Al Adaab: An Ahl as Sunnah Perspective

Traditional Islamic Resources

Safeguard your good works by guarding the tongue.

Posted by al Adaab on January 3, 2011

Al Hamdulillahi Rabbil Aalameen, was Salaatu was Salaamu ‘alaa Sayyidil Mursaleen, Habibunaa wa Nabiyyunaa wa Mahmudunaa wa Mawlaanaa Muhammadinil Mustafaa, Khaatimul Anbiyaa-i wal Mursaleen, wa Imaamul Mittaqeen wa Shafee’il Mudhnibeen, Rasuli Rabbil ‘Alameen, wa Qaaidil Ghurril Muhajjaleen, wa ‘alaa ‘Aalihi wa As-habihi wa Azwaajihi wa Dhurriyaatihi wa Ahli Baytihi wa  sallima tasliman kathiran, kathiraa. Ya Khayrul Naasireen.

Guarding the Tongue

Wa Qaal Allahu ta ‘ala fi Kalaamihil Qadeem, ba’da ‘authu Billahi min ash shaytanir rajim, Bismillahir Rahmanir

كُنْتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنْكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ ۗ

You are the best of peoples, raised up from mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding evil, and you believe in Allah.

Allahu ta ‘ala says in Suratul Ibrahim, 34th Ayah:

وَآتَاكُمْ مِنْ كُلِّ مَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا ۗ إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لَظَلُومٌ كَفَّارٌ [١٤:٣٤]

And He gives you all that ye ask for. But if you attempt to count the favors of Allah, you will never be able to number them. Indeed, man is given up to injustice and ingratitude. Suratul Ibrahim, Ayah 34:
The tongue is one of many gifts that Allah Subhana Hoo has bestowed upon His servants. Although the tongue is a small, its impact on the one using it may have a large impact for either good or evil.  With this small piece of flesh one may find his path to Jannah or Jahannam.  As with everything that Allahu ta ‘ala has given us we must show our gratitude, our shukr by not misusing or abusing this precious gift.

If we use it to comply with the orders of Allahu ta ‘ala laid out in al Qur’an Majid, and the Sunnah of the Holy Last Messenger Sayyidinaa Muhammad al Mustafa Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim, it becomes a source for earning divine ni’mah [favor] in this world and in the in Hereafter.  Conversely if this piece of flesh the tongue is used in disobedience to the commandments of Allahu ta ‘ala and Sayyidinaa Rasuli Akram Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa sallim, and does not display thankfulness [shukr], it will lead us down the path of destruction, and we will have no one to blame but ourselves. Shukr, being thankful to Allahu ta ‘ala for his ni’mah means not using the gifts He bestows upon us by the opposing Him.

The sins of the tongue can be small [saghira] or enormous [kabirah]. Some of the sins of the tongue take person out of Islam. Sayyidinaa Rasuli Akram Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa sallim said in the hadith related by al Imam at-Tirmidhiyy Rahmatullahi ‘alaihi:

Innal mar’-a layatakallimu bil- kalimati laa yaraa biha ba’-san yahwee-bihaa fin naari khareefaa

“A person may utter a word he thinks harmless, which results in his falling the depth of seventy (70) years into Hellfire
Among the sins of the tongue considered to be major sins are gossip or backbiting (ghibah) and tale-bearing (namimah). Ibn Abid-Dunyia related that Sayyidinaa Rasuli Akram Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa sallim, said:

Khaslataani maa in tajammilal khalaa-iqu bimithli-himaa, husnul khuluqi wa  twoolus samt

“One can greatly beautify himself with two habits–good manners and lengthy silence.”

Here Sayyidinaa Rasuli Akram Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa sallim is alluding to remaining silent and not speaking except for what is good, such as Dhikr, Tilaawatul Quran Majid, Salaaat ‘alan Nabiyy [Darood Sharif] and teaching others what is good.

Imam Bukhariyy and Imam Muslim Radhi Allahu ‘anhumma related from  Sayyidinaa Abu Hurayrah Radhi Allahu ‘anhu, that Sayyidinaa Rasuli Akram Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa sallim said:

Man kaana yu’minu Billahi wal Yawmul Aakhiri, falyaqul khairan aw liyasmut

“Let the one who believes in Allah and the Last day, either utter good words, or let him be silent

Allahu ta ‘ala said in Surat al-Isra’, 36 ayah:

وَلَا تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ ۚ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولَٰئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْئُولًا [١٧:٣٦

And pursue not that of which you have no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of feeling will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning).

