لَا يُحِبُّ اللَّهُ الْجَهْرَ بِالسُّوءِ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ إِلَّا مَنْ ظُلِمَ
Lā yuhibbullāhul-jawra bissū’i minal-qawli illā man zulim
Allah does not like the disclosure of [anyone’s] evil [conduct] in speech, except by one who has been wronged
(Sūratun Nisā, No.4, Āyat 148)
To nurture the potential of perfection in the human being Almighty Allah (swt) has ordained laws of interpersonal behavior. He encourages virtue and dissuades evil behavior. One behavior condemned in the Quran is the exposure of the faults of others. In the verse above Allah says He loves not that evil about others should be spoken of openly. Dislike here does not mean the like and dislike similar to that of human beings. Rather, it means that in the Divine Code of Law, for the growth of the human soul, there is absolutely no place for such behavior.
Evil in conduct refers to anything that is said which is unpleasant about someone and would not be liked by the person himself. It can be backbiting, slander, libel, cursing, complaining, etc. – narrating anything which includes something negative. The only exception is for one who has been oppressed: the Mazlūm can talk about the evil of the Zālim without being guilty of incurring the displeasure of Allah.
Islam recommends the concealing of the faults of others rather than discussing it. Such a quality is an adornment for the soul of a believer. Imam Zaynul ‘Ābidīn (a) says: O God . . . adorn me with the adornment of the righteous, and clothe me in the ornaments of the God fearing through . . . spreading good behavior and covering faults (Du‘ā Makārimul Akhlāq, No. 20 in Sahīfa Sajjādiyya). When a believer spreads the good of others and conceals their evil, the community benefits immensely. Spreading of good increases the respect for the person who performed the good, and encourages him to do more good. It also encourages others to follow his example and perform good deeds themselves. In that way good multiplies in the community. Concealing evil allows the person who has committed it to retain his self-respect. It also helps to prevent evil from becoming common place in the community. When evil is broadcast within the community, some people may feel it is normal to commit it, and would not shun it. When evil is concealed and hidden, it means that the community takes it very seriously and is ashamed to talk about it.
Almighty Allah Himself is sattārul ‘uyūb (Concealer of Faults) and does not reveal the faults of human beings in this world. In Du‘ā Kumayl, which we recite weekly, Imam Ali (a) says: How many ugly deeds You have covered . . . how many graceful praises, which I am not worthy of, You have spread. He knows everything about each human being, the hidden faults and secrets, but in His great love and mercy, keeps it concealed from others. That is a blessing for which we must thank God each day.
The next time we are inclined to say something negative about someone else, we must ask ourselves the following questions:
1) Are we ourselves perfect? How many faults of ours has Allah, through His grace, concealed from others? Don’t go ahead with the negative words lest you too become a victim of exposure by others.
2) Are we seeking respect and popularity by demeaning others? Putting others down is a sign of low self-esteem that mistakenly believes the only way to go up is by pushing others down.
3) What type of a community are we promoting by saying such things? One where evil is discussed openly and eventually taken lightly and then practiced as a norm? This is not the type of environment that would be healthy for ourselves and our families.
There is great wisdom in what Allah encourages and discourages us to do. We disregard that at our own peril. Recite this verse to remind yourself of the seriousness of such talks and stay away from it. The verse can be your weapon to ward off inclinations for such behavior.
Amīrul Mu’minīn Imam Ali (a), Du‘ā Kumayl;
Imam Zaynul ‘Ābidīn (a), Sahīfa Sajjādiyya;
Āyatullāh Nasir Makārim Shirazi (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne;
Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān