Quarterly: Issue No 66
GUARD OUR TONGUES
All Praise is due to Allah,
Exalted be His name, and peace and blessings of Allah be upon our beloved
Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his companions.
The tongue is a great
blessing from Allah. If we look at the animals that are unable to speak, we
realize the importance of this great tool of communication.
One of the hallmarks of
righteous behaviour is good speech. A person who stays mindful of Allah will
want to refrain from sins of the tongue such as backbiting, slander, gossip,
lying, swearing, cursing and vain talk. The Qur'an and Ahaadith
(the authentically narrated traditions of the Prophet Muhammad - Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) has warned us against these types of sins of the
Guarding one's speech is
so important that each person will be held accountable for everything they
say. Allah says in the Noble Quran:
(Surah Qaaf: Chapter 50: Verses 16-18) (Also
refer: Surah Infitaar: Chapter 82: Verses 10-12)
And indeed We have created man, and We
know what his own self whispers to him. And We are nearer to him than his
jugular vein (by Our Knowledge).
(Remember!) that the two receivers (recording angels) receive (each human
being after he or she has attained the age of puberty), one sitting on the
right and one on the left (to note his or her actions). Not a word does he (or she) utter, but there is a watcher by
him ready (to record it).
rules for recording of deeds are detailed in a Hadith Qudsi.
Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam)
related this Saying from his Lord:
Glorified and the Exalted) has written down the good deeds and the bad ones.
Then He explained it (by saying that) he who has intended a good deed and has not
done it, Allah (The Glorified and the
Exalted) writes it down with Himself as a full good deed; but if he has
intended it and has done
it, Allah (The Glorified and the Exalted) writes it down with Himself as from
ten good deeds to seven hundred times, or many times over. But if he has
intended a bad deed and has not done
it, Allah (The Glorified and the Exalted) writes it down with Himself as a full
good deed, but if he has intended it and has done
it, Allah (The Glorified and the Exalted) writes it down as one bad deed.” (Bukhari
As evidence from the Qur’anic verses quoted above, we note the following facts.
On the one hand, Allah directly knows man’s actions and movements, even his
hidden thoughts; on the other hand, every man/women has two angels appointed
over him/her, who are recording whatever he/she does and says; none of his/her
actions or words is left unrecorded. This means that when man is produced in
the court of Allah, Allah - at that time - Himself will know what each person
has done in the world. Besides Him, there will also be two witnesses who will
produce documentary evidence of the person’s actions and deeds. As to what will
be the nature of this documentary evidence, it is difficult for us to have a
precise concept of it. But from the facts that we are witnessing today, it
seems certain that the voices and pictures and marks of man’s actions and
movements are being preserved and imprinted on every particle of the
environment in which he lives and works, and each one of these can be
reproduced in exactly the same form and voice so as to leave no difference
whatsoever between the original and its copy. Mankind is currently doing this
on a very limited scale with the help of his material inventions, but the
angels of Allah neither stand in need of these devices nor are they bound by any
limitation in this regard. Man’s own body and everything around it is their
tape and their film upon which they can record every voice and every image
along with its minutest and most delicate detail precisely and exactly, and can
make man hear - on the Day of Judgement - with his own ears, in his own voice,
those very things which he talked in this world, and can make him see, with his
very own eyes, the pictures of all his misdeeds, whose genuineness he would not
be able to deny.
Here, one should also
understand that in the court of the Hereafter, Allah will not punish anybody
only on the basis of Allah’s own knowledge, but will punish him after
fulfilling all the requirements of justice. That is why an exhaustive record is
being prepared of every person’s words and deeds in the world so that a
complete proof with undeniable evidence becomes available of everyone’s life,
deeds and activities.
“Wounds inflicted by the tongue
are deeper than the wounds inflicted by the sword,” is an adage that we have often
read, hear and experience. These wounds cut deep into the heart and are not
easily cured. Even after years, a person may feel their pain. At times, these
wounds are caused inadvertently and at others in a planned and cold-blooded
way. However, whatever be their nature, as human beings, it is our foremost
duty to make an all-out effort to tame our tongue. Let alone the ordinary Muslims, even Ulama
are not safe from these blemishes.
