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From this answer to the question What is backbiting and what kinds of speech are considered backbiting, I learn that backbiting is worse than committing adultery in Islam.

If that's the case, does it mean an adulterer is the lesser evil; or should a backbiter be treated worse than an adulterer?

I am pretty sure backbiting is common both in the Muslim and Non-Muslim worlds, but I haven't seen any rulings against backbiting the way I do against adultery.

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Narration ‘Backbiting is worse than Zina’ - The Sunni Perspective

There are various similar reports of this hadeeth by Al-Bayhaqi and also Ibn Abi Ad-Dunya.

This Hadeeth is Dha’eef [weak] as stated by Shaykh Al-Albaani may Allaah have mercy upon him in “Dha’eef Al-Jaami’”.

Moreover, Al-Haythami stated in “Majma’ Az-Zawaa’id” that in its chain of narrators there is ‘Abbaad ibn Katheer Ath-Thaqafi and he is Matrook (abandoned) and the author of “Kashf Al-Khafaa’” said: “As-Saaghaani said that it (this Hadeeth) is fabricated.”

Besides, Ibn Abi Haatim may Allaah have mercy upon him quoted this Hadeeth in his book entitled “Al-‘Ilal” and he said: “I said to my father (Abu Haatim): this Hadeeth is Munkar (denounced), and he answered: “It is as you said.”

Allaah Knows best.

Source: The narration ‘Gheebah is worse than Zina’

And we do not make ruling or conclusions based on a weak hadith let alone a fabricated one. They are not sources of Sharee'ah.

Ibn Hazm says in 'al-Milal',

"and it is not permissible with us that we say as these ahaadeeth say (i.e. those weak and fabricated narrations), or to trust in them, or to take anything from them."

Ibn Taymiyyah says,

'and it is not permissible to rely in the Sharee'ah upon da'eef ahaadeeth which are not saheeh or hasan. But Ahmad bin Hanbal and other scholars considered it permissible to report with regards to Fadaa'il al-A'amaal (rewards and excellences of actions) that which they did not know to be affirmed, when it is known that it is not a lie. And that is because when the action is known to be legislated with a Sharee'ah evidence, it is possible that the reward be a fact. And not one of the Imaams said that he considered it to be permissible to make something obligatory or recommended based upon a da'eef hadeeth.' ['al-Qaa'idah al-Jaleelah' (pg.82) of ibn Taymiyyah]

Source: Using weak narrations

Moreover, adultery is one of the worst and grievous sins.

Imaam Ahmad (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: I do not know of any sin after murder that is worse than zina, and he quoted as evidence the following hadeeth (emphasis mine):

It was narrated that 'Abdullah said: "I asked the Messenger of Allah [SAW], which sin is most grievous?" He said: "Shirk, setting up a rival to Allah, committing adultery with your neighbor's wife, and killing your child for fear of poverty, and that he may eat with you." Then 'Abdullah recited the Verse: "And those who invoke not any other Ilah (god) along with Allah." (Hasan)

أَخْبَرَنَا عَبْدَةُ، قَالَ أَنْبَأَنَا يَزِيدُ، قَالَ أَنْبَأَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنْ عَاصِمٍ، عَنْ أَبِي وَائِلٍ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، قَالَ سَأَلْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَىُّ الذَّنْبِ أَعْظَمُ قَالَ ‏"‏ الشِّرْكُ أَنْ تَجْعَلَ لِلَّهِ نِدًّا وَأَنْ تُزَانِيَ بِحَلِيلَةِ جَارِكَ وَأَنْ تَقْتُلَ وَلَدَكَ مَخَافَةَ الْفَقْرِ أَنْ يَأْكُلَ مَعَكَ ‏"‏ ‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَرَأَ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ ‏{‏ وَالَّذِينَ لاَ يَدْعُونَ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَهًا آخَرَ ‏}‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ هَذَا خَطَأٌ وَالصَّوَابُ الَّذِي قَبْلَهُ وَحَدِيثُ يَزِيدَ هَذَا خَطَأٌ إِنَّمَا هُوَ وَاصِلٌ وَاللَّهُ تَعَالَى أَعْلَمُ ‏.‏ [ Sunan an-Nasa'i Book 38, Hadith 50]

