In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Beneficent. You should know that all acts of disobedience are poison to the heart and cause its sickness and ruin. They result in its will running off course, against that of Allah, and so its sickness festers and increases. Ibn al-Mubarak said:
I have seen wrong actions killing hearts, And their degradation may lead to their becoming addicted to them. Turning away from wrong actions gives life to the hearts, And opposing your self is best for it.
Whoever is concerned with the health and life of his heart, must rid it of the effects of such poisons, and then protect it by avoiding new ones. If he takes any by mistake, then he should hasten to wipe out their effect by turning in repentance and seeking forgiveness from Allah, as well as by doing good deeds that will wipe out his wrong actions.
By the four poisons we mean unnecessary talking, unrestrained glances, too much food, and keeping bad company. Of all the poisons, these are the most widespread and have the greatest effect on a heart’s well-being.
It is reported in al-Musnad, on the authority of Anas (RadiyAllahu Anhu), that the Prophet, Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam, said:
“The faith of a servant is not put right until his heart is put right, and his heart is not put right until his tongue is put right.”[Da’if hadith, Al-Mundhari, 3/234; and al-Iraqi in al-Ihya, 8/1539]
This shows that the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, has made the purification of faith conditional on the purification of the heart, and the purification of the heart conditional on the purification of the tongue.
At-Tirmidhi relates in a hadith on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar:
“Do not talk excessively without remembering Allah, because such excessive talk without the mention of Allah causes the heart to harden, and the person furthest from Allah is a person with a hard heart.”[Da’if hadith, at-Tirmidhi, Kitab az-Zuhud, 7/92, gharib; no one else has transmitted it other than Ibrahim ibn Abdullah ibn Hatib, whom adh-Dhahabi mentions, 1/43, stating that this is one of the gharib hadith attributed to him]
Umar ibn al-Khattab, RadiyAllahu Anhu, said:
“A person who talks too much is a person who often makes mistakes, and someone who often makes mistakes, often has wrong actions. The Fire has a priority over such a frequent sinner.”[Da’if hadith, Ibn Hibban and al-Bayhaqi, and al-Iraqi in his edition of al-Ihya, 8/1541]
In a hadith related on the authority of Mu’adh, radiAllahu anhu, the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said:
“Shall I not tell you how to control all that?”
I said: ‘Yes do, O Messenger of Allah.’
So he held his tongue between his fingers, and then he said:
I said: ‘Oh Prophet of Allah, are we accountable for what we say?’
He, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said:
“May your mother be bereft by your loss! Is there anything more than the harvest of the tongues that throws people on their faces (or he said ‘on their noses’) into the Fire?”[Sahih hadith, at-Tirmidhi, al-Hakim, adh-Dhahabi]
What is meant here by ‘the harvest of the tongues’ is the punishment for saying forbidden things. A man, through his actions and words, sows the seeds of either good or evil. On the Day of Resurrection he harvests their fruits. Those who sow the seeds of good words and deeds harvest honour and blessings; those who sow the seeds of evil words and deeds reap only regret and remorse.
A hadith related by Abu Hurayrah radiyallahu anhu, says:
“What mostly causes people to be sent to the Fire are the two openings:
the mouth and the private parts.”[Sahih hadith, at-Tirmidhi and Ahmad; also al-Hakim and adh-Dhahabi]
Abu Hurayrah (radiyallahu anhu) also related that the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said:
“The servant speaks words, the consequences of which he does not realise, and for which he is sent down into the depths of the Fire further than the distance between the east and the west.”[Al-Bukhari in Kitab ar-Riqaq, and Muslim in Kitab az-Zuhud]
The same hadith was transmitted by at-Tirmidhi with slight variations, ”The servant says something that he thinks is harmless, and for which he will be plunged into the depths of the Fire as far as seventy autumns.”[At-Tirmdihi,Kitab az-Zuhud; he said the hadith is hasan gharib]
Uqba ibn Amir said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, what is our best way of surviving?’
He, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, replied:
“Guard your tongue, make your house suffice for sheltering your privacy, and weep for your wrong actions.”[At-Tirmdihi in Kitab az-Zuhud with a slightly different wording; he said the hadith is hasan. This wording is reported by Abu Na’im in al-Hilya]
It has been related on the authority of Sahl ibn Sa’d, radiyallahu anhu, that the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said:
“Whoever can guarantee what is between his jaws and what is between his legs, I guarantee him the Garden.”[Al-Bukhari, Kitab ar-Riqaq, 11/308 and Kitab al-Hudud, 12/113]
It has also been related by Abu Hurayrah, radiyallahu anhu, that the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said:
“Let whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day either speak good or remain silent.”[Al-Bukhari, Kitab ar-Riqaq, 11/308; Muslim, Kitab al-Iman, 2/18. The complete hadith is, “Let whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day either speak good or remain silent; and let whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day be generous to his neighbours; and let whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day be generous to his guest.”]
Thus talking can either be good, in which case it is commendable, or bad, in which case it is haram.The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said:
“Everything the children of Adam say goes against them, except for their enjoining good and forbidding evil, and remembering Allah, Glorious and Might is He.”
This was reported by at-Tirmidhi and Ibn Ma’jah on the authority of Umm Habiba, radiyAllahu anha. [The hadith ishasan and is reported by at-Tirmdhi in Kitab az-Zuhud and by Ibn Majah in Kitab al-Fitan. At-Tirmidhi classifies it as hasan gharib. We have no report of it other than from Muhammad ibn Yazid ibn Khanis]
Umar ibn al-Khattab visited Abu Bakr, RadiyAllahu Anhuma, and found him pulling his tongue with his fingers.
Umar (ra) said: “Stop! may Allah forgive you!”
Abu Bakr (ra) replied: “This tongue has brought me to dangerous places.”[Hasan according to Abu Ya’la, Bayhaqi and as-Suyuti.Musnad, 1/201; as-Sa’ati]
Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (ra) said: “By Allah, besides Whom no god exists, nothing deserves a long prison sentence more than my tongue.”
He also used to say:
“O tongue, say good and you will profit; desist from saying evil things and you will be safe; otherwise you will find only regret.”
Abu Hurayrah (radiyallahu anhu) reported that Ibn al-Abbas (radiyallahu anhu) said:
“A person will not feel greater fury or anger for any part of his body on the Day of Judgement more than what he will feel for his tongue, unless he only used it for saying or enjoining good.”
“Whoever does not hold his tongue cannot understand his din.”
The least harmful of a tongue’s faults is talking about whatever does not concern it. The following hadith of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is enough to indicate the harm of this fault:
“One of the merits of a person’s Islam is his abandoning what does not concern him.”[Sahih, at-Tirmdhi, Kitab az-Zuhud, 6/607; Ahmad, al-Musnad, 1/201; as-Sa’ati, al-Fath ar-Rabbani, 19/257; hadith number 12 in an-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith]
Abu Ubaydah related that al-Hasan said:
“One of the signs of Allah’s abandoning a servant is His making him preoccupied with what does not concern him.”
Sahl said: ”Whoever talks about what does not concern him is deprived of truthfulness.”
As we have already mentioned above, this is the least harmful of the tongue’s faults. There are far worse things, like backbiting, gossiping, obscene and misleading talk, two-faced and hypocritical talk, showing off, quarrelling, bickering, singing, lying, mockery, derision and falsehood; and there are many more faults which can affect a servant’s tongue, ruining his heart and causing him to lose both his happiness and pleasure in this life, and his success and profit in the next life. Allah is the One to Whom we turn for assistance.