عن أبي هريرة -رضي الله عنه- عن النبي -صلى الله عليه وسلم- قال: «أتدرون ما الغِيبَةُ؟»، قالوا: الله ورسوله أعلم، قال: «ذكرُك أخاك بما يكره»، قيل: أرأيت إن كان في أخي ما أقول؟ قال: «إن كان فيه ما تقول فقد اغْتَبْتَهُ, وإن لم يكن فقد بَهَتَّهُ».
[صحيح.] - [رواه مسلم.]
المزيــد ...

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Do you know what backbiting is?” They (the Companions) said: “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He said: “It is to say of your brother what he dislikes.” It was said: “What do you think if what I say of my brother is true?” He said: “If what you say of him is true, then you have backbitten him; if not, then you have slandered him.”
[Sahih/Authentic] - [Muslim]

Explanation

The Prophet (may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) clarified backbiting. It means that a Muslim speaks unfavorably of another Muslim who is absent in the sense that he would find faults with his brother’s manners or physique. If the indicated fault really exists, this is backbiting. If it does not exist, it constitutes slander.

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1: It clarifies the meaning of backbiting: that it is to speak about a Muslim brother in a way he would dislike.
2: Backbiting a disbeliever is not prohibited, for the Hadīth speaks about backbiting a brother, which refers to fellow Muslims.
3: If backbiting involves things falsely attributed to the backbitten one, this is slander.
4: It shows the Prophet’s excellent way of teaching, as he (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) was used to bring up issues by means of questions.
5: It reveals the Companions’ politeness towards the Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him), when they said: Allah and His Messenger know best.