Silence Is Golden

In our society keeping quiet or being an introvert are characteristics that are looked down upon. This is because our society only values what is apparent; thus the self-effacing individuals who refrain from speaking unnecessarily are known as the ones who are insecure and lacking in self-confidence, whilst the long-winded individuals are deemed as being clever, witty and successful. This is ironic, as this mentality was not shared by our pious predecessors, according to Hadrat Ali (ra) “when intelligence is complete speech becomes rare”. Traditionally it has also been said that one should “be sure of the stupidity of a man if he speaks too much”. A wise man once said “Modesty brings silence”, and according to Islamic tradition modesty is also a branch of faith. Modest people do not highlight their merits, they feel embarrassed when they are given praise, and genuinely do not feel they have done all that much to deserve it. One should know that if someone is truly worthy of being praised, Allah (swt) makes sure that such an individual’s merits are made known to everyone. In other words contrary to contemporary opinion one does need to be loud and boastful in order to be heard, appreciated and recognised.


We are living in a time in which the abnormal is perceived as being normal. And if we allow ourselves to be controlled by the ever- changing norms of society then this shows that we are being controlled by people, whereas in actual fact we should only be controlled by the wishes of our Almighty Creator.


Furthermore, the one who endeavors to gain the love, admiration or approval of people will exhaust himself. In the end, his action may leave some pleased and others unhappy. It is said that if “one desires immortal glory he should seek glory in the Immortal”. In other words seeking the pleasure of Allah (swt) makes one pleasing to good people.


The Holy Prophet (saw) said “If a person is given silence, he is given wisdom”, the tongue is a great temptation, and learning how to control it is an enormous discipline. Whenever the Holy Prophet (saw) spoke, he always spoke the truth, even in levity. He disliked verbosity and cautioned His companions about talking needlessly.


The blessed companions of the Holy Prophet (saw) were people of few words and questions, but great actions. When the people of the first and second generation were asked a question they would tremble out of fear for Allah (swt). Imam Malik once said “Before answering a question one should (present himself) in front of heaven and hell (contemplating about them) and then should choose an answer which he thinks may save him from the fire”. It was for this reason that unlike today the Salaf were far from eager to answer a question or to present their opinion about a matter. Today, however everyone has to have their say, even upon issues that they fully do not grasp.


Mawlana Rumi said “The Lord lives in every heart. So if you desire to win your Lord's pleasure, do not break anyone’s heart”. Intentionally breaking someone’s heart is possibly one of the worst things one can do. And it’s the harsh/ruthless words naively uttered by some which hurt people’s feelings and break hearts.


Hadrat Ali (ra) has said “wounds of knives can heal, but the wounds of the tongue can never heal”. A believer is the one from whose tongues and hands other Muslims are safe. We should ask ourselves if our words bring comfort and relief to those around us or do they cut deeply into their hearts, and send them plummeting into grief and sadness.


Our pious predecessors developed the habit of keeping silent by placing pebbles in their mouths which used to prevent them from speaking, others used to restrain themselves in their houses. This is because they knew that ones spiritual affairs can not be perfected until the heart is rectified and ones heart can not be rectified until the tongue is rectified.


The heart of a man lies under his tongue which is why hypocrisy is blameworthy. The hypocrite says with his tongue what is not in his heart. If the heart was sound then the condition of the tongue would follow. This is why the tongue has often been described as the interpreter of the heart. Scholars hold that due to the direct connection between the tongue and heart, much Dhikr (remembrance) of Allah (swt) is recommended, this is because what a person repeats on the tongue reaches the heart. The believer is he whose tongue lies beneath his heart, in other words he thinks before he speaks, whilst the hypocrite is he who speaks without thinking. It should also be noted that excessive talking deadens the heart.


The Holy Qur’an does encourage people to speak out, but only if this serves a worthy purpose. Indeed to remain silent on some occasions is reprehensible. Our pious predecessors have said “Knowledge has been divided into two parts. The first part is to keep silent and the other half is to know when to speak and when to be silent”.

To sum up, a wise man once said, “Be just to your ears and mouth, you have been given two ears and only one mouth, so that you can listen more than you speak.” It is a well established fact that the sins that affect people’s relationships, corrupt the affection they have for one another, destroy what they share out of love and brotherhood, are destroyed by backbiting, slander, insults, abuse, dispute, and lies, and it is the tongue that has the greatest part to play and greatest role in all of them.


Keeping silent establishes piety, brings about the blessings of Allah (swt), increases wisdom, brings peace and happiness and is the gateway to beneficial knowledge. One should also know that Allah (swt) is most easily reached through silence. Stop and think what type of person are you? May Allah (swt) bless us with the wisdom that is acquired through silence, and give us the ability to think before we speak. Ameen.

By Alveena Salim