from "Mukhtasar Minhaj al-Qasideen" (being Ibn Qudamah's abridgement of Ibn al-Jawzi's summary of al-Ghazzali's "Ihya' `Ulum al-Deen")

"O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, for some suspicions are a sin. Do not spy on one another, nor backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, you would abhor it, [so similarly, avoid backbiting]. And fear Allah. Indeed, Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful."
Qur'an, [49:12]

"And do not follow that of which you do not have knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart - [you] will be asked about all of those." Qur'an, [17:36]

"He does not utter a [single] word, except that there is, with him, [an angel] ready and waiting [to record it]." Qur'an, [50:18]

Imam Nawawi says "It is obligatory for every sane adult to guard his tongue against talking, except when it contains a clear benefit. If talking and remaining silent are of equal benefit, it is sunnah to abstain, for permissible talking might lead to something undesirable or forbidden, as in fact is very often the case, and nothing matches safety."

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah :
"Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should say [something] good, or he should keep silent." [Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah]

Nawawi says, "This hadith is quite explicit that it is imperative to not talk unless the speech is good, which is that wherein there is some benefit. If a person is in doubt as to whether there will be any benefit, then he should remain silent."

On the authority of Sahl ibn Sa`d :
"Whoever guarantees for me what is between his two jaws and what is between his two legs, I guarantee Heaven for him." [Bukhari, Muslim]

On the authority of `Uqbah ibn `Amir : I said, 'O Messenger of Allah! What is salvation?"
He said, "Hold your tongue, let your house contain you, and weep over your sins." [Bukhari, Muslim]

Mu`adh ibn Jabal said, "Are we even going to be held accountable for what we say?!"
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, "May your mother bebereaved of you! Is there anything which drags people into the Fire on their faces other than the harvest of their tomgues?!" [Tirmidhi (hasan sahih)]

On the authority of Abu Bakrah, from the Farewell Pilgrimage:
"Indeed, your blood, property and honor are sacred to [one another], like the sanctity of this day of yours in this city of yours." [Bukhari, Muslim]

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah :
"All of a Muslim is prohibited to another Muslim : his blood, his honor and his property." [Muslim]

"O assembly of those who have believed with their tonngues, but into whos hearts faith has not yet reached! Do not backbite the Muslims, nor seek out their secrets! For, whoever seeks out the faults of his brother, Allah will seek out his secrets. And, whoever has his secrets sought out by Allah, Allah will disgrace him, even [if he hides] in the depths of his house. [Abu Dawud in al-Adab, 4/271, #4880]

"Beware of backbiting, for backbiting is more serious than adultery. A man may commit adultery, and drink [wine], and then repent, and Allah will forgive him. But, the backbiter will not be forgiven by Allah until his [backbited] companion forgives him." [Suyuti, Al-Jami` as-Saghir, 1/174, #2919, from Ibn Abid-Dunya, and Abush-Shaykh, Al-Tawbikh.]

Meaning of ghibah
It has been defined precisely by the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) as, "You rmentioning your brother with something about him that he dislikes [being spoekn about]."
Someone asked, "How about if my brother contains that [characteristic which I am mentioning]?"
He replied, "If he possesses that which you mention, then you have [indeed] backbited him. And, if he does not contain that which you say, then you have slandered him." [Muslim in al-Birr, 4/2001, #70; Ahmad in Al-Musnad, 2/230,384]


Ghibah in the guise of religiousity
"Praise be to Allah who has saved us from such evil."
"We ask Allah for protection."
"That poor fellow! Allah has afflicted him with a great calamity. May Allah
forgive him and us."

Listening to Ghibah
Someone who listens to backbiting is a partner to it. He is not absolved of the sin of listening unless he remonstrates verbally, or in his heart if he is afraid. If he is able to start talking about something else, or to chgange the subject of the coversation, then it is imperative for him to do so.
"And, when they hear vain talk, they turn away from it." [Qur'an, 28:55]

"[Succesful are] those who shun vain talk." [Qur'an, al-Mu'minun: 3]

"Whoever is present while a Muslim is humiliated before him, and is able to assist him [and yet does not], Allah will humiliate him before [all of] creation." [Ahmad in al-Musnad, 3/487; Suyuti in Al-Jami` As-Saghir, 2/510, #8375]

"Whoever protects a believer from a hypocrite, Allah will send to him an angel to protect him from the Fire of Hell on the Day of Arising. [Abu Dawud in al-Adab, 4/272, #4883]

"Whoever averts [an attack] from the honor of his brother, Allah will avert the fire from hi sface on the Day of Arising." [Tirmidhi (hasan)]

Causes of ghibah
1. Thirst for revenge. Backbiting one's brother and obtaining gratification from his anger.
2. Peer pressure. Desire to fit in with and be accepted by one's companions.
3. Desire to exalt one's self by degrading another. In the same way, one may become jealous when anothe ris praised, and therefore seek to disparage him.
4. Jest and play. A desire to make others laugh. Some people even make a living out of this.

