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Speak a good word or remail silent

Abû Hurayrah relates that Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak a good word or remain silent. And whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should show hospitality to his neighbor. And whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should show hospitality to his guest.” [ Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim ]

The importance of this hadith:

This hadith discusses some of the ways a Muslim's faith should affect the way he relates to others. Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalânî writes: “This hadith speaks about three matters, and in doing so it brings together everything that good manners entail with respect to both word and deed.”

Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day…

This is a conditional sentence. It is repeated three times in this hadith, each time with a different condition. The first of these three conditions is to either speak a good word or remain silent, the second is to show hospitality to one's neighbors, and the third is to show hospitality to one's guests. This hadith is showing us that these three qualities are among the many qualities of faith. A person who fails to fulfill any of these conditions is a person whose faith is incomplete and in want of improvement.

Speaking a good word or remaining silent:

This is an encouragement to speak what is good and beneficial; at the same time it is a warning, cautioning us to be careful in what we say, lest we say something that is harmful or false.

It is part of a Muslim's faith to speak the truth and to say things that bring about benefit to others. Allah says:

“O you who believe! Fear Allah and speak a word that is right. He will set right for you your deeds and forgive you your sins. And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly attained a great achievement.” [ Sûrah al-Ahzâb : 70-71]

Allah informs us in the Qur'ân some of what constitutes good in our speech and benefits other people. He says:

“No good is there in much of their private conversation, except for those who enjoin charity or that which is right, or bring reconciliation between people. And whoever does that seeking Allah's pleasure, then we shall grant him a great reward.” [ Sûrah al-Nisâ' : 114]

When we have nothing beneficial to say, silence is golden. Once, Mu`âdh b. Jabal asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) to inform him of some good work that would admit him into Paradise and distance him from the Hellfire. The Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned to him the virtues of many good deeds, then said: “Shall I inform you of the foundation of all of that?”

Mu`âdh said: “Certainly.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) took hold of his tongue and said: “Restrain yourself from this.”

Mu`âdh then asked: “O Prophet of Allah! Are we held to task for the things that we say?”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied:

“May your mother be bereaved of you, O Mu`âdh! Does anything topple people headlong into the Hellfire save the harvests of their tongues?” [ Sunan al-Tirmidhî and Sunan Ibn Mâjah ]

We should avoid speaking ill of others. We should rather remain silent unless we are seeking justice for some wrong that has been perpetrated against us. Allah says:

“Allah does not like that evil should be mentioned in public except by one who has been done injustice. And Allah is all-hearing, all-knowing.” [ Sûrah al-Nisâ' : 148]

Our tongues are like double-edges swords. They can work for us and against us, both in this world and the Hereafter. We will be held accountable for what we say. Allah tells us:

“He does not utter a statement except that there is an observer by him ready to record it.” [ Sûrah Qâf : 18]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“Indeed a servant will speak a word pleasing to Allah that he thinks to be insignificant, but because of it Allah raises him by many degrees. And indeed a servant will speak a word displeasing to Allah that he thinks to be insignificant, but because of it, He will consign him to the Hellfire.” [ Sahîh al-Bukhârî ]

We must be vigilant not to speak falsehood. We must think about what we are saying and the possible consequences of our words before we go ahead and speak. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“A man might speak a word without thinking about its implications, but because of it, he will plunge into the Hellfire further than the distance between the east and west.” [ Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim

Al-Nawawî comments on the meaning of this hadith, saying:

“This hadith encourages us to guard our tongues. A person who wants to speak should think upon what he is about to say before he utters it. If it then shows itself to have some benefit to it, he may speak it; otherwise he should refrain from doing so.”



Why it is important to always say the Islamic greeting when addressing a believer

Muslims all over the world use the Islamic form of greeting, "As-salamu 'alaikum", which means peace be to you.
The very wording helps generate a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. It is also common in its shorter and longer forms to all Muslim communities wherever they happen to be. Thus, when two Muslims meet who are total strangers to each other, the moment they use this greeting, they immediately feel that they have common grounds, even when they do not speak each other's languages.

The Islamic greeting has different versions, the shortest of which is the one we have already mentioned. The rule in Islam is that when we are offered a greeting, we return it with a better one, or with its equal at least. Allah (God) orders in the Qur'an:

"When a greeting is offered you, answer it with an even better greeting, or (at least) with its like. Allah (God) keeps count of all things."
[Surah an-Nur; 4: 86]

The better greeting and reply are illustrated in the following Hadith. Umar (radiAllahu anhu) reports that he was riding with Abu Bakr (radiAllahu anhu) on one mount. When they passed by people, Abu Bakr (radiAllahu anhu) greeted them saying:

 'Assalamu alaikum' and they replied: 'Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatu Allah.' Or he may greet them saying: 'Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatu Allah,' for which their reply was: 'Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatu Allah wa barakatuh.'
Abu Bakr (radiAllahu anhu) commented: "Today, people have gained much more than us."
[Sahih al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad]

We note that every time Abu Bakr (radiAllahu anhu) offered a greeting, its reply was the same with an addition. The first one was the short form of the greeting of peace. The reply stated: 'Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatu Allah.' This means: 'And to you be peace together with Allah (God)'s mercy.' Thus, the reply adds a prayer that the person who offered us a greeting should be blessed with Allah (God)'s mercy, both in this life and in the life to come.
When the person who starts the greeting includes in it this same prayer for mercy to the one being accosted, the latter replies with yet another addition, 'wa barakatuh,' which adds a wish for Allah's blessing to the one who took advantage and offered us a friendly greeting. Abu Bakr (radiAllahu anhu's) comment at the end of the Hadith shows that he was pleased with the fact that people always replied to his greeting with a better one.

These are the normