Muslims, one of the greatest blessings that Allah has given to human beings is language, the ability to speak, since, along with intellect, it elevates them above animals. But language is a double-edged sword. If man uses it well, he can elevate it to the highest; but its misuse can drag him to the lowest levels in this life and in the next, may Allah protect us! It is the organ of the body by which much good can be accomplished, for example through teaching and remembrance of Allah, but it also represents the greatest danger to each of us and to those around us.
The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, told Mu’adh ibn Jabal, may Allah be pleased with him, after speaking to him of the actions that lead to the Garden and protect from the Fire, “Do you not wish me to inform you about the basis of all this?” He said: “Of course, oh Messenger of Allah”. Then the Prophet took up his tongue and said, “Control this.” Mu’adh asked, “Prophet of Allah, shall we be reproached for what we say?” He said, “May your mother lose you, o Mu’adh! People will be thrown on their faces into the Hell on account of their tongues, o Mu’adh, is there any other reason why people should be thrown on her face in the fire, but because of what they harvest their tongues?”
And the Prophet (saws) also said: “Most of the wrong actions of the sons of Adam are/come from the tongue.”
The misuse of language is not only a danger to the individual but also a grave danger to the whole society and the community in which one lives. A lie, a slander, malicious comments harm society and can tear a nation apart much more quickly and effectively than an army ready to fight.
In fact, the slander that the hypocrites spread about Ummina ‘Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, represented a much greater danger to the nascent Muslim community than all the armed warriors of Quraysh and the other hostile tribes. Aisha was accompanying the Messenger of Allah on the return march from Banu al-Mustaliq when at a stop on the way back she lost her necklace and was left behind to look for it. The expedition, not noticing her absence, departed. Later, a man named Safwan bin Mutal passed by her and recognized her and offered her his camel to take her to where the bulk of the expedition was, on foot. Upon seeing her arrive in the company of this man, a group of hypocrites spread a slanderous rumour.
This lie reached everyone’s ears, including the Prophet, and threatened to tear society apart by reviving the ancient enmity between the two Medina tribes, Aws and Khazraj, each accusing the other of starting the rumour, to the point that a conflict, a civil war, seemed imminent and only a revelation resolved the situation.
Allah says in Surat an-Nur about slander: “There is a group of you who propagated the lie. Do not suppose it to be bad for you; rather it is good for you. Every one of them will incur the evil he has earned and the one who took it on himself to amplify it will receive a terrible punishment”. (24:11)
In this Ayat and the sixteen that follow it, Allah absolves Ummina ‘Aisha from the vile slander of the hypocrites against her.
The impact that language has to the outside world is clear, but we must also know that it has an impact inside of us. The words one pronounces have a profound effect on the heart: coarse and foul language hardens the heart, while lofty language purifies it; lies and calumnies corrode the heart, while Dhikr and the Qur’an give it life.
The Prophet said: “The Iman of Allah’s slave will not be right until his heart is right, and his heart will not be right until his tongue is right.”
The reason why the Prophet said that most of a person’s wrong actions come from his tongue is because there are many different ways in which the tongue can lead us to commit faults, often without us realizing it or it even sometimes may even appear to be justified to us. Because of the consequences bad words have, because of the ease with which they are caused and because of the damage we cause by them to other people, it is for this reason that we must be on our guard against them at all times.
The men of knowledge have numbered the misuses of language by more than twenty, including the use of obscene language, mockery, revealing the secrets of others, and arguing for one’s own good. Three of the worst are Namimah, Ghibah and Kadhib.
Namimah (Talebearing) is spreading malicious gossip among people, causing clashes between people. It is one of the most destructive uses of the language as it creates enmity and damages trust among Muslims. And it is reprehensible even when what is said is true.
Ghibah (Backbiting) is saying something about a person who is not present that he would not like to hear, even if what you say about him is true. This applies even if he is talking about his clothing or some other matter which may seem light or trivial, but which may be offensive to him.
Kadhib means to lie, to say falsehoods. This is by far the worst thing that language can do, for it is to deny the truth, and the Truth, al-Haqq, is one of the names of Allah. And there is no small, harmless lie, because small lies inevitably lead to larger ones.
The Prophet (saws) said: “Beware of lying, for lying leads to Fujur (wickedness) and Fujur leads to Fire. And man keeps on telling lies until he is written as a liar in front of Allah.”
When the Prophet (saws) was asked if a believer could be a coward or a miser, he answered by saying: “Yes”; but when asked if he could be a liar, he answered: “No”.
Similarly, when asked on another occasion if a believer could steal or fornicate, he replied: “Yes”, but when asked if he could lie, he replied: “No”. In other words, the lie and the Iman [trust / belief in Allah] exclude each other.
Muslims, measure your words well before pronouncing them. Do not talk about others unless it is to say something good, and do not promise anything if you do not intend to keep it.
Remember what the Messenger of Allah (saws) said:
“He who believes in Allah and on the Last Day says something good or remains silent.”
In the first Khutba, we have mentioned some of the dangers that language represents for us, but that does not mean that language is something bad in itself. No, it is simply an instrument whose consequences depend on our use of it.
Language, at its highest point, is the tool of transmission, it is the vehicle by which the eternal words of Allah entered this created world. And it is the means by which Din has been preserved throughout the centuries and the principal means by which Allah gives us understanding and comprehension. I said earlier that some people of knowledge counted twenty misuses of language. The good uses of language, however, are innumerable, and fall within what the Prophet meant when he said, “Let him say something good.” Let us now mention a few of them:
1. The recitation of the Noble Qur’an. Abdallah ibn’ Amr ibn al-‘As, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “When someone recites the Qur’an, it is as if he has been inspired by the prophecy, even though he has not really received revelation.”
2. The remembrance of Allah. When the Prophet (saws) was asked what kind of action was best, he replied: “When you approach death let your tongue be supple with the remembrance of Allah.”
3. Prayer for the Prophet, as we heard in last week’s Khutba. Salallahu alaihi wa salam said: “If anyone prays for me a hundred times a day, Allah will satisfy one hundred needs: seventy in Akhira and thirty in Dunya.”
4. Command the right and prevent the reprehensible. For this is the characteristic with which Allah describes the best community when he says: “You are the best nation ever to be produced before mankind. You enjoin the right, forbid the wrong and believe in Allah.” (3:110)
5.Da’wa. Allah says, “Who could say anything better than someone who summons to Allah?” (41:33)
6. Sidq: Telling the truth. The Prophet (saws) said:
“You must have truth because truth leads to Birr (goodness, virtue), and Birr leads to the Garden. And a man continues to speak the truth until it is written as a Siddiq, a person of truth, with Allah.” And a man continues to speak the truth until he is written as a Siddiq, a person of truth, with Allah.”
These are just some of the best uses of language. We could mention Nasiha (good advice), pronouncing kind words, greetings, and every word that instils Iman, calmness, teaching, knowledge and that makes love for Allah and for people grow, strengthening the bonds between us. All of these are important and preserve the welfare of society and the community.
May Allah protect us from our tongues and make them means to obtain His contentment and reward and not His wrath and punishment! May Allah protect our communities from slander and lies and protect and bless the people who are the object of them! And may our tongues be a means to unite the Muslims!