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Sacred Writings on backbiting

Selections from the Sacred Writings regarding backbiting

The Arabic Hidden Words

“Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner. Shouldst thou transgress this command, accursed wouldst thou be, and to this I bear witness.” (The Hidden Words, Arabic, no.27, p.10)

“O Son of Being! How couldst thou forget thine own faults and busy thyself with the faults of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me.” (The Hidden Words, Arabic, no.26, p.10)

“O Children of Men! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory.” (Bahaʹuʹllah, The Arabic Hidden Words)

“O Son of Spirit! The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the 11 eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving‐kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.” (Bahaʹuʹllah, The Arabic Hidden Words)

The Persian Hidden Words

“O Companion of My throne! Hear no evil, and see no evil, abase not thyself, neither sigh and weep. Speak no evil, that thou mayest not hear it spoken unto thee, and magnify not the faults of others that thine own faults may not appear great; and wish not the abasement of anyone, that thine own abasement be not exposed. Live then the days of thy life, that are less than a fleeting moment, with thy mind stainless, thy heart unsullied, thy thoughts pure, and thy nature sanctified, so that, free and content, thou mayest put away this mortal frame, and repair unto the mystic paradise and abide in the eternal kingdom for evermore.” (Bahaʹuʹllah, The Persian Hidden Words no. 44)

“O Emigrants! The tongue I have designed for the mention of Me, defile it not with detraction. If the fire of self overcome you, remember your own faults and not the faults of My creatures, inasmuch as every one of you knoweth his own self better than he knoweth others. (Bahaʹuʹllah, The Persian Hidden Words no. 66)

“If the fire of self overcome you, remember your own faults and not the faults of My creatures, inasmuch as every one of you knoweth his own self better than he knoweth others.” (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 66)

“O Son of Being! Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it. “ – p. 10.

“Speak no evil, that thou mayest not hear it spoken unto thee, and magnify not the faults of others that thine own faults may not appear great…” (The Hidden Words, Persian, no.44, p.37)

The Kitab-i-Aqdas

“Ye have been forbidden to commit murder or adultery, or to engage in backbiting or calumny; shun ye, then, what hath been prohibited in the holy Books and Tablets. ” The Kitab-i-Aqdas, Pages 19-34

Tablets of Bahaʹuʹllah

“O people of Baha! Ye are the dawning‐places of the love of God and the daysprings of His loving‐kindness. Defile not your tongues with the cursing and reviling of any soul, and guard your eyes against that which is not seemly. Set forth that which ye possess. If it be favourably received, your end is attained; if not, to protest is vain. Leave that soul to himself and turn unto the Lord, the Protector, the Self‐Subsisting. Be not the cause of grief, much less of discord and strife. The hope is cherished that ye may obtain true education in the shelter of the tree of His tender mercies and act in accordance with that which God desireth. Ye are all the leaves of one tree and the drops of one ocean.” (Bahaʹuʹllah, Tablets of Bahaʹuʹllah, p. 129)

“O People of Baha! Ye are the dawning-places of the love of God and the daysprings of His loving-kindness. Defile not your tongues with the cursing and reviling of any soul, and guard your eyes against that which is not seemly. Set forth that which ye possess. If it be favourably received, your end is attained; if not, to protest is vain. Leave that soul to himself and turn unto the Lord, the Protector, the Self-Subsisting.” (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, pp. 27 & 129)

“Incline your hearts to the counsels given by the Most Exalted Pen and beware lest your hands or tongues cause harm unto anyone among mankind.” (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 85)

“We exhort you, O peoples of the world, to observe that which will elevate your station. Hold fast to the fear of God and firmly adhere to what is right. Verily I say, the tongue is for mentioning what is good, defile it not with unseemly talk. God hath forgiven what is past. Henceforward everyone should utter that which is meet and seemly, and should refrain from slander, abuse and whatever causeth sadness in men. Lofty is the station of man!” (Bahaʹuʹllah, Tablets of Bahaʹuʹllah, p. 219)

“Strife and conflict befit the beasts of the wild. It was through the grace of God and with the aid of seemly words and praiseworthy deeds that the unsheathed swords of the Bábí community were returned to their scabbards. Indeed through the power of good words, the righteous have always succeeded in winning command over the meads of the hearts of men. Say, O ye loved ones! Do not forsake prudence. Incline your hearts to the counsels given by the Most Exalted Pen and beware lest your hands or tongues cause harm unto anyone among mankind.” (Bahaʹuʹllah, Tablets of Bahaʹuʹllah, p. 84)

“I beg of Thee by the Most Great Infallibility which Thou hast chosen to be the dayspring of Thy Revelation, and by Thy most sublime Word through whose potency Thou didst call the creation into being and didst reveal Thy Cause, and by this Name which hath caused all other names to groan aloud and the limbs of the sages to quake, I beg of Thee to make me detached from all else save Thee, in such wise that I may move not but in conformity with the good‐pleasure of Thy Will, and speak not except at the bidding of Thy Purpose, and hear naught save the words of Thy praise and Thy glorification.” (Bahaʹuʹllah, Tablets of Bahaʹuʹllah, p. 116)

