بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
والحمدلله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على أشرف الأنبياء والمرسلين
In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful the Most Compassionate
All praise be to Allah, and may peace and blessings be upon the most noble of the Prophets and Messengers
The following tarbiya is adapted from a lecture by Amr Khaled.
Misuse of the Tongue
How many words do we speak each day, without even thinking about it? Words are powerful, and are able to do great good; we can keep ourselves in a constant state of worship by praising Allah, reading Qur’an and supplicating. We can do good for others by encouraging them, imparting knowledge, talking about Islam or even saying kind words- as the Qur’an teaches us to “…speak kindly to mankind” (2:83)
If we do not have anything good or beneficial to say, then it is best that we keep silent, in order to avoid greater harms that we may not even be aware of. Mohammed (SAW) said: “Whoever believes in Allah and the last day should speak good or keep silent.” – Al-Bukhari and Muslim
This is because our words can bring about great evils. The Prophet (saw) tells us that, “The majority of man’s sins emanate from his tongue” – At-Tabarani
If we kept this in mind, would we say half the things that we normally do? There are countless ahadeeth that speak about the dangers of the tongue, which emphasizes the fact that we should pay attention to what we say and be careful with the way we speak.
It was narrated by Sufyan bin Abdullah Ath-Thaqafy: “I asked the Prophet (saw): O Messenger of Allah, tell me something that I should hold fast by (i.e. something that I should follow) He replied: “Say ‘My Lord is Allah’ and then be upright”. So I said: “And what is the thing that you fear most for me O Messenger of Allah?” He took hold of his tongue and said “This”.
This is the Prophet (saw) warning us of the dangers of a heedless tongue, and it is enough that the Prophet (saw) has said that it is what he fears the most for us. Something so dangerous should make us be so careful with it, yet most of the time we do not take it into account. The seriousness of this matter is further shown by the following hadith: “The son of Adam wakes up and the whole body makes takfeer (i.e. warns of error) upon his tongue saying, ‘Fear Allah (SWT) concerning us for indeed we are upon you so if you are upright then we will be upright and if you are corrupt then we will be corrupt.” – At-Tirmidhee
What does this hadith tell us? That the whole body depends on how upright our tongues are- if we are uttering foul things and become used to it, it is only natural that our bodies will follow in the same path; for every little sin leads to a greater one if we do not desist and ask for forgiveness. Uqbah bin Aamer came to the Prophet (saw) and said: “O Messenger of Allah, what is safety (I.e. How do I stay safe in this life and the next)?” The Prophet (saw) replied: “Control your tongue”. He said again: “O Messenger of Allah, what is safety?” The Prophet (saw) responded: “Control your tongue, keep yourself at home, and weep for your sins.” – At-Tirmidhee
One of the Companions of the Prophet (saw), Mu’adh ibn Jabal, was asking about an act that would enter him into Paradise, and remove him from the Hell-fire. The Prophet (saw) proceeded to tell him many great and noble things, and at the end he said: “Should I not inform you of the sheet anchor of all this? I said: “Allah’s Apostle (of course do it)” He pointed to his tongue and said: “Exercise restraint on it” I said: “Apostle of Allah, would we be held responsible for what we say with it?” Thereupon he said: “Mu’adh, may your mother be bereaved! Will anything else besides (irresponsible) talk cause the people to be thrown into the Hell-Fire upon their faces or on their nostrils?” – At-Tirmidhee
Knowing the punishment for irresponsible talk, what has the Prophet (saw) said about those who guard against it? “Whoever guarantees me (the chastity of) what is between his legs (i.e. his private parts), and what is between his jaws (i.e., his tongue), I guarantee him Paradise.” – Al-Bukhari
And what a magnanimous reward- can any one of us imagine the Prophet (saw), telling us on Judgement Day, “Here is the Paradise that I have guaranteed for you”? If only we would exercise a little control over the things we say. Above all, we should remember that Allah (swt) says, “Not a word does he (or she) utter, but there is a watcher by him ready (to record it).” (50:18) Keeping these ahadeeth and Allah’s (swt) words in mind, what are the sins of the tongue? There are 10 main ones:
1- Al-khawd fil-baatil (Indulging in vain discourse- talking about corruption and immorality)
This is not backbiting, as in it does not have to do with the faults of a specific person; rather it is talking about faults of a group of people (e.g. “I went to a party and istaghfarAllah the sins that were committed!” etc) or mentioning corruption (e.g. “In this place so many bad things happen…” etc) without any aim or purpose. What is the danger of engaging in vain discourse? It might lead to fitnah for the person who is listening, or it could lead to a person wanting to know more about it when he has no business doing so, or thinking about things a person should not be thinking of.
