Manners of Speech


What is the manners of speech in islam? What are the different manners of speech?

“Do not say something for which you have to apologize.” (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 15)

Speech is a wonderful divine blessing which enables people to communicate, love, and socialize with each other. People usually express their feelings, thoughts, and wishes through speaking. A person’s language and wording may make him/her either very successful or be a disappointment among others. Being careful of what one says and one’s language is even enumerated among the things to attain Paradise. Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) said that,

“Whoever can guarantee the chastity of what is between his two jaw-bones and what is between his two legs (i.e. his tongue and his private parts), I guarantee Paradise for him.” (Bukahri, Riqaq, 23) In another saying, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) replied to the question of “who is more virtuous?” with the following answer:

“He is the one who avoids harming the Muslims with his tongue and hands.” (Bukhari, Iman, 4-5) Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) established some principles about the Islamic manners of speech:

  1. To speak clearly and intelligibly and in accordance with the level of the addressee; and when it is necessary, one should repeat significant parts of his/her speech. In this context, the following evaluations of the companions about the fluency and clarity of the Prophet’s speech are very important:

“The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) spoke in a distinct manner so that anyone who listened to him could understand it.” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 18)

“When the Prophet (pbuh) spoke, those who would like to count his words could count them.” (Bukhari, Manaqib, 23)

“He would repeat the words and sentences three times that he wanted to be clearly understood.” (Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 9)

In order to let the addressee understand the matter better sometimes one may need to repeat his/her words. In the Qur’an some events are repeated a few times because of their significance and thus believers should draw their attentions to them. For instance, Satan’s rebellious behavior against the Divine command and refusal of prostration is repeated in seven places; and the incident about the sorcerers who believed in Moses (pbuh) is repeated in four places in the Qur’an.

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) would repeat some verses while leading a prayer two or three times. When sermonizing and warning his companions Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) would repeat some expressions. The same approach can frequently be observed in the sermons of the friends of Allah. However, this should be with the purpose of teaching and in accordance with the level of the listeners; it also should not be boring.

It would be a waste of breath to speak in a congregation where no one is able to comprehend the speech.

  1. It is strongly forbidden to give speeches with the purpose of pedantry and seeing oneself superior than others and to use expressions which people could not understand. Our beloved Prophet (pbuh) said that,

“Allah, the Exalted, hates the eloquent one among men who moves his tongue round (among his teeth), as cattle do (use a pompous language).” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 94)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh), whose mission was to convey the truth to humanity, never had artistic concerns in his speeches. Our beloved Prophet (pbuh) always talked with the purest and most honest expressions that came from his heart, which added quite a different beauty and eloquence to his speech.

  1. One should not utter in a loud voice. It is not appropriate to speak in an angry tone like there is a deaf person before him/her. Adopting a polite manner is always the most appropriate choice in speech. According to the statement of the Qur’an, Luqman (pbuh) taught his son the manner of speech as follows:

“Be modest in your bearing and subdue your voice. Lo! The harshest of all voices is the voice of the ass.” (Luqman 31; 19) In another verse, it is stated that:

“Say to my servants that they should (only) say those things that are best…” (al-Isra 17; 53) Allah the Exalted ordered Moses and Aaron (peace be upon them) to use a mild language to warn the Pharaoh. (Taha 20; 43-44) Therefore, one should be careful about his/her way of speech even if his/her addressee is a non-Muslim. It is expressed in a tradition of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) that one might save himself/herself from Hellfire because of a pleasant word:

“He who among you can protect himself against Fire, he should do so, even if it should be with half a date and he who does not find it, (he should do so) with pleasant words.” (Muslim, Zakat, 68)

