Laiq Ahmed Atif | Malta Independent on Sunday | 19 December 2021
I would like to start with a story of a king who had a lovely horse. One day, the horse fell sick and there was no chance for recovery, making the king extremely sad who repeatedly enquired about its health. He sent a very high-ranking minister of his to see the horse; he came back and informed the king that his horse had died. The king, who didn’t want to hear such news, flew into rage and severely punished the minister and lowered his rank.
He then sent another minister who was very wise and gentle. Upon returning, he informed the king that there are no signs of pain and the horse is in a state of complete peace and comfort. After a thorough examination of the horse, he said he didn’t hear any voice whatsoever from its chest. The king understood that the horse had died but remained calm and stable due to the selection of the minister’s wise and appropriate words which provided relief, consolation and solace to the king who consequently rewarded his minister for his gentle and wise approach.
This story highlights that words make a difference, and the huge impact words can have. Inappropriate and ill-selected words, even if true, impact a person negatively both physically and emotionally, and sometimes people on the receiving end suffer extremely and some even end up self-harming themselves.
Conversely, wisely chosen words describing the same situation, can resonate positively with others and boost their morale and wellbeing.
I believe in this era of social media, the need for kind, polite, and wise words is of paramount importance, especially due to the increase of many social and health issues. More worryingly, hateful and injuring words have divided nations and have built massive walls between the people.
I truly believe that love is the antidote of every form of hate speech, and wisdom and rationality is the remedy to curb this ever increasing virus that has permeated far and wide and wounded every fabric of the society, be it political, religious or social.
How rightly it is said: “The wounds given by a sword can be healed, but nothing can heal a wound given by words.”
Undoubtedly words make a huge difference. The tongue is the passageway to one’s body and one, whose tongue, meaning whose speech is pure, stands a greater chance of gaining closeness to God and fellow human beings. Therefore, Islam has instructed us to always be mindful when we write or speak, and be responsible and extra cautious when writing and uttering words while addressing others.
Human beings are the best of the creation, thus they are expected to adopt the highest moral standards in their everyday lives. The Holy Quran guides us stating: “Speak to people kindly, gently and decently” (2:84). It further highlights this point by stating: “A kind word and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury. And God is Self-Sufficient, Forbearing.” (2:264)
One particular form of harmful speech is spread through social mediums. Sometimes, it seems as if people are on a battlefield and instead of bombing others with what kills a person instantly, they are using the hydrogen bombs – hateful words – that continue to inflict pain and injury to a person on the receiving end for days, weeks, months and even years.
Addressing such a situation, God guides us not to ridicule one another stating: “Defame not your own people, nor call each other by nicknames or bad names that they don’t like.” (49:12)
Islam further states that we should always like for others what we like for ourselves and that a good and gentle word is an act of charity. Furthermore, it admonishes us that nothing weighs heavier in the scale of God than the excellence of conduct and that, “Whoever believes in God and the Day of Judgment should not put his neighbour to inconvenience, should treat his guests with respect, and should only say that which is good or else remain quiet.”
I would like to conclude with a saying of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him, which is the guiding principle for us to follow throughout our lives. He said: “Do not be jealous of each other. Do not inflate prices. Do not hate each other. Do not turn your back on each other. Do not make an offer while two parties are engaged in bargaining. Be true servants of God by becoming brothers to one another.”