Backbiting, backstabbing, or tale-bearing is slandering someone in their absence — to bite them behind their back. Originally, backbiting referred to an unsporting attack from the rear in the blood sport of bearbaiting.[1]

In the Bahá'í Faith, Christian, Islamic and Jewish doctrine, backbiting is considered a sin. The Bahá’í leaders condemned it as the worst of sins as it destroyed the 'life of the soul' and provoked divine wrath.[2] Thomas Aquinas classified it as a mortal sin, but did not consider it to be the gravest sin that one could commit against one's neighbour.[3] In Islam, backbiting is known as Ghibat (غيبة) and Islam considers it to be a major sin and the Qur'an compares it to the abhorrent act of eating the flesh of one's dead brother.[4]

In Judaism, backbiting is known as hotzaat shem ra (spreading a bad name) and is considered a very severe sin.

In Buddhism, backbiting goes against the ideal of right speech.[5]


Backbiting may occur as a form of release after a confrontation. By insulting the opposing person, the backbiter diminishes them and, by doing so, restores their own self-esteem. A bond may also be established with the confidant if they are receptive to the hostile comment. Such gossip is common in human society as people seek to divert blame and establish their place in the dominance hierarchy.[6] But the backbiting may be perceived as a form of delinquent behaviour due to an inferiority complex.[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Webb B. Garrison, "To Backbite", Why You Say It
  2. ^ Peter Smith, An introduction to the Baha'i faith
  3. ^ Thomas Aquinas; see "I answer that" in Article 3,, Summa Theologica, 2CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Rafik Berjak (2006), "Backbiting", The Qur'an: an encyclopedia, Taylor & Francis
  5. ^ Jootla, Susan (1982). "Right Livelihood: The Noble Eightfold Path in the Working Life". The Wheel. Buddhist Publication Society / Access to Insight. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  6. ^ Geoff Beattie (29 April 2010), Brown's 'bigot' remark: It's that sinking feeling, BBC
  7. ^ "Psychology of Backbiting", The Educational review, 70-71: 195, 1964