Moreover, Allah says in Surah Al-Furqan (emphasis mine):

وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَدْعُونَ مَعَ اللَّـهِ إِلَـٰهًا آخَرَ‌ وَلَا يَقْتُلُونَ النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّ‌مَ اللَّـهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ وَلَا يَزْنُونَ وَمَن يَفْعَلْ ذَٰلِكَ يَلْقَ أَثَامًا

And those who do not invoke with Allah another deity or kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed], except by right, and do not commit unlawful sexual intercourse. And whoever should do that will meet a penalty. [Al-Furqaan : 68]

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    I think there are ahadith about "what is the worst sin (after shirk)" that mention zina at the top. Maybe you can see if you can dig these up? It would add more comprehensivity to your answer. – ashes999 Sep 9 '12 at 15:59
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    @ashes999 I will try, Insha Allah – Abdullah Sep 9 '12 at 16:00
  • Does it mean adultery is worse than backbiting? And the premise backbiting is worse than Zina is wrong? – Noah Sep 12 '12 at 11:50
  • @Noah Adultery is definitely worse than backbiting. However, backbiting is a prohibited as well, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said it is like eating the flesh of your brother. The narration of backbiting is worse than Zina is fabricated. You should ask the person who said so for further clarification. – Abdullah Sep 12 '12 at 13:18
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A general rule: any sin that is thought as less important will become greater. In a Hadeeth Imam Ali peace be upon him says do not see to the smallness of the sin but do see the greatness of the one you disobey. In another Hadeeth any relatively small sin that is considered small will become a major sin. Now let me return back to your statement that "I am pretty sure backbiting is common both in the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds" and of course you know people many times hesitate caring or preventing occurance of this and similar sins. Ignoring disobedience of Allah even if seems to be small is in contradiction with the spirit of Submission toward Allah which is Islam.

Another general rule: Every sin that has a wider social effect will be considered more dangerous. Now consider Zina when is done in private, no one will even know two person had committed the sin. The sin is very great as its effect is deep in both of those wrongdoers but it is restricted to themselves. But now consider backbiting in a party between several people gathering together. They say something right (not even propagating a single scandal) about a believer which is absent there, the person cannot defend himself, like a dead person that if is eaten from his meat cannot defend himself. Rebuilding what has ruined about his honor and respect is not easy and may last until the person's end life. Disrespect to a believer in some Ahadeeth are even counted as worse as destroying the Haram (کعبة).

Next point, if some sin is worse than another we never say the reverse, that the latter is better than the former, they are both bad, on the negative axis, there we have only bad and worse and not also bad and better! ;)

Another point, Zina can be in done in public, like when wrongdoers propagate their private photos and movies on internet, like when someone do such things in the middle of the city like some nudist may do or else. These are not considered only one single sin, Zina, but also confessing to their sin which is another sin and a great sin, and even advertising the sin without showing regret. Such a sin is far greater than Zina when is done in private. Also Zina can lead to a child being born and we are told that there is no benefit in such a child (he can earn benefit during his life but no benefit at his birth), a terrible situation for the child so that his chance to grow spiritually is lower than a usual person. This and similar things can make Zina a greater sin. Similarly any sin can be greater or less great according to many situation. For example being regretful or arrogant while doing the sin is not effectless. You see that eating a dead body is Haram but if necessary it will even become Halal as long as the one who eats it will eat only to the extent that is needed for him to survive from the hunger. So you cannot judge the mere action of eating the dead irrespective of the intention behind the deed. Now if you see different Ahadeeth stating different order you should care for the intention behind them as well, that is the situation around which the Hadeeth has been established.

Backbiting being worse than Zina is not any strange, but one might do a Zina which is greater than lots of backbitings, especially if the person find the habit of doing Zina and thus lost any honor and shame in this respect and did the sin with no regret or hesitation.

And Allah knows best

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