Epistle to the Son of the Wolf

“Purge your hearts from love of the world, and your tongues from calumny, and your limbs from whatsoever may withhold you from drawing nigh unto God, the Mighty, the All-Praised. Say: By the world is meant that which turneth you aside from Him Who is the Dawning-Place of Revelation, and inclineth you unto that which is unprofitable unto you. Verily, the thing that deterreth you, in this day, from God is worldliness in its essence.” (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 54)

“If ye become aware of a sin committed by another, conceal it, that God may conceal your own sin. He, verily, is the Concealer, the Lord of grace abounding.” (Bahaʹuʹllah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 54)

Gems of Divine Mysteries

“Know thou, moreover, that in this most hallowed and resplendent city thou shalt find the wayfarer to be lowly before all men and humble before all things. For naught doth he behold save that he perceiveth God therein. He beholdeth the effulgent glories of God in the lights of His Revelation that have encompassed the Sinai of creation. In this station the wayfarer must not claim the seat of honour in any gathering or walk before others in the desire to vaunt and exalt himself. Rather must he regard himself as standing at all times in the presence of his Lord. He must not wish for anyone that which he doth not wish for himself, nor speak that which he would not bear to hear spoken by another, nor yet desire for any soul that which he would not have desired for himself. It befitteth him, rather, to walk upon the earth with undeviating steps in the kingdom of His new creation.” (Bahaʹuʹllah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 61)

Gleanings

“Every eye, in this Day, should seek what will best promote the Cause of God. He, Who is the Eternal Truth, beareth Me witness! Nothing whatever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than dissension and strife, contention, estrangement and apathy, among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.” Gleanings V

“That seeker must, at all times, put his trust in God, must renounce the peoples of the earth, must detach himself from the world of dust, and cleave unto Him Who is the Lord of Lords. He must never seek to exalt himself above any one, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vain‐glory, must cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endureth a century.” (Bahaʹuʹllah, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahaʹuʹllah, p. 264)

” … backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul.” (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, CXXV, p.265)

“A kindly tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men.” (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 289)

“That seeker should, also, regard backbiting as grievous error, and keep himself aloof from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul. He should be content with little, and be freed from all inordinate desire. He should treasure the companionship of them that have renounced the world, and regard avoidance of boastful and worldly people a precious benefit. At the dawn of every day he should commune with God, and, with all his soul, persevere in the quest of his Beloved. He should consume every wayward thought with the flame of His loving mention, and, with the swiftness of lightning, pass by all else save Him. He should succor the dispossessed, and never withhold his favor from the destitute. He should show kindness to animals, how much more unto his fellow-man, to him who is endowed with the power of utterance. He should not hesitate to offer up his life for his Beloved, nor allow the censure of the people to turn him away from the Truth. He should not wish for others that which he doth not wish for himself, nor promise that which he doth not fulfil. With all his heart he should avoid fellowship with evil-doers, and pray for the remission of their sins. He should forgive the sinful, and never despise his low estate, for none knoweth what his own end shall be. How often hath a sinner attained, at the hour of death, to the essence of faith, and, quaffing the immortal draught, hath taken his flight unto the Concourse on high! And how often hath a devout believer, at the hour of his soul’s ascension, been so changed as to fall into the nethermost fire!” Gleanings

“He should forgive the sinful, and never despise his low estate, for none knoweth what his own end shall be. How often hath a sinner attained, at the hour of death, to the essence of faith, and, quaffing the immortal draught, hath taken his flight unto the Concourse on high!” – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 265.

Abdu’l-Baha

 

The Promulgation of Universal Peace

The Promulgation of Universal Peace. The US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1982 This is a compilation of the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. At times the notes were taken by the friends present at talks given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

“Love the creatures for the sake of God and not for themselves. You will never become angry or impatient if you love them for the sake of God. Humanity is not perfect. There are imperfections in every human being, and you will always become unhappy if you look toward the people themselves. But if you look toward God, you will love them and be kind to them, for the world of God is the world of perfection and complete mercy. Therefore, do not look at the shortcomings of anybody; see with the sight of forgiveness. The imperfect eye beholds imperfections. The eye that covers faults looks toward the Creator of souls. He created them, trains and provides for them, endows them with capacity and life, sight and hearing; therefore, they are the signs of His grandeur. You must love and be kind to everybody, care for the poor, protect the weak, heal the sick, teach and educate the ignorant.” “Abdu’l Baha 5 May 1912 Talk at Children’s Meeting Hotel Plaza Chicago, Illinois Notes by Marzieh Moss in The Promulgation of Universal Peace The US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1982

“Let not your heart be offended with anyone. If someone commits an error and wrong toward you, you must instantly forgive him. Do not complain of others. Refrain from reprimanding them, and if you wish to give admonition or advice, let it be offered in such a way that it will not burden the bearer. Turn all your thoughts toward bringing joy to hearts.” (Abdu’l-Baha – The Promulgation of Universal Peace)

