Is Gossip Useful?

Shereeza Ibrahim. B.A.Psych, M.S.W, R.S.W.
Clinical Counsellor and Author

Gossip. We have all done it.  Perhaps it has valid uses.  Let’s explore this.  You might be motivated to gossip because you feel you are protecting one individual from another (i.e. “She is unreliable, so don’t depend on her to bring the decorations.  One time she…..”).  You might use it as a way to warn people not to repeat the bad behaviours of others (i.e. You see how he’s living? He was gambling online, and now they are in debt, and his wife and young daughter had to pick up two jobs each”).  Or it might be used as a behavioural control in a small community (i.e. “His son is newly married and is talking too much on WhatsApp with his female friends. Someone should talk to their family about it!”).  There are some more common reasons I will mention later.   In the end, do the benefits outweigh the harms? This is what we must consider.

Here is one way to know if you should proceed with gossip.  Has anyone ever gossiped about you?  How did it make you feel?  Did it feel justified? Probably not.  

Often times, people will gossip because, ironically, it makes them feel morally superior.  They want to highlight to others that what the individual or group did was wrong.  Perhaps there was a time you were wronged, and gossip was your way of getting your revenge on that person; giving them a bad name, which we all know is a stain that is difficult to remove.

You may state, “But what I said was true!!”.  My response is this Hadith: “Abdullah ibn Amr reported: They mentioned a man in front of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and they said, ‘He only eats if he is fed! He only moves if he is made to move!’ The Prophet said, ‘You have backbitten him.’ They said, ‘We only said what is true about him.’  The Prophet said, ‘It is enough sin to mention bad things about your brother.’.” (Musnad ‘Abd Allāh ibn al-Mubārak 2)

We know the consequences of gossip.  It’s never good.  It changes others’ view of that person you are gossiping about.  And as much as you trust people, you never know if the gossip, as a result of your tongue, might spread.  In addition, sometimes we can’t always guarantee our perception of what others allegedly did is accurate.  What if you are gossiping and you end up spreading lies?

Us Muslims work hard to gather our deeds but we lose it if we recklessly gossip without apology.  The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Whoever has wronged his brother, should ask for his pardon (before his death), as (in the Hereafter) there will be neither a Dinar nor a Dirham. He should secure pardon in this life before some of his good deeds are taken and paid to his brother, or, if he has done no good deeds, some of the bad deeds of his brother are taken to be loaded on him (in the Hereafter)” (Bukhari 6534).

It might feel satisfying to gossip and highlight the faults and wrongdoings of others, thinking it is an act of justice.  However, in the end, it is not only an injustice against them, but it is also an injustice against ourselves.

Author Bio: Shereeza is a clinical counsellor and award-winning author, whom offers low- cost telephone counselling through GTA Wellness Consultation at 647-3344556. She has been with the Islamic Institute of Toronto community for over 10 years and is now a regular contributor to the IIT Newsletter.