Allahu ta ‘ala is warning us that we will be held accountable for what we hear, what we see and what we feel as well as what we believe.

At-Tirmidhiyy narrated a saying of the Holy Last Messenger  Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim to Sayyidinaa Mu’adh Ibn Jabal Radhi Allahu ‘anhu, in which he said:

“Wa hal yakubbun naasa fin naar ‘alaa wujuuhim, illaa hasaa-idu alsinatihim

And what will cause mankind to fall on their faces into the fire other than what their tongues have reaped?”

Allahu ta ‘ala warns us in al Qur’an Majid that he has appointed angels over us writing down our deeds.  Hikmah dictated that the wise man or woman heed these warning signs before  he or she crashes headlong into the wrath  of Allahu ta ‘ala.

Again Allahu ta ‘ala said in Surat Qaf, Ayah 17- 18:

إِذْ يَتَلَقَّى الْمُتَلَقِّيَانِ عَنِ الْيَمِينِ وَعَنِ الشِّمَالِ قَعِيدٌ [٥٠:١٧

Behold, two (guardian angels) appointed to learn (his doings) learn (and noted them), one sitting on the right and one on the left.

مَا يَلْفِظُ مِنْ قَوْلٍ إِلَّا لَدَيْهِ رَقِيبٌ عَتِيدٌ [٥٠:١٨]

Not a word does he utter but there is a sentinel by him, ready (to note it).
These ayatul kareemah, and ahadith, emphasize the importance of matters relating to the tongue.  Sayyidinaa Rasuli Akram Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim advises us in a hadith related by Imam at-Tirmidhiyy Radhi Allahu ‘anhu:

Man samata najaa

“The one remains silent will be saved.”

Here Nabiyyul Adhim Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim is giving us the glad tidings of salvation on Yawmul Qiyaamah if we guard the tongue.  Silence doesn’t mean refraining from speaking out against evil, as this is a duty and command of Allahu ta ‘ala.

Imam al-Bayhaqiyy Rahmatullahi ‘alaihi, relates that  Sayyyidinaa Rasuli Akram Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim  said:

“You shall be saved as long as you are silent, for if you speak, it will either be in your favor or stand against you.”
Among the eminent ‘Ulema of Islam who were compelled to write extensively about it, was Imam al-Ghazaliyy Rahimuhullah, who said about the tongue:

“The tongue is a great endowment from Allah; though small in size, its crime is enormous.”

A person on the one hand may utter words of hamd and shukr [praise and thankfulness] for which he earns reward. While on the other hand one might utter words of kufr that takes them outside the pale of Islam, thereby loosing the reward of all his previous good deeds.

Al Imam an-Nawawiyy Radhi Allahu ‘anhu relates:

Qiss Ibn Sa’idah and Aktham Ibn Saifiyy met together. One of them asked the other, “Generally how many errors have you found the sons of Adam commit?” The other replied, “I have counted 8000 such errors, but let it be known, we cannot count them all. However, there is one good trait that would cover up for all of these errors and mistakes: To have control over one’s tongue.”
Imam Ash-Shafi’iyy Radhi Allahu ‘anhu, in addressing his companion, ar-Rabi’, said:

“Do not haphazardly speak without a need. Once uttered, you no longer control the words, but they control you.”

That is, once you speak a word it will be to your benefit if it is good, but if it is sinful, then it will be written against you unless tawbah [repentance] with sincerity is performed.
Sayyidina ‘Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud Radhi Allahu ‘anhu said:

“The tongue is the thing that deserves imprisonment most .”

Dhun-Nun al-Misriyy (Ibrahim Ibn Tawbah)Radhi Allahu ‘anhu, when asked about the one who controls and protects his heart the most, replied:

“The one who controls his tongue the most.”

Just as words of goodness reflects what is in the heart, so too sinful or blasphemous words also reflect the condition of  the heart.

Concerning Ghibah and Naminah and Buhtan

Our perfect Murshid Sultan Muhyuddin al Imam Sayyid Mubarik ‘Ali Gilani hafidhahumullah in “Baabul Mushaahidah wal Hudhoori” educated  us about the shaytanic qualities that may lead to the possession of mankind by shaytan wa iyyadhu billah. His eminence delved in detail great detail into the qualities that corrupt the heart and causes possession by shaytan and the shayateen.  He hafidhullah mentions specific vices of the tongue and heart that causes the worshiper to become so much putty so to  speak in the paws of shaytan, witting and unwittingly.

