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Guarding the Tongue

Author: Imaam Yahyaa Ibn Sharaf an-Nawawee

Source: Al-Manhaj
Translator: Abu Maryam Isma’eel Alarcon

Published: Monday 3rd August, 2015


Chapter: Guarding The Tongue

Allaah the Most High says:

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“Not a word does one utter, except that there is an (angel) Watching, Ready to record it.” [Surah Qaaf: 18]


And He says:

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“Verily, your Lord is Ever-Watchful.” [Surah Al-Fajr: 14]


I have mentioned previously, what Allaah made easy for me from the recommended types of remembrances. I also wanted to include along with that, the things that are disliked and forbidden in one’s speech. This is in order that this book can be complete in regards to the ruling s concerning one’s verbal statements, and comprehensive in regards to explaining their different categories. So I will mention some aspects about them that every Muslim must be aware of. A majority of the things I will state here are already well known, and for this reason, I will not include the evidences for most of them. Thus, with Allaah lies the success.

Know that every individual who falls under the category of being responsible for his actions (mukallaf) must guard his tongue from all types of speech, except for that speech which consists predominantly of some benefit. So in the situation that speaking and refraining from speech are both found to contain the same amount of benefit within them, then the Sunnah is to refrain from it, altogether. This is because the allowable speech (equal in benefit and harm) paves the way towards that which is forbidden as well as disliked. Rather, in most cases, this will be the result, and applying safety, at that point, will not be able to soothe it in the least.

Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه‎) reported that the Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم) said:

"Whosoever believes in Allaah and the Last Day, then let him speak good or remain silent."[/i] [1]


This hadeeth, of which the scholars have agreed upon its authenticity, is a clear-cut proof that one should not talk, unless his speech is good – and that is the speech that consists predominantly of benefit. So if one has doubt as to whether or not his speech consists of benefit, then he should not speak.

Imaam Ash-Shaafi'ee (رحمه الله) said:

"When one desires to talk, then it is upon him to think before he speaks. If there is beneficial good in what he will say, then he should speak. And if he has doubt about that, then he must not speak until he clears that doubt (by making his speech good)."


Abu Moosaa Al-Ash'aree (رضي الله عنه‎) reported:

"I said: 'O Messenger of Allaah! Which of the Muslims is best?' He (صلى الله علیه وسلم) responded: 'He whose tongue and hand the Muslims are safe from.'" [2]


Sahl Ibn Sa'ad (رضي الله عنه‎) reported that Allaah’s Messenger (صلى الله علیه وسلم) said:

"Whoever can guarantee for me (that he will guard) what is between his jaws (tongue) and what is between his legs (private parts), I will guarantee for him Paradise." [3]


Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه‎) reported that he heard the Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم) say:

"Indeed, the servant (of Allaah) will speak a word, while being unaware of (its consequences), and due to it, he will be cast into the Hellfire, farther than the distance between the east and the west." [4]


In the narration of Al-Bukhaaree, there only occur the words: “farther than the distance between the west” without mentioning the east. The meaning of "while being unaware" is that he does not stop to consider whether his speech is good or not.

Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه‎) reported that the Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم) said:

"Indeed, the servant will speak words that are pleasing to Allaah, due to which he will be given a condition in which Allaah will raise him many levels. And indeed, the servant will speak words that are displeasing to Allaah, due to which he will not be given a good condition, but (instead) be thrown into the Hellfire." [5]


It is reported in the Muwatta of Imaam Maalik and the books of At-Tirmidhee and Ibn Maajah from Bilaal Ibn Al-Haarith Al-Muznee (رضي الله عنه‎) that the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله علیه وسلم) said:

"Indeed, a man will speak with words that are pleasing to Allaah and by which he is not aware of what he has attained by it. Due to it, Allaah will record for him His Contentment (for him) until the day that he encounters Him. And indeed, a man will speak with words that are displeasing to Allaah by which he is not aware of what he has attained by it. Due to it, Allaah will record for him His Discontentment (with him) until the day that he encounters Him." [6]


Sufyaan Ibn 'Abdillaah (رضي الله عنه‎) reported that he said:

“O Messenger of Allaah, tell me of a matter that I may hold fast onto.” He (صلى الله علیه وسلم) said: “Say: ‘I believe in Allaah’, and then remain steadfast (on that).” I said: 'O Messenger of Allaah, what is the most serious thing that I should fear for myself?” So he took a hold of his tongue and said: ‘This.’[7]


At-Tirmidhee said: “This hadeeth is hasan saheeh.”

