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The Many Dangers of the Tongue

In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

Chapter Four.

Some Seemingly Harmless Uses of the Tongue That Have Disastrous Consequences.

It is commonplace to find many Muslims involved in misusing the tongue, without even recognizing its inherently evil consequences. To this effect, the Messenger (peace be upon him) also said:

"The servant says something that he thinks is harmless, and for which he will be plunged into the depths of the Fire for seventy autumns (years)." [Al-Tirmidhi]

Among such seemingly harmless use of the tongue that Muslims should be aware of, are begging, praising people, singing, jesting, and disputes.


Although it is quite usual for people to wantonly beg, in order to fulfill some worldly need, in Islam it is something reprehensible. In many Aa-Hadeeth the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) strongly discouraged begging. For example, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

"If the beggar knows what is in it for him, he would not beg." [At-Tabaraanee]

He (peace be upon him) also said: "A person will continue to beg until he meets Allah, the Almighty, and upon his face will not be even a shred of flesh."

[Bukhari, Muslim & An-Nisaai].

He (peace be upon him) said: "I swear upon three (things): Wealth would never decrease because of Sadaqah (charity), so give Sadaqah (charity), no person forgives (another)for an oppression done to him except that Allah will increase through it his honor and glory, and no servant opens a door to begging except that Allah opens upon him a door to poverty" [Abu Ya`laa, Ahamd & Al-Bazaar]

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

"The upper hand is better than the lower the upper hand refers to giving while the lower is the one that begs" [Bukhari, Muslim & others]

Begging is only permissible in extreme circumstances. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "Begging is not beneficial except in three instances: the person who is in extreme poverty, or he who has outrageous debts or he who is responsible to pay the blood money of a close relative or friend and if he does not, then that person would be killed..."

[Baihaqee and Abu Dawood]

He (peace be upon him) further states: "Whoever asks without being poor, is as if he is

eating burning coals. " [At-Tabaraanee & Ibn Khuzimah]

Instead of begging, people are encouraged in Islam to work honestly and hard to fulfill their worldly needs. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "No person consumes better food than that which he earns with his own hand..."


In another Hadeeth he (peace be upon him) asserts thus: "Whoever requests for what he can do without, will have something on his face (for it) on the Day of Judgment. "

[Ahmad, Al-Bazaar, At-Tabaraanee]

2. Praising people.

While it is not prohibited to express appreciation for someone or his works, to do so excessively, or flatteringly is disallowed. Seven (7) evils are attached to praising people. Four (4) are attached to the person who praises another and three (3) are attached to the one who is being praised. As for the person who is praising:

(a) One could be excessive in praising, and as such, say untrue things, thus becoming involved in lying.

(b) One could be praising a person to win his favor, thus doing it for show. Although in so doing, he outwardly manifests his love for the person, inwardly he does not believe everything he says. His showing off, therefore, amounts to nothing less than hypocrisy.

(c) He says things that he is not certain about and about, which he is in no position to truly assess.

(d) Through praises, he could make the praised one feel encouraged, although he might be an oppressor. This is Haraam in Islam. The oppression of the oppressor must be stopped, instead of being fostered. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

"Help your bother, if he is oppressor or the oppressed. " It was said: "How would you help him if he is the oppressor?" He (peace be upon him) said: "Restrain him from oppression and that would be helping him." [Ahmad, Bukhari & Tirmidhi]

As for the person who is being praised:

(a) Praise can cause pride within him. This quality is destructive, if it affects a person.

(b) The praised person could, thereafter, do things in order to acquire praises, instead of doing them to please Allah Alone.

(c) If he is praised, he might become satisfied with his efforts, and thereafter, reduce his desire to do good work.

If the praise is free from these evils, in both cases mentioned, then there is no harm, in praising if it is truthfully acknowledging someone's good efforts. This is commendable, particularly if it encourages someone to continue doing good. And Allah knows best. It is necessary that the one who is being praised be very careful not to allow pride, self-admiration and complacency to overcome him. He must also remember that he knows himself more than the person who is praising him, and if his secrets and hidden faults are exposed to the one who is praising him, that person would desist from praising him.

When people used to praise `Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, he used to say:

"O Allah! Forgive me for what they do not know, and do not take me to account for what they say, and make me better than they think of me."

