Understanding Al-Zūr, One of the Greatest Sins


Shaikh Rabīʿ ibn Hādī Al-Madkhalī, may Allāh protect him, said:

Allāh the All-High says:

وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَشْهَدُونَ الزُّورَ وَإِذَا مَرُّوا بِاللَّغْوِ مَرُّوا كِرَامًا

And [the slaves of Al-Raḥmān are] those who do not stand witnesses to al-zūr, and when they [happen to] pass by any kind of false, ugly, useless, or unseemly speech or behavior, they pass by keeping away from it, preserving their own safety and honor. (Al-Furqān, 72)

These [slaves of Al-Raḥmān (the All-Merciful)], by Allāh—they are the noble, honorable ones; they do not stand witnesses to al-zūr. Standing witness to al-zūr has been said to mean remaining present [as it takes place], and [al-zūr itself] has been said to mean the worship of false objects and idols; it’s been said to mean disbelief, transgression, sinful acts, and other than that. And it’s been said to mean [one must] not remain present [where there are] songs; and it’s been said to mean [one must] not stand witness to gatherings of evildoing like drinking wine and other than that of sins, nor gambling and anything like that. And it may well be that the verse encompasses all of these things.

It’s also been said to mean bearing witness to al-zūr, which is making a false statement about another, [or] slandering him. So [the slaves of Al-Raḥmān] are not of this type and not of this kind—those who cast aspersions against people, [saying] things about them that they are free of. That is to say, bearing witness to al-zūr, [according to this interpretation], is that you speak falsehood about another.

[All of] this is what standing witness to al-zūr is, and the Messenger ﷺ considered standing witness to al-zūr to be from the among the most major of major sins. So among sins are major ones and the most major of major ones, and among the [latter] is standing witness to al-zūr.

Standing witness to al-zūr can lead to blood being spilled, to [people] being stripped of [their] honor; it has harms and terrible, heavy consequences. For this reason, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ considered it to be among the most major of major sins—

فَاجْتَنِبُوا الرِّجْسَ مِنَ الْأَوْثَانِ وَاجْتَنِبُوا قَوْلَ الزُّورِ

So stay away from the filth of false objects of worship, and stay away from speaking al-zūr. (Al-Ḥajj, 30)

—whether that were standing witness to al-zūr or speaking al-zūr through disbelief, shirk,[1] oppression, transgression, backbiting, sowing discord, or anything like that.

Allāh, exalted is He and All-High, puts al-zūr in the same context as the prohibition against worshiping false objects due to the severity of its danger; and [similarly, there is the following] in the ḥadīth of Abū Bakrah, may Allāh be pleased with him:

The Messenger ﷺ said, “Shall I not tell you about the most major of major sins?!”

We said, “Of course, O Messenger of Allāh.”

He said, “Committing shirk and mistreating [one’s] parents.” He was leaning back at the time, and then he sat up and said: “And indeed, speaking al-zūr and standing witness to al-zūr; and indeed, speaking al-zūr and standing witness to al-zūr.” [2]

[He said it in that manner and in that context] due to its danger.

The verse has been interpreted to mean these things, and it’s been interpreted to mean those things it’s been said to mean from among the [various] statements I’ve [already] mentioned to you. So [the slaves of Al-Raḥmān] neither fall into [one interpretation of the meaning of al-zūr] nor [the other]. That’s because they are the slaves of Al-Raḥmān and because they are of high-standing, honorable, and noble character. So they don’t take part in anything of al-zūr, whatever [shape it comes in, or] color—ever—since they are the slaves of Al-Raḥmān. They’ve been described [in Al-Furqān] as having these noble characteristics, for which Allāh, All-Great is He and All-High, praises them for. So be slaves of Al-Raḥmān and be brothers for the sake of Allāh, All-Great is He and All-High, upon worship of Him, obedience to Him, and that which pleases Him, exalted is He and All-High.

They hear foolish, ignorant, empty-headed talk; put-downs and insults; and false or frivolous speech, [and] they pass by that the way people of honor and noble character pass by, as if they had not heard a thing—

وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا

And when foolish, ignorant individuals speak to them [in a manner they dislike], they [overlook it and] speak to them in manner that’s safe [from falling into sin or the like of their speech]. (Al-Furqān, 63)

—as [Allāh says about them] in the first of these verses [that describe the slaves of Al-Raḥmān].

When they pass by [people] playing or having fun [in ways prohibited or detested in Islam], they pass by the way people of honor and noble character pass by: if they’re able to express disapproval [of the wrong], they bring about [positive] change—[physically] with their hands, if they’re able to do that, or [verbally] with their tongues or [internally, at the very least], with their hearts [destesting it].

So these are some of the characteristics of the slaves of Al-Raḥmān, so take them on as your own characteristics. That is, if you hear some false, ugly, or unseemly speech, or some foolishness; if you see some false, ugly, or unseemly speech, or meaningless talk, keep yourself away from stooping down to conform with the ignorant and foolish. Don’t engage in play with them, and don’t join in with them in [their] insults and put downs. Because you are close to the slaves of Al-Raḥmān, and this ascription [to Allāh’s name, Al-Raḥmān], is an incredibly tremendous ascription. Guard over it.

Source: Majālis Tadhkiriyyah fī Tafsīr Āyāt Qurʾāniyyah, p. 74-76.


[1]: treating other than Allāh as an equal of Allāh in something that is only Allāh’s (tr.)

[2]: Al-Bukhārī relayed it, no. 5976, and Muslim, no. 87.