Cure for ghibah
Realize that it exposes you to the displeasure of Allah, the Exalted. Remind yourself that your good deeds will go to the person whom you ar ebackbiting, and his sins will be borne by you. Ponder over your own faults,a nd occupy yourself with correcting them. Feel ashamed to discuss the faults of others when you yourself have so many faults. If you are rally free from fault, then occupy yourself with thanking Allah for His favor. Just as you would dislike someone else backbiting you, out yourself in the place of the one whom you are inclined to backbite.
"Indeed, truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Heaven. And, a man [continues to] tell the truth, until he is recorded before Allah as a truthful one. And, indeed, lying leads to evil, and evil leads to Hell. And, a man [continues to] lie until he is recorded before Allah as a liar. [Bukhari, Muslim]

"Insulting a Muslim is impiety, and killing him is [a form of] unbelief." [Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Nasa'i, Ibn Majah, Tirmidhi, Tabarani, Daraqutni.]

Ghibah of the heart
To think the worst of Muslims. You may not think badly of a Muslim unless you have definite knowledge of his having done something evil, and there is no possible excuse or justification for him. You should try to make 70 excuses for your brother, and if you cannot find an excuse for him, look for some flaw in your perception. If someone informs you of something bad about someone else, it is obligatory upon you to investigate the matter. Is there some enmity between the informer and the one he is telling you about? You are obliged to think the best of your Muslim brother/sister. Thwart Satan by making du`a for the person. Do not spy on your brother, under the pretext of trying to find out the truth. If it does turn out that he has done something wrong, then advise him in secret.

Cases in which ghibah is permissible
1. Injustice. One who has suffered injustice is entitled to mention the one who has committed injustice to someone who is capable of restoring his rights to him, such as a legitimate Muslim ruler or judge.
2. Seeking help to change an evil, or to reform the wrongdoer. If the intention in telling the ghibah is not to change the wrong, then it is forbidden to relate it.

3. Asking for a fatwa. A person may say, 'My father/brother/wife has done such-and-such to me. What can I do about it?
On the authority of `A'ishah : Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan, said to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), "Abu Sufyan is a miserly man, and he is not giving me what would suffice me and my child, unless I take from him without his knowing." He said, "Take what suffices you and your child according to common usage." [Bukhari, Muslim]
However, it is more precautionary to avoid mention of names, for exaple by asking instead, "What is the verdict regarding a person who has done such-and-such?"

4. Warning, such as warning a prospective buyer that the merchant is a swindler, or warning a student that his prospective teacher is an innovator or a deviant.Also, revealing the faults of weak narrators and forgers of hadith, and giving someone a candid appraisal of a person whom the former is thinking of marrying.

On the authority of Fatimah bint Qays : she said, "I came to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) and told him, "Abu Jahm and Mu`awiyah have [both] proposed to me." He said, "As for Mu`awiyah, he is a poor man with no money, and as for Abu Jahm, his stick never leaves his shoulder." [Bukhari, Muslim, Malik]

5. If someone is commonly known by a nickname, although if there is some alternative way to refer to him, it is preferable.

6. Someone who sins openly, and has no qualms about his sins being mentioned.
However, it is not permissible to mention any of his secret sins.
"There can be no backbiting of one who casts off the mantle of modesty." [Suyuti, Al-Jami` As-Saghir, 2/519, from Bayhaqi.]

Expiation for ghibah
The backbiter has committed two infringements; one upon the limits of Allah, and this must be expiated by repentance and regret. The second is on the rights of his brothers/sisters. If news of the backbiting has rached the person, the backbiter must apologize to him/her, and express regret at having said it.
"Whoever has wronged his brother, in the way of property or honor, let him go to him and repair it, before it is taken [from him on a day] when he has no dirhams or dinars, such thatif he has any good deeds, some of the good deeds will be taken and given to [the wronged one], otherwise [if he has no goo deeds], some of the other's evil deeds will be taken and cast upon him." [Bukhari, Al-Mazalim, 5/121, #2449. Ahmad, Al-Musnad, 2/435]

If the person has not learned that he has been backbited, then the backbiter need not tell him, but he should ask Allah to forgive him.

"The expiation with regard to one who has been backbited is that forgiveness be asked for him." [Suyuti, Al-Jami` As-Saghir, 2/390, #6259]

Mujahid said : the expiation for eating the flesh of your brother is that you praise him and pray for good for him, and similar is the case if he has died.