If we analyze our different body parts which Allah (swt) blessed us with, we will realize that one of the most used body parts which we will be accounted for is our tongues. It is by our tongues that we are able to talk and speak. Often times, we speak before thinking and it doesn’t take much effort for us to open our mouths to speak our minds. We may have to make a mental effort to get up and walk to a certain destination, or we may have to make an intention to pick up a pen a write; however, talking doesn’t take much physical effort, and we often fall into the mistake of speaking without thinking.
Although we are blessed with the ability to use our tongues and speak without effort required, this bounty also carries immense responsibility our part in front of Allah (swt). Our Holy Prophet (sa) was asked in numerous occasions what is the most frequent sin which takes people to Hell-Fire, and he answered “Most of the sins of the children of Adam are from the tongue.” (Usool Al-Kafi) It is narrated that one day Ma`adh ibn Jabal asked the Noble Prophet: “Shall we be held responsible for what we say?” The Prophet said: “O Ibn Jabal! May your mother be bereft of you! Does anything else throw people down on their faces (in Hell) other than the harvest of their tongues?” (Divine Perspective on Rights)
In another occasion, the Prophet (sa) explained further the consequences of using our tongues, “Indeed a servant may say a word from which Allah’s pleasure is gained and the servant does not realize it, Allah will raise him up levels. Indeed a servant may say a word from which Allah’s displeasure is gained and he does not realize it, Allah will put him in Hell-Fire due to it.”
Many a times, a person’s true position of the heart and mind is manifested by speech. Hence, Imam Ali (as) says, “Man is hidden under his tongue.” (Nahjul Balagha, Sayings & Letters) And in another saying he warns, “The tongue is a beast; if it is let loose, it devours.” (Ibid)
There are many ways by which we can sin and commit mistake by our speech. Here are some of the most common examples which we must beware from committing and we are encouraged to refrain from:
Talking in Vain: The Prophet (sa) has said, “One of the signs of the excellence of a Muslim’s submission to God is his leaving what does not concern him” (Al-Mahajjah al-Bayda) And Allah (swt) says in Surat al-Momineen, Verse 3: “Indeed successful are the Believers, those who in their prayer have Khushoo’ (fear of Allah) and those who refrain from vain talk.” Too much talk makes the heart hard. It is not possible to reach the level of Khushoo’ (fear of Allah) unless one refrains from vain talk.
Excessive Talking: The Prophet (sa) said, “Blessed be the one who restrains his tongue from excessive speech and gives his excess wealth in charity to the needy.” (Al-Mahajjah al-Bayda)
Gossiping: One of the most common sins that one can fall into is gossiping and meddling in other people’s affairs. Often times, curiosity and the desire to please others push us to get involved in useless conversations that can only hurt and lead to backbiting.
Arguing excessively: Islam has discouraged the idea of arguing excessively and having fruitless debates especially with the foolish. The Prophet (sa) has said, “A servant cannot attain full faith unless he quits verbal arguments even if he is right.” (Al-Mahajjah al-Bayda)
Cursing: The Prophet (sa) said, “Those who frequently resort to cursing would neither be accepted as witnesses nor as intercessors on the Day of Resurrection.”
False Statements: It was quoted on the authority of Imam Hasan Askari (as): “All sins are stored in a house. The key to that house is lying.” (Mustadrak al-Wasa’il) Imam Ali (as) has said: “No man shall taste faith unless he avoids lying, be it serious or as a joke.” (Usool Al-Kafi)
Swearing: Many of us easily get into the habit of swearing in the name of God in anything and everything, which belittles the divine status of the Almighty Creator. The Prophet (sa) has said, “Beware of swearing since God does not like swearing and those who are used to swearing.” (Al-Mahajjah al-Bayda)
Making fun of others: Allah (swt) says in the Holy Quran, “O you who believe! Let not some men among you laugh at others: It may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): Nor let some women laugh at others: It may be that the (latter are better than the (former): Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” [49:11]
Making fake promises: One of the factors that corrupt the tongue is making fake promises to others. We read this verse in the Holy Quran, “O you who believe! Fulfill (all) obligations/promises.” [5:1] Sometimes we get into the habit of making promises knowing well that we don’t plan to fulfill them, just to make the other person feel better at the moment, however, Allah (swt) will account us for our words and promises.
Failing to keep secrets: Our friend comes to us and confides to us about something and then adds, ‘Please don’t tell anyone’. And the next thing you know, we are passing on that secret to another person and telling them the same thing, ‘Please don’t say that I told you’. We fall into this grave mistake quite often and we lose the trust of others with time. Imam Al-Hasan (as) has advised, “It is an act of treachery to speak of your brother’s secrets.’ (Al-Mahajjah al-Bayda)
In conclusion, speech is a great bounty of Allah (swt) and our tongues have a right upon us. The gratitude that we should show for this great blessing should include, using it for the obedience to Allah, reciting Quran and dhikr (remembrance of Allah in all its forms), propagating knowledge, and enjoining the good and forbidding evil. We have to be cognizant of the prohibitions of the tongue because even though the size of the tongue is small, its sin is great. It is better to keep silent and guard our tongues at all times. Ameerul Momineen (as) has advised us, “As intelligence increases, speech decreases.” (Nahjul Balagha, Sayings & Letters) And he emphasized in numerous occasions that, the wiser man is, the less he will speak. Hence, before we speak, we must think very careful and not be driven by our emotions to say what we feel and we should filter our thoughts before opening our mouths to communicate them.