Watch the Tongue Before Learning to Talk

Peace, one and all…


Here are some further resources for understanding the ethics of discussion, conversation and debate within the Islamic tradition.  These were taken from Imam Birgivi’s The Path of Muhammad (translated by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti, may God preserve him).

Imam Birgivi’s chapter (may Allah have mercy upon him) on The Use of the Tongue is enormous, running to some 56 pages!  This should give us some indication of the seriousness of the topic, and the care with which it has been handled by our forebears (God bless them all).  Insha Allah, I’ll be making substantial use of this book, though for now I merely want to whet our appetites (or rather warn our tongues).

Almighty God (Jalla Jalaluhu) says in His Noble Book:

‘Not a word he utters but there is by him a watcher at hand’ (Surah al-Kahf 18:18)

The Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) is reported to have said:

‘Watch your tongue’ (Abu Shaykh, Baihaqi, Abu Juhayfah)

God’s blessed Messenger (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) is also reported to have made the following statement:

‘Every morning when a person wakes up the whole body begs the tongue, ‘Fear God for our sake, for our salvation depends upon you!  If you are true, we will be truthful.  If you are false, we are doomed’ (Tabarani from Abu Sa’id al-Khudri)

Anas ibn Malik relates a hadith in which our Rasul-i Pak (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) said:

‘Learn to lock up your tongues in the prison of your mouths’ (Tabarani)

The following Prophetic Tradition strikes me as very powerful and seems doubly appropriate in this day and age.  Here, al-Nabi al-Karim (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) says:

‘Do not speak in a manner displeasing to your Lord.  Empty talk hardens people’s hearts, and people with hard hearts drift away from God’ (related by Ibn Umar and recorded by Tirmidhi)

The last two hadith are particularly relevant to a lot of contemporary internet ‘debates’.  In the first, the Beloved Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) is reported to have said:

‘When two believers fight and abuse each other verbally, the one who swore first is guilty.  But when the fight continues and the one who was initially attacked responds with curses, they are both guilty’ (from Abu Hurayrah, recorded in Sahih Muslim)

The last tradition is important because it refers to using profanities and obscenities.  Imam Birgivi himself has this to say:

‘Yet another obnoxious habit of the twisted tongue is to use bad words.  Even in one’s ordinary conversation; obscene words such as those which refer to private parts and bodily functions, when used out of context to insult or to ridicule or to make fun, are strictly forbidden in the morality of Islam.  Even if these words have to be used out of necessity, one must be discreet’.

The Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) is reported to have said:

‘Paradise closes its gates to the one who uses obscene words in his speech’ (related by Ibn Umar and recorded by Ibn Abi Dunya)

In closing, let us all watch our tongues closely and let us all turn back to God in repentance for our mistakes.  As the World War II slogan says: loose lips sink ships!

Ma’as salama,
Abdur Rahman

4 thoughts on “Watch the Tongue Before Learning to Talk

  1. Salaam Dear Bhai:
    I love this post, as it is a real sign of spiritual progress to guard your tongue, which is a very difficult lesson. May Allah increase our silence outwardly and our invoking of HIm inwardly.

    Ya Haqq!

  2. Salaams Ibn Ziad,

    Thank you for your encouragement. Jazak Allah, in this world and the next.

    The more we struggle against our own selves, the less time we’ll have to be getting into mischief (so to speak). ‘The devil makes work for idle hands’, as the saying goes…

    Abdur Rahman

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