The value of words

The Spirit Of Islam

Khalid Baig

Famous companion, Sayyidna Muaz ibn Jabal (RA), once asked the Holy Prophet (PBUH), “Tell me about an act that will cause me to enter Paradise and be protected from the Fire.” “You have indeed asked something profound,” responded the Prophet (PBUH), “But it will be easy on whom Allah makes it easy. Worship Allah and do not associate any partners with Him. Establish regular Salat, pay Zakat, fast during Ramadan, and perform Hajj.”
Then he asked “Shall I not tell you about the doors of good: fast is a shield (against sins and against Hell-fire), charity extinguishes sins like water extinguishes fire; and the midnight Salat (the voluntary Tahajjud Salat).” Then he recited this verse: “Their limbs do forsake their beds of sleep, while they call on their Lord, in Fear and Hope: and they spend (in charity) out of the sustenance which We have bestowed on them.” [As-Sajda 32:16]
Then he continued: “Shall I tell you about the beginning, the mainstay and the high point of this? The beginning is (acceptance of) Islam; It’s mainstay is Salat; it’s highest point is Jihad.” Then the Prophet (PBUH), asked: “Shall I tell you about the thing on which all this depends?” He, then held his tongue and said “Guard this.” Sayyidna Muaz ibn Jabal (RA), asked: “Shall we be questioned about our utterances?” On this the Prophet (PBUH), said, “Most people will be thrown into Hell—face down—because of the transgressions of their tongues.”
The ability to speak and express themselves separates human beings from animals. The proper use of this great gift—or its absence—separates the good and successful people from the bad and unsuccessful ones. “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should say something good or keep quiet.” [Bukhari]
Sayyidna Muaz question was about eternal success. In response, the hadith mentions both mandatory and voluntary good deeds that cover a person’s entire life. But then we are reminded that the outcome of all these depends upon guarding our tongue. In other words carelessness with the tongue can poke holes in all of our good deeds. Another hadith highlights the same issue in a different way: “Every morning all the limbs of a person plead with his tongue: ‘Fear Allah for our sake, for our fate is tied to yours. If you follow the straight path so shall we. And if you go astray so shall we.’”
Yet another hadith reminds us about the far reaching consequences of the words we utter. “Sometimes a person says something good but he does not realise how far will his words go. Yet it earns him the pleasure of Allah till the day he will meet Him. On the other hand sometimes a person says something bad, although he does not realise how far his words will go. Yet it earns him the wrath of Allah till the day he will meet Him.” [Tirmizi, Ibn Maja, Muwwata Imam Malik].
Islam reminded us that each and every word we utter is being recorded by the angels and one day we will have to stand accountable for all this record. It reminded that a person’s greatness lies not in how powerful he is with words but in how careful is he with them. It reminded that it is better to keep silent than to say something bad. And it is better to say something good than to keep quiet. Today, everywhere there are schools that can teach one how to read, write, and speak a language. But their students would never learn how to civilise this raw power; to use it only in promoting truth and spreading virtue; to never use it for promoting falsehood or spreading evil.
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