  1. In a group of three it is prohibited that two of them speak secretly and exclude the third person. The Prophet (pbuh) said that such a behavior might grieve the third person. (Bukhari, Isti’dhan, 47) And a mature believer would not like to do something which might hurt his/her Muslim brother or sister.
  2. When a subject is discussed or a question is asked in a group the person who has the right to speak first is the person who is the oldest one of the group; however others might also express their opinions. Indeed when Abdurrahman bin Sahl (r.a.) began to talk, the Prophet said (to him), “Let the eldest of you speak. Let the eldest of you speak.” as Abdurrahman was the youngest thus the eldest ones talked about the matter. (Bukhari, Jizya, 12)

Abdullah b. Umar (r. anhuma) narrated:

“One day Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) asked his companions:

“Tell me a tree, which resembles the believers.” Companions, who were present there, counted all the trees of the desert one by one. I thought about the date tree and wanted to say it; but I did not speak up for there were elders in the group. When they could not figure it out, the Prophet (pbuh) said that the answer was the date tree.” (Muslim, Munafiqun, 64)

  1. Speech should be brief and to the point. One should avoid unnecessary details. In other words, one should form the habit of speaking wisely and properly. Allah the Almighty states one of the distinguished features of the believers in the Qur’an saying, “And (the believers) who shun vain conversation…” (al-Mu’minun 23; 3) thus dealing with vain speech is characterized among the signs of sinners. (Luqman 31; 6)

The Prophet (pbuh) attracts our attention to this matter as follows:

“Do not speak much without mentioning Allah in your speech. Speaking about something other than Allah hardens the heart. And there is no doubt that those who have hardened hearts are the farthest ones from Allah.” (Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 62)

“It is the perfection of a believer to leave the matters, which do not directly concern him.” (Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 11)

  1. One should strongly stay away from harmful speeches or speeches which have no temporal or spiritual benefits; because, as it is stated in the following verse, one will be questioned from every one of his/her words in the Hereafter:

 “Not a word does he utter but there is a sentinel by him, ready (to note it).” (Qaf 50; 18) In this regard, Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) said that:

“…anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should talk what is good or keep quiet. (i.e. abstain from all kinds of evil and dirty talk).” (Bukhari, Adab, 31, 85)

  1. One should not talk about things which are not yet clearly known whether they are lawful or unlawful, good or bad, and right or wrong. This is stated in a saying of the Prophet (pbuh):

“A slave of Allah may utter a word without thinking whether it is right or wrong, he may slip down in the Fire as far away a distance equal to that between the East and West.” (Bukhari, Riqaq, 23) The Turkish proverb “think a thousand times but speak only once” and similar ones may have been inspired by such sayings of the Prophet (pbuh).

  1. It is very important to avoid meaningless talks which may damage mutual relationships for the continuity of friendships. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that:

“Do not say something for which you have to apologize.” (Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 15)

  1. A believer should always talk the truth and stay away from false news and speech. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said that:

“When one wakes up in the morning, all his limbs goes to his tongue and say: “Fear Allah in regards to protect our rights, for we will get punished because of what you talk. We depend upon you. If you are right, we will be right; and if you get distorted and go astray, we will follow you and be like you.” (Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 61) The Qur’an warns us in this context as follows:

 “O you who believe! Guard your duty to Allah, and speak words straight to the point; He will adjust your works for you and will forgive you your sins. Whosoever obeys Allah and His messenger, he verily has gained a signal victory.” (al-Ahzab 33; 70-71)

  1. When talking about the future to say “insha-Allah – if Allah wills” is a very important manner of speech. A servant’s free-will is not a sufficient cause for the occurrence of a thing. What is really important is the Will of Allah. When expecting something for the future to say insha-Allah means to be aware of the Divine Will and not to accept any other will above His Will. It is ordered in the Qur’an: “Nor say of anything, I shall be sure to do so and so tomorrow except if Allah will…” (al-Kahf 18; 23-24) In a tradition of the Prophet (pbuh) it was stated that Prophet Solomon’s wish had not come true for he had not said Allah willing. (Bukhari, Ayman, 3)

Source: An Excellent Exemplar, Osman Nuri Topbaş,  Erkam Publications

The Human Reality