Character assassination is an attempt to tarnish a person’s reputation. It may involve exaggeration or manipulation of facts to present an untrue picture of the targeted person. It is a form of defamation and can be a form of ad hominem argument.
For living individuals targeted by character assassination attempts, this may result in being rejected by his community, family, or members of his or her living or work environment. Such acts are often difficult to reverse or rectify, and the process is likened to a literal assassination of a human life. The damage sustained can last a lifetime or, for historical figures, for many centuries after their death.
In practice, character assassination may involve double speak, spreading of rumors, innuendo or deliberate misinformation on topics relating to the subject’s morals, integrity, and reputation. It may involve spinning information that is technically true, but that is presented in a misleading manner or is presented without the necessary context. For example, it might be said that a person refused to pay any income tax during a specific year, without saying that no tax was actually owed due to the person having no income that year.
The aforementioned Wikipedia quote summarizes what I have been going through for the past few months. One of the major tests Allah (s.w.t.) has given me is to deal with the fall out from slander and backbiting. Recently, I made a choice that many people in my community did not agree with. This resulted in rumors and gossip spreading. There have been a great deal of assumptions made about me and my character. The rumors and gossip eventually turned into slander and backbiting whose end result is character assassination. I am in no way a good comparison to Aisha (r.a.) but I can imagine the pain she must’ve felt when people accused her of doing something she did not do. Aside from the backbiting, innuendo and assumptions (if I could even begin to put them aside), as a woman, there is nothing more horrific than having people say or imply that you committed the egregious sin of zina when you know you have been chaste. At first, I brushed the rumors off, chalking them up to childishness and misinformation on part of some. Eventually, I realized why slander is a major sin in Islam. (Particularly when the slander is of the sexual nature and in relation to a woman’s chastity). It is very difficult to recover from such attacks once the word has been put out there. When people meet you, whatever they were told or heard about you precedes you. As a woman, slander may influence any future choice for marriage, put you honor into question, and make it difficult for you to feel comfortable in your community. For now, I am wearing a scarlet letter.
Alhamdulillah, I am a strong person and I understand some things about life. I ask Allah (s.w.t.) to vindicate me. I ask Allah’s forgiveness for anything I have done wrong. I ask Allah (s.w.t.) never to make my wrongs fair-seeming to me. And most importantly, I ask Allah to help and to guide us all. Ameen.
How can a person cope with backbiting, slander and character assassination?