Ibn 'Umar ((رضي الله عنهما)) reported that Allaah’s Messenger (صلى الله علیه وسلم) said:

"Do not talk much without remembering Allaah, for indeed, too much talk without the remembrance of Allaah hardens the heart. And indeed the people who are farthest away from Allaah are the ones who have hardened hearts." [8]


Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه‎) reported that the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله علیه وسلم) said:

"Whosoever is granted protection by Allaah from the evil of what is between his jaws and from the evil of what is between his legs, will enter Paradise." [9]


At-Tirmidhee said the hadeeth was hasan.

'Uqbah Ibn 'Aamir (رضي الله عنه‎) reported:

"I said: 'O Messenger of Allaah, how does one attain salvation?' He (صلى الله علیه وسلم) responded: 'Restrain your tongue, remain in your home and weep over your sins.'" [10]


Abu Sa'eed Al-Khudree (رضي الله عنه‎) reported that the Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم) said:

“When the Son of Aadam wakes from his sleep, all of his body parts seek refuge from his tongue, saying: ‘Fear Allaah with regard to us, for indeed we are part of you. So if you are upright, then we will be upright and if you are corrupt, then we shall be corrupt.’” [11]


Umm Habeebah (رضي الله عنها) reported that the Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم) said:

“Every speech of the Son of Aadam is against him not for him, except for commanding good and forbidding evil or the remembrance of Allaah, may He be Exalted.” [12]


Mu’aadh Ibn Jabal (رضي الله عنه‎) reported:

“I said: ‘O Messenger of Allaah! Tell me of an act that will take me to Paradise and keep me away from the Hellfire.’ He said: ‘You have asked me about a major matter. But it is easy for he whom Allaah, may He be Exalted, makes it easy for. You must worship Allaah, associating nothing with him. You must perform the prayers and pay the Zakaat. You must fast in Ramadaan and perform the Hajj to the House (Ka’abah).’ Then he (صلى الله علیه وسلم) said: ‘Shall I not show you the gates of goodness? Fasting is a shield; charity extinguishes sin as water extinguishes fire; and (so does) the praying of a man in the depths of the night.’ Then he (صلى الله علیه وسلم) recited:

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‘(Those) who forsake their beds to cry unto their Lord in fear and hope, and spend of what We have bestowed upon them. No soul knows what is kept hidden for them of joy, as a reward for what they used to do.’ [Surah As-Sajdah: 16]


Then he (صلى الله علیه وسلم) said:

‘Shall I not tell you of the peak of the matter, its pillar and its uppermost part?’ I said: ‘Yes, O Messenger of Allaah!’ He said: ‘The peak of the matter is Islaam. The pillar is prayer and its uppermost part is Jihaad. Shall I not tell you of what controls all that?’ I said: ‘Yes, O Messenger of Allaah.’ So he took a hold of his tongue, and said: ‘Restrain this!’ I said: ‘O Prophet of Allaah, will we be held accountable for what we say?’ He (صلى الله علیه وسلم) said: ‘May your mother be bereaved of you, O Mu’aadh! Is there anything that causes people to be dragged on their faces – or he said – on their noses into Hellfire other than the harvests of their tongues?’[13]


Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه‎) reported that the Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم) said:

“From the goodness of an individual’s Islaam is that he abandons (talking about) those things which do not concern him.” [14]


‘Abdullaah Ibn ‘Amr Ibn Al-‘Aas (رضي الله عنه‎) narrated that the Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم) said:

“Whoever remains silent is saved.” [15]


This hadeeth’s chain of narrators is weak. I only mention it here, to expose its weakness, since it is a very well known hadeeth. The authentic ahaadeeth similar to what I have mentioned here are many and sufficient for one who is granted success. I will mention some words on this regard in the section of Backbiting, and with Allaah lies the success.

As for the narrations reported on the Salaf concerning this matter, then they are also abundant. There is no need for mentioning them after having heard the previous reports. However, we will briefly inform of some of them.

