Manners of Talking to Others
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
(Friday speech delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC on April 24, 1998)
Islam has legislated a number of rules that a Muslim should abide by when speaking to others. A Muslim must always remember, without a doubt, that he will account for every good and bad thing that he says. He will be rewarded for his good words, and he will be punished for every bad word that he says. Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Quaaf, what can be translated as, “Not a word does he utter, but there is a watcher by him ready (to record it) .” (Verse 18)
The Messenger (S.A.W.) warned us about the seriousness of speaking. The prophet said, in an authentic hadith reported by Imams At-Tirmithi and Ibn-Majah, that, “A person may say a word that is pleasing to Allah (S.W.T.) and he may not think much of it, but Allah (S.W.T.) will, (because of that word), bestow his pleasure upon him on the Day of Judgment, and a person may say a word that is displeasing to Allah (S.W.T.), and he may not think much of it, but Allah will have, (because of that word) put his wrath and anger on him on the Day of Judgment.”
Speaking can be dangerous. So, we should control it within the limits of Islam, guided by Allah (S.W.T.) and His Messenger Muhammad (S.A.W.).
Here are some of the ways that we can control our speaking:
1- We should speak only if we our speech will be good and beneficial. We should remember the famous saying, “If you do not have anything good to say, don't say anything at all.” Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) said, “Whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him say good or remain silent.”
2-We should be truthful when we speak and refrain from lying: The believer should always tell the truth, and he should never lie even if when he is joking around. Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) said, "You must speak the truth for the truth leads to virtue and virtue leads to Paradise . One, who always speaks the truth and means the truth, is recorded as truthful with Allah. Keep away from the lie for the lie leads to evil and evil leads to the Hell Fire and one who continually tells a lie and intends to lie is recorded with Allah as a liar.”
3- We should refrain from using bad language or cursing at all times: Never use bad language, even if you are serious or just kidding around, because Allah hates the disobedient, and He hates the one who curses. Disobedient talk includes bad-mouthing others, and cursing. For this reason, the prophet (S.A.W.) warned us in an authentic hadith that , “The believer does not accuse, curse others, disobey Allah, nor bad-mouth others.” and in another authentic hadith , “The curse of a Muslim is a sign of disobedience.” Not only are we prohibited from cursing at the living, but we are also forbidden to curse at the dead. The prophet (S.A.W.) forbade us when he said; “Do not curse the dead; they will get it for what they had done (in this life)” and the prophet even (S.A.W.) ordered us in another hadith to, "Mention the good things about the dead.”
4- We should refrain from Gheebah or backbiting Gheebah means to talk about someone behind their back in a manner that he/she would dislike. Allah (S.W.T) says in Surat Al-Hujurat, in what could be translated as, "And do not backbite one another." Furthermore, we should refrain from Nameemah , which means spreading around rumors that would cause conflict among people. In fact, the prophet said in an authentic hadith , "He who makes Namimah does not enter Paradise .” And when someone is committing Gheebah or Nameemah, then we should stop listening to them, because if we keep listening, then we will share their sins.
5- We should refrain from swearing by the name of Allah unless it is absolutely necessary. Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Baqarah, what can be translated as, “And do not make Allah's (Name) an excuse in your oaths.” (Verse 224)
6- We should speak about matters within our knowledge and expertise: If you do not know what you are talking about, then remain silent. Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Isra'a, what can be translated as, “And do not follow [ say] that of which you have no knowledge.” (Verse 36)
7- We should not speak about matters that we hear about, without investigation: We always hear things from others that may not be so truthful or accurate, and some people talk about things even when they are doubtful. So in order to avoid sharing their sins, you should not speak without making sure that what people are saying is true. The prophet (S.A.W.) warns us in an authentic hadith, “It is enough sin a person commits when he talks about everything he hears.”
8- We should make sure that our goals from our speech should be to find the truth. We should not worry about how or who reveals the truth; just make sure that someone reveals the truth in the end.
9- We should refrain from involvement in senseless arguments in which the sole purpose is to put down others and to show superiority: Aimless arguments are signs of misguidance. (We seek refuge with Allah from it). For this reason, the prophet (S.A.W.) warned us in an authentic hadith reported by Imam At-Tirmithi, "A people did not get misguided after Allah had guided them, but they were aimlessly argumentative.” Stay away from arguments even if the truth is on your side, so that you can end a pointless argument. The prophet (S.A.W.) said in another authentic hadith reported by Imam Abu-Dawud, “I guarantee a house in the surroundings of Paradise for the one who stopped being aimlessly argumentative even if he is right.”
10- We should make our speech simple, clear, and avoid difficult words: There is no reason to use eloquent language or complicated words when no one understands; also, avoid hurtful words that put down others, because the prophet (S.A.W.) hates this kind of talk. The prophet (S.A.W.) said in a fair hadith reported by Imam At-Tirmithi, “The people whom I hate the most and who are the farthest from me on the Day of Judgment are those who talk uselessly, and those who put down others, and those who shows off when they talk.”
11- We should make sure our speech is clear, quiet, and audible enough for others to hear and understand: Sometimes, the prophet (S.A.W.) used to repeat important words three times to make sure that it was understood and he used to make his speech simple and easy for everyone to understand.
12- We should make sure our speech is serious and to joke around very sparingly: And if you do decide to be humorous, at least make truthful jokes just like the prophet (S.A.W.) used to do.
13- We should avoid interrupting others while they speak and we should listen to what they have to say until they finish their statement: Afterwards, you should comment on what they have said—only if necessary. We should not waste time by repeating or commenting on everything, everyone says.
14- We should talk and debate in a polite manner, avoiding words that hurt, put down, or humiliate others: All messengers ordered this good way of speech. When Allah sent Mousa and his brother Haroun to Pharaoh, he ordered them to speak to him nicely. Allah (S.W.T.) says in Surat Taha, “And speak to him (Pharaoh) mildly, perhaps he may accept caution or fear Allah.” (Verse 44) Always remember, you are no better than Mousa and Haroun and the person you are debating with is no worse than Pharaoh.
15- We should not reject what a person says just because their speech is mixed with right and wrong information: Never reject the truth, even if someone has mixed the truth with false details. Sort out the information that is truthful, and disregard what is dishonest or wrong. By doing this, we are establishing justice and fairness that Allah (S.W.T.) has commanded us to do.
16-We should not give our selves complements nor should we praise or pat ourselves on the backs in front of others: This type of behavior is a sign that a person is arrogant. We should avoid being arrogant, and be humble because Allah (S.W.T.) forbade us from it in Surat An-Najm, what can be translated as, “Do not complement yourself, He (Allah) knows best of those who are pious.” (Verse 32)
After listening to all this advice on how we should conduct our speech and our language, we should think twice before we speak. Furthermore, we should be more careful and remember that there are two angels sitting on our shoulders recording every word we utter. Think about this information and reflect on it the next time you are in a conversation, a debate, or in a meeting with others. By using this etiquette, you will always have fruitful speech.