President of Jamiyatu Ulama Australia

Falsehood and the Harms of the Tongue

There is an inconceivable number of blessings that Allah has provided for mankind to be found in the universe and even in every cell in the human body. In this universe, man is but a tiny item that is moving in space. Yet, Allah has favoured him and given him so many gifts.

One of Allah’s greatest gifts to mankind is the gift if expression. Imagine if man were deprived of this gift. How could he accomplish any form of interaction or transaction with others? Therefore, it is our duty to consider this gift with deep thought. Consider that when you talk, many parts of your body also contribute: the brain, the conscience, the senses, the lungs, the thought, the tongue, the ear, the lips… all these things play their part very easily, without any effort being expended on the part of the speaker. The practical way of expressing gratitude to Allah for all these gifts is to use them to do the things that please Allah, and to refrain from using them to do something that will displease Him.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) explained the importance of guarding one’s tongue when he said:

المسلم من سلم المسلمون من لسانه ويده
“The Muslim is he from whose hand and tongue other Muslims are safe.”

The Prophet (s.a.w.) warned Mu‘adh ibn Jabal against the mistakes and mischiefs of the tongue. Mu‘adh asked him: “O Messenger of Allah, shall we be taken to account for the things that we say?” The Messenger (s.a.w.) replied: “May you be lost to your mother, O Mu‘adh! Is there anything else that throws people on their faces into the Fire more than the harvests of their tongues?”

One means of thanking Allah for the gift of communication is to always speak the truth and to keep away from lying. The Prophet (s.a.w.) explained the merits of speaking the truth and avoiding falsehood in the following Hadith:

فعليكم بالصدق فإن الصدق يهدي إلى البر، وإن البر يهدي إلى الجنة. وإن الرجل ليصدق ويتحرى الصدق في كلامه حتى يكتب عند الله صديقا. وإياكم والكذب فإن الكذب يهدي إلى الفجور وإن الفجور يهدي إلى النار. وإن الرجل ليكذب ويتحرى الكذب في كلامه حتى يكتب عند الله كذابا.
“Truthfulness is obligatory for you: for indeed, truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise. And truly, a man continues to speak the truth until he is recorded as a truthful person in the sight of Allah. And beware of falsehood: for indeed, falsehood leads to indecency, and indecency leads to the Fire. And truly, a man continues to lie in his speech until he is recorded as a liar in the sight of Allah.”

ويل للذي يحدث بالحديث يضحك به الناس فيكذب
“Woe to the one who narrates an account to make people laugh and lies (therein).”

There are four qualities characteristic of a hypocrite (Munafiq). If a person possesses one of them, he has a share in hypocrisy until he abandons that quality:
1. When he speaks, he tells a lie.
2. When he is entrusted with something, he breaks the trust.
3. When he makes an agreement, he does not fulfil it.
4. When he makes a promise, he breaks it.

The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) asked the Sahabah: “Shall I tell you of the greatest of the major sins?” They said: “Yes, O Messenger of Allah?” He said: “Associating partners with Allah, causing inconvenience to one’s parents, and false witnessing.”

The functions of the senses are limited, but the function of the tongue is all-encompassing. The words and expressions uttered by the tongue give rise to the corresponding emotions in the mind and leave definite impressions on it. The evils of speech are many, and it is a difficult task to guard against them all. Therefore, keeping speech to its bare necessity is the golden rule. The Prophet (s.a.w.) said:

من كان يؤمن بالله واليوم الآخر فليقل خيرا أو ليصمت.
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should say what is good or be silent.”

Allah (s.w.t.) has given us one tongue and two ears. Why hasn’t He given us two tongues and one ear? Two ears and one tongue mean to listen a lot and speak little. A person who listens is wise because he does not run the risk of incurring blame. The uncontrolled tongue, on the other hand, can be more dangerous than a spear or a sword, as an Arabic proverb goes:

جراحات السهام لها التيام، ولا يلتام ما جرح اللسان
For the wounds of the arrows there is a treatment, but you cannot treat what the tongue has wounded.

We must guard our tongues. The Prophet (s.a.w.) said that whoever guarantees the safeguarding of what is between his two jaws (i.e., his tongue, from lying) and what is between his two legs (i.e.) his private parts, from committing adultery), is himself guaranteed Paradise.

In order to make this task of guarding our tongues easier, our Creator has given us four doors with which we can lock up our tongues, two inner doors and two outer: the two rows of teeth and the two lips.

Imam Ash-Shafi’i (r.a..) said:

لسانك لا تذكر به عورة امرء فكلك عورات وللناس ألسن
“Do not mention the faults of a person with your tongue, for you yourself are completely full of faults, and people have tongues.”

I would like to conclude this Khutbah with the summary of Imam al-Ghazali’s advice (r.a.a.) regarding the harms of the tongue:

“One should not waste one’s life in useless speech. Every moment of one’s life should be given to contemplation or devotion. The physical cure for talkativeness consists in checking it by retiring into loneliness, or by putting some pebbles into the mouth.
“Talking of immoral things, uttering indecent words, joking, abusing, cursing and similar vices should be avoided. Contradiction, disputation, and quarrelling should not be resorted to. One must not endeavour to pry into the secrets of others. One should not make false promises, for this deforms and darkens the soul. Falsehood in speech is a heinous sin. But it is permissible in an emergency when the end in view is good, for example the protection of a Muslim refugee against a tyrant ruler, or the restoration of good relations between husband and wife, or reconciliation between two Muslims. In all other cases, lying is strictly forbidden. In cases where truth and falsehood appear to have equal claims, the former must be adopted, except in a serious emergency. Falsehood is immoral, and truthfulness is imperative.”

الكذب يأكل الإمان كما تأكل النار الحطب
Falsehood consumes Iman as fire consumes firewood.