Shaykhunaa Sultan Muhyuddin hafidhuhullah specifically mentions Gheebah, Nameemah, Bukhl, Hasad, Buhtan etc. as evils which he characterizes as shaytanic qualities. To this end, for more than 30 years he has been fighting to purify and heal Muslims of these shaytanic qualities with the healing Ayaah of al Qur’an Majid. Yet the Ummah is still consumed with these shaytanic qualities and many of us submitting to the enemy shaytan have given up the fight.

Concerning  the spiritual disease known as Gheebah [backbiting and slander], Allahu ta ‘ala says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ ۖ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا يَغْتَبْ بَعْضُكُمْ بَعْضًا ۚ أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَنْ يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَحِيمٌ [٤٩:١٢]

“O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion: for suspicion in some cases is a sin: And spy not on each other gossip behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? No, ye would abhor it. But fear Allah: For Allah is Tawwabur Rahim, [One who relents to the repentant Most Merciful].  Surat al-Hujurat, Ayah 12”

In this ayatul karimah, Allahu ta ‘ala has ordered us to refrain from prying into the affairs of others, and ghibah or backbite. To illustrate the seriousness of the matter Allahu ta ‘ala has compared backbiting with eating the flesh of one’s dead brother.  Here Allahu ta ‘ala illustrates the ugliness of this sin as a means to warn us and to guide us away from it, mentioning that He is the one who relents to the repentant one and he is Most Merciful.

Imams Bukhariyy and Muslim both relate from Sayyidinaa Abu Musa al-Ash’ariyy Radhi Allahumma, that he asked   Sayyidinaa Rasuli Akram Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa sallim:

Ya Rasulullah, ayyul Muslimeena afdhal? Qaal, man yaslamul Muslimoona min yadihi wa lisaanih”

Yaa Rasulullah, which of the Muslims is the best? He Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim replied, “He from whose hands and tongue the Muslims are safe.”

In another hadith related by Imam Abu Dawud radhi Allahu ‘anhu reported by Sayyidinaa Anas Radhi Allahu ‘anhu he said:

“Rasulullah Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim said, “On the night I ascended to the skies on [Laylatul Mi’raj], I passed by people who were scratching their faces and chests with nails made of brass. I asked Jibril who those people were, and Jibril replied, “The ones who were eating the flesh of other people.”

This is a direct reference to those who commit gossip (ghibah).

When Rasulullah Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim spoke about gossip (ghibah), he gave a very specific definition. In a hadith related by Muslim, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa’iyy, and at-Tirmidhiyy, from Sayyidinaa Abu Hurayrah,

“An Nabiyy Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim, was asked, “What if that thing I mentioned was something truthful about him?” The Prophet said, “If it was in him, then you have committed gossip, backbitten him (ghibah), and if it was not in him, then you have committed al-buhtan [slander] which is a sin more enormous than gossip (ghibah).”

Gossip backbiting (ghibah) is mentioning about your brother something would cause him distress if he were to hear it. This covers those who are living as well as those who have passed away. This is a general principle covering all aspects of your brother’s life. Negative comments concerning his outward appearance, physical characteristics, means of livelihood, lodging etc., all fall under the purview of ghibah.

Rasulullah Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim equates  Ghibah with ribaa by saying that the highest form is ribaa, a major sin, is imputing  backbiting or gossiping about a muslim what is not true.

Not only is backbiting Haraam, but listening to the gossip of the one backbiting (ghibah) is also Haraam.  Allahu ta ‘ala describes the Muslims who truly have Taqwa by saying in Surat al-Qasas, Ayah 55:

وَإِذَا سَمِعُوا اللَّغْوَ أَعْرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَقَالُوا لَنَا أَعْمَالُنَا وَلَكُمْ أَعْمَالُكُمْ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ لَا نَبْتَغِي الْجَاهِلِينَ [٢٨:٥٥]

“And when they hear gossiping talk, they turn away there from and say: “To us our deeds, and to you yours; peace be to you: we seek not to be with]the ignorant.”

Allahu ta ‘ala has categorized those who sit in circles and backbite and slander as being Jaahileen, [Ignorant, and foolish, uneducated, uncultured people].  The truly educated and culturally refined are those who have actually benefitted from the ‘Ilm Allahu ta ‘ala has given them.  They are those who refuse to frequent the company of the Jahileen [ignorant]. The Jahileen are those who find more time to backbite and slander others, more time to seek out the imperfections of others and very little time seek out and correct their own imperfections. As such, the Jahileen from among the Muslims as well as the Kuffar have been severely reprimanded by Allahu ta ‘ala and his Rasul Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim.  The way of the Muttaqi is to show ones disapproval by excusing oneself with salaams [if the group backbiting are Muslim] and leave the majlis.

