my grandmother always chats a lot and gossips. I am working on my nafs to avoid talking a lot of things that wont benefit me and to not talk in other peoples absence but I am failing at this. I share room with her and because that she is old I respect her and can't tell her to stop. I don't want to get sins because of backbiting. How can I fix this? Is it true that you have to go to the person who you backbit about to seek forgiveness? thats impossible for me.
Regarding repenting from backbiting, according to the early Islamic scholar and ascetic ʿAbdullāh ibn al-Mubārak (d. 797 CE), one should not ask for forgiveness from the person because this would only hurt them a second time. He says the way to get kafāra (to get the sin forgiven) for backbiting is to pray for forgiveness for the person. This is also the opinion of the Shāfiʿī scholar Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ (d. 1245 CE).1
Since it is your grandmother who is initiating the backbiting, you will not be blamed for hearing what she says if there is no easy way of avoiding it. You can try to gently discourage her. If this is the most you can do, then this is all that you are responsible for. One strategy for discouraging her might be to mention good things about the person she is backbiting. If she says so and so did that bad thing, you could say, as part of the conversation (not in an argumentative manner), “And remember that time when she did that nice thing for you?” That could make her feel abashed for a while. If you keep doing this she may get tired of it and reduce how much she tries to involve you in her backbiting.
- Archived link to a fatwa that mentions these opinions (Arabic).