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Idle talk

Idle talk
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Praise be to Allah, The Almighty, Who created man in a balanced form. He inspired and adorned him with the beautifying light of faith and taught him eloquence and made him a pioneer and superior being, providing him with a tongue to articulate what is in his heart.
Truly, from among the greatest blessings of Allah, The Almighty, the tongue, is one of His most sophisticated and unique creation of all organs in the body. Although small in size, its impact is paramount. Faith and disbelief, which stem from obedience and disobedience, respectively, cannot be known except through the testimony of this very organ.

Moreover, those who keep their tongues unchecked, fall prey to the devil’s influence, who causes them to say evil things, and leads them to an edge of a bank that is about to collapse, forcing them to fall down. Truly, no one escapes the evil of the tongue except those who restrict it to the constraints of Sharee'ah, using it only to utter what is beneficial for them in this life and the Hereafter, while preventing it from uttering anything that may bring any harm, sooner or later.

That is why the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, as narrated by Mu'aath, may Allah be pleased with him: “Could anything else cast people in the Hellfire face down” – in another version, “on their noses” – “except the harvests of their tongues?”

The phrase “harvests of their tongues” refers to the recompense and punishment for uttering what is prohibited. Each one of us plants good and evil acts with his own words and actions; and then, he/she reaps them on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever plants a good word or deed will harvest dignity, and whoever does the opposite only reaps regret. Thus, as the Hadeeth apparently indicates, the most common cause of people entering Hell is the sinful utterance of their tongues.

That includes Shirk (associating partners with Allah), the gravest sin in the sight of Allah, The Almighty, as well as what is connected to it: ignorantly speaking of Allah, The Almighty. It also encompasses false testimony, doing magic, slander, and other major and minor sins like lying, backbiting and tale-bearing. In fact, all sinful deeds are mostly associated with utterances that support them.

That is why many Ahadeeth refer to the virtue of silence. On one occasion, Sufyaan ibn ‘Abdullaah Ath-Thaqafi, may Allah be pleased with him, asked: “O Messenger of Allah, what is the most serious thing you fear for me?” The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, held his tongue and said, “This.” Similarly, another Companion, ‘Uqbah ibn ‘Aamir, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, how can I obtain salvation?’ The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, replied, ‘Control your tongue [from idle talk].’”

Under the chapter entitled Eemaan (faith) in Saheeh Al-Bukhari, it is stated that the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “A Muslim is the one who avoids harming other Muslims with his tongue and hand.”

He, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, also said: “Whoever believes in Allah, The Almighty, and the Last Day, should utter good words or remain silent.”

Perhaps, this is one of his more eloquent and concise sayings; this not only bears a command to say what is good, but provides the only alternative, which is to keep quiet. For, indeed, as Allah, The Almighty, Says (what means): {Man does not utter any word except that with him is an observer prepared [to record].} [Quran 50:18]

In fact, the stakes are higher; Sahl ibn Sa‘d, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “He who guarantees for me what is between his jaws and what is between his thighs, I guarantee him Paradise.” This means that the one who uses his or her tongue only regarding relevant matters and restrains it from what does not concern him or her, and guards his or her private parts against illicit acts, is promised Paradise by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

Ibn Battaal  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said, “This Hadeeth indicates that the greatest trial for man in life is [the responsibility of] his tongue and private parts. Therefore, whoever is protected from their evil is protected from the gravest evil.”

Moreover, Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, warned: “One might utter a word thinking it to be trivial but he thereby sinks [because of it] in Hell further than the distance of the east” ; the wording reported by Muslim  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him states: “farther than the distance between the east and the west.” Ibn ‘Abdul-Barr  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said that an example of such a word “is what a person utters before an unjust ruler [in order to please him].”

In another version of the Hadeeth, the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, mentioned that it may be “a word that he does not understand” , meaning he is unaware of whether it is good or bad, as explained by Shaykh Al-‘Izz ibn ‘Abdus-Salaam, who added, “Hence, it is prohibited for a Muslim to speak any [such] word.”

Commenting on this Hadeeth, An-Nawawi  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said,“[It] encourages a man to watch his tongue. If a person wants to say something, he should think of, and fully grasp, what it is before he utters a word. If he finds that there is benefit in it, he should say it, otherwise, he should hold his tongue.”

‘Abdullaah Ibn Mas‘ood, may Allah be pleased with him, would reportedly say: “By Allah, nothing needs prolonged confinement more than my tongue.” He also used to say, “O my tongue, say good words and you will succeed, and speak no evil and you will be secure; otherwise, you will regret.”
Another Companion, Abu Ad-Dardaa’, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Protect your ears from your mouth; indeed, you have two ears and one mouth, in order to hear more than you talk.”

Besides, Al-Hasan Al-Basri  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him said, “They used to say that the tongue of the believer is behind his heart; when he wants to say something, he contemplates it with his heart and then utters it. Whereas, the tongue of the hypocrite is in front of his heart; when he intends to say anything, he utters it before deliberating it in his heart.” He  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him went a step further, saying, “He who does not watch his tongue does not understand his religion.”

If you ask why the virtue of silence is so great, it is because the tongue, with hardly any effort, may lead to evil, lies, backbiting, ostentation, hypocrisy, obscenity, dispute, self-praise, indulgence in falsehood, controversy, distortion, harming people and violating their privacy and honor. Moreover, it has a charm that affects the heart, it is motivated by a person’s temperament and is influenced by Satan. Those who indulge in idle talk can barely control their tongues so as to utter what they like and restrain it from what is not pleasing to them. It is one of the ambiguous facts that danger lies in idle talk, whereas safety lies in silence, thus its enormous virtue.

Furthermore, keeping quiet strengthens a person’s zeal, maintains his or her gravity, helps him or her focus on meditation, remembrance of Allah, The Almighty, and worship, and it keeps him or her safe from the ill-effects of idle talk in the worldly life and its punishment in the Hereafter. Allah, The Almighty, Says (what means): {Man does not utter any word except that with him is an observer prepared [to record].} [Quran 18:50]

Finally, speech can be divided into four categories:

1- Purely harmful – one should remain silent instead of indulging in such a talk.

2- That which includes both harm and benefit – such speech must also be avoided because the repelling evil takes precedence over achieving benefit.

3- That which has neither harm nor benefit – this is idle talk and keeping oneself busy with it is a waste of time, which, in itself, is nothing short of a great loss.

4- Purely beneficial – after three-quarters of all categories of talk have been dismissed, it is only this that one must indulge in; however, a threat looms here, as well, since such talk may be subtly tainted with ostentation and self-praise, which is a grave risk.

May Allah bless us with a tongue that is always engaged in mentioning Him, and help us avoid idle talk and uttering what is of no benefit to the person in this worldly life and the Hereafter.


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