Words — nothing more than the coming together of letters into syllables. The stringing of words into phrases, sentences, paragraphs.
Words — the vehicles for ideas, inspiration and movements of change.
It is through words the miracle of the Quran is preserved in, the very thing that has allowed Islam to travel throughout the world and touch souls.
The softest organ in our body has the power to mend hearts, spark revolutions and create nations.
But just as powerful as words may be, they are equally detrimental. It is words which are the biggest demise for humans.
“The greatest number of sins of the son of Adam are as a result of their tongue”. (Sahih)
The prophet was asked “What condemns most people to Hellfire?” He answered, “The tongue and the genitals.” (al-Tirmidhī)
The thought that a single word you may utter has the potential to stick to someone for all of eternity is equally a terrifying and incredible one.
When I first began my blog journey in the MSA and was trying to figure out how everything worked, I hesitantly directed some of my energy and passion into replying to a message about revamping the way things are done around here. Someone from the team replied to my comment and said “The revolution has begun …”.
Somehow that was enough for me, it is amazing to think of the impacts that one single line had on inspiring me and moving me to dedicate myself entirely to this team.
Reflecting on this now, I can think of an array of similar experiences and words that people have uttered which have never left me. I can think of the stories of others and how they have told me of the words that have never left them.
My sister once told me that many years ago she was at a small MSA event at university and the speaker said something very simple and profound “A good friend is someone who after you spend time with, you leave wanting to be better”. She told me this one sentence became something that never left her, it was something that sort of became a yardstick for the friends she chose and was what increased her gratitude she had for them. It was these same words that moved her, which moved hearts again years later — mine. Funnily enough, it is now a phrase I too always seem to remember and use to navigate my own relationships with.
Powerful words are chains.
My English teacher once told me, that an older brother once told him that Islam was carried through the back of the youth and it will once more be revived through the youth. That struck him and impacted the person he became. And when he told me this story years later, it never left me either. It went on to genuinely impact the person I too have become and serve as a constant reminder of the power and responsibility of our youth.
All chain reactions.
Words can truly be amazing and terrifying. One word may mean absolutely nothing to us, it might just slip out from our tongue — but it could deeply impact the lives of one or many others. Both positively or negatively.
Do you know the story of what inspired Imam Bukhari to compile the most authentic and valuable collection of Hadith to our ummah? He was a student of knowledge at a masjid where his teacher once complained how difficult it was to distinguish authentic and inauthentic Hadith, “if only one person would collect them all and compile them into one book!”. This casual comment, these words were what inspired the legendary Imam Bukhari to embark on a 16-year journey around the world doing exactly this.
Stories like this leave me speechless. Words are sadakha jariya (ongoing charity). You never know who you may inspire or terrifyingly — who you may hurt and inflict evil upon.
“A person may speak a word that is so pleasing to Allah, he does not give it much consideration, Allah elevates him in degrees because of it And a person may speak a word that Angers Allah, he does not give it much consideration, he is thrown because of it in the depth of the Fire of Jahanam” (Reported by Imam al Bukhari.)
Let that sink in.
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him say good words or remain silent.”
It is that simple.
It is time to interrogate ourselves, do we speak more than what is necessary?
We should only aim for our words to move hearts to goodness, nothing else. We must travel through life, experiences, platforms, relationships trying to have this Hadith engraved into our souls.
“There is not a day upon which the sun rises (every day) but all the limbs of the children of Adam address the tongue begging it thus: Fear Allah for our sake if you’re straight we will be straight and if you are crooked, we will be crooked.”
The pious predecessors said “If we were to realise that words are actually actions, we would be a lot more careful with our words”.
Understand words are not just empty figments of air that come out of our mouths, disappear into nothingness and have no consequences.
Every single word that comes out of our mouths are ACTIONS that we will one day be held accountable for. Words are actions. You wouldn’t forget if you missed a prayer, stole something, committed adultery — but you do forget the words that roll off your tongue.
This makes our tongue — the tiniest limb in our body the heaviest and of the most dangerous.
It is so subtle yet so deadly.
With major sins — thought, effort, planning, a degree of deliberation is needed for the action to be taken. But not words. We don’t realise, remember or reflect on the thousands of things we say daily. With social media — the situation only becomes worse, every text we send, caption we share, comment we post, thread we are active in is a fitnah (trial). The words we type hold the same weight of the words we speak. Do we not think we will be held accountable for our actions behind a screen?
Do we not remember the angels that witness and write, witness and write — every word we utter?
Surat Qaaf 50:18 “He does not utter a single word without a watcher by him, pen in hand.”
Before we speak any word we should put it into perspective and imagine what emotion it will induce on the day of Judgement. Do we realise on the day of Judgement we will read this book that we are authoring? We must ask ourselves, is it a book we will be proud of?
Do we process the gravity of what this implies? Unfortunately, we most definitely do not because this point would not have been necessary to make if that was the case.
Abdullah b. Masud took an oath in the name of Allah and said: “By Allah there is nothing on the face of the earth that is of greater need of imprisonment than the tongue”
Never speak when you are emotional, your words will have much more weight. That action of holding your tongue in a moment of emotion is a crucial one.
Sometimes silence is the best response, never underestimate the virtues of silence.
The prophet was asked “What is the means of salvation?” He replied “hold your tongue!”
Be aware of:
➢ Talking unnecessarily
➢ Involving Oneself in Matters that do not concern us
➢ Speaking of sins and evil matters
➢ Vulgarity and obscene language
➢ Making False promises
➢ Ridiculing & Mockery
➢ Revealing secrets
➢ Arguments, Disputes, Fighting
➢ Excessive Questioning
➢ Singing and Music
➢ Backbiting — Ghaybah
➢ Gossip — Namimah
➢ Lying — Kathib
“No one’s Iman will be correct unless his heart is correct, and no one’s heart is correct unless his tongue is correct.”
You may be feeling hopeless now, worried about what your next words will be, whether you should choose silence as a closer companion.
But remember — the world, Islam, this article wouldn’t have been possible without words.
The key is balance, always balance.
“Always adopt a middle, moderate, regular course, whereby you will reach your target (of paradise).” — Sahih Al-Bukhari
We must be constantly conscious and constantly be holding ourselves accountable for our words. But at the same time silence cannot be our only remedy, because Islam is about dawah, speech, communicating with others. We are not allowed to keep everything to ourselves.
The tongue is a great asset, wonder and blessing from Allah. It can be used for so much good. It is the only means of confirming one’s eaman (the shahadah), reciting the quran (rewards come from moving your tongue), it is a great means to call people to Allah, dhikr, athan, advice, etc.
After reading this article, renew your intention and ask Allah to make it easy for you. Make it a conscious habit in your life — to aim to say things that are useful instead of trying to stop speaking at all.
Reflect, plan, be diplomatic with your words and always seek help from Allah.
How will you wield your words?
May Allah and the people forgive us for the wrong words we have spoken, may Allah save us from the dangers of the tongue. May Allah place barakah and beauty in our words.