if they tell you something wrong about your believing brother. Moreover, if fifty swearing witnesses testify before you against your believing brother, but he would deny their testimonies, you should believe him and disapprove the fifty witnesses. Never inform against your believing brother anything that he dislikes to divulge or anything that defames his personality, lest you are one of those about whom Allah says: "Those who like to publicize indecency among the believers will face painful torment in this world and in the life to come. Allah knows what you do not know. (24:19)" 283
As a completion of talebearing, we provide calumny, which implies informing against people for the purpose of destroying them. On that account, calumny is regarded as the most hideous form of talebearing. In most cases, the victims of calumny are the celebrities and the high-ranking whom are envied for their virtues. As the envious cannot find any way to quench their thirst, they direct to informing against them before the authorities. In most cases, the efforts of such individuals become ineffective to cause them humility and punishment.
The Prophet (s) said: "The evilest people are the tri-destructive. (…) They are those who inform the authorities of ill things against their friends; hence, they destroy themselves, their friends, and the authorities." 284
OBSCENITY, REVILEMENT, AND DEFAMATION
Obscenity is the expression that is offensively and grossly indecent, such as the shameless and improper words used by the ignorant and avoided by the noble. Such expressions may be used metonymically by the respectful people. In the same manners, authors and polite people used to avoid using obscene expressions out of their civility and decorum; therefore, they use metonymy instead.
Revilement is to insult and curse others, such as calling bad names.
Defamation is to impute dishonor to others by definite expressions.
These three qualities, however, are the most hideous products of the tongue:
The Prophet (s) said: "For every obscene, indecent, and shameless individual who does not care for his speech or for what is said to him, Allah has banned him from being in Paradise. If you search for the family of such individuals, you will find them bastards or semi-sons of devils. … There are devils among people. Listen to Allah's saying (as an address to the Shaitan): …And share with them in wealth and children. 285"286
"The evilest servants of Allah are those whose association is hated because of their obscenity." 287
"To revile at the believers is defection, to fight them is atheism, to backbite them is act of disobedience to Allah, and their wealth is as sacred as their blood (soul)." 288
Imam al-Baqir (a) said: "He who defames a believer shall suffer violent death and will not be in good manner at all." 289
Imam as-Sadiq (a) said: "Hell is the abode of him whose wording is avoided by people."290
"Shia! Be good examples as you represent us (by doing good deeds). Do not represent us in ill behaviors. Say good wording to people and have control over your tongues (i.e. wording). Stop uttering curious and obscene language." 291
Imam al-Kadhim (a) said about two men who were showering insults on each other: "The originator of such revilement is the unjust party. He burdens the his as well as the other's sin, unless the other party transgresses." 292
Imam as-Sadiq (a) had a friend who was so close to him that he did not depart him at any situation. One day, they were walking in a mart and followed by a slave from Sind. 293 The Imam's friend turned his face three times to find his slave, but he could not. In the fourth, he could see the slave; so, he shouted at him: "son of a …, where were you?"
As soon as Imam as-Sadiq (a) heard that expression from his friend, he slapped his forehead with the hand and said with astonishment: "Subhaanallah! 294 How strange is that! How do you defame his mother? In the previous, I thought you were pious. Now, I have known that you are impious."
The man said: "May God make me your sacrifice. His mother is only a polytheist woman of Sind."
The Imam said: "You should have known that every nation has a legal form of marriage." He (a) then asked the man to leave him. After that situation, Imam as-Sadiq (a) did not accompany that man at all. 295
Disadvantages of Obscenity
Vituperations are mostly resulted from enmity, envy, rage, and immorality, in addition to miseducation and impoliteness. They divest man of the polite human traits to impute lowliness and savagery to him. They also originate enmity, instigate alienation, and expose to God's wrath.
Amir ul-Mu'minin (a) said: "The tongue is a beast. It will raven if it is set free."
Sarcasm is to imitate people's words, deeds, or gestures so as to degrade or mock at them. Because such deeds of sarcasm create enmity, malice, and spoiling of the social relations, Islam has forbidden them. It is quite strange for one to mimic, degrade, or find fault with a believer sarcastically since every individual, except the Sinless, 296 must have some defects. Besides, every man may become the target of sarcasm and mimicry.
"Believers, let not a group of you mock another. Perhaps they are better than you. Let not women mock each other; perhaps one is better than the other. Let not one of you find faults in another nor let anyone of you defame another. How terrible is the defamation after having true faith. Those who do not repent are certainly unjust (49:11)."
