Modesty of tongue
God commands us, âO you who believe! Fear Allah, and be with those who are true in words and deeds.â In His book, Allah frequently commands the practice of courtesy in speech, offering greetings, returning greetings with equal or greater courtesy, using gentle words, arguing with opponents in a pleasant manner and returning evil with good.
The Quran equates slandering one another and backbiting to eating the flesh of oneâs dead brother. It
encourages the use of kind words and the act of forgiveness.
Prophet Mohammed said, âWhoever believes in Allah and in the last day, let him never annoy his neighbour. And whoever believes in Allah and in the last day, let him generously honour his guest. And whoever believes in Allah and in the last day, let him speak that which is good or else keep quiet.â
This saying calls upon us to observe the best of conduct in both action and speech. It endeavours to spread goodwill and harmony amongst people. It teaches us to weigh our words and think twice before we speak so that conversations do no result in negative thought and behaviour.
The Messenger of Allah also said: âMost of the sins of the children of Adam are from the tongue.â Truthfulness in speech is a sign of a friend of God for it leads to righteousness and piety. Hazrat Ali would say that the wiser a man is, the less he will speak.
Sufis say silence is of two kinds â outer silence and silence of the heart. The heart of the one who trusts completely in God is silent, not demanding anything. The heart of a Gnostic is silent in the face of divine decree through the attribute of harmony. Those engaged in self-mortification and ascetic exercises prefer to remain silent, knowing of the dangers inherent in words. They also know of the selfâs pleasure in looking for praise and acknowledgement for displaying the beauty of oneâs eloquence.
A disciple of Dhuân Nun, the early Egyptian Sufi master, questioned, âWho is the best protector of the heart?â He replied, âThe one who is in most possession of his tongue.â Another famed Sufi said, âSilence is the language of forbearance. Learn silence just as you learnt speech. If speech guides you, silence will protect you.â It is said that modesty of the tongue is its silence.
Itâs a good exercise to practise some silence every day. Some meditative quietness gives us time to reflect on our actions, nature and our relationships with all living creatures. The way of silence helps tear one more veil that separates us from our Creator.