Islam came to instil and spread fine manners and noble etiquettes. When in conversation or discussion, a Muslim must maintain these because Islam comprehensively addresses all aspects of life, and requires a Muslim to be distinct in his character, creed, worship, manners, etiquettes and appearance.
Undoubtedly, Islam is the superior and lofty religion. There can be no doubt that its legislation is the final one and the finest amongst all revealed legislations.
This issue is vital and must be borne in mind when addressing our Lord, when speaking to people of knowledge, when conversing with friends, when talking to one's spouse, and when in a public gathering. If the manners and etiquettes of speech disappear, people’s gatherings will become futile and fruitless, and a source of enmity and hatred.
Guarding one's tongue: Allaah commands us to guard our tongues and His Messenger warned us against setting them loose.
Abu Hurayrah reported: “I heard the Prophet saying: “A person utters a word thoughtlessly (i.e., without thinking about whether it is good or evil) and as a result, will plummet into the fire of Hell deeper than the distance between the east and the west.”” [Al-Bukhaari & Muslim]
Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet said: “A man may utter a word pleasing to Allaah without considering it of any significance, but for which Allaah elevates his ranks (in Paradise); another one may speak a word displeasing to Allaah without considering it of any importance, but for which he would be plummeted into Hell.” [Al-Bukhaari]
Bilaal Ibn Al-Haarith Al-Muzani reported that the Messenger of Allaah said: “A man may speak a good word without knowing its worth, for which Allaah records for him His good pleasure until the Day he will meet Him; another man may utter an evil word without realising its importance, for which Allaah records for him His displeasure until the Day he will meet Him.” [Maalik & At-Tirmithi]
People often carelessly utter words, some of which may include or imply transgression of the limits of Islam. Such negative words may even be about Allaah, or an objection to His decree, or the like, which would lead the person uttering them to the Hellfire.
For this reason, when the Prophet was talking to Mu’aath he told him: “The root (i.e. foundation) of this matter is Islam, its pillar (mainstay) is the prayer and its apex is Jihaad (fighting in the cause of Allaah).” Then he asked: “Shall I tell you of that which holds together all these things?” Mu’aath said: “Yes, O Messenger of Allaah!” So he held his tongue between his fingers, and said: “Restrain this.” Mu’aath asked: “O Messenger of Allaah! Will we really be held to account for what we say?” The Prophet exclaimed: “May your mother lose you! Most people will be thrown on their faces into the Hellfire on account of their tongues.” [Ahmad & At-Tirmithi] The phrase: “May your mother lose you” is certainly not a supplication or a wish, as the Prophet would never have supplicated against any of his companions, but rather it is an idiom used by the Arabs to draw people's attention to the importance of what follows it, which in this case was to highlight that misuse of the tongue is the basis for the punishment of most people.
Statements from the Salaf regarding controlling and guarding the tongue: There are many statements that came in this regard, such as the words of Ibn Mas’ood : “That which requires imprisonment the most is one's tongue.” [End of quote] This is why many scholars have written books about the excellence of remaining silent.
The Prophet was silent most of the time, and only spoke when absolutely necessary. He encouraged us to use kind words when we do have to speak. `Adiyy Ibn Haatim reported the Messenger of Allaah as saying: “Allaah will surely speak to every one of you without an interpreter. He (i.e., the one being spoken to) will look to his right and see nothing but (deeds) which he had done, and will look to his left and see nothing but (deeds) which he had done. Then he will look in front of him and will find nothing except the Hellfire facing him. So protect (yourselves) from the Fire, even if by giving in charity half a date, and if you cannot find that, then with a kind word." [Al-Bukhaari & Muslim] He therefore clarified that kind words protect one from Hell and are thus a main cause of gaining entry into Paradise.
The Prophet also said: “In Paradise are rooms, the inside of which can be seen from the outside, and the outside of which can be seen from the inside. Allaah has prepared them for those who offer food (to the needy), are soft in speech, who frequently fast, and who pray at night while the people are asleep.” [Al-Bayhaqi & Al-Haakim]
The etiquettes of dialogue and speech: There are many etiquettes that Islam legislated and encouraged, which reflect the magnitude of this topic. The following are some of these etiquettes:
· Lowering one's voice: Allaah Says (what means): “…And lower your voice; indeed, the most disagreeable of sounds is the voice of donkeys.” [Quran 31: 19] Raising one's voice reflects a lack of manners, unless the need arises, such as when delivering a Khutbah, or when warning someone, or teaching, or when it is feared that those at a distance may not be able to hear. On the other hand, one's voice should not be so low that people can hardly hear, nor should it be monotonous, as this instigates boredom on the part of those listening, which can cause them to lose interest altogether.
· Shunning excessive talk and badmouthing others: Jaabir reported that the Messenger of Allaah said: “The dearest and nearest of you to me on the Day of Resurrection will be the one who is best in manners; and the most abhorrent among you, and the farthest of you from me (on that Day) will be the offensive (i.e. in speech), the garrulous, and the Mutafayhiqoon.” His companions asked him: "O Messenger of Allaah! We know about the offensive and the garrulous, but we do not know who the Mutafayhiqoon are.'' He replied: “(They are) those who are arrogant when they speak.” [At-Tirmithi] This is a stern warning to not sound arrogant or talk to people with words that they do not understand in order to demonstrate that one is knowledgeable or eloquent.
· Listening attentively to others: This is especially the case when the Quran is being recited; Allaah Says (what means): “So when the Qur'aan is recited, then listen to it and pay attention that you may receive mercy.” [Quran 7: 204] The worthiest person of being listened to was the Prophet and when his companions practically applied this, they attained an exalted level of manners and glorified the Prophet with his due glory. In fact, Allaah commanded the believers to lower their voices in his presence, as He Says (what means): “O you who have believed! Do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet or be loud to him in speech like the loudness of some of you to others, lest your deeds become worthless while you perceive not.” [Quran 49:2] This also applies after his death, by lowering one's voice when his prophetic narrations are being related.