“It is my hope that you may consider this matter, that you may search out your own imperfections and not think of the imperfections of anybody else. Strive with all your power to be free from imperfections. Heedless souls are always seeking faults in others. What can the hypocrite know of othersʹ faults when he is blind to his own? This is the meaning of the words in the Seven Valleys. It is a guide for human conduct. As long as a man does not find his own faults, he can never become perfect. Nothing is more fruitful for man than the knowledge of his own shortcomings. The Blessed Perfection says, ʺI wonder at the man who does not find his own imperfections.ʺ (Abduʹl‐Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 244)

“It is my hope that you may consider this matter, that you may search out your own imperfections and not think of the imperfections of anybody else. Strive with all your power to be free from imperfections. Heedless souls are always seeking faults in others. What can the hypocrite know of others’ faults when he is blind to his own?” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 244)

“You must manifest complete love and affection toward all mankind. Do not exalt yourselves above others, but consider all as your equals, recognizing them as the servants of one God. Know that God is compassionate toward all; therefore, love all from the depths of your hearts, prefer all religionists before yourselves, be filled with love for every race, and be kind toward the people of all nationalities. Never speak disparagingly of others, but praise without distinction. Pollute not your tongues by speaking evil of another. Recognize your enemies as friends, and consider those who wish you evil as the wishers of good. You must not see evil as evil and then compromise with your opinion, for to treat in a smooth, kindly way one whom you consider evil or an enemy is hypocrisy, and this is not worthy or allowable.” (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 452)

 

“Baha’u’llah has clearly said in His Tablets that if you have an enemy, consider him not as an enemy. Do not simply be long-suffering; nay, rather, love him. Your treatment of him should be that which is becoming to lovers. Do not even say that he is your enemy. Do not see any enemies. Though he be your murderer, see no enemy. Look upon him with the eye of friendship. Be mindful that you do not consider him as an enemy and simply tolerate him, for that is but stratagem and hypocrisy. To consider a man your enemy and love him is hypocrisy. This is not becoming of any soul. You must behold him as a friend. You must treat him well. This is right.” – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 267.

 

Selections from the Writings of Abduʹl‐Baha

Selections from the Writings of Abduʹl‐Baha, Bahá’í World Centre, 1982.

One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise. When this is done, one can be a friend to the whole human race. If, however, we look at people from the standpoint of their faults, then being a friend to them is a formidable task…..Thus is it incumbent upon us, when we direct our gaze toward other people, to see where they excel, not where they fail.”― Abdu’l-Baha Selections from the Writings of Abduʹl‐Baha

ʺ… If any soul speak ill of an absent one, the only result will clearly be this: he will dampen the zeal of the friends and tend to make them indifferent. For backbiting is divisive, it is the leading cause among the friends of a disposition to withdraw. … On the contrary, it would make the dust to settle so thickly on the heart that the ears would hear no more, and the eyes would not longer behold the light of truth.ʺ  If, however, a person setteth about speaking well of another, opening his lips to praise another, he will touch an answering chord in his hearers and they will be stirred up by the breathings of God. Their hearts and souls will rejoice to know that, God be thanked, here is a soul in the Faith who is a focus of human perfections, a very embodiment of the bounties of the Lord, one whose tongue is eloquent, and whose face shineth, in whatever gathering he may be, one who hath victory upon his brow, and who is a being sustained by the sweet savours of God. Now which is the better way? I swear this by the beauty of the Lord: whensoever I hear good of the friends, my heart filleth up with joy; but whensoever I find even a hint that they are on bad terms one with another, I am overwhelmed by grief. Such is the condition of  ʹAbduʹl‐ Bahá. Then judge from this where your duty lieth.” (ʹAbduʹl‐Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ʹAbduʹl‐Bahá, pp. 230‐231)

“O beloved of the Lord! If any soul speak ill of an absent one, the only result will clearly be this: he will dampen the zeal of the friends and tend to make them indifferent. For backbiting is divisive, it is the leading cause among the friends of a disposition to withdraw. If any individual should speak ill of one who is absent, it is incumbent on his hearers, in a spiritual and friendly manner, to stop him, and say in effect: would this detraction serve any useful purpose? Would it please the Blessed Beauty, contribute to the lasting honour of the friends, promote the holy Faith, support the Covenant, or be of any possible benefit to any soul? No, never! On the contrary, it would make the dust to settle so thickly on the heart that the ears would hear no more, and the eyes would no longer behold the light of truth.? ” Selections From the Writings of `Abdu’l-Baha, Pages 228-233: 231

“Thus is it incumbent upon us, when we direct our gaze toward other people, to see where they excel, not where they fail.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 169)

“Let your thoughts dwell on your own spiritual development, and close your eyes to the deficiencies of other souls.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p.