It has reached us that Qass Ibn Saa’ada and Aktham Ibn Sayfee once met and one of them said to the other:

“How many defects were you able to find in the son of Aadam?”


The other responded:

“They are too numerous to count, however, the defects that I was able to account for numbered eight thousand. I also discovered one thing which if put into practice, all of these defects would be kept hidden.” He asked: “What is it?” He responded: “Guarding the tongue.”


Abu ‘Alee Al-Fudayl Ibn ‘Iyyaad (رحمه الله) said:

“Whoever limits his speech to be in accordance with his actions, will minimize his speech on that which doesn’t concern him.”


Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee (رحمه الله) said to his student Rabee’:

“O Rabee’! Do not speak about things that do not concern you, for indeed every time that you speak a word, it takes control of you and you do not have control of it!”


‘Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood (رضي الله عنه‎) said:

“There is nothing that deserves to be imprisoned more than the tongue.”


Others have stated:

“The example of the tongue is like that of a savage beast. If you do not lock it up, it will set out against you.”


Abul-Qaasim Al-Qushayree said in his famous Risaalah:

“Remaining silent is salvation and that is a fundamental principle. And staying quiet at the proper time is a characteristic of manhood, just as speaking when it is proper to speak is from the most honorable of matters.”


And he (رحمه الله) said:

“I heard Abu ‘Alee Ad-Daqaaq say: ‘Whoever remains silent concerning the truth, then he is a silent devil.’”


He also said:

“As for the preference of those who strive in good to remain silent, then that is because of what they know of the bad consequences that result from talking and from the soul’s being pleased with that. It is also because of the praiseworthy attributes that will show (by doing this) and because it will incline him towards distinguishing between its types – whether good speech or its opposite. This is the characteristic of those endowed with religious devotion. And this is one of their pillars with regard to educating the people. What has been recited of poetry in this regard is:

‘Guard your tongue O mankind
And do not let it bite you, for indeed it is a snake
How many people in the graveyards are there, who were killed by their tongues
Whoever fears meeting Him (on the Day of Judgement) is truly the brave one.’”


Footnotes:

[1] Saheeh - Reported by Al-Bukhaaree (11/308 of al-Fath) and Muslim (47)

[2] Saheeh - Reported by Al-Bukhaaree (1/54 of al-Fath) and Muslim (42)

[3] Saheeh - Reported by Al-Bukhaaree (11/308 of al-Fath)

[4] Saheeh - Reported by Al-Bukhaaree (11/308 of al-Fath) and Muslim (2988)

[5] Saheeh - Reported by Al-Bukhaaree (11/308 of al-Fath)

[6] Saheeh - Reported by At-Tirmidhee (2420 of Tuhfah al-Ahwadhee), Ibn Maajah (3970), and Maalik (2/985) from the path of Muhammad Ibn ‘Amr.

[7] Saheeh - Reported by At-Tirmidhee (2522 of at-Tuhfah), Ibn Maajah (3972) and Ahmad (3/413) from the path of Az-Zuhree on Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdir-Rahmaan Ibn Maa’iz on Sufyaan Ibn ‘Abdillaah ath-Thaqafee. Muslim (2/8-9 of Sharh Nawawee) reported it from the path of Hishaam Ibn ‘Urwah. Altogether, the hadeeth is authentic due to its different paths of narration. I am surprised that the author didn’t attribute this hadeeth to Saheeh Muslim when it is found in it.

[8] Da’eef - Reported by At-Tirmidhee (2523 and 2524) from the path of Ibraaheem Ibn ‘Abdillaah Ibn Haatib on ‘Abdullaah Ibn Deenaar from Ibn ‘Umar. At-Tirmidhee said: “This is a strange hadeeth, we do not know of it except from the narration of Ibraaheem Ibn ‘Abdillaah Ibn Haatib.” I say: He is Ibn ‘Abdillaah Ibn al-Haarith Ibn Haatib al-Jumhee. Ibn Abee Haatim mentioned him in Al-Jarh wat-Ta’deel (2/110) but neither approved of nor criticized him. Adh-Dhahabee mentioned him in Meezaan al-‘Itidaal (1/41) and mentioned this report from him as being one of his lone reports. Then he said: “I don’t know of any jarh (criticism) against him.” I say: A lack of knowing if a jarh on him exists does not necessitate that he declares him to be reliable. Imaam Maalik mentioned this narration in his Muwatta (2/986) as a saying of ‘Eesaa bin Maryam.

