Having disagreements with other fellow human beings is prevalent not only among people of different cultures, backgrounds, and faiths, but even among those who come from the same school of thought and creed. The core beliefs may be similar but the branches are different. Today we live in a society where no two individuals carry the same exact set of beliefs, opinions, inclinations, and level of interest in each and every topic.
The question is: How do we deal with others when it comes to having dialogue with them? Do we conduct a conversation with them or do we opt for confrontation? What is the difference between the two and what is each of their effects on the other party?
A conversation is a dialogue where two participants listen to each other and carry on an oral exchange of ideas, sentiments, observations, or opinions in a civilized and respectful manner. On the other hand, a confrontation is a clash of forces or ideas which could happen face to face or remotely. A confrontation often leads to a fight where one person is put on the spot and possibly offended and they get defensive.
Statistics show that when people are approached with a conversation that is respectful, they are more likely to reciprocate that respect and engage in useful and serious exchange of ideas and are more open to change. Having conversations with people who have different opinions than us is certainly more beneficial and healthy than opting for confrontation.
Etiquettes of Conversation
What are the etiquettes and manners of having a conversation? The tongue and the language are great gifts of Allah (swt) to human beings. These divine gifts makes him superior to all other creatures, as the Almighty (swt) has said in the Holy Qur’an, “The Most Gracious Allah has taught the Qur’an; He has created man; He has taught him speech.” (Ar-Rahman: 1-4)
Islam has explained how people can derive benefit from this blessing and how the speech that flows from their tongues throughout the day can be used for goodness and truth. If you examine the speech of those who talk nonstop you will find that most of it consist of senseless, absurd and trash talk, whereas Allah (swt) has not given men their tongues for this purpose, nor these capabilities were given for such a purpose:
“In most of their secret talks there is no good; but if one exhorts to a deed of charity or justice or conciliation between men, (secrecy is permissible); to him who does this, seeking the good pleasure of Allah, We shall soon give a reward of the highest (value).” (An-Nisaa: 114)
Islam has given special attention to speech, its style, its etiquette and rules, because the talk that comes out from a man’s mouth discloses his intellectual level and moral nature. When a person tries to give advice or warning to another, there is a way and method to do so, and the method can make all the difference in winning the heart of the listener. Hence, Allah (swt) has instructed us to speak gently with wisdom, “Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and reason with them in the best manner; surely your Lord best knows those who go astray from His path, and He knows best those who follow the right way.” (An-Nahl: 128)
Jidaal (excessive arguing) is highly discouraged in Islam. With respect to that, the Prophet (sa) has said, “A servant cannot attain full faith unless he quits verbal arguments even if he is right.” He further elaborated, “Whoever knows he is right but quits arguing shall be given a residence in a high heavenly place. Whoever knows that he is wrong and quits arguing shall be given a residence in a low heavenly place.”
Safety Lies in Silence
Before addressing others let’s take a glance at ourselves, and ask whether this is an occasion which demands speaking. If the answer is in the affirmative, then speak, otherwise silence is much better. To avoid talking unnecessarily on appropriate occasions is actually a worship of great reward. Some of us have the habit of talking without thinking, and then maybe later we regret the words we utter. From our body parts, our tongue is the most secured as it is shielded by the teeth and lips. That is because most harm come from the tongue which engages in frivolous talk, offensive words, gossiping, arguing, swearing, making false promises, and lying.
The Prophet (s) had advised Hadhrat Abu Dharr in this way: “Adopt silence. This is a way of causing Satan to run away, it is a support to you in the matter of your religion.”
Undoubtedly the tongue is a rope in the hands of Satan. He turns it anywhere he likes. When a man is unable to control his affairs, his mouth becomes a passage for all the negative talk which contaminates the heart and tongue. In fact, Allah (swt) has highlighted this in the Holy Qur’an between two obligatory duties for Muslims, which give an idea of its importance:
“Successful indeed are the believers who are humble in their prayers, and who shun vain conversation, and who are payers of zakat.” (Al-Muminoon: 1-4)
Clean and decent conversation impresses both friends and foes, and its sweet fruits can be readily enjoyed. It guards love between friends, strengthens their friendship and defeats all the tricks of the devil for weakening their relations and for sowing the seeds of discord between them.
The devil is hiding in ambush against man. He tries to sow the seeds of discord, enmity and jealousy among them. He wishes that the ordinary disputes be converted into big bloody battles. If we would talk gracefully with the enemy, their enmity would disappear, and their tempers will be cooled, or at least a distinct difference can be witnessed in their hostile attitude.
“The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then surely, he, between whom and you there was enmity (will become) as though he was a bosom friend.” (Ha-Meem: 34)
Our speech governed by our tongues carry a great effect on our relationship with others, in our communications and we will be accounted on the Day of Judgment for everything we utter, big or small. We often hear the saying which goes, “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” To that I add, “Speak to others in the same way you would like to be spoken.” One word may make all the difference in how the recipient takes it. One word can cause destruction and one word may bring you the pleasure of Allah (swt). May Allah (swt) enable us to carry decent, respectful and fruitful conversations with our fellow human beings that make a difference and bring a good name to the religion we follow and the infallible examples we emulate.