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The honor of Muslims is sacred and is to be preserved. This makes libel against them prohibited except where necessity requires that based on certain criteria.

There are two types of defamations; the first is for one to defame himself and the second is to be defamed by another. The first is for one to spread prohibited statements or actions about himself thinking that will make him appealing to people. This is prohibited in Islam. If what he has said is true of him, it is prohibited because he is harming himself and exposing a sin he committed. The Prophet-peace be upon him- said: “Every one of my followers will be forgiven except those who expose (openly) their wrongdoings. An example of this is that of a man who commits a sin at night which Allah has covered for him, and in the morning, he would say (to people): "I committed such and such sin last night,' while Allah had kept it a secret. During the night Allah has covered it up but in the morning he tears up the cover provided by Allah Himself.” (reported by Bukhari).

The Prophet also said: “Whoever commits anything of these filths should cover himself with the covering of Allah” (reported by Baihaqee).

This shows that it is obligatory upon a Muslim to cover himself and not to expose his sins because he may repent and Allah will accept his repentance but if he has exposed himself to people it will continue to spread among them. On the other hand, if what he said is not true then he has committed two sins; libelling himself and telling lies. In this regard, the Prophet said: “a man will continue to tell lies until it will be written that he is a liar” (reported by Ahmad).

The Prophet also said: “the signs of a hypocrite are three: when he talks he tells lies … (agreed upon)

Just as libel can be by words it can also be by actions. For example; the indecency of a woman can lead her to libelling herself and making people doubtful of her, and the indecency of a man in his appearance and manners in contradiction to the custom and tradition of his place and time are all part of libelling one’s self and are prohibited. The evidence for this can be deduced from the hadith of the Prophet : “Whoever wears a cloth to draw people’s attention in this world, Allah will dress him in a cloth of humiliation on the day of judgment.” (reported by Ahmad)

The second type: defaming others which is a great sin because it is transgression and harm against others. It also disrupts their relationships which lead to corruption. All these are prohibited because of the saying of Allah (tranlated as): “Indeed, those who like that immorality should be spread [or publicized] among those who have believed will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter” (Q24:V19).

Allah also said (translated as): “And those who harm believing men and believing women for [something] other than what they have earned have certainly born upon themselves a slander and manifest sin.” (Q33:V58). The Prophet also prohibited defaming people in two perspectives: first, if it is aimed at dispraising innocent people. The Prophet said: “Anyone who spreads any false statement about another, Allah will punish him in Hell on the day of judgment”

The second perspective is defaming people who are not innocent but do not expose their sins and their sins are not harmful to others. This kind of defamation is also prohibited because it is like backbiting. Allah says (tranlated as): “And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it.” (Q49:V12)

This prohibition is general and is applicable to all forms of backbiting because of the hadith of Abu Huraira-may Allah be pleased with him- that the Prophet-peace be upon him- said: “Do you know what backbiting is?” They replied, `Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) know best.’ He said, “It is saying something about your brother which he dislikes.” Someone asked, ‘Supposing that what I said about my brother was true?’ and the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

“If what you say about him is true you have backbitten him and if it is not true you have slandered him.” (Related by Muslim).

Scholars have researched the issue of defaming with regards to the rulings indicated above. Thus, according to the Hanafee school of thought both backbiting and slandering are sins and prohibited based on texts and reasoning.

According to the Malikee school of thought it is obligatory upon every person who has attained the age of puberty to abstain from backbiting and slandering because they are prohibited and they can lead to transgression, hatred and corruption. Backbiting can be through insinuation such as when a person says to another: what is your opinion about so-and –so person and he says: may Allah guide him or may Allah forgive him. Backbiting can also be through the heart because it is part of bad assumption which is prohibited.

According to the Shafi’ee school of thought it is obligatory upon a Muslim to abstain from any statement which hurts his fellow brother except in the case of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is bad, and it is prohibited to make defamatory poetry even if what is being said is true and the testimony of one who engages in that is rejected.

According to the Hambalee school of thought if a poem contains defamation of Muslims it is prohibited and the testimony of one who engages in that shall be rejected.



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