By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com
“A bad wound heals, but a bad word doesn’t.” – Persian proverb.
This is so true. I have experienced martial arts injuries, cuts from falling off a bike, and even a few broken bones, but I never think of them. The scars have faded, and the old wounds have no emotional significance. But the cruel words people have spoken to me, those remain like barbs in my flesh. I may have forgiven the people who uttered the words, but the memories linger.
I remember a dinner party years ago. Someone had spilled food on the floor near a buffet table and people were stepping on it. In Islam it’s considered disrespectful to God to step on food, as food is a blessing. I knelt down to pick up the food and my friend got angry and said that the restaurant had people to do that, and I was embarrassing myself and acting like a “pseudo holy man.” It makes me laugh now, but at the time it really stung, and as you can see, the words are still there in my head, almost twenty years later.
Whoever it was who said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” was foolishly optimistic. Words persist. They root themselves in our brains and wait, ready to spring out in an argument years later.
Let’s think twice before we speak, especially when we are angry, and then consider again, and again. When we are provoked and inclined to say something hurtful, let us bite the words off. Breathe deeply, praise Allah, seek refuge from Shaytan. Go for a walk, go to the masjid or the gym. Don’t say those mean words, don’t send that angry email.
Allah says, “Do not worship except Allah; and to parents do good and to relatives, orphans, and the needy. And speak to people good [words] and establish prayer and give zakah.” (Quran, Al-Baqarah 2:83).
Look past the hurt that the person has given you, and see the soul within them, struggling as we all do, battling with disappointment and insecurity. When you speak, let your words be kind, and see what happens. You might be surprised.
It’s a lifelong struggle. I am still working on it.
The Arabic word that is translated in Al-Baqarah 2:83 as “good” (words) is “husnan”. It means nice, sweet or beautiful. It means we should speak words that caress the other person’s heart and bring relief to their soul. Words that make people happy, that inspire and raise hope. Be an agent of hope in this world, not an agent of despair.
But the word “husnan” has many other meanings as well. The same word is used in the following expressions: husn an-niyyah (good will), husn az-dhan (good thoughts or assumptions about someone), husn al-khuluq (high ethics), husn al-qabul (accepting someone, welcoming)…
Someone might say, “I’m right and I won’t back down.” That’s fine. You don’t have to give up truth to be kind. The Quran says, “and speak to them words of appropriate kindness.” (Quran, An-Nisaa’ 4:8). “Appropriate kindness”, what an interesting phrase! The Arabic word is “ma’roofan”. It means speak the truth, but kindly, without arrogance or anger.
Picture wildflowers growing on a great mountain. The mountain is a symbol of truth and strength, while the flowers represent sweetness and gentleness. When you combine them, you get the model of Islamic speech.
Similarly, Allah says, “O you who have believed, fear Allah and speak words of appropriate justice.” (Quran, Al-Ahzab 33:70).
The greatest speaker of truth was the Messenger of Allah (sws). And how did he speak? The Quran praises the Prophet’s attitude because he was gentle, smiling and soft with his Sahabah, and with strangers. His sweetness was a gift from Allah:
“So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].” (Quran, Aal-Imran, 3:159).
Kind words, gentle but true. Softness of speech. That is the language of Islam. Leave no wounds, with your hands or your words. Be an agent of hope, and rely upon Allah in all things, and He will love you for it.