Among the many important life lessons that I learned from my mother, the one that I have benefited the most from since my reversion to Islam is, “If you don’t have anything good to say, then don’t say anything at all.”
“Striving for the past five years, to make my life conform to the tenants of Islam and to the Sunnah of the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, I now realize the true wisdom of this statement. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wasallam, said, “Let he who truly believes in Allah and the Last Day, speak good or be silent.” (Bukhari)
As a child, I half-heartedly followed this advice, because in my limited understanding I thought the lesson was just not to hurt anyone’s feelings. Now I understand that the lessons are innumerable.
Speech is the main method of communication among human beings, it is how we convey our desires and emotions. Our speech reflects our “true” personalities, because the tongue is the vessel from which the contents of the heart pour forth. If a person’s heart is good and pure, good will be reflected in their speech. But, if a persons’ heart is corrupted and evil, this too will be reflected in their speech. The tongue, if used correctly can be a source of a major blessing, and if it is used incorrectly, it can be a source of evil and a cause for eternal punishment, “Sometimes a person says a thing which pleases Allah, and in return Allah raises his status (rewards him); and sometimes a person says something which displeases Allah, and it takes him to hell.” (Bukhari)
Good speech is among the signs of true Imaan and it will be a source of success in the hereafter, as Allah says, “The Believers are successful, those who in their prayer have Khushu’ (fear of Allah) and those who refrain from vain speech.” [23:1-3]
The Prophet, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, has also warned us regarding leaving our tongues unrestrained. Many of Muslims don’t enter into conversations or discussions intending to commit major sins, yet very often even lawful talking leads to undesirable results. This is a common pitfall for many Muslims, especially those who indulge in idle and unnecessary talk. Alhamdulillah, Allah has not left us unarmed in this battle, for our benefit He has enclosed the tongue in its own small prison between our teeth and lips. Human nature demands that we feel apart of “the group” or sometimes we just want to add our “two cents,” but before we open the prison doors, and uncage the beast, we should remember that silence is often a virtue and the rewards can be great. “Whoever guards what is between his jaws and legs, I will guarantee him paradise.” (Bukhari) It would seem however, to anyone who happened into a gathering of Muslims, in any city in the world, that being successful and an open invitation to paradise by insufficient of an incentive for Muslims to incorporate good speech into their daily lives and more importantly their moral fiber. It is most unfortunate that indecent speech, back biting, and slander have become commonplace among the Muslims today, men and women. Satan has indeed succeeded in deceiving us into justifying this behavior as just a “little thing.” At least seventeen times a day we ask Allah to guide us to His Straight Path and to make us among those people with whom He is well pleased, how far off that path we must be when a major sin in the sight of Allah, becomes a “little thing” in our eyes. Maybe we have just forgotten the consequences.
The main consequence of vain and indecent speech is that it puts one under the threat of Allah’s punishment. Among the other consequences is that it corrupts and hardens the heart, it has been known to sever the ties of kinship and has also brought about the premature end to many friendships.
Allah, has given us the ability to perform both good and indecent speech. He has also put in man the fitrah to choose the former over the latter, His Pleasure from His Displeasure. Speech is a blessing from Allah, we must show gratitude for this great blessing by using it for spreading the ‘Salam,’ reading the Qur’an, enjoining good, forbidding evil, sincerely advising our brothers and sisters in faith and in all other things that bring us closer to Allah.
So the next time we open the prison doors, we should remember the invitation of Allah’s Messenger, sallallaahu alayhe wasallam, to a paradise wherein are things that no eyes have seen and no heart has felt, and that Allah has equated good speech with true eman, but as the weeks pass, if we forget this very important lesson and we are ever in doubt, the best thing is just to remain silent, to leave that which makes you doubt for that which does not.