The morals of the believers are not supposed to come into play exclusively at times of ease and convenience. In fact, true morality self-manifests during the moments of hardship, adversity, and crisis. Some people may seem well-mannered with a polite attitude and bashful conduct as long as they are calm and the surrounding circumstances are convenient and favorable. However, when they are subjected to anger or experience hardship, unfortunate conditions, and the like of adverse circumstances, they turn into completely different people, far from the well-mannered people you knew! Sadly, a person (who was once well-mannered) would turn into a bad-tempered, fierce, verbally abusive, harsh, intimidating, and vulgar transgressor! We see this saddening transformation quite often, and the extent to which someone’s character can change is quite shocking. Is this how distant Islamic morality is from our hearts and souls, due to which it fails to change such qualities?
It was narrated on the authority of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ood, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Messenger of Allah said: “A believer is neither a slanderer nor a curser, nor is he obscene or vulgar.” [Saheeh At-Tirmithi: 1977] Ibn Battaal said that ‘obscene’ means the one who is verbally abusive and commits obscene actions. ‘Vulgar’ means foul-mouthed (An-Nihaayah). How could a person turn into one who fits such a bad description denounced by the Prophet in a single moment because of a situation or a word or a dispute!
We used to think that foolish people are those who are poorly-educated, ill-mannered, and have these sinful (evil) qualities. However, we were shocked to find many people whom we thought to be educated fitting the description as well!
Al-Qurtubi said: “A vulgar, foul-mouthed person is described as foolish because vulgarity is only compatible with ignorance and small-mindedness.”
Some people would argue that their obscenity and vulgarity are justified by the fact that they have been angered, that the situation called for it, that other people triggered them by their misbehavior, or that calmness in such situations is harmful and passive! There is no doubt that this is an erroneous way of thinking that may incur evil consequences on people. The Prophet said: “…and if a man verbally abuses you or shames you for something in you that he knows about, do not shame him for something in him that you know about; let him bear the evil consequences of it (his abuse), and you receive the reward for it, so do not curse.” [Saheeh At-Targheeb: 2782]
Al-Qaari said: “Obscenity and vulgarity are entirely blameworthy qualities that are unbecoming of the believers…” He added: “He who is guided by Allah should avoid it (obscenity and vulgarity); accustom his tongue to good, polite language; and follow the example of the Prophets of Allah, for they are the most excellent role models.” [Mirqaat Al-Mafaateeh]
There are also people who use foul, vulgar, and reprehensible words under the pretext that they were commonly used by the early Arabs! Al-Maawardi said: “What falls into the category of vulgarity and foul language in terms of the obligation of avoiding it is all what seems disgraceful and reprehensible, even if it may be considered good and acceptable after search and deliberative contemplation.”
An-Nawawi said: “Scholars said that euphemisms should be used in such situations when a person would feel ashamed to use overt language. Accordingly, sexual intercourse should be euphemistically referred to as engaging in intimacy, consummation of marriage, cohabitation, and the like… Likewise, urinating and defecating should be euphemistically referred to as answering the call of nature or relieving oneself instead of using overt words like urine or stool. Similarly, euphemism should be used for the (physical) defects that people may be ashamed to express overtly, such as leprosy, halitosis, body odor, and the like. Beautiful euphemistic expressions that convey the intended meaning should be used in situations like the abovementioned ones and their like. Know that such euphemisms may be used as long as there is no need to use overt language. If there is a need to use it for the purpose of clarification and education and it is feared that the addressee would not understand metaphors or would understand something different, then, in this case, one should use overt language instead to ensure that the addressee understands the correct meaning, and this is the rationale for using overt language in some Ahadeeth. As explained above, this was to ensure that the addressee understands the intended meaning in these contexts, as it should be given priority over mere politeness.” [Al-Athkaar]
The people who need adherence to morality the most are the callers to Allah. It is unbecoming of them to act contrary to their moral principles, and their refined morality should rather manifest in all situations, regardless of how intense those situations are and no matter how wicked their opponents may be. The Prophet said: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him speak good or remain silent.” [Saheeh Al-Bukhaari: 6475] These, then, are the distinct manners of the believers. A believer should always speak good or remain silent. Speaking good has many manifestations, and silence could be of great benefit when no good could be spoken.
Verily, bashfulness is at the very core of the believers’ morality and the central moral value of Islam. Whenever a person adheres to bashfulness, he assumes control of himself and (becomes able to) change his bad morals. Therefore, we should be perfectly mindful of integrating it in educational curricula and practicing it in our lives. The Messenger of Allah said: “Bashfulness is not to be found in anything but that it adorns it, and obscenity is not to be found in anything but that it mars it.” [At-Tamheed: 9/257]
‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ood, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “The most wicked quality a believer may have is obscenity.” It is the most wicked of all bad morals because it makes a person unsafe (to be around) and his reactions would not be trusted.
Al-Ahnaf ibn Qays said: “Shall I tell you what the worst diseases are? They are obscenity and bad moral character.” According to this wise man, Al-Ahnaf ibn Qays, obscenity is among the most serious diseases to which people should assign care to treat it.
Al-Qaasimi said: “A person’s speech mirrors his virtues and soundness of his mind. Therefore, you should confine your speech to what is good, speak little, and beware of repugnant language as it alienates the honorable people from you and instead attracts the wicked ones to you.”