Abusing and cursing others,
making fun of them, lying, misreporting facts, backbiting, slandering, swearing
false oaths and bearing false witness, lustful chatting, bragging, enticing
others to sin, speaking disrespectfully, expressing arrogance, gossiping,
giving sweeping statements and being judgemental, teasing, flattering and even
talking incessantly are some prominent areas where restraining and controlling
of the tongue is required.
The first step to overcome such
faults is to realize that they are sins. Realizing our own faults means that
half of the job is done. The other half requires a concerted and sustained
effort. The starting point after this
realization is to plan - beforehand - to hold back the tongue from its evil
habits or letting it enter into a frenzied state. More often than not, this is due to some reaction
that arises within us.
Faults of the tongue can be
classified in two main categories.
Faults that are habitual and do not involve rage: like lying, backbiting and
misreporting facts etc.
Faults that occur in rage, like abusing, screaming and shouting etc.
Faults of the tongue that are habitual and
do not involve rage:
If a person is good, it
reflects in his/her speech. Allah has
made it very easy for the tongue to move. It is not difficult to realize that a
person’s tongue moves much more compared to his/her limbs. So if a person is
not careful about what he/she says, even a single saying of that person
can invalidate his/her other deeds. It is for this reason that the whole body
warns the tongue saying, “Fear
Allah concerning us, for we are (dependant) upon you. If you are upright then
we will be upright and if you are corrupt then we will be corrupt.” (Tirmidhi, Mishkaat and Riyaadh as-Saliheen)
Allah says in the Qur’an, “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.”
(Chapter 49: Surah Hujuraat: Verse 12) Abu Hurayrah (RA) reported
that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Do you know what is backbiting?” The
Companions said: “Allah and His Messenger know better.” Thereupon he said,
“Backbiting is talking about your (Muslim) brother in a manner which he
dislikes.” It was said to him: “What if my (Muslim) brother is as I say.” He
said, “If he is actually as you say, then that is backbiting; but if that is
not in him, that is slandering.” (Muslim, Abu Dawood
The gratitude that we should
show for this great blessing of the tongue should include, using it for the
obedience to Allah, for reading the Qur’an, for seeking Knowledge and enjoining
good and forbidding evil. Allah says in the beginning of Surah al-Mu’mineen, “Successful indeed are the believers;
those who offer their Salat (prayers) with Khushoo
(all solemnity and full
submissiveness). And those who turn away from Al-Laghw (dirty, false, evil vain talk,
falsehood, and all that Allah has been forbidden).” (Chapter 23: Surah Mu’minoon:
Allah mentions that refraining from Al-Laghw (evil vain talk) is a sign of successful
believers. Allah also mentions
refraining from vain talk after he mentions ‘Khushoo’
(solemnity and full submissiveness). This is because too much talk makes the heart
hard. It is not possible to reach the level of ‘Khushoo’
unless one refrains from vain talk. Imam Nawawi (ra) said: “Know it is incumbent upon all to
guard their tongues from most speech, except a word that has some benefits in
Abu Hurayrah reported that he heard the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) say: “Indeed, the servant will speak a
word, while being unaware of (its consequences), and due to it, he will be cast
into the Hellfire, farther than the distance between the east and the west.” (Bukhari and
Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alayhi
Wasallam) said, “Whoever
believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak good or keep silent.” (Bukhari)
Imam Shafi’i (ra) is reported to have
said. “When one desires to talk, then it is
upon him to think before he speaks. If there is beneficial good in what he will
say, then he should speak. And if he has doubt about that, then he must not
speak until he clears that doubt (by making his speech good)”
(Quoted in Kitaabul Adhkaar
by Imam Nawawi)
Scholars have classified a few exceptions to what is termed ‘backbiting’. And amongst them are:
If one has been harmed or one’s property has been unlawfully taken away by
another, and this person goes to the ruler or judge in order to seek justice,
this is not classified as backbiting.