The Prophet (saw) has said that: “Those with the most sins on Judgment Day are those who indulged most in vain discourse in this life” The second kind of vain discourse is immoral talk between a man and woman, such that would lead them to be ashamed if someone heard them- but they do not think that Allah (swt) and the Angels are listening them. Allah (swt) has said: “”What led you into Hell Fire?”; They will say: “We were not of those who prayed; “Nor were we of those who fed the indigent; “But we used to talk vanities with vain talkers;” (74:42-45) Of course this grave punishment is for the second type of vain discourse mentioned, for talk that is haraam; specifically between a man and a woman.
2– Al-khawd fe a’raad an-nass (Slandering people by talking about something that affects their reputation- especially against women)
This is an even greater sin than back-biting, and it includes saying things like “This person has done this evil” and talking about women in a bad way so as to insult their honor. Allah (swt) says: “Those who slander chaste women, indiscreet but believing, are cursed in this life and in the Hereafter: for them is a grievous Penalty” (24.23) After the incident of Al-Ifk (where the hypocrites slandered Aisha (ra) and said that she had committed adultery), Allah revealed in the Qur’an “…that ye may never repeat such (conduct), if ye are (true) Believers” (24.17), and regarding the same topic Allah (swt) has said “…and ye thought it to be a light matter, while it was most serious in the sight of Allah” (24.15). The gravity of doing such a thing is evident in the punishment, which is to be flogged with 80 stripes and to never accept evidence from that person ever (except for those who have repented).
The Companions used to say: “[O Allah] Protect my sight and my hearing!” (I.e. from things that are haraam). Therefore we should not look for things that are haraam and malicious, because we are helping to spread falsities in that way, and we have no business doing so. The exception is if we stand up and defend the person, and help to stop this behavior. Even if what we are saying is true, we must remember that if we veil the faults of people on earth, then Allah (swt) will veil our faults on Judgment Day, inshAllah.
3- Al-jadal (Wrangling, angry conversation, quarrelling)
This is when a discussion escalates to the point of a challenge, where one person wants to defeat the other with his opinion and show that he is right. The Prophet (saw) has said: “I guarantee a house in the surroundings of Paradise for the one that avoids quarrelling; even if he was in the right” – Abu Dawud
One may wonder why he should step down if he were in the right; but this is in order to calm the situation down. It is wrong to allow our emotions to get in the way; if what we are saying is correct we lose the person we are talking to because of the manner in which we are speaking. It is more important to gain the other person’s heart, and continue the discussion when it is calmer- we may even learn something. Imam ash-Shafi’i said: “I was told: “You keep silence, but they are arguing with you?!” And I answered: “Words (in this case) are the keys to the door of evil”. He who keeps silence in response to a stupid or ignorant person is worthy of being respected, Silence preserves dignity and honour. Don’t you see that lions are silent, but everybody is afraid of them, Whereas dogs bark all the time and everybody drives them away and throws stones at them”
4- Bathee’at al-lisaan (Foulness of the tongue)
The Prophet (saw) has said: “Allah hates the wicked and foul-tongued” – At-Tirmidhee
This includes using obscene language, cursing, or even saying indecent things with the intention of making those around us laugh. The Messenger of Allah (saw) has said: “The servant speaks words that he does not understand its repercussions to amuse those around him but he sinks down in Hell-Fire farther than the distance between the east and the west [because of them].”
It can even include things like “You idiot” or “you cow” if it is said with the intention to belittle. The Prophet Eesa (as) was walking with a man. The man saw a dog and said “Dog, and a son of a dog!” Eesa (as) said to him, “Do not say that”. The man replied “But he is a dog, and a son of a dog”. So Eesa (as) said “Our tongues do not allow us to say such things- and you said that in order to belittle”
We can see how this example stresses the fact that we should not even say things with the intention to belittle, because we are held to account for it. The Prophet (saw) was travelling with a man who cursed his camel. The Prophet (saw) was silent for a second, and then said “I do not travel with a cursed she-camel”. Cursing is something that is very grave, and should not be said nonchalantly. The Prophet (saw) has also taught us that “A believer is neither a defamer nor a curser nor coarse nor obscene.” – Al-Bukhari
5- As-sukhriya wal istihzaa’ (Deriding, mocking and laughing at others)
Allah (swt) has said: “O ye who believe! Let not some men among you laugh at others: It may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): Nor let some women laugh at others: It may be that the (latter are better than the (former): Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames: Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be used of one) after he has believed: And those who do not desist are (indeed) doing wrong” (49.11)
While you are mocking others, Allah (swt) raises them above you. There are many obvious reasons, such as making the person uncomfortable and embarrassing them in front of others. Sahl bin Sa’d narrated from the Prophet (saw): “A Muslim is the one who avoids harming Muslims with his tongue and hands” – Al-Bukhari
6- Ifshaa’ Al-Asraar (Telling Secrets)
The Prophet (saw) has said: “If a man speaks to another and looks around to see if anyone can hear them then this is a trust.” – At-Tirmithee, Abu Dawud
It is obligatory to protect the trust (Amaanah). Breaking the trust is betrayal- thus it is imperitive to keep people’s secrets and not reveal them. The hadith above shows that even if a person has not explicitly told us that what he is saying is a secret, but we sense that it is through his actions or body language, then it is obligatory upon us to keep it as a secret. The Prophet (saw) has also said that: “Those with no trust have no faith” The worst breaking of a trust is with a married couple- it is despised that a woman tell her husband’s secrets or that a man tell his wife’s secrets, and anything that goes on between them in private.
