How Back-biting Degrades Oneself

'The most degrading and disgusting quality in a person is his/her habit of back-biting', wrote a clinical psychologist whose name I'm forgetting. Back-biting (parninda in Sanskrit and 'chugli'  in colloquial Hindi) indeed has no footing. It doesn't at all degrade the person who's being criticised. It demeans one who indulges in it and throws mud at others. Why does one back-bite? Back-biting, like lying, has its root in a person's mental make-up and an acute inferiority complex he/she suffers from.

 When a person is not sure of his/her abilities, skills and talents and feels forever threatened by people, who're far better in all respects and aspects, back-biting becomes a tool to malign the character of those superior people. Back-biting is even worse than criticism because criticism is not always bad. A great many times, criticism has constructive elements and it's done with an intention to improve the criticised person's overall personality. In other words, criticism can be bonafide but you can't say the same about back-biting which's always mala-fide. Back-biting is most common at workplace where one has to deal with his/her colleagues. It's rightly said that the colleagues are seldom friends.

There's always a hidden rivalry and this persistent sense of rivalry leads to back-biting. Women tend to back-bite more is a universal belief but it's been found that men are more into it and at times they're far bitchier than women. In short, back-biting is a habit that is disliked by all and the person who indulges in it finds no respect anywhere. There's a verse in Qura'an which states that 'Gheebat (back-biting in Arabic) kills one's soul and clouds one's conscience.' Very true.

The great Arab interpreter of Qura'an and a philologist par excellence, Jalaal Al-Din Al-Suyuti (1445-1505 AD) narrated an ennobling episode from the life of the Prophet. Once Muhammad was traveling with a few companions. One of them was in the incorrigible habit of back-biting, otherwise he was a nice, helpful and religious bloke. As usual, he began to talk of his distant brother in a disparaging manner. Muhammad asked him pointedly whether his brother was there to defend himself? He said, 'No, he wasn't.' 'Then why're you talking disparagingly of him in his absence?

Moreover, your all other good attributes are of no use if you continue to indulge in back-biting', said the Prophet. Muhammad's piercingly honest words struck his companion like a blitzkrieg and he never again resorted to this bad habit. Muhammad rightly stated that back-biting obscured all other desirable traits in a person because it's the worst quality a person can have. In one of the Upanishads, it's been clearly stated that 'Parnindanam Karyestu abhipsit' (Back-biting nullifies all good deeds). Even if one's a religious person, his/her religiosity goes in vain if the person is afflicted with the mental malady of back-biting.

Avoid it if you're to succeed in life and earn people's respect. I wind it up with a very appropriate Urdu couplet by Nazir Akbarabadi, 'Aaine mein khud ko dekh na paoge/ Gheebat karoge to khud se sharmaoge' (You won't be able to look yourself in the mirror/ If you resort to back-biting, you'll be eventually ashamed of yourself). Yes, a back-biter is mortally ashamed of himself sooner or later.    
                                                                                                                                                    Sumit Paul