[9] Saheeh - Reported by At-Tirmidhee (2521 of at-Tuhfah) from the path of Ibn ‘Ijlaan from Abu Haazim. I say: Its chain is hasan because Muhammad Ibn ‘Ijlaan is honest. Muslim transmitted from him for his supporting reports. So the hadeeth is saheeh (authentic) due to its supporting evidences.

[10] Saheeh - Reported by Ibn Al-Mubaarak in az-Zuhd (134) and from him Ahmad (5/259) and At-Tirmidhee (2517 of at-Tuhfah) from the path of ‘Ubaydullaah Ibn Zuhr from ‘Alee Ibn Yazeed. I say: Its chain of narration is very weak, because there are two defects in it. Firstly, ‘Ubaydullaah Ibn Zuhr has weakness in him, and Secondly, ‘Alee Ibn Yazeed is very weak. However, Ahmad (4/148) reported it from the path of Mu’aadh Ibn Rifaa’ah on ‘Alee Ibn Yazeed. So the first defect is uplifted because Mu’aadh is honest. Also, At-Tabaraanee (sec. 59) reported it from the path of Ibn Thawbaan from his father from Al-Qaasim from Abu Umaamah. Its chain is hasan, so the second defect is removed.

[11] Hasan - Reported by At-Tirmidhee (2518 of at-Tuhfah), Ahmad (3/95-96), Ibn Al-Mubaarak in az-Zuhd (1012) and others, from the path of Hamaad Ibn Zayd from Abu Suhbaa from Sa’eed Ibn Jubair. Its chain is hasan (acceptable), the reporters are all reliable except for Abu Suhbaa. His name is Suhaib and he was the freed slave of Ibn ‘Abbaas. Abu Zur’ah and Ibn Hibbaan declared him to be reliable and many have reported from him, thus his hadeeth are acceptable.

[12] Da’eef - Reported by At-Tirmidhee (2525 of at-Tuhfah) and Ibn Maajah (3974) from the path of Muhammad Ibn Bishaar. This hadeeth is weak because it has two defects. The first is Umm Saalih, her condition is not known. The second is Muhammad Ibn Yazeed Al-Khanees.

[13] Saheeh - Reported by At-Tirmidhee (2616), Ibn Maajah (2973) and Ahmad (5/231) from the path of Mu’amar from ‘Aasim Ibn Abee Nujood from Abu Waa’il. Ahmad (5/235-236 and 245-246) also reported it from the path of Shahr. I say: Its chain is weak because Shahr had bad memory. Ahmad (5/234) also reported from the path of Ibn Al-Mugheerah. I say: Its chain is weak because Abu Bakr (one of the narrators in chain), who is ‘Abdullaah Ibn Abee Maryam Ash-Shaamee used to mix up in his narrations. But the rest of the narrators are reliable. So these various paths of narration strengthen one another, Allaah willing.

[14] Saheeh - Reported by Maalik (2/903) and from his path, At-Tirmidhee (2420), which is: From Ibn Shihaab from ‘Alee Ibn Al-Husayn from ‘Alee. I say: The narrators of this chain are reliable except that the hadeeth is in mursal form. At-Tirmidhee (2419) and Ibn Maajah (2976) reported it from the path of Al-Awzaa’ee. I say: This chain is hasan, its narrators are all reliable except Qurrah Ibn ‘Abdir-Rahmaan Ibn Haywa’eel. In summary, the hadeeth is authentic due to other reports and it has supporting
evidences from a group of the Companions.

[15] Saheeh - Reported by At-Tirmidhee (2618), Ad-Daarimee (2/99) and Ahmad (2/159 and 177) from several paths of narration from Ibn Lahee’ah. At-Tirmidhee said: “A strange hadeeth, we don’t know of it except from the report of Ibn Lahee’ah.” He means by this that the hadeeth is weak because of Ibn Lahee’ah’s bad memory. And the author (An-Nawawee) agreed with him. However some have narrated from Ibn Lahee’ah of which their report from him is authentic. Ibn Al-Mubaarak reported it in his az-Zuhd (385) and so did Ibn Wahb in his al-Jaami’ (2/85). In summary, the hadeeth is authentic.