The purpose of the Fast is to draw nearer to God, to be attracted to divine qualities, and to prepare for the life ahead by becoming more virtuous here. When Abdul-Baha was asked what is the purpose of life, he responded, “to acquire virtues.”
Every vice has a virtue; backbiting is the vice while praise is the virtue! We would do well to focus our attention on what we want to achieve, not avoid. In this case, we should focus our attention on seeing ONLY the good in each other and praising them.
“Abdu’l-Bahá daily practices the command, “If a man have ten bad qualities and one good one, look at the one and ignore the ten.” (4)
We may not be able to stop people from speaking ill of another, but we do not have to listen to it. If we do, we are complicit.
“You must not listen to anyone speaking about another, because no sooner do you listen than you must listen to someone else and thus the circle will be enlarged endlessly. Therefore, O friends! Let us come together, forget all our self-thoughts and be in one accord, and cry at the top of our voices ‘Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá!’” (5)
“Backbiting, slander and dwelling on the faults of others have been repeatedly condemned by Bahá’u’lláh. In the Hidden Words, He clearly states: “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.”
And again: “O Son of Man! 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.”
This strong admonition is further reiterated in His last work, “the Book of My Covenant”:
“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.” (6)
“No Bahai must open his lips in blaming another one, he must regard backbiting as the greatest sin of humanity, for it is clearly revealed in all the Tablets of Baha’u’llah that backbiting and faultfinding are the fiendish instruments and suggestions of Satan and the destroyers of the foundation of man. A believer will not blame any soul among the strangers, how much less against the friends. 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.” (7)
When asked, what should we do if people speak ill of others in our presence, the response was clear:
“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.
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.”
Hopefully you have had lots of inspired thoughts during this Fast, and are more knowledgeable, inspired, attracted to the Divine, and more committed to your own transformation. We know that obedience to God is critical to our station in the next life and the determining factor as to whether we greet death as a messenger of joy or the harbinger of doom is how near we are to God.
Bahaullah cautions us to “strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action.” (9)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, reaffirms the importance of action,
“Unless these thoughts are translated into the world of action, they are useless. The wrong in the world continues to exist just because people talk only of their ideals, and do not strive to put them into practice. If actions took the place of words, the world’s misery would very soon be changed into comfort.” (10)
1. (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 264)
2. (SOW – Star of the West, Star of the West –
3. (SOW – Star of the West, Star of the West –
4. (Diarys, Goodall – Cooper — Daily Lessons Received at ‘Akka January 1908, p. 64)
5. (SOW – Star of the West, Star of the West –
6. (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 181)
7. (Provisional Translations, Star of the West (Volume 2))
8. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 230)
9. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 249)
10. (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 22)