The following Hadeeth warns us about the danger of excessive praise. Abu Bakrah said:

'A man was mentioned before the Prophet (peace be upon him) and another man praised him greatly. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "May Allah 's Mercy be upon you! You have cut the neck of your friend." The Prophet (peace be upon him) repeated this many times and said: "If it is necessary for any of you to praise someone, then he should say: 'I think! that he is so and-so', if he really thinks that he is such. Allah is the One Who will take his account (as He knows his reality), and none can sanctify anyone before Allah." [Bukhari Vol. 8 #87]


Among the greatest of trials pertaining to the misuse of the tongue, which has afflicted the present-day Muslims, is that of singing. This is because it decorates ugly and obsene speech and make them acceptable to the ears and hearts of men. Furthermore, the way in which the evil is presented through songs raises it to a point where it not only becomes acceptable, but also loved. These same words, if spoken in regular conversation, would be totally rejected and hated. This is highlighted when adults and miners would, together, hum songs that contain lewd words, vulgarity, and obsene descriptions of both men and women.

Even worse, is the fact that words connoting Shirk are sometimes used in songs. The songs beautify them in such a way that they not only appear acceptable, but also become loved.

Another aspect of singing that is looked upon innocently, is that while many parents are very careful to monitor the company their children keep, yet they are not sufficiently keen to recognize the harmful effects of songs that their children listen to, which, in some cases, are more dangerous than the bad company from which they prohibit them. Destructive ideas, evil beliefs, rotten thought pat terns, have become norms, because songs were the medium through which they were spread. In addition to this, the chastity of women have now become something of the past, because vivid descriptions of women are sung, making it acceptable. Thus, what was taboo to talk about, or looked on as evil by the society, has now become so commonplace, that not to be involved in it, is looked upon as antiquated, and thus looked down upon.

Songs are undoubtedly one of the most successful instruments that Satan has used to harness adults, adolescence, and even children to become involved in evil, immorality, recklessness, and disrespect for Allah's laws, as well as man's innovative laws. Allah, the Most High, said:

"And of mankind is he who purchases idle speech (singing) to mislead (men) from Allah's path without knowledge... " [Luqman 31: 6]

Ibn Katheer, in his Tafseer (exegis) of the Quraan, explains that idle speech refers to singing. This is based upon an explanation by the companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) -Ibn Mas'oud.

In present day, musical instruments accompany singing. In fact, a song is not considered a song unless accompanied with musical instruments. In Islam, musical instruments are prohibited. Therefore, songs that are accompanied by musical instruments would be even more Haraam. And Allah knows best.

4. Jesting and joking.

What is hated about jesting is continuous indulgence and excessiveness, as well as making up stories, lying and propagating half-truths (distorting something or making 'mountains of molehills'), in order to make others laugh. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "Woe to the person who speak! lies to make people laugh, woe to him, woe to him." [Ahmad, Abu Dawood & others]

However, if one controls himself by jesting only with truth, causing no hurt to anyone, and neither is he excessive with it, then there is no sin in jesting, nor would there be any harm. And Allah knows best. Life is a trust from Allah and should therefore be treated seriously. This, however, does not negate truthful jesting. The Prophet (peace be upon him) himself engaged in jesting. However, he established the limits. Thus, he (peace be upon him) said:

"Indeed I jest but I only speak what is true." [At-Tabaraanee].

Muslims should not indulge in things that would cause them to destroy themselves, Therefore, they should refrain from over indulgence in jesting. The following Hadeeth of the Messenger (peace be upon him) should assist us with this. He (peace be upon him) said:

"If you know what I know, you will laugh less and weep much."

[Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Baihiqee & others]

Continuous indulgence in joking can be regarded as play and amusement. As for being excessive in jesting, this brings about excessive laughter, which can kill the heart. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

"..And do not laugh excessively because excessive laughter hills the heart."

[Ahmad, Tirmidhi & others]

It should be noted that this admonishment of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is contrary to the popular belief that "laughter is good for the heart".

5. Disputes and arguments.

To engage in disputes and useless arguments are prohibited based upon the statement of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him)

"No people went astray after being upon guidance except after they engaged in arguments." [Ahmad, Tirmidhi & Ibn Majah]

Bilaal ibn Sa'eed said: "If you see a man who is insistent, argumentative, and egotistic, then such a person's loss is complete."

Ibn Abi Lailaa said: "I would not argue with anyone, because I would either cause him to lie, or I would anger him, because arguing is one form of objection to another person's speech, with intent to show defect in it, either in the word he uses or the meaning he implies or with the intention he intends. So, to stop an argument, stop the objections, so that every word you hear, if it is true, then acknowledge it and if it is vain or lying speech, or there is no connection with the deen, then leave it alone by keeping silent."

The above statement of Ibn Abi Lailaa does not contradict the command to "enjoin good and forbid evil" since it is difficult to command good and forbid evil while being involved in an argument.

Allah, the Sublime said:

"...And if the foolish address them (with bad words) they reply with mild words of gentleness... " [Al-Furqoon 25: 63]

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