“Kindness cannot be shown the tyrant, the deceiver, or the thief, because, far from awakening them to the error of their ways, it maketh them to continue in their perversity as before. No matter how much kindliness ye may expend upon the liar, he will but lie the more, for he believeth you to be deceived, while ye understand him but too well, and only remain silent out of your extreme compassion.” (Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, section 138)

“Beware lest ye harm any soul, or make any heart to sorrow; lest ye wound any man with your words, be he known to you or a stranger, be he friend or foe. Pray ye for all; ask ye that all be blessed, all be forgiven. Beware, beware, lest any of you seek vengeance, even against one who is thirsting for your blood. Beware, beware, lest ye offend the feelings of another, even though he be an evil-doer, and he wish you ill. Look ye not upon the creatures, turn ye to their Creator. See ye not the never-yielding people, see but the Lord of Hosts. Gaze ye not down upon the dust, gaze upward at the shining sun, which hath caused every patch of darksome earth to glow with light.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 73)

“And now, added to all these tribulations, these miseries, these enemy attacks, there hath arisen a dust cloud of ill will amongst the believers themselves. This in spite of the fact that the Cause of the Ancient Beauty is the very essence of love, the very channel of oneness, existing only that all may   become the waves of one sea, and bright stars of the same endless sky, and pearls within the shell of singleness, and gleaming jewels quarried from the mines of unity; that they may become servants one to another, adore one another, bless one another, praise one another; that each one may loose his tongue and extol the rest without exception, each one voice his gratitude to all the rest; that all should lift up their eyes to the horizon of glory, and remember that they are linked to the Holy Threshold; that they should see nothing but good in one another, hear nothing but praise of one another, and speak no word of one another save only to praise.” (Abduʹl‐Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abduʹl‐Baha, p. 229)

“…If any soul speak ill of an absent one, the only result will clearly be this: he will dampen the zeal of the friends and tend to make them indifferent. For backbiting is divisive, it is the leading cause among the friends of a disposition to withdraw. If any individual should speak ill of one who is absent, it is incumbent on his hearers, in a spiritual and friendly manner, to stop him, and say in effect: would this detraction serve any useful purpose? Would it please the Blessed Beauty, contribute to the lasting honour of the friends, promote the holy Faith, support the Covenant, or be of any possible benefit to any soul? No, never! On the contrary, it would make the dust to settle so thickly on the heart that the ears would hear no more, and the eyes would no longer behold the light of truth.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp 230-31)

Some Answered Questions

“. . . if someone oppresses, injures and wrongs another, and the wronged man retaliates, this is vengeance and is censurable. . . . No, rather he must return good for evil, and not only forgive, but also, if possible, be of service to his oppressor. This conduct is worthy of man: for what advantage does he gain by vengeance? The two actions are equivalent; if one action is reprehensible, both are reprehensible. The only difference is that one was committed first, the other later.”– Some Answered Questions, p. 269.

Divine Philosophy

“As there is no one who has not his designated place in the world, for there is nothing useless on this earth, we must treat each individual with respect and affection, for each is a sign of the divine favour and power – that power which has been able to draw such a being out of matter, make of him a creature with sensorial faculties and endow him with intellectual and spiritual potentiality. This is one of the visible proofs of the divine power. Let us respect these living proofs”. (Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 58)

“We must look upon our enemies with a sin‐covering eye and act with justice when confronted with any injustice whatsoever, forgive all, consider the whole of humanity as our own family, the whole earth as our own country, be sympathetic with all suffering, nurse the sick, offer a shelter to the exiled, help the poor and those in need, dress all wounds and share the happiness of each one. Be compassionate, so that your actions will shine like unto the light streaming forth from the lamp. If the whole world should arise to deny this cause, we must not fight. Our only role is to spread the teachings. If it be accepted, all is well; if not, leave the people to God. “ (Abduʹl‐Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 41)

Paris Talks

“I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content. Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 29)

“The Cause of God hath never had any place for denouncing others as infidel or profligate, nor hath it allowed anyone to humiliate or belittle another. Contend and wrangle not with any man, and seek ye not the abasement of any soul. Disparage not anyone’s name, and wish no harm upon anyone. Defile not your tongues with calumny, and engage ye not in backbiting.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, provisional translation quoted in the Universal House of Justice message, 2001 Apr 18)

Compilations

Baha’u’llah and the New Era

“…Thou hast written regarding aims. How blessed are these aims, especially the prevention of backbiting! I hope that you may become confirmed therein, because the worst human quality and the most great sin is backbiting; more especially when it emanates from the tongues of the believers of God. If some means were devised so that the doors of backbiting could be shut eternally and each one of the believers of God unsealed his tongue in the praise of the other, then the teachings of His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh would be spread, the hearts illuminated, the spirits glorified, and the human world would attain to everlasting felicity. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá To an American friend p.82-83.Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era by J. E. Esslemont 1980 US Bahá’í Publishing Trust

“To be silent concerning the faults of others, to pray for them, through kindness, to correct their faults. To look always at the good and not at the bad. If a man has ten good qualities and one bad one, to look at the ten and forget the one; and if a man has ten bad qualities and one good one, to look at the one and forget the ten. Never to allow ourselves to speak one unkind word about another, even though that other be our enemy.” – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 83.

