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All In The Family

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flesh.jpg“Did you hear what she said earlier? I don’t believe her!” “Acha, she’s such a liar! I spoke to Motabhai myself, and he said nothing of the sort ever happened!” “Oooh, did you hear what happened between Aunty Ruby and Uncle Dawud?” “Tch, I always knew that they’d split up… she still can’t get over Uncle Ibrahim…”

I’m sure you all know what’s going on here… family gossip! It’s something that we’re all unfortunately familiar with, I think (especially if you’re desi!)… get a bunch of family members together for what’s supposed to be a nice meal, and at first you’ll just hear juicy stories about far-away relatives… but as soon as someone or the other leaves and the group gets smaller, the stories get a bit more venomous and personal.

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Now, I bet you all know how terrible gossip is in Islam – it is comparable to eating our dead brother’s flesh. But I think that the problem a lot of us face isn’t not knowing about gossip being bad… it’s about what to do when people around us start gossiping. This already uncomfortable situation becomes about a hundred times worse when it’s your own family members engaging in this gossiping.

When hanging out with my friends, I find it pretty easy to realize when we’ve strayed into shaky ground and casually change the subject. Family gatherings, however, are a whole ‘nother ball game. For one thing, I’m not even supposed to really say anything – I’m just there for show more than anything else, and to help set and clear the table. Which I’m fine with, really… these are family members I’ve pretty much grown up with, so I’m comfortable with them and fond of them and have no issues with them. However, as soon as the stories start flying, I’m desperate to escape. I usually make my getaway by pretending my brothers are up to mischief and I’m off to deal with them, or simply drift away to one of the bedrooms and hope nobody notices.

Yet:
From Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (ra) : RasulAllah (SAW) said : “If one of you sees (something) bad, he should change it with his his hand; and if he is not capable of that, then with his tongue; and if he is not capable of that, then (he should detest) it with his heart; and that is the weakest faith”. ( Muslim )

So: What do we do in such situations? Considering that these are family members and saying anything – even politely – would create a big issue, do we stick to hating it with our hearts but keep our tongues silent? Or do we speak out and risk whatever wrath may befall on us?

Any advice would be much appreciated, and no doubt beneficial to all of us!

Your little sister in Islam,
Mouse

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Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women's issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da'wah. She was also an original founder of MuslimMatters.org.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. khawla hurayrah

    March 13, 2007 at 6:53 PM

    Assalamu’alaikum

    How to stop backbiting from going on? simply say: This is backbiting and we should not backbite or slander. Say it a million times. Better if you remember the hadith about “flesh eating your brother” mind you, you will NOT be popular and this is guaranteed. Be prepared to leave the gathering early and you will be the next subject of gossip instead. I have left many gathering early myself, it is easy because normally I am the elderly and my excuse is: old people needs to go to bed early. but my husband understand this because we are on the same level of thinking. It is difficult if one is there with parents or husband but still you can have intellectual discussions ahead of time about the malice of family gatherings. My advice is, if one really have no choice but to stay in that foul gathering, one can either:

    1) Change the subject of conversation like, can anyone teach me how to make “roti” or biryani or anything. If that doesn’t work then,

    2) Stuff the ears with cotton pads or stick the ears with some ear phones with Qur’an mp3 playing. At least you make use of the time memorizing a Surah or something. There are cell phones now with itunes that you can upgrade and download with your favorite reciters.

    3) Bring some prepared Islamic quiz cards or games to get everyone involved.

    4) Make du’aa for you and your family members.

    sincerely and jazzakumullahu khairan for sharing this blog effort with us.

    khawla

  2. Shahla

    March 14, 2007 at 1:44 AM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    If I ever start talking about someone, my son immediately stops me. He says, “I don’t want to hear about it,” and I appreciate he stopped me from sin.

  3. Pingback: Let’s Keep a Track of Ourselves… « “Just a Mom”

  4. AnonyMouse

    March 14, 2007 at 4:15 PM

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatu,

    JazakAllahu khairan for the suggestions! I’ll definitely keep that in mind next time, insha’Allah! :)

    -Mouse

  5. amatulwadood

    March 16, 2007 at 7:24 AM

    wa alaykumassalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu,

    I feel the same way Mouse. And it is hard for me to come out and say something, but I do it anyway–or i’ll go home mad at myself. I try and ask myself, “who do I fear more?” I remind myself to fear Allah and not His creation…and I don’t want my good deeds being taken from me on the Day of Judgment, as few as they are, for sitting through and listening to gossip/backbiting. I think the main thing is that you have to be calm about it and not yell “HARAAM!” and go off on them, that causes serious problems. If you still feel uncomfortable, go to someone you are closer to in the gathering like your mom and tell her to tell everyone inshaAllah.
    It is a lot easier with friends as you mentioned, but think of it this way: they are your family, your own blood, and don’t you want to save them from the fire of hell as you do yourself? InshaAllah they’ll thank you in Jannah :-)

    Lastly, there is a really great audio lecture by Yahya Ibrahim about The Bad Uses of the Tongue (and also the good uses) he goes into great detail with backbiting/gossip and slander.

    wa Allahu ta’ala ‘alam, may Allah make us among those who continuously command the good and forbid the evil. ameen

  6. iMuslim

    March 16, 2007 at 12:44 PM

    Salaams all,

    I have been through the same thought processes as you lil Mouse! However, family gossip is usually conducted in Gujarati, and so i sometimes gives my aunties the benefit of the doubt, in case something is getting lost/added in translation. However, the tone of the conversation can indicate the nature of the topic, just as much as the words used!

    I think one of the best reminders is the fact that back-biting leads to the ironic punishment, of your hasanah being transferred to the victim. I say ironic, because you usually speak bad about someone you don’t like, so they’re the last person you’d want to hand your good deeds over to!

    There’s no easy way to correct people, especially when you’re the youngest… i think amatulwadood’s suggestion of first approaching one’s mother, or other close adult relative, is very good, as they will feel less embarrassed to dole out the advice on your behalf, inshallah.

    Wa’salam

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