How Do We Avoid Backbiting?

Answered by Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him)

How do we avoid backbiting (ghibah)?

We do this by bringing to mind the ugliness and danger of backbiting. We should also reflect on the punishment for it in the next life. In the Quran, Allah likens the person who backbites to someone who eats the flesh of his dead brother. We should see backbiting as a lightning bolt which destroys our good deeds. We should accustom ourselves to only mentioning a person’s good deeds and qualities if there is a benefit in doing so.

If we are tempted to backbite someone due to a perceived fault, we should do two things instead: pray for them and give them sincere advice either directly or indirectly.

Instead of allowing yourself to backbite, you must hold your tongue and use it to remember Allah. Instead of talking about worldly things, use wisdom in choosing a topic of conversation which is beneficial, such as stories of the Prophet, the Companions, the pious or the next life. In this way you will be acting upon the hadith: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should say what it is good or remain silent.”

Imam Hasan, son of Imam al-Haddad, and the Effect of Hajj

Imam Hasan, the son of Imam Abdullah bin Alawi al-Haddad was a seeker, a person of piety and a scholar who acted according to his knowledge. Imam al-Haddad, however, was waiting for him to reach higher levels. He said: “When that son of mine performs hajj something will be ingrained in him which was not in him before.”

So he went to perform hajj and implemented all the sunnahs, exerted great caution and effort until the hajj had its effect upon him. Then he returned to Hadramawt and became a paragon of renunciation of worldly things (zuhd).

They told him that part of his house was falling and it needed to be repaired (houses in Hadramawt are built from mud bricks and require regular repair) but he replied that he did not need that part of the house and life was short.

He focused on teaching and preparing for the next life until one half of the house caved in. He said: “The other half of the house is sufficient.”  He carried on in this way until only one room of the house was left standing. When people criticised him, he replied with a verse of poetry:

يقولون بيتك بيت صغير كأن نسجته لك العنكبوت

فقلت المقام قليل به وهذا كثير على من يموت

They say your house is so small it could have been woven by a spider!

I say to them I will not live long in it and it is plenty big enough for someone who is sure to die

This is the exact opposite of what hajj does to some people. They go to hajj and they have some humility but they return with more desire and concern for worldly things. This would be a sign that their hajj has not been accepted and we seek Allah’s refuge from that.

The whole purpose of hajj is to draw us closer to Allah, the King, the Living and that we see things as they truly are.

Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him)

The Legacy of Habib Muhammad bin Hafiz

Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him) reflects on the legacy of his father, Habib Muhammad.

On a Friday, on the 29th of Dhu’l-Hijjah in 1392 (1973) I went out with my father to the Friday prayer. I came back from the prayer with only his scarf. He had disappeared.

But in reality who disappeared? Those who abducted him or him?

Do you not see him? Do you not see what he left behind? Do you not see his dawah?

His blessed body disappeared and he attained the honour of martyrdom in the path of his Lord.

But what remains is his legacy, his memory, his dawah, his concern, his words, what he built and what he gave.

He is a member of this ummah whose blood is connected to the blood spilt by Hamzah, the Lion of Allah and His Messenger. Hamzah did not disappear. Hamzah reached the pinnacle of honour and nobility. He is the ‘Master of all the Martyrs’ in Allah’s sight (may Allah be pleased with him). After him came the martyrdom of al-Husayn which we remember in Muharram.

The Scholar Who Worked as a Waiter

One of our teachers was Habib Muhammad bin Alawi al-Attas, a scholar and a true worshipper. He was known as ‘al-Zabidi’ because he spent some years studying with the scholars of Zabid (once a great centre of knowledge in Yemen). During his time there he chose to work as a waiter in a restaurant, not because he needed the money, but in order to refine his lower self (nafs): running round taking people’s orders, bring this, do this..

We visited him in his home in Huraydah at the end of his life with a group of scholars: among them Habib Mashhur bin Hafiz, Habib Umar bin Alawi al-Kaf, Habib Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Shihab and Habib Salim al-Shatiri. 

He said: “Last night someone saw the Prophet ﷺ in this very room.”

May Allah have mercy upon him – a scholar who knew the importance of refining the nafs.

Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him) during his commentary on Ihya Ulum al-Din, Dar al-Mustafa, 28th Dhu’l-Qa’dah 1440.