Major sins and prohibitions: Repentance for backbiting

Is there repentance for backbiting?

Backbiting is defined as talking about your fellow brother in a manner that he would dislike. It is unlawful as established in the Qur’aan and Sunnah as well as scholarly consensus. The repentance for it is to go to the person you backbit and thought it was lawful for you to attack his honor and ask him for forgiveness. This is provided no greater harm or consequence would occur. If there is the fear of this creating more problems, it is hoped that Allaah will forgive you so long as you pray for the person you backbit, and you should mention him positively many times in gatherings in which you committed the backbiting, in order to counterbalance the harm. Many people do not like the fact that you have spoken ill of them behind their backs, and there are some who forgive easily. If they are of this type then you must ask them to forgive you; otherwise no if they are of the other type and making this confession will worsen the situation, such as they may stop talking to you and break ties, or other things which are difficult to list. It is thus sufficient to make supplication for them. One should spread good things about them at gatherings. Some scholars of the first three generations said that a person should make charity on behalf of them of one Dirham each time they commit backbiting. It is not known from where they got this rule. Perhaps they said it as a means to stop people from committing the sin of backbiting, but it is not a legal method of repentance. This is because backbiting is a sin committed against a person and therefore, repentance as charity is not enough. Otherwise, people would simply engage in backbiting and repent for it through charity. A person should make it binding upon himself that the next time he backbites, he will observe a fast, until he abandons backbiting. Such a repentance really does not have a legal basis, but these are measures to help stop a person from engaging in backbiting and not to take it lightly.