Imagine you’re having a nice conversation with some of your friends or family. You’re really enjoying yourself, till you smell something.
You wonder which person did the deed. May be he ate something bad and couldn’t control himself. You decide to overlook it. But then, the smell, instead of disappearing, starts to increase. And now you can also hear sounds. And you realize that more than one person is doing it.
After five minutes of this, you decide they must all be ill and wonder if you should take them to the doctor. But what really shocks you is that they all continue to talk and laugh as if several dung-bombs aren’t going off and everything’s just fine.
After ten minutes of suffocation, you decide you can’t take it anymore and leave, while the others wonder what’s wrong with you.
Gross, isn’t it? But you know what? Often people release dung-bombs left and right and we don’t seem to care. In fact, sometimes we’re even tempted to join in.
The only difference is that we can’t sense the grossness through the five senses, because it’s a spiritual dung-bomb. Yet it’s ugly. It’s like a rotten dead body. But only a person whose soul is healthy can sense its ugliness and feel disgusted by it. Which means that most of us are spiritually ill.
Here’s a list of spiritual dung-bombs we are familiar with:
– Backbiting: Talking about someone behind their back in a way they wouldn’t like if they were hearing.
– Slander: Backbiting about this that are not true.
– Slandering a chaste woman’s character.
– Telling lies.
– Speaking harshly to one’s parents.
– Speaking words of disbelief or shirk.
– Storming on an innocent person to release one’s pent-up anger.
– Making false promises one is sure not to fulfill.
– Scoffing at other people
– Using swearwords
– Giving false testimony at court
Notice that all these bombs are released from one source – the tongue. Also, they vary in their ugliness.
At the end of a long hadith in Al-Arba’in, Nawawi mentions the Prophet (peace be upon him) as taking hold of his own tongue and saying:
The companion asked:
“O Prophet of Allah, will we be taken to account for what we say with it?”
He (peace be upon him) said:
Is there anything that throws people into the Hellfire upon their faces — or: on their noses — except the harvests of their tongues? (Tirmidhi, qt in Nawawi 29)
What’s scary is that it’s incredibly easy to commit the sins of the tongue – all you need to do is move a muscle. It’s so easy to fall into an act that people around you think is no big deal.
A person utters a word thoughtlessly (i.e., without thinking about its being good or not) and, as a result of this, he will fall down into the fire of Hell deeper than the distance between the east and the west. (Agreed upon, qt in Riyad al-Salihin Book 18, Hadith 4)
In fact, often in a circle of backbiters, the odd person who doesn’t participate is thought of as weird. If you try to defend the person who is the target of the backbiting, you often hear yourself labeled as “naïve”, like you are too idealistic and impractical and that makes you blind to people’s errors. So your defense is dismissed as naivety, and the backbiting goes on.
What Should We Do?
What should one do when dung-bombs burst around them?
Firstly, we must develop our souls and keep them healthy, so that we can sense the ugliness of the sins of the tongue in the first place. All acts of good help us develop our souls, and staying away from sins keeps it healthy.
Secondly, we must police our tongues every moment of the day.
Ibn Mas’ud said:
“The first thing on earth which deserves a life long prison sentence is the tongue.” (Tabarani, qt in Ayoob 214)
When we’re not sure whether what we’re going to say is sinful or not, it’s better to avoid saying it at all.
The Prophet said:
Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should speak what is good or keep silent. (Al-Bukhari 6136)
It’s not easy to watch yourself twenty-four-seven. Often we’re going to slip, especially at first. The thing is not to get discouraged but to start over. And when things get difficult, remember the reward waiting for those who strive to keep their speech pure and pleasing to Allah.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
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. (Al-Bukhari 6474)