“If a man has ten good qualities and one bad one, to look at the ten and forget the one; and if a man has ten bad qualities and one good one, to look at the one and forget the ten.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, , Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 83)

“Verily I say, the tongue is for mentioning what is good, defile it not with unseemly talk. God hath forgiven what is past. Henceforward everyone should utter that which is meet and seemly, and should refrain from slander, abuse and whatever causeth sadness in men.” the Book of My Covenant

Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Baha

“According to the direct and sacred command of God we are forbidden to utter slander, are commanded to show forth peace and amity, are exhorted to rectitude of conduct, straightforwardness, and harmony with all the kindreds and peoples of the world.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 8)

Baha’i Scriptures: Selections from the Utterances of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’

Baha’i Scriptures: Selections from the Utterances of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ edited by Horace Holley Approved by Bahá’í Committee on Publications, 1923. New York. Brentano

“He should consider backbiting as error, and never step into that court, for backbiting extinguishes the brilliant light of the heart and numbs the life of the soul.”(Baha’i Scriptures: Selections from the Utterances of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ edited by Horace Holley Approved by Bahá’í Committee on Publications, 1923. New York. Brentano “Chapter 1. p. 49)

“… Thou hast written regarding aims. How blessed are these aims, especially the prevention of backbiting! I hope that you may become confirmed therein, because the worst human quality and the most great sin is backbiting; more especially when it emanates from the tongues of the believers of God. If some means were devised so that the doors of backbiting could be shut eternally and each one of the believers of God unsealed his tongue in the praise of the other, then the teachings of His Holiness Baháʹuʹlláh would be spread, the hearts illuminated, the spirits glorified and the human world would attain to everlasting felicity.”

“… If any individual should speak ill of one who is absent, it is incumbent on his hearers, in a spiritual and friendly manner, to stop him, and say in effect: would this detraction serve any useful purpose? Would it please the Blessed Beauty, contribute to the lasting honour of the friends, promote the holy Faith, support the covenant, or be of any possible benefit to any soul? No, never! On the contrary, it would make the dust to settle so thickly on the heart that the ears would hear no more, and the eyes would not longer behold the light of truth.ʺ (ʹAbduʹl‐Bahá: Selections from the Writings of  ʹAbduʹl‐Bahá, pp. 230‐231  ‐  Lights of Guidance, p. 93)

“One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise. When this is done, one can be a friend to the whole human race. If, however, we look at people from the standpoint of their faults, then being a friend to them is a formidable task. It happened one day in the time of Christ ‐ may the life of the world be a sacrifice unto Him ‐ that He passed by the dead body of a dog, a carcass reeking, hideous, the limbs rotting away. One of those present said: ʹHow foul its stench!ʹ And another said:  ʹHow sickening! How loathsome!ʹ To be brief, each one of them had something to add to the list. But then Christ Himself spoke, and He told them:  ʹLook at that dogʹs teeth! How gleaming white!ʹ The Messiahʹs sin‐covering gaze did not for a moment dwell upon the repulsiveness of that carrion. The one element of that dead dogʹs carcass which was not abomination was the teeth: and Jesus looked upon their brightness.

Thus is it incumbent upon us, when we direct our gaze toward other people, to see where they excel, not where they fail. Praise be to God, thy goal is to promote the well‐being of humankind and to help the souls to overcome their faults. This good intention will produce laudable results.” (Abduʹl‐Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abduʹl‐Baha, p. 168)

Tablets of Abduʹl‐Baha

“However, relying upon God, we conducted ourselves with the utmost patience and submission, resignation and calmness; so much that if one did not know anything about these matters, he would have thought that we were in perfect ease of soul, enjoying the tranquility of heart mind, and were engaged in happiness and felicity.”(Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 45)

“O ye Cohorts of God! Beware lest ye offend the feelings of anyone, or sadden the heart of any person, or move the tongue in reproach of and finding fault with anybody, whether he is friend or stranger, believer or enemy. Pray in behalf of all and entreat God for forgiveness and bounty for all. Beware, beware that any soul take revenge or retaliate over another even if he be a bloodthirsty enemy. Beware, beware that any one rebuke or reproach a soul, though he may be an ill‐wisher and an ill‐doer. Do ye not look upon the creature, advance ye toward the Creator. Behold ye not the rebellious people, turn your faces toward the Lord of Hosts. Look ye not upon the ground, raise your eyes to the world‐illuminating Sun, which hath transformed every atom of the gloomy soil into bright and luminous substance.” (Abduʹl‐Baha, Tablets of Abduʹl‐Baha v1, p. 44)

Star of the West

“Faultfinding and backbiting are the characteristics of the weak minds and not the friends. Self-exaltation is the attribute of the stranger and not of the Beloved.”(Abdu’l-Baha- Star of the West, Star of the West – 1)

“Adorn with infinite love and concord the assemblage of beatitude, bring about the meeting of happiness, establish the banquet of the oneness of the realm of humanity, loosen your tongues in praising each other, and then anticipate the presence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in your midst.” (Abdu’l-Baha – Star of the West, Star of the West)