At-Tirmidhiyy  related that Rasulullah Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim said:

“Man radda ‘an ‘aridhi akheehi, radd Allahu ‘an wajhihin naara yaawmal qiyaamah.”

“Whoever protects his brother from Ghibah [backbiting], Allah will protect his face on Yawmul Qiyaamah.”

Therefore, if one is in a gathering of people and someone is committing ghibah [backbiting or slandering], then it is fardh on the others in attendance to stop this. If they are unable to stop it by speaking out against it or by force, then they must leave that gathering and hate the gossip in their hearts. In this way they escape being sinful.  If they remain and listen to the ghibah, they are a party to the same sin.

It was related that the famous Wali of Allahu ta ‘ala, Sayyidinaa Ibrahim Ibn Adham Radhi Allahu ‘anhu was once invited to a banquet. When the guests were seated, some people mentioned the name of a person not in attendance by saying his presence was not pleasant anyway.  Sayyidinaa Ibrahim Ibn Adham Radhi Allahu ‘anhu immediately reacted by saying:

“This is what I have done to myself; I have allowed myself to be present in a session with people who commit gossip (ghibah).”

He immediately left that banquet without eating anything, and he continued to abstain from eating for three days.

Furthermore, if a Muslim committed enormous sins and then repented to Allah, it is not permissible for any of us to mention these sins because he already repented.   The one who commits ghibah [backbiting] is the sinner whereas the one being backbitten has repented and is being given whatever good deeds, such as Tilaawaat of Qur’an Majid, Dhikr, Salaah ‘alan Nabiy [Darood Sharif] Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim, the backbiters and slanderers have performed. SubhaanAllah!

It is related that Sultan Imam Hasan al Basri, Imam ‘Ali’s Karam Allahu wajhahu khalifa in Basra was informed that an ‘alim consumed with envy and jealousy because of the gifts Allahu ta ‘ala had bestowed upon him, would regularly engage in backbiting and slandering  Imam Hasan al Basri radhi Allahu ‘anhu.  Upon hearing this, the Imam had a tray of sweets prepared and  sent to the ‘alim involved in the slander.  This action of the Imam caught the ‘alim quite by surprise.  He enquired as to why the Imam was sending him this tray of sweets, being well aware of his own actions against the honor and character of the Imam due to extreme jealousy.

The Imam informed the ‘alim that as he had made a gift of all his good works [‘amilu saalihah] by backbiting and slandering him, so too he was duty bound to return a gift with a gift and  hence the tray of  sweets was sent on his behalf.

The criterion for judging the Muslim is by his current relationship with his Rabb. As related by al-Hakim in his book, al-Mustadrak, Sayyidinaa Rasuli Akram Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa sallim, in highlighting this matter, said:

Man ra-ay ‘awrata fasatarahaa kaana, kaman ihyaa maw-oodatan fee qabrihaa

“The reward of the person who covers up the previous mistakes of a Muslim is similar to the reward of the person who rescues a girl buried alive.”

The prevailing state of the one who repented of past evil deeds is that Allah Subhana Hoo has forgiven him and this is why we don’t mention it.

During the Khilaafat of Sayyidinaa Umar Ibn al-Khattab Radhi Allahu ‘anhu, a man came to him and said:

“In the Era of Ignorance [ayyamul jaahiliyya], I buried my daughter alive, however, at the last moment I took her out. Then Islam spread, and we became Muslims. Time passed, and then this daughter of mine fornicated and later attempted to commit suicide by slitting her wrists. Afterwards she repented a valid repentance. Some people asked me for her hand in marriage. I told them her story so that I would not cheat them about my daughter.” ‘Umar scolded that man and told him: “You have spread that which Allah ordered covered about your daughter. Let me warn you: If you tell anyone about this story again, I shall punish you in a manner that will make you an example for all the people.”

From this story we understand that once a Muslim repents from his sins, it is Haraam [unlawful] to mention these sins about him. Therefore, the prevailing condition of the person must always be the prevailing perception of him.

There are certain cases the’ Ulema of Islam excluded from being a sinful gossip (ghibah). These are classified into six categories, and one would not be sinful for committing (ghibah) if his case fell into one of these six:

1. To go to the Muslim judge or one with jurisdiction to tell him about an injustice done to him in order to help him take his right.

