Is backbiting a greater sin than murder, adultery or drinking?

Jul 2013
Abha Dear One's,

I have been reading a lot these days and one of the things that is troubling me is that if Backbiting is the greatest sin, then why we don't feel that sense of shame and humiliation when we backbite but if we see a Bahai drinking, we think it's a huge thing. At a personal level, I cannot imagine that how commiting adultery is same as backbiting??? People don't lose rights if they backbite but drinking, adultery etc is considered as flagrant violation of the laws and one feels humiliated and this person who might be drinking can say that it's unfair bcz he dosent backbite, he never lies but just bcz he drinks, he loses rights while the other person is backbiting, lying etc but is not into drinking. I really want to know what other Bahai's think about this keeping the writings in mind?
May 2013
forest falls california
Slander and Libel

People don't lose rights if they backbite... flagrant violation of the laws

It might be that it is the matter of degree to which one "backbites" in order to be considered a flagrant violation of the laws.
For example, legal terminology includes "slander" and "libel", both of which one can be sued for, as it is illegal to misrepresent the truth resulting in character defamation and damages.
It seems reasonable then that the Administrative Bodies of the Faith could also take into consideration the degree of damage caused by backbiting and gossip. If the offending believer has been warned by an Assembly and continues to disregard the admonitions, it seems reasonable at some point that their administrative rights might be suspended.
Oct 2011
I think also dear sama, as has been said it depends on the degree of backbiting.
But with backbiting many people will be effected, the person who is the object of the insidious disease also those who hearing may consider it true and continue the action.

To my mind yes backbiting is far more serious than many other problems.
You say we do not look upon it as more serious, this is only because we are still thinking with old age thought and have not developed spiritually, this will change.

What could be more grievous than to quench the light of the heart or extinguish the life of ones soul? Who would wish to harm the Faith?

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
Page 194

treasure the companionship of those that have renounced the world, and regard avoidance of boastful and worldly people a precious benefit.

Baha'u'llah : The Kitab-i-Iqan

Whatever steps are taken, it is vital that the believers refrain from gossip and backbiting, for this can only harm the Faith, causing perhaps more damage than would have been caused by the original offence. (Written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, to an individual, February 20, 1977)

Compilations : Removal of Administative Rights
Sep 2010
I cannot give details, but I was cautioned under circumstances that were I to contiue to persue some personal problems with someone that it would be considered backbiting. I felt my rights could be removed if I violated these instructions from National. So I have a different view about this. I have dropped the issue and wish it had never fallen into my lap to get into. Later it feels that their action to me was merciful, and this was an institution, not an individual that put me in my place.

FURTHERMORE it is not an individual's place to judge and consider what someone else is doing. If you find someone in flagrant violation then it is to be reported to an institution and you drop it.period. It is not the individual's place to say anything to another Baha'i, it is none of my business. I should just love the individual despite their problem and that can do more good than a judgemental "friend". Why should I be privy to an individual's relationship with an institution. We will not know to our satisfaction so to speak what an institution has done or is doing for an individual with a problem with Baha'i law. That is why the complainers who have their rights removed sound so awful, we will never knowthe Institution's side of the story. MYOB could be a part of not backbiting.
Jun 2006
Sama wrote:

I have been reading a lot these days and one of the things that is troubling me is that if Backbiting is the greatest sin, then why we don't feel that sense of shame and humiliation when we backbite but if we see a Bahai drinking, we think it's a huge thing....

My comment:

First let me suggest that Baha'i communities will vary from place to place.. but most Baha'is are aware that drinking alcohol is forbidden.. If they are troubled by something they can bring the matter before an Assembly and allow the Institution of the Faith to deal with it.

Backbiting may in some ways be more serious because maybe people are not focused on how they have brought habits from the non-Baha'i world into our world... Culturally I would venture to say that gossip and hearsay make up a very great part of communication in modern society..hence it is even more serious to focus on it because we are sometimes taken in by our habits and the prevailing nature of our society.

What did Abdul-Baha say about this?

"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-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 230
Jul 2013
Dear Ones, thank you for your insight. Does it indicate that backbiting is not tangible and hence it becomes difficult to prove it but drinking and adultery are tnagible things bcz the results are visible.

I want to confirm which is more grieveous, backbiting or adulter or drinking?
Mar 2010
Rockville, MD, USA
Abha Dear Ones,

I have been reading a lot these days and one of the things that is troubling me is that if Backbiting is the greatest sin, then why we don't feel that sense of shame and humiliation when we backbite . . . ?
I can assure you that some--perhaps many--of us do!

Besides which, if you're not careful, you could fall into Bill Sears' description of:

"virtuous backbiters, reverent misers, and friendly theives."

(Please note, BTW, that there's no apostrophe in "Dear Ones" <an apostrophe would indicate posession of something by the "One">.)


Jun 2011
Somewhere "in this immensity"
I'm not sure if backbiting is the "worst sin" or whether or not there is much use in a ranking system of sin, however, as bad a backbiting is, it is really something that is done to one's own detriment. In that sense, it is not something that stands in need of punishment, and, as an other poster has mentioned, when backbiting is of the sort that harms the one being talked about, this is punishable as slander and libel. Murder, on the other hand, causes irreparable harm to an individual and the family and society, and stands in much greater need of punishment, although perhaps arguably murder causes no harm to the immortal soul.
Jul 2013
Dear Fadl, backbiting not only harms your own soul but is a cause of disunity. If murder affects a family, backbiting affects the entire community.

I have seen Bahai's who feel humiliated and ashamed to be a part of the community bcz of one isolated episode of drinking etc but people who backbite don't face any kind of consequences socially. I think it's social shame and not the fear of God that is instilled in us since childhood.