“… Thou hast written regarding thy aims. How blessed are these aims, especially the prevention of backbiting! I hope that you may become confirmed therein, because the worst human quality and the most great sin is backbiting more especially when it emanates from the tongues of the believers of God. If some means were devised so that the doors of backbiting could be shut eternally and each one of the believers of God unsealed his tongue in the praise of the other, then the teachings of His Holiness Baha”u’llah would be spread, the hearts illuminated, the spirits glorified and the human world would attain to everlasting felicity. I hope that the believers of God will shun completely backbiting, each one praising the other cordially and believe that backbiting is the cause of Divine wrath, to such an extent that if a person backbites to the extent of one word, he may become dishonored among all the people, because the most hateful characteristic of man is fault-finding. One must expose the praiseworthy qualities of the souls and not their evil attributes. The friends must overlook their shortcomings and faults and speak only of their virtues and not their defects. This is the attribute of the children of the Kingdom. This is the conduct and manner of the real Baha’is. I hope that all the believers will attain to this lofty station.” (Abdu’l-Baha, “Star of the West,” Vol. IV, No. 11, 192)

“One must expose the praiseworthy qualities of the souls and not their evil attributes. The friends must overlook their shortcomings and faults and speak only of their virtues and not their defects.” (Abdu’l-Baha- Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 91) also in (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. IV, No. 11, p. 192)

“Waste not your precious time in fault-finding and backbiting. Polish the surface of the mirrors of your hearts from the dross of human frailties. If you live according to the standard of other communities, then what difference does there exist between you and them?” (Abdu’l-Baha, “Star of the West,” Vol. V, No. 1, 5)

“I hope that the believers of God will shun completely backbiting, each one praising the other cordially and believe that backbiting is the cause of Divine Wrath, to such an extent that if a person backbites to the extent of one word, he may become dishonored among all the people, because the most hateful characteristic of man is fault‐finding. One must expose the praiseworthy qualities of the souls and not their evil attributes. The 6 friends must overlook their shortcomings and faults and speak only of their virtues and not their defects.ʺ  (ʹAbduʹl‐Bahá: Tablet to Dr. M.G. Skinner, August 12, 1913: Star of the West, Vol. IV, No. 11, p. 192)

“Whenever you recognize the fault of another, think of yourself! What are my imperfections?—and try to remove them. Do this whenever you are tried through the words or deeds of others. Thus you will grow, become more perfect. You will overcome self, you will not even have time to think of the faults of others…” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West‘, Volume 8, No. 10, p 138)

“I hope that the believers of God will shun completely backbiting, each one praising the other cordially and believe that backbiting is the cause of Divine wrath, to such an extent that if a person backbites to the extent of one word, he may become dishonored among all the people, because the most hateful characteristic of man is fault-finding. One must expose the praiseworthy qualities of the souls and not their evil attributes. The friends must overlook their shortcomings and faults and speak only of their virtues and not their defects.”(‘Abdu’l-Baha tablet to Dr. M. G. Skinner, August 12, 1913. Star of the West, Vol IV, No.11, Pg 192)

Attributed to Abdu’l-Baha

“Remember above all the teaching of Baha’u’llah concerning gossip and unseemly talk about others. Stories repeated about others are seldom good. A silent tongue is safest. Even good may be harmful if spoken at the wrong time or to the wrong person.” (Attributed to Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 125)

Shoghi Effendi

“…When a difficulty is brought out into the daylight and freely discussed by a duly authorised and responsible group of people who are sincerely desirous of finding the best solution and are free from prejudice or personal motive, then there is a good chance of overcoming it, but discussion of the faults of others behind their backs by unauthorised people who have no authority to take action in the matter, is surely one of the most fertile causes–probably THE most fertile cause–of disunity, and the importance of putting an end to this practice should be impressed on all Bahá’ís.” (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, followed by an extract from the Guardian’s postscript, February 11, 1925)

“As to the question whether it is right to tell an untruth in order to save another, he feels that under no condition should we tell an untruth but at the same time try and help the person in a more legitimate manner. Of course it is not necessary to be too outspoken until the question is directly put to us.” (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 21, 1927: Living the Life, p. 3)

“As regards backbiting, i.e. discussing the faults of others in their absence, the teachings are very emphatic… The condemnation of backbiting could hardly be couched in stronger language… it is obviously one of the foremost obligations for Baha’is to set their faces against this practice.” (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, February 11, 1925)

“It is obvious that if we listen to those who complain to us about the faults of others we are guilty of complicity in their backbiting.”   (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, February 11, 1925)

ʺIt is obvious that if we listen to those who complain to us about the faults of others we are guilty of complicity in their backbiting. We should therefore, as tactfully as possible, but yet firmly, do our utmost to prevent others from making accusations or complaints against others in our presence.” (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, February 11, 1925 ‐ Lights of Guidance, p. 94)

