Islam prohibits ghaibah (backbiting) and considers it a major sin. Islam is against all forms of gossip and backbiting which aim at harming people and causing dissension among them. According to Islamic Law, there are certain matters which absolve a person from the sin of ghaibah. In Islam, the marriage of a man and a woman is not just a financial and physical arrangement of living together but a sacred contract, a gift of Allah to lead a happy, enjoyable life and procreate. The main goal of marriage in Islam is the realization of tranquillity and compassion between the spouses.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us in many Hadiths about the various characteristics which one looks for in a spouse, their relative importance, and which ones determine success, and bring Allah’s blessing on a marriage, in sha’ Allah.
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: If we are seriously interested in marrying a person, we are permitted to ask people about his/her character and personality, both positive and negative aspects of it, in order to be able to formulate an objective opinion. It is important for people who are asked about a prospective spouse to disclose such details that they know. By doing so they are not indulging in the abominable sin of backbiting, for even though it may fall under the strict definition of backbiting, it is excused because of the legitimate need to protect the interests of people.
Since obtaining such information is necessary for considering their eligibility for marriage, it becomes imperative on those who know about them to divulge such details. To do so is considered as part of one’s essential Islamic duty of nasihah (offering honest and sincere advice).
The above ruling is based on authentic precedents from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). We read in the authentic sources that when Fatimah bint Qais told the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that she had been approached for marriage by a number of people, and upon hearing their names, he told her, “As for Mu`awiyah, he is a poor person and has no wealth (to support you), and as for Abu Jahm, he is a perpetual traveler; so marry Usamah instead!” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) mentioned the negative traits of each of the above candidates in order to protect her own interests in marriage.