The word namīmah is usually defined as malicious gossip, referring in particular to the spreading of rumours in order to ruin the relationship between two people. Al-Ghazali, may God be well-pleased with him, argues that this definition of namīmah is too narrow and that the term also includes the spreading of secrets and the disclosure of things that are disliked by anyone, regardless of whether it is the person being talked about, the listener, or any other person who is offended.
Those who spread namīmah are driven by various motives, one of which, according to al-Ghazali, is that they find enjoyment in empty and meaningless chatter. Some people have a tendency to spread everything they hear, although the Prophet – peace be upon him – has warned us against this: “It is enough falsehood for a man to relate everything he hears.”
The word namīmah is related to the word nammah, and this latter word is used, among other things, to refer to a waterskin that leaks water. One who goes around spreading rumours and revealing secrets is like a leaky waterskin, because he lacks the vital attribute of being able to contain the things he has heard within himself. On a symbolic level, this inability to “hold it in” can be likened to wetting one’s pants in public.