A girl said to the Prophet (saw): “Apostle of Allah, they (the men) describe the secrets (of intercourse) and they (the women) also describe the secrets (of intercourse) to the people.” He said: “Do you know what the similitude is? He said: The likeness of this act is the likeness of a female Satan who meets the male Satan on the roadside; he fulfils his desire with her while the people are looking at him. Beware!” – Abu Dawud
7- Al-wa’d Al-kaathib (False Promises)
This is to do with making promises and never having the intention to fulfill the promise, rather than making a promise and then not being able to fulfill it. The Prophet (saw) has said: “The signs of a hypocrite are three: 1. Whenever he speaks, he tells a lie. 2. Whenever he promises, he always breaks it (his promise). 3. If you trust him, he proves to be dishonest. (If you keep something as a trust with him, he will not return it.)” – Al-Bukhari
8- An-Nameema (Gossiping)
The Prophet (SAW) said, “The gossip-monger will not enter paradise” – Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Ahmad and Daraqutnee
This is basically repeating everything one hears, and spreading rumors or even facts that they should not be spreading, either about a person or something intimate. Allah’s Messenger (saw) passed by two graves and said, “Both of them (persons in the grave) are being tortured, and they are not being tortured for a major sin…” Then he said: “No, but it is a major sin. One used to go about with calumnies (among the people to rouse hostilities, e.g., one goes to a person and tells him that so-and-so says about him such-and-such evil thing)” – Al-Bukhari
9- Al- Gheeba (Backbiting)
This is talking about someone while they are absent. Allah’s Messenger (saw) said: “Do you know what al-gheeba is?” The Companions said, “Allah and His Messenger know best.” He (saw) said, “To make mention of your brother with that which he dislikes” They said, “How about if my brother actually has what I have said about him?” He (saw) said, “If he has what you have said about him, then you have committed gheeba and if not, then you have committed buhtaan (slander)”
Which is even worse than gheeba. Gheeba is so detested in our religion that Allah (swt) has said, “O you who believe! Avoid much suspicions, indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One Who accepts repentance, Most Merciful” (49:12)
That is the parable that Allah (swt) has set, and it is what we should be thinking about when we mention bad things about others. Two men were walking and talking about a man who the Prophet (saw) had whipped that day (as a punishment for something he had done). So one said, “Did you see how he was whipped like a dog?” The Prophet (saw) heard him, and when they passed by a donkey, the Prophet (saw) said “Eat”. Surprised, the men said “Why?” He said, “Because you have eaten that which is worse, you have eaten the meat of your dead brother”.
Another consequence of backbiting is that it removes ones hasanaat (good deeds) and gives it to the person who has been wronged. A man spoke about Anas ibn Malik, so he sent him a bowl filled with sweets. The man said “Why have you given me this?” He replied, “You have given me your hasanaat, so I thought I should give you something in return”
10- Al-Kathib (Lying)
The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Beware of lying! Verily, lying leads to depravity; and depravity leads to Hellfire. One constantly lies and pursues falsehood until he is recorded, in Allah’s presence, as a liar.”
Many scholars have said that lying is one of the Greater sins because it leads to other sins. One of the signs of the coming of the Hour is widespread lying. The Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) was asked: “Can a believer be a coward?” The Prophet said: “Yes.” He was then asked: “Can a believer be a miser?” He replied: “Yes.” And finally, he was asked: ‘Can a believer be a liar?” The Prophet said: “No. A believer cannot be a liar” – Al-Muwatta
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I guarantee a house in the middle of Paradise for a man who avoids lying even if he were joking” Abu Dawud
Sometimes we take lying lightly if we say it in a joking manner, or if we feel it is harmless. A woman once called her son and said “I have something for you”. The Prophet (saw) heard her and asked “And do you?” She said “Yes”. He said “If you didn’t, then it would have been written as a lie for you” Even ‘little lies’ are written; they may not carry the same repercussions as bigger lies, but they are nevertheless lies.
We must remember that the Prophet (saw): “Do not talk for long without remembering Allah swt, for talking much without remembering Allah swt is hardness of the heart. The most distant among man from Allah swt is one with a hardened heart” – at-Tirmidhee
The Prophet Sulayman, son of Dawud (as), said “If speech was of silver, then silence is of gold”
May Allah guide us to speak only with which is beneficial, and to keep us away from saying that which is detestable. Ameen