ʺ… When a difficulty is brought out into the daylight and freely discussed by a duly authorized and responsible group of people who are sincerely desirous of finding the best solution and are free from prejudice or personal motive, then there is a good chance of overcoming it, but discussions of the faults of others, behind their backs by unauthorized people who have no authority to take action in the matter, is surely one of the most fertile causes  ‐ probably THE most fertile cause  ‐‐ of disunity, and the importance of putting an end to this practice should be impressed on all Baháʹís.ʺ  (Lights of Guidance, p. 89)

“The most important thing, as the Master pointed out over and over again, is love and unity among the believers. They must forget themselves, the faults and weaknesses they see in each other, and arise to spread this glorious Message in mankindʹs hour of greatest darkness and trial.” (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Indian Subcontinent, p. 262)

“On no subject are the Bahá’í teachings more emphatic than on the necessity to abstain from fault-finding and backbiting while being ever eager to discover and root out our own faults and overcome our own failings.” (From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, May 12, 1925: Living the Life, p.3; Lights of Guidance, p. 88)

“… Each of us is responsible for one life only, and that is our own. Each of us is immeasurably far from being ‘perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect’ and the task of perfecting our own life and character is one that requires all our attention, our will- power and energy. If we allow our attention and energy to be taken up in efforts to keep others right and remedy their faults, we are wasting precious time. We are like ploughmen each of whom has his team to manage and his plough to direct, and in order to keep his furrow straight he must keep his eye on his goal and concentrate on his own task. If he looks to this side and that to see how Tom and Harry are getting on and to criticize their ploughing, then his own furrow will assuredly become crooked.” (Shoghi Effendi- From a letter written to an individual believer, May 12, 1925: Living the Life, pp. 2-3)

“Even if what is said against another person be true, the mentioning of his faults to others still comes under the category of backbiting, and is forbidden.” (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, February 11, 1925)

“1272. If we Baháʹís cannot attain to cordial unity among ourselves, then we fail to realize the main purpose for which the Báb, Baháʹuʹlláh and the Beloved Master lived and suffered. In order to achieve this cordial unity one of the first essentials insisted on by Baháʹuʹlláh and ʹAbduʹl‐Bahá is that we resist the natural tendency to let our attention dwell on the faults and failings of others rather than on our own. Each of us is responsible for one life only, and that is our own. Each of us is immeasurably far from being ʺperfect as our heavenly father is perfectʺ and the task of perfecting our own life and character is one that requires all our attention, our will‐power and energy. If we allow our attention and energy to be taken up in efforts to keep others right and remedy their faults, we are wasting precious time. We are like ploughmen each of whom has his team to manage and his plough to direct, and in order to keep his furrow straight he must keep his eye on his goal and concentrate on his own task. If he looks to this side and that to see how Tom and Harry are getting on and to criticize their ploughing, then his own furrow will assuredly become crooked. On no subject are the Baháʹí teachings more emphatic than on the necessity to abstain from faultfinding and backbiting while being ever eager to discover and root out our own faults and overcome our own failings. If we profess loyalty to Baháʹuʹlláh, to our Beloved Master and our dear Guardian, then we must show our love by obedience to these explicit teachings. Deeds not words are what they demand, and no amount of fervour in the use of expressions of loyalty and adulation will compensate for failure to live in the spirit of the teachings.” (From a letter dated 12 May 1925 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer ‐ The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 3)

Universal House of Justice

“You ask how to deal with anger. The House of Justice suggests that you call to mind the admonitions found in our Writings on the need to overlook the shortcomings of others; to forgive and conceal their misdeeds, not to expose their bad qualities, but to search for and affirm their praiseworthy ones, and to endeavour to be always forbearing, patient, and merciful. Such passages as the following extracts from letters written on behalf of the beloved Guardian will be helpful: There are qualities in everyone which we can appreciate and admire, and for which we can love them; and perhaps, if you determine to think only of these qualities which your husband possesses, this will help to improve the situation …. You should turn your thoughts away from the things which upset you, and constantly pray to Bahá’u’lláh to help you. Then you will find how that pure love, enkindled by God, which burns in the soul when we read and study the Teachings, will warm and heal, more than anything else.” Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 454-455

“You are quite correct in your understanding of the importance of avoiding backbiting; such conduct strikes at the very unity of the Baha’i community. In a letter written to an individual believer on behalf of the Guardian it is stated: “If we are better, if we show love, patience, and understanding of the weakness of others, if we seek to never criticize but rather encourage, others will do likewise, and we can really help the Cause through our example and spiritual strength.” (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, August 13, 1980)

Lights of Guidance

ʺYou are quite correct in your understanding of the importance of avoiding backbiting; such conduct strikes at the very unity of the Baháʹí community. In a letter written to an individual believer on behalf of the Guardian it is stated:  ʺIf we are better, if we show love, patience, and understanding of the weakness of others, if we seek to never criticize but rather encourage, others will do likewise, and we can really help the Cause through our example and spiritual strength.ʺ (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, August 13, 1980  ‐  Lights of Guidance, p. 89)

