We constantly face incentives to be rude, disparaging, and un-Islamic in our manners. However, God wishes to elevate the status of mankind above the rudeness that has plagued society and towards social harmony and respect. This can only be achieved through polite conduct. It is a point of significance to mention that the manners of the Prophet Muhammad had yielded him immense respect even from the non-Muslims.
Words are undoubtedly the most powerful weapon held by humans. Words have the ability to create and destroy, a trait unique to speech alone. Islam has exemplified for mankind the simplicity of spreading the truth through mere words. However, our community has increasingly moved away from the exalted morals and manners of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) and towards blunt, condescending, and unattractive speech. At the end of the day, we must be mindful of God even when we are “speaking our mind”.
“O you who believe: keep your duty to Allah and speak straight, true words.” (Holy Quran 33:70)
It is disappointing when we witness individuals whom God has blessed with knowledge and the distinction between good and evil engaging in ambiguous and manipulative language. The best of words are the most simple, to the point, and objective. Men of knowledge have been ruined because they have withheld the truth for fear it would negatively impact them. However, the Holy Qur’an rejects the notion that the truth can be subjectively applied nor communicated: “Be maintainers of justice and bearers of true witness for Allah, even if it (the truth) goes against your own selves or parents or relatives or someone who is rich or poor” (4:135).
Speech can never be complete unless honesty is the ultimate goal and target for it. Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) said, “Learn to tell the truth before you learn to speak.” (al-Kafi)
“Say to My servants that they should (only) say those things that are best.” (17:53)
We constantly face incentives to be rude, disparaging, and un-Islamic in our manners. However, God wishes to elevate the status of mankind above the rudeness that has plagued society and towards social harmony and respect. This can only be achieved through polite conduct. It is a point of significance to mention that the manners of the Prophet Muhammad had yielded him immense respect even from the non-Muslims. If we are to be considered Muslims though actions and image, then we must at the very least uphold the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad and speak politely regardless of our audience or setting. Imam Ali (peace be upon him) stresses the important of good manners: “The best nobility of descent exhibits itself in politeness and in refinement of manners. No companion can prove more useful than politeness.” (Nahjul Balagaha)
Speak with Purpose and Not in Vain
Successful indeed are the believers, who are humble in their prayers, and who avoid vain talk.” (23:1-3)
Silence instills in us a profound sense of respect and dignity just as aimless conversation will detract from our faith. The friends of God have reached their high status through understanding the impact of silence on our character as believers. The Holy Infallibles have demonstrated and explained the merits of silence. Imam Ali said, “He who speaks more commits more errors. He who commits more errors becomes shameless. He who is shameless will have less fear of Allah. He whose fear of Allah is less, his heart dies. He whose heart dies enters the fire. He who knows that his speech is also a part of his action speaks less except where he has some purpose.” (Life Under the Grace of Ethics)
It is easy to engage in mindless speech and dialogue with others; however, these actions quickly become the norm, and we lose track of our purpose. A simple guiding principle that has been stressed by our religion is to be conscious that all our actions, speech, and worship should be done for the sake of God. If a deed, conversation, or task cannot be completed in an intention for God, then we must question its validity and consider its consequences.
Speak Gently, Fairly, and Graciously
The Holy Qur’an can easily be considered a manual for conduct for each individual, and those who follow its teachings have been blessed with obtaining the love and respect of others simply by fulfilling their obligation to God.
The late Imam Khomeini advises us to fill our hearts with kindness and love towards others, “Make friends with God’s servants on whom He bestows His mercy and blessings – who are in His good grace by being Muslims and faithful – and be kind and loving at heart.”
Islam was not spread through harshness of tone nor outrageous comments that offend and push others away. In fact, the Holy Quran teaches us the Prophet Muhammad was sent as a mercy to mankind. Even when teaching others the difference between good and evil, God has picked the most honorable, esteemed, and respectful individual to carry out the task. We cannot expect to be held to lower standards; in fact, we must strive to speak in a manner such that the world will be in awe at our role model and inspiration.