2. To talk about a person’s sins that he dislikes mentioned, in order to seek help in preventing the person from continuing their sins. Hence, one is not sinful if he knows a Muslim who is committing a particular sin, and informs another of that matter so that the latter will help the sinful Muslim refrain from committing those sins. This would mean going to those in authority who could actually render support and assistance to the sinful Muslim. Sometimes times a person carrying grudge against another will use this as a pretext to dishonor his brother.  Such a person deceives himself by claiming that he is intent upon to helping his brother clear himself of his sin.  Ghibah cannot be justified under such circumstances.
3. To inform a Mufti about someone else’s sin that he dislikes mentioned for the purpose of seeking the judgment of that particular matter. For example, if a man to tell the mufti that his wife leaves the house without a valid reason without his permission, this does not make him sinful if he is seeking to know what his rights are in such a case. However, the scholars said in such a case, one is recommended not to mention names, but to phrase the question in the third person. For example, to say: “What is the judgment according to the Shari’ah if one’s wife left the house against her husband’s permission without valid Shar’I reason?”

4. To depict a person with one of his attributes that he dislikes mentioned with the purpose of identifying him. For example, it is allowed for someone to tell his son to go and give some money to ‘the one-legged man next door,’ to clarify for the son exactly which man is meant.

5. To tell about another person’s sins which he himself openly declares. Hence, it is not sinful for one to tell about a person who himself declares he drinks alcohol or does so publicly.

6. To warn other Muslims against a sinner. This is a very important issue. It is an obligation to warn against those who prey upon Muslims. If, for example, one knows of a robber targeting a route along which Muslims intend to travel, one would be sinful if he kept silent and did not warn the Muslims of this, thereby letting them fall prey to the robber. Furthermore, it is more of an obligation to warn against those who cheat Muslims in their Deen than to warn against those who cheat in the worldly matters. If one knows of anyone who cheats the Muslims in their Deen, by falsely claiming to be knowledgeable, teaching them blasphemy, and/or giving them answers to Islamic questions that are incorrect [such as the yazidi-salafi-wahhabiyya etc do], then it is an obligation to warn the Muslims against them.

Imam al-Hakim radhi Allahu ‘anhu related a sahih hadith as agreed upon by Imam adh-Dhahabiyy, that Rasulullahi Sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim said:

“Ithaa ra-ayta ummati tahaabu an taqoola lidhaalim, anta dhaalim, faqad tuwudda’a minhum”

“When you see my Ummah fearful of telling the unjust person [Dhaalim], ‘You are unjust,’ then know the support of Allah is withdrawn from them.”
Tale-Bearing (Namimah)

Tale-bearing, (namimah) is defined as spreading words among believers with the purpose of stirring up enmity and problems between them This matter is forbidden. It is unlawful and sinful. Allah dispraised such people in the Qur’an in Surat al-Qalam, Ayah 11-12:

وَلَا تُطِعْ كُلَّ حَلَّافٍ مَهِينٍ [٦٨:١٠]

هَمَّازٍ مَشَّاءٍ بِنَمِيمٍ [٦٨:١١]

Heed not the type of despicable men,- ready with oaths,

A slanderer, going about with calumnies [stories meant to dishonor others],

These ayaahtul karimah highlight ugly nature sin of tale-bearing (namimah). In the hadith related by al Imam Bukhariyy,relates  hadith concerning Namimah wherein Sayyidinaa Rasuli Akram sall Allahu ‘alaihi wa Aalihi wa Sallim said:

Laa yakdhulul jannaata qattaatun

“The one who commits tale-bearing (namimah) shall not enter Paradise with the first group.”

That is, the Muslim who died without repenting of his sin of tale-bearing (namimah) will be tortured in Hellfire before entering Paradise.

Furthermore, that the reasons for most of the torture in the grave are gossip (ghibah), tale-bearing (namimah), and not clearing oneself from urine.

I ask Allahu ta ‘ala to protect us from falling into ghibah, namimah, buhtan and all sins that lead us away from his Rahmah. May Allahu ta ‘ala  endow us with the propensity to forgive those who have sinned against us, and the propensity in those we have sinned against to forgive us.

Ghufraanaka Rabbanaa wa ‘ilaykal masiyr

Wa sall Allahu ta ‘ala ‘alaa Sayyidinaa wa Mawlaana Muhammadin wa Aalihi wa Sahbihi wa Sallim

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