“You also ask what one should do to ‘handle depression and anger with someone’ one feels ‘very positively about‘. The Universal House of Justice suggests that you call to mind the admonitions found in our writings on the need to overlook the shortcomings of others, to forgive and conceal their misdeeds, not to expose their bad qualities, but to search for and affirm their praiseworthy ones, and endeavour to be always forbearing, patient, and merciful. Such passages as the following extract from one of the letter written on behalf of the beloved Guardian by his secretary will also be helpful: Each of us is responsible for one life only, and that is our own. Each of us is immeasurably far from being “perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect: and the task of perfecting our own life and character is one that requires all our attention, our will-power and energy… On no subject are the Bahá’í teachings more emphatic that on the necessity to abstain from fault-finding, while being ever eager to discover and root out our own faults and overcome our own failings.” (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 90-91)

ʺYou ask in your letter for guidance on the implications of the prohibitions on backbiting and more specifically whether, in moments of anger or depression, the believer is permitted to turn to his friends to unburden his soul and discuss his problem in human relations. Normally, it is possible to describe the situation surrounding a problem and seek help and advice in resolving it, without necessarily mentioning names. The individual believer should seek to do this, whether he is consulting a friend, Baháʹí or non‐Baháʹí, or whether the friend is consulting him.ʺ (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 90) ʹAbduʹl‐Bahá does not permit adverse criticism of individuals by name in discussion among the friends, even if the one criticizing believes that he is doing so to protect the interests of the Cause. If the situation is of such gravity as to endanger the interests of the Faith, the complaint, as your National Spiritual Assembly has indicated, should be submitted to the Local Spiritual Assembly, or as you state to a representative of the institution of the Counsellors, for consideration and action. In such cases, of course, the name of the person or persons involved will have to be mentioned. ʺYou also ask what one should do to ʹhandle depression and anger with someoneʹ one feels ʹvery positively aboutʹ. The Universal House of Justice suggests that you call to mind the admonitions found in our writings on the need to overlook the shortcomings of others, to forgive and conceal their misdeeds, not to expose their bad qualities, but to search for and affirm their praiseworthy ones, and endeavour to be always forbearing, patient, and merciful.”   (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, September 23, 1975 ‐ Lights of Guidance, p. 90)

“As to backbiting, the House of Justice points out that learning not to concern oneself with the faults of others seems to be one of the most difficult lessons for people to master, and that failing in this is a fertile cause of disputes among Baháʹís as it is among men and women in general. In  ʹStar of the Westʹ, Volume 8, No. 10, on page 138, there is a record of a reply given by ʹAbduʹl‐Bahá in a private interview in Paris in 1913. He was asked  ʹHow shall I overcome seeing the faults of others  ‐‐  recognizing the wrong in others?ʹ, and He replied:  ʹI will tell you. Whenever you recognize the fault of another, think of yourself! What are my imperfections? ‐‐ and try to remove them. Do this whenever you are tried through the words or deeds of others. Thus you will grow, become more perfect. You will overcome self, you will not even have time to think of the faults of others… ʹ”  (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, August 13, 1980  ‐  Lights of Guidance, p. 89)

“Abdu’l-Bahá does not permit adverse criticism of individuals by name in discussion among the friends, even if the one criticizing believes that he is doing so to protect the interests of the Cause. If the situation is of such gravity as to endanger the interests of the Faith, the complaint, as your National Spiritual Assembly has indicated, should be submitted to the Local Spiritual Assembly, or as you state to a representative of the institution of the Counsellors, for consideration and action. In such cases, of course, the name of the person or persons involved will have to be mentioned.” (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, September 23, 1975)

There is a clear distinction between, on the one hand, the prohibition of backbiting, which would include adverse comments about individuals or institutions made to other individuals privately or publicly, and, on the other hand, the encouragement to unburden oneself of one’s concerns to a Spiritual Assembly, Local or National (or now, also, to confide in a Counsellor or Auxiliary Board member). (The Universal House of Justice, 1992 Dec 10, Issues Related to Study Compilation)

National Spiritual Assembly

“While gossip and backbiting are explicitly prohibited by Bahá’u’lláh, taking a problem to a Bahá’í institution, to a relevant civil or social service agency, therapist, or counselor to seek assistance with the problem is not viewed as gossip or backbiting.”(National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 55).

Baha’i scholars

“The Baha’i leaders also condemn backbiting most severely, describing it is a practice that extinguished ‘the life of the soul’. It was the cause of divine wrath: the backbiter was accursed. In their conversations, then, Baha’is should endeavor never to speak of the faults of others in their absence, or to gossip about them. They might speak of their praiseworthy qualities, but rather than even think of the imperfections of others, they should remember their own faults and seek to root them out. Each individual was responsible for their own life and perfecting their own character. The Baha’is should show love and patience towards others, encouraging rather than criticizing them, being understanding of human weakness, and seeking to conciliate. Love and tact could overcome jealousy and pettiness.” Peter Smith in “An Introduction to the Baha’i Faith.” p. 156

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