There is an English phrase ‘You are what you eat’. I beg to differ. I believe it should be ‘You are what you utter’. Give me the next few minutes to explain why.
The boneless tongue has the ability to make peace and end wars. It has the ability to destroy families and lifelong friendships. It also the ability to decide between paradise and hell-fire.
What is really unique about speech of the tongue is that, in most cases, it’s blurted out. That is why it is such an effective tool of Shaytaan. Shaytaan won’t waste his time trying to convince us to consume alcohol. His experience tells him that most of us won’t even give it a second thought. Rather, he will use his wisdom and get us involved in actions that we don’t even realise is a sin. Let’s call it a deceptive sin. One way he successfully does this is by making us misuse out tongues. In fact, he does it so brilliantly that Nabi ﷺ has said in a hadith:
“Whoever guarantees me the protection of the piece of flesh between his thighs (Private parts – Zina) and the piece of flesh between his jaws (control of the tongue), I guarantee him Paradise” (Bukhari)
On a side note, scholars mention that Nabi ﷺ indicating towards the most private part of one’s body in such a discreet manner shows the modesty in his speech.
Fortunately, Nabi ﷺ has also informed us of the various traps that we can fall in. Below, I give you five ways by which we can misuse our tongues and fall prey to Shaytaan’s trap. These are five types of people that Nabi ﷺ has spoken about in the Hadith. Of course, it’s not the only five that has been discussed, but it is five that are relevant…
1. The Insulter
Who doesn’t like laughter? We all do. But there is a limit to it. A joke makes all laugh but when a joke turns into an insult, it makes Shaytaan laugh. I don’t see a problem with the good old ‘Van De Merwe’ jokes but once people’s names are used, it becomes serious. When that lady’s obesity is mocked, it’s not a joke anymore. When that man’s complexion is laughed at, Shaytaan will be the only one smiling at the end of the day. Even if it’s the truth, it’s still mockery…
One of the wives of Nabi ﷺ , Safiyyah R.A., was once referred to as ‘Qaseerah’ which literally translates to ‘shorty’. This of course broke her heart. Nabi ﷺ informed that person
“…You have uttered such a word that if it has to be dropped into the oceans, it will turn the oceans bitter” (Abu Dawud)
The next time we decide to come out with an avalanche of ‘you so fat…’ jokes or pass a comment to the lady who’s been trying her best to keep her weight down, let’s keep in mind that obese or lean, tall or short, everyone has a heart.
2. The Two-Face
‘Ay I don’t know what kind of people they are. Breakfast time just one lousy cup of tea and rusks. No biscuits and cakes.’
All this after staying for free at their house for an entire week. What’s worst is at their house, the person said the same thing about the people that he/she is currently staying with. The interesting thing is in the Hadith the word ‘Tha Wajhayn’ is used. It literally translates to mean a person who possesses two faces. Besides the gossiping part in the above scenario, the fact that a person could play ‘good guy’ at each house says a lot about the person. If you do it, it say a lot about you. How would you define a two-face. The Hadith gives us a definition, and a warning…
“On the day of Judgement, you will find the two-faced lot to be the worst of people, those that go to one group with one face and then meet the next group with a different face.” (Bukhari)
In the above Hadith, we find that Nabi ﷺ has referred to such people as the worst of people. This of course also means that their punishment will be from among the worst. This also means that from among the best of people will be the direct opposite, those people that speak good wherever they go.
3. The Judge
Picture the common scenario in a courtroom. One seat for the judge and opposite him, about a hundred seats for the others involved in the case. If we could help it, we’ll turn the tables around. One seat for a person involved and about a hundred for the judges.
Yes, that’s the unfortunate reality. There is an incident mentioned in the Hadith of a pious man who once told a sinner “you will never enter Jannah”. On the day of Qiyaamah, our Most Merciful Allah will ask this man what authority did he have to make Allah’s decisions and in this way the pious man will be sent to Jahannum while the sinner will be sent to Jannah.
Remember, we have no idea what lives in a person’s heart. I always say that sometimes those closest to Allah are the most distant from people. Those that we don’t worry about, those that the community doesn’t care about, those are known as ‘write-offs’, sometimes they could be the closest to Allah.
If the above is not a good enough reason, then ponder over this narration…
“He who accuses his brother of a sin (that he has made Taubah from) will not die until he gets involved in that same sin.”
