A woman repeated a bit of gossip about a neighbor. Within a few days the whole community knew the story. The person it concerned was deeply hurt and offended.
Later the woman responsible for spreading the rumor learned that it was completely untrue. She was very sorrowful and went to a wise old sage to find out what she could do to repair the damage.
"Go to the marketplace", he said, "and purchase a chicken, and have it killed. Then on your way home, pluck its feathers and drop them one by one along the road". Although, surprised by this advice, the woman did what she was told.
The next day the wise man said, "Now go and collect all those feathers you dropped yesterday and bring them back to me."
The woman followed the same road, but to her dismay, the wind had blown a11 the feathers away. After searching for hours, she returned with only three in her hand.
"You see," said the old sage, "itís easy to drop them, but its impossible to get them back. So it is with gossip. It doesnít take much to spread a rumor, but once you do, you can never completely undo the wrong."
O ye who believe! avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: and spy not on each other nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay ye would abhor it...but fear Allah: for Allah is Oft-Returning Most Merciful.
[surah Hujurat; 49:12]
Allahís Apostle (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) said: Do you know what is backbiting? They (the Companions) said: Allah and His Apostle (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) know best. Thereupon he (the Prophet) said: Backbiting implies your talking about your brother in a manner which he does not like. It was said to him: What is your opinion about this that if I actually find (that failing) in my brother which I made a mention of? He said: If (that failing) is actually found (in him) what you assert, you in fact backbited him, and if that is not in him it is a slander.
[Sahih Muslim, Hadith 6265]