Is it considered gheebah (backbiting) to comment negatively on a scholar's verdicts/rulings?

Question:

As salaamu ’alaykum,

Please confirm if the incident described below is considered gheebah (backbiting) under the shari’ah.

 

A friend of mine, and me were discussing certain fatawa of a respected scholar. We were criticizing his fatawa on certain issues as harsh and the fact that other respected scholars do not agree with him on contemporary issues. Personally, I praised the scholar and made du’a for him while passing a few critical comments. My friend however used insulting comments for the scholar. I reminded him of the hadith where the Prophet stated that those who wrong the friends of Allah will be destroyed. He somewhat persisted and I discontinued my remarks as the Hadith of “gheebah” kept ringing in my head.

 

You may ask if there was any need for a discussion, and the answer was no. It was just casual chit-chat to pass the time.

 

Were we both guilty of gheebah, or just him?

 

Answer:

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

الجواب حامدا ومصليا ومسلما

Wa ‘alaykum as salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh,

Truthfully speaking ill regarding someone or exposing their faults in their absence is known as backbiting. Scholars have provided a list of cases when speaking ill of someone is permissible and will not amount to the sin of backbiting. Among those cases is exposing someone’s lack of credibility in matters of Islam. To preserve the Islamic teachings, scholars of hadith would deem narrators of hadith unreliable based on sound judgment to filter acceptable ahadith from unacceptable ones. Likewise, scholars throughout history would question and disprove the reliability of books as well as their authors based on sound academic reasoning, for the very same purpose. Therefore, it is permissible to express reasons for deeming a fatwa or a scholar unreliable to protect people from false information regarding Islam. However, it must be based on sound reasoning; therefore, reliable scholars should be consulted regarding the matter. Also, these types of ideas should not be misused. Such things should not be said out of necessity or in a manner which seems to mock the scholar in question.

Backbiting is a grave sin, caution should be taken when saying anything which is apparently backbiting even if scholars have excluded it from being actual backbiting.

والله اعلم

And Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala knows best.

AbdurRahman Islam

Approved by Mufti Husain Ahmad Madani