They say one backbiting is equal to thirty-three fornications. Is it true?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

One of the most frightening aspects of backbiting is the potential size of the disasters it can cause. Backbiting does not attack the ephemeral body but it attacks the heart and the spirit, which the Creator rendered eternal. It is rather difficult to commit a murder and it is possible and rather easy to find the doer and to punish him. However, it is very easy to commit backbiting; once it is uttered, it increases like mushroom; millions of copies of it has the potential to spread among people very fast and to cause unbelievable mischief and massacre.

It is almost impossible to determine the source of backbiting, to punish it, to stop it and even to prevent it from being transformed into slander. A murderer has an honor peculiar to itself but a backbiter has no honor at all.

A soldier who is martyred by the bullet of the enemy in the battlefront is indescribably lofty. However, backbiting can be transformed into a saddening murder like a father’s killing his own son or a child’s killing his own mother.

It is emphasized in the book called Sözler that the similes that seem to be exaggerated in some hadiths of the Prophet (pbuh) aim to show the potential size of the danger:

"The universality in this sort of hadith is in regard to possibility. For example, 'Backbiting is like murder.' This means someone who indulges in backbiting is more harmful than deadly poison, like a killer." (Sözler, Yirmi Dördüncü Söz, Üçüncü Dal)

This hadith, which is included in Musnadul-Firdaws 3:116, 117 is as follows in Kanzul-Ummal, 3:589 No: 8043: "Backbiting is more severe (worse) than fornication." Ghazali mentions the second form of the hadith. (see Ghazali, Kimya-yı Saadet, Merve Yayınları, p.386) However, Badiuzzaman says not every backbiting is worse than a murder or fornication but when its outcomes are taken into consideration, it can be a crime worse than them.

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