"The sinners had been laughing at the believers. When passing by them, they would wink at one another and, on returning to their people, boast about what they had done. On seeing the believers, they would say, "These people have gone astray" (83:29-32)."
The Prophet (s) said: "Do not inspect the flaws of the believers. Allah will surely inspect the flaws of him who inspects the believers' flaws. Allah will surely uncover the flaws of him whom He inspects, even if he hides himself in the middle of his house." 297
Imam as-Sadiq (a) said: "For him who mimics a believer for the purpose of disgracing him, abusing his personality, and making people disrespect him, Allah will dismiss him from His custody to the Shaitan's, who, too, will not accept him." 298
It is related that, "Allah hides His disciples among His servants; hence, you should not disregard any of the servants of Allah, for it happens that he is one of the disciples of Allah while you do not know his reality."
Any investigation of the social crises proves that the origin of most of such troubles is the initiatives of wording and the mutual obscenity that interrupt the social relations and arise hatred. On that account, it becomes very necessary, for the interest of individuals and societies, to control one's wording and habituate on good wording:
"(Muhammad), tell My servants to say what is best. The Shaitan sows dissension among them; he is the sworn enemy of human beings (17:53)."
"… They should speak righteous words to people… (2:83)"
"Virtue and evil are not equal. If you replace evil habits by virtuous ones, you will certainly find that your enemies will become your intimate friends (41:34)."
"Be moderate in your walking and your talking. The most unpleasant sound is the braying of donkeys (31:19)."
"Believers, have fear of Allah and speak righteous words. Allah will reform your deeds and forgive your sins. (33:71-2)"
The Prophet (s) said: "Allah may have mercy upon the servant who utters righteous wording to gain its good result, or keeps peace against an evil to save himself." 299
As a man asked him for an advice, the Prophet (s) instructed: "Have control over your tongue." As the man asked for more, the Prophet (s) repeated the same instruction. In the third time, the Prophet (s) added: "You should know that nothing but the yields of tongues will turn people over on their nasals in Hell." 300
Imam as-Sejjad (a) said: "Good wording increases the wealth, grows up the sustenance, postpones time of death, endears to the family members -or the wife-, and takes to Paradise." 301
Imam as-Sadiq (a) said: "Ebbad! Do you, because you have controlled your stomach and genital parts from haram, feel saved? In His Book, Allah says: 'Believers, have fear of Allah and speak righteous words. Allah will reform your deeds and forgive your sins. (33:71-2)' Nothing of your good deeds will be accepted unless you utter good and just wording." 302
"Habituate your tongue on saying the good only, and you will gain its good. Surely, a tongue will follow that on which it is habituated."
A man asked Abu al-Hasan (a) for advice, the Imam said: "Have control over your tongue and you will be powerful. Do not let others lead you, lest you will be humiliated." 303
Chaste wording has its great influence in the mentalities of both the friends and enemies. For the friends, it grows up love, perpetuates affection, and prevents devilish inspirations. For the enemies, chaste wording alleviates feelings of enmity and eases their mistreatments and trickeries. Thus, we find the great personalities practice control over their tongues so as to be protected from flaws.
It is related that four kings spoke in a meeting:
The king of Persia said: "I have never felt sorry for the word that I have not said, but I have many times felt sorry for things that I have said."
King of Rome said: "I can control the word that I have not said, but I cannot control that which I have said."
King of China said: "I possess the word that I have not spoken, but the word that I have spoken possesses me."
King of India said: "How strange those who utter a word that harms them if they say it and does not benefit them if they do not say it are!" 304
Gossip, nonsense, and obscenity are the clearest evidences on stupidity.
As he passed by a man who was speaking nonsense, Amir ul-Mu'minin (a) stopped and said to him: "You are dictating to the Keeping Angels 305 a record that will be taken to your Lord. You therefore should say only that which concerns you and should leave that which does not concern you." 306
"Much speech leads to much erring. Much erring leads to decreased pudency. Little pudency leads to decreased piety. Little piety deadens the heart. The dead-hearted will be in Hell." 307
Imam al-Baqir (a) said: "Abu Tharr used to say: "Seeker of knowledge! Your tongue is the key to goodness and the key to evil. Hence, seal your tongue in the same way as you seal your gold and currencies." 308
Imam as-Sadiq (a) said: "Silence is an abundant treasure. It is the adornment of the clement and the cover of the ignorant." 309
It is related that Qiss ibn Sa'ida asked Aktham ibn Saifi 310, "How many flaws have you found in man?" He answered, "They are too numerous to be counted. But, I found one trait that may cover all the flaws of man if only he keeps to it. It is control over the tongue."