Clergy Corner

Dangers of the Tongue

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The sins of the tongue are unfortunately not highly detested in the sight of the people, and when this occurs, the danger and hazard of performing them also increases. It has been narrated from Nafi from Ibn Umar that he said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) said, “May (Allah) have mercy on that servant who gives benefit when he speaks or who is protected through maintaining silence. Surely the tongue is the thing which wields the most authority over a person. Be aware that everything that the servant speaks is against him except for the remembrance of Allah the High or the commanding of others to that which is right or preventing them from that which is evil or setting the affair right between two believers.” One of the companions named Mu’adh ibn Jabal said, “Messenger of Allah! Will we be held accountable for that which we speak?” The Prophet replied, “Is there anything else except an active tongue of the person that will lead him into the hell fire? So then whoever seeks safety (from the fire), let him protect that which comes from his tongue.” (Bihar al-Anwar)

In this Hadith, the Prophet has alluded to some issues regarding the tongue and has stated that may Allah’s mercy be upon that servant whose speech people can gain benefit from and who observes silence in order to stay safe and protected. In this part of the Hadith, there are a few important issues which we must mention:

Firstly, more than anything else that is within the body of a person, it is the tongue which rules and controls him. The peculiarities that exist and which are limited to that person who has a tongue cannot be seen in any other body part nor in any other creation. The tongue is always at the disposal of the person, and sometimes the following similitude is given that, “For a person to speak is just like drinking water.” Even still, if a person wants to drink water, we see that there are some prerequisites that must be fulfilled and carried out; however, in order to speak there are no prerequisites.

Secondly, the dangers of the tongue cannot be compared to the dangers of any other body part, and the major sins which can be committed by the tongue number some twenty or thirty sins!

Thirdly, the sins of the tongue are unfortunately not highly detested in the sight of the people, and when this occurs, the danger and hazard of performing them also increases. If, may Allah protect us, a person performs adultery, then he has definitely does a very bad act in the sight of the people; however, if he was to backbite another person, then as it is mentioned in the narrations, this is actually worse than adultery, and even worse than drinking alcohol, and its punishment is even much more severe! Normally, in the beliefs of other people, the despicability of the act of backbiting is something minor, or it may not even be considered as something bad at all!

The Prophet then continued his speech and said that everything that a person says is against him except for three types of speech. This limit or threshold is a true and factual threshold, and there is no room to say that this is a symbolic gesture on behalf of the Prophet: the remembrance of Allah, Amr bil Ma’ruf and Nahi anil Munkar, and making amends between two believers.

We must make sure that all of that which we speak in this world are limited to these three issues, and if we fall out of this boundary, then we will definitely incur loss.

In relation to this Hadith, there is an interesting interpretation which will really spiritually move some people. We see that after this speech of the Prophet, Mu’adh ibn Jabal said, “O Messenger of Allah! Is speaking also something that a person will have to be accountable for?!”

The Prophet replied to him, “Is there anything else except for the remuneration of the tongue that a person will be thrown face first into the hell fire for?”

Thus, it is clear that the sins for which a person will be thrown into the hellfire face first are not related to the (sins performed by the) chest, feet, or the hands; rather, it is those which he has earned through his tongue.

It may be that such a punishment has been prescribed since when a person is thrown into the hellfire due to the sins he has committed, he will be thrown into the fire by that thing which led him to commit the sins. Since it is the tongue by which he committed sins, he will be thrown into the hellfire face first, so that it is his tongue which is the first thing burnt by the fire, and it is that same tongue that lit the fires of hatred and sin in the world, and it is the tongue through which he accused innocent people and annoyed others.

Thus, every morning when we wake up from sleep, we must ask Allah to protect us from the evils of the tongue. In addition, when we are ready to go to bed in the evening and sleep for the night, we must ask forgiveness from Allah from the sins which we may have possibly committed during the day with the tongue, since the tongue of the person definitely puts him into great difficulty.

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