Know that it is required upon everyone that commits a sin to rush towards repenting from it.
Repentance with regard to the rights of Allaah must meet three conditions:
1. One must stop committing that sin immediately,
2. He must feel remorse and sorrow for having done it, and
3. He must resolve to not return to committing that sin again.
Repentance with regard to the rights of humans must meet these same three conditions (listed above), as well as a fourth one, which is:
4. Taking back any oppression that was inflicted on someone or asking for his forgiveness or absolvment from that.
So it is obligatory on a person who has committed backbiting to seek repentance according to these four conditions, because backbiting involves the rights of people, so he must seek the forgiveness of the person he has backbitten.
Is it sufficient for one to just say: “I have backbit you, so please absolve me from (this) sin” or must he inform him also of what he said about him?
There are two views on this according to the Shaafi’ee scholars:
The First: His clarifying what he said (when backbiting) is a condition. So if he is absolved without informing him of what he said, the pardon is not valid, just as if he were to absolve him from (stealing) unidentifiable money.
The Second: His informing him (of what he said) is not a condition, because this is something that one will not be able to tolerate and thus forgive. So his knowing (exactly what was said) is not a condition, contrary to the example of the (stolen) money.
The first opinion is the strongest, since people have the ability to grant forgiveness for certain types of backbiting but not other types.
And if the one who has been backbitten is either dead or absent, then one is excused from seeking to be absolved from it. However, the scholars say: He should supplicate much for that person and ask forgiveness for him, as well as do many good deeds.
Know that it is preferable for the one who has been backbitten to absolve the backbiter from his sin, but it is not an obligation on him to do so. This is because it is giving away and forfeiting one’s right, so the choice is his. However, it is strongly recommended (muta’akkidah) for him to absolve him so that his Muslim brother can be free from the harm of this sin and so that he can be successful in receiving Allaah’s great reward of Forgiveness and Love. Allaah, the Most High, says:
“Those who repress their anger and pardon people. Verily, Allaah loves the good doers.” [Surah Aali ‘Imraan: 134]
The proper way he should take in making himself allow the pardoning is by reminding himself that: “This matter has already happened and there is no way to remove it now. So it is not right for me to make him miss his chance of getting reward and absolving my Muslim brother.”
“And verily, whosoever shows patience and forgives (others), that is truly from the things recommended by Allaah.” [Surah Ash-Shooraa: 43]
And He says:
“Show forgiveness!” [Surah Al-A’raaf: 199]
The ayaat similar to what we mentioned above are many. And in the authentic hadeeth, the Messenger of Allaah صلى الله عليه و سلم said:
“And Allaah remains in the assistance of (His) servant so long as the servant remains in the assistance of his (fellow) brother.” [Saheeh – Reported by Muslim (2699)]
Ash-Shaafi’ee (rahimahullaah) said: “Whosoever is sought to be pleased, yet is not pleased is a devil.”
The people of the past would recite:
“It was said to me: Such and such person has spoken badly of you And when a youth sets out to humiliate, it is a shame So I said: He has come to us and issued an excuse The blood-money (i.e. recompense) for a sin – to us – is the apology.”
So what we have mentioned here concerning the encouragement for one to absolve and forgive a person from backbiting is what is correct. As for what has been reported on Sa’eed bin Al-Musayyib that he said: “I will not forgive the one who has oppressed me” and on Ibn Sireen that he said: “I will not forbid it on him and then make it allowable for him, because Allaah has made backbiting forbidden on him and I will never make permissible what Allaah has made forbidden” then it is either unauthentic or erroneous.
This is since a person that pardons someone is not making something forbidden permissible. Rather, he is only forfeiting a right that is established for him. The texts of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah indicate clearly that it is recommended to forgive and forfeit one’s rights, which are specific to this case. Or perhaps Ibn Sireen’s words can be taken to mean: “I will never permit myself to be backbitten.” This would be correct, for indeed if a person says: “I seek my honor back from the one who backbitten me”, he is not allowing for it to be done. Rather, he is forbidding everyone from backbiting him, just as he forbids others from being backbitten.
As for the hadeeth: “Are you not able to be like Abu Damdam – when he would go out from his home, he would say: ‘I am giving my honor away in charity for the people.’” Meaning: I will not seek justice from those who oppress me whether in this world or the Hereafter. This is useful in removing a transgression that existed before the absolvement, but as for what occurs after it, there must be a new absolvement made after that. And with Allaah lies the success.
Posted from al-ibaanah e-Book: Guarding the Tongue : Imaam an-Nawawee
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