If one finds a person involved in evil actions or innovations, and one is
unable to correct his Munkar. It is allowed to seek
the help of a more knowledgeable person, even if it means defining the Munkar of the evil-doer or innovator.
a Fatwa (religious verdict): For example, there is a dispute between a
husband and his wife, and if either of them seeks the advice of an Islamic
Scholar or a Mufti, then this situation is not classified as backbiting.
a Muslim from evil: For example, if a fellow Muslim is
going to do a business with a dishonest person or if a Muslim is unaware that
the person to whom he is marrying his daughter to, is an unreligious person;
then to advice and guide him is exempt from backbiting.
against innovators and sinners: If an innovator (bid’ati)
is openly involved in spreading his innovative beliefs or a sinner
remorselessly declares his sin and is thus being a bad example for others; then
warning others against him is allowed. However, if a person commits a sin
secretly and as such harms just himself, then to openly declare his sins is
still strictly prohibited.
Faults of the tongue that occur in rage,
like abusing, shouting and screaming:
Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alayhi
Wasallam) said: “The strong man is not a good
wrestler; the strong man is in fact the person who controls himself at the time
of anger.” (Bukhari)
Imam Fakhruddin Razi (ra) narrates an incident in his Tafsir
Al-Kabir. Once, prior to receiving his Prophethood (nubuwwah), Prophet Moosa’s (Alayhis Salaam) lamb ran
away from his flock. Prophet Moosa ran behind it for miles on end in order to
catch it. In the process he hurt his feet by running through thorn thickets
which pierced his skin causing him to bleed as well. The lamb continued running
until it too was bruised and battered. Finally, it stood at one place,
breathing heavily, unable to run anymore.
Prophet Moosa caught the tired little animal and instead of being angry
at it, consoled the animal with tears flowing from his eyes, saying, “O sheep,
if you did not feel sorry for Moosa, you should at least have pitied yourself.
Why did you put yourself through so much trouble?” Before removing the thorns
from his own feet, Prophet Moosa first removed the thorns from the sheep, then
rubbed and pressed its legs, lifted it up onto his shoulders and carried it
back to the flock.
what we would have done to the animal if it had caused us so much trouble and
pain. Perhaps we would have beaten the poor animal or even slaughtered it. But
what did Prophet Moosa do? He showed no sign of anger, instead he showed great
mercy for the weak creation of Allah. Imam Fakhruddin
Razi (ra) writes that the
angels said to Allah: “O Allah! This person is worthy of becoming a Prophet
because of his qualities of tolerance and patience. O Allah! Make him a Prophet.”
Allah replied, “I have already chosen him as My Messenger.” Those for whom Allah has destined high
stages, He imbues them with noble qualities and strength of tolerance. It is
not correct to become mad with anger at the slightest of provocations.
Faults of the tongue
that are habitual need a concerted effort. They can only be overcome if a
person makes up his mind to root them out by realizing that they are grave
sins. They not only defile one’s own
inner-self but also cause hurt, deceit and damage to others. These faults are a
shame to humankind and bring disrepute to it. We should first of all enlist all
these faults and work out a plan to eradicate them one by one. We should pray
to Allah to help us and alert us right before we commit such faults of the
tongue and also ask Him to give us the courage and strength to overcome it.
Being helped and alerted by Allah is essential because in faults and sins -
committed as a habit - we often are not even aware of what we are doing. The
next step is to apply brakes. This needs will power to stop short of entering
the highway that leads to excesses of the tongue. We are not angels and neither
can we ever be. We have to realize that we cannot be good all the time. However,
we must try to be good most of the time.
the tongue which occur in rage and anger need prior planning as well. When
overcome with rage, we need to delay our reaction. Merely deferring our
response at that time can go a long way in reducing the results of the harm
caused. Inhaling a deep breath, taking a glass of water, changing one’s posture
or location can help a lot. Fasting helps to restrain anger and hence the
misuse of the tongue. Even after adopting all these measures, it will still
take time to overcome this habit as it will not go away overnight.
help us all to be guided aright with His Great Blessings and Mercy! Ameen!
O Allah! Your Forgiveness is far greater than my sins and I have more
hope in Your Mercy than in my own deeds.
your humble duas!
Abdul Haq Abdul Kadir
Kyalami Glen, Gauteng
Johannesburg, South Africa