In simple words, if you accuse a man or lady of Zina, while they already made Taubah for their sins, you will not die until you get involved in Zina. This is regarding those that really did commit the sin. Imagine judging a person regarding a sin that wasn’t even committed.
4. The Chatterbox
This one needs to be understood correctly. There is nothing wrong with talking a lot. Some people are naturally quiet and some are naturally talkative. The reason I mentioned this type of people is because when a person talks a lot, there is a greater chance of uttering the wrong statement. A Hadith states…
“A man with the habit of silence (with average Ibaadat) is better off than a man with sixty years of Nafl Ibaadat (but he talks a lot).” (Mishkaat)
In the above Hadith, two types of people are being compared. The one has average Ibaadat. This means that he performs his Fardh Salaah and nothing more. He fasts in Ramdaan and nothing more. He gives his Fardh Zakaat and nothing more. Along with his average Ibaadat, he has the ability to control his tongue.
On the other hand, there is a man who, along with his Fardh Salaah, has sixty years of Nafl Salaah to his name. Along with his Fardh fasts, he has sixty years of Nafl fasts to his name. However, he talks a lot.
Despite not having any Nafl Ibaadat to his name, the man who speaks less is superior. But why? Because the Hadith teaches us that the misuse of our tongue destroys our Ibaadat. Therefore, the man who speaks less, even though he has minimal Ibaadat, he is guaranteed to see his Ibaadat after his death. The man that speaks a lot, he has no guarantee of ever seeing his sixty years of Ibaadat. There is a chance that his tongue could destroy his Ibaadat and come death, he will find nothing waiting for him in the hereafter.
Once again, nothing wrong in being a chatterbox, but the more you talk, the greater your chances of destroying your ibaadat.
5. The Biter
I left the most common vice of the tongue for last. The Hadith tells us that backbiting or gossip is not only disliked by Allah, but it also destroys your good deeds.
Most people misunderstand the definition of backbiting. When someone tells them to stop, they say “But it’s the truth!”
Let’s take a closer look at the definition of backbiting. A statement will be classified as backbiting when…
A) The person or people being spoken about are not aware of the discussion.
B) The person or people being spoken about will not like it if they found out about the discussion.
C) That which is mentioned in the discussion is true.*
*If it is false info, it is much worse than backbiting. In this case, along with backbiting, it falls under the category of ‘spreading rumours’ and ‘false accusations/slander’.
Ibn Abbas R.A. narrates: “Two people were performing Salaah while they were fasting. When Nabi S.A.W. completed his Salaah, he called them and asked them to repeat their Wudhu and Salaah. He also told them to keep Qadha of their fasts. They asked: What is the reason for this oh messenger of Allah. Nabi S.A.W. replied: The two of you were gossiping about a certain person.” (Mishkaat)
Allah informed Nabi ﷺ about these two individuals. This narration is a serious warning to us. How many times do we unknowingly involve ourselves in backbiting. Remember, backbiting is not about speaking a lie. Backbiting is speaking the truth behind someone’s back.
We might meet our friends outside the Masjid and innocently swim into a discussion about the neighbour’s new car. “Since he got his new wheels, he acts like he don’t know us. Even worst, when he comes to the shop he gets off the car in slow motion making sure everyone sees him.”
Sometimes, we end up gossiping in the person’s presence. Like when we give eye indications to our sister or cousin about a certain aunty by the table when she dishes out a 3rd helping.
Both these examples fall within the definition provided. Yes, the later scenario doesn’t technically involve a conversation but indications via the eyes or hands signify a silent discussion. Whether we at a friend’s house house or at a family function, Shaytaan will find a way for gossip to creep into our discussions. Not only that, he will also make it juicy and irresistible. You not even safe on when chatting or browsing.
Shaytaan, will use this tool to destroy our actions. When he doesn’t succeed in overpowering us at the time of Fajr, he will try his best to make us gossip after Fajr so that we destroy the good deed of Fajr.
This is why i feel the saying should be ‘You are what you utter’. Good, clean, pure words points towards a person’s inner beauty. ‘Ugly’ is commonly linked to the face. How wrong are we. It rightfully should be linked to the tongue.
Yusuf Omar – Opinion / radioislam.org.za