Making Generalized Negative Comments about a Whole People
Question [to Shaikh Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ Al-ʿUthaimīn, may Allāh have mercy on him]:
Esteemed Shaikh, what’s the ruling [in Islam] concerning someone who says that Egyptians, all of them, are liars or that Saudis are treacherous people—is that considered backbiting?
If someone said that all Egyptians are liars [or that] Saudis, all of them, are treacherous people, then this [person] should be punished, i.e., the ruler should teach him a lesson for what he’s said because he’s lying in this speech of his—there’s no doubt he’s lying.
That is, were we to determine the number of liars among Egyptians [or], similarly, among Saudis, the number of liars or immoral people or something like that, it would not be all of them. So if this man’s statement reaches the ruler, then what’s required is that [the ruler] punish him.
As for Egyptians, Saudis, Iraqis, [or] Shāmis,¹ this [statement of his] doesn’t hurt them because it’s general, and no one will believe him in that.
So there are now two angles [to consider] for us now. The first angle: with regard to this statement that he has applied generally and about which he’s lying, [what’s] required is that he be punished for it and be taught a lesson. Second: regarding those about whom this statement was made, it doesn’t hurt them at all because people know that this [negative] characterization can’t possibly be applicable to all [of them].
For this reason, the scholars of Islamic jurisprudence, may Allāh have mercy on them, concerning the issue of false accusations of illicit sexual relations, said: If someone falsely accuses the people of a region of illicit sex by his saying, “These people, the people of this region, are all adulterers or fornicators,” he’s not to be given the legal punishment set for false accusations of illicit sexual relations, [but rather] only some [lesser] punishment [determined, within Islamic limits, by the ruler] because this statement has no impact at all on the people of the region, all of them [altogether].
¹Those from the Levantine region consisting of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine (Tr.)
Liqāʾ Al-Bāb Al-Maftūḥ, 75.