Backbiting is like a disease. It is extremely cancerous and in a very short time it could develop into a chronic ailment. For many people, backbiting is a way of life.
This is due to the fact that we become unmindful of and complacent to a particular life style of gossip, vain talk, vulgarity, tale carrying and backbiting. The normal day-to-day discussions and friendly talks without any concern result in backbiting as if it is routine. Many people argue that speaking of another person is acceptable since a habit or trait is truly found in the person. In that case the Hadith explicitly
defines backbiting and removes any doubt in the meaning and understanding of ghibat.
Nabi [Sallallahu Alaiyhi Wa Sallam] once asked the Sahaba [RA], "Do you know what backbiting is?" The Sahaba [RA] replied, "Allah and His Rasool know best," Rasulullah [Sallallahu Alaiyhi Wa Sallam] explained that to speak ill about your brother, that is backbiting. One Sahabi asked, "What if that particular thing is found in that person [will that be backbiting]?" Nabi [Sallallahu Alaiyhi Wa Sallam] replied, "Even if that bad quality is found in the person it would be regarded as backbiting and if it is not found [in the person] then it amounts to an accusation." [Muslim]
In other words, should this bad quality not be found in the person then it would be a bigger sin, as [in actual fact] one is accusing the person. Literally, it's a sin [ghibat] to speak of someone even if
the bad quality is found in that person. There is no difference as to whether the bad quality is of a worldly or deeni nature, or for that matter something to do with the body or the character of the person.
The fact of the matter is that which is seen as disrespectful to the other however small it may be, will be considered as backbiting.
According to some scholars it is reprehensible to also talk ill of the person in front of him. Allama Alousi [RA] (author of Roohul Ma'ani) writes that backbiting is equally immaterial if the person is present or
not; it would be no difference. At times people confirm having spoken in front of a person as if to say that the person "did not mind". However to speak that which the person will find offensive is
detestable according to the explanation of many commentators of the Noble Quraan.