What is Talebearing? What does Islam say about it? What is the difference between Backbiting and Talebearing?

The Details of the Question
What is Talebearing? What does Islam say about it? What is the difference between Backbiting and Talebearing? Can you give references from the Qur'an and Hadiths. Thanks
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

To tell someone something that someone else said about him or to inform someone about something that someone else did against him claiming to have seen or heard it.

Backbiting is talking about someone. The fact that what is talked about does not interest the person one is talking to or whether what one says is true or not does not change the act of backbiting. If what is said is a lie, then it is both backbiting and slandering. If what is said is true, it is backbiting.  In talebearing, what is said interests the person that one is talking to, such as: "He said this or that about you or he did this or that against you”. It does not matter whether the person one is talking to is an ordinary person or an important person with authority.  Accordingly, informants and informers are also talebearers. However, bearing testimony for the sake of Allah is exception; it is not regarded talebearing.

In Arabic, or to put it better, in hadiths, two different words are used for the concept talebearing: namima and qatt. A person who does it is called a nammam or qattat. Although Sufyan considers qattat to be synonymous with nammam (Tirmidhi, Birr wa Sila, 78), Hafiz al-Mundhiri say those two words have different meanings. According to him, nammam is a person who reports what he himself has seen or heard to the relevant person. Qattat is someone who reports the words that he has heard from others (Targhib wa Tarhib, trns. A.M.Büyükçınar, V, 386).

In Islam, talebearing is not tolerated and it has been mentioned both in verses and hadiths:

The word humaza in the verse "Waylun li kulli humazatin lumazatin" (Humaza) (Woe to every (kind of) scandal-monger and backbiter") means talebearing rather than gossiping (Imam Ghazali Ihya, Trns. A.Arslan, VI, p.545); it was expressed by many scholars. Those two words were used as synonymous and complementary in the form of "hammazin" and "mashshain bi namimin" and it was stated that hammaz people who talebear should not be heeded or paid attention.  (al-Qalam, 68/11).

There are some hadiths that were reported by many people and that are present in almost all sound and esteemed hadith books. For instance, in the hadith “talebearers will not enter Paradise” the word talebearer is used as nammam in some and as qattat in others. (Tirmidhi, Birr wa Sila, 78).

The hadith mentioning that one of the two people who suffer torment in grave suffers due to not avoiding the splashing of urination and the other suffers due to talebearing is present in many hadith books.  (Sahih Bukhari Mukhtasar Tajrid Sarih, hadith numbered 163).

Ghazali regards telling other people who might be interested the things or words that the doer or speaker does not want others to know even if they are good acts or words not crimes or sins as talebearing. He mentions three separate effects that encourage people to talebear: wanting to do wrong to the person whose words are reported, aiming to ingratiate oneself with the person the word is reported to or having the habit of talking just for the sake of talking. 

However, there is one type of talebearing that should not be regarded as talebearing and that should not be blamed as it is stated by our Prophet in a hadith,” A person who mediates between people and reconciles someone with another and reports people’s words for a good purpose and tells concealed lies for a good purpose is not a liar.”  (Tajrid Sarih Translation, hadith numbered 1156). It may resemble talebearing in form but it is completely different from it in terms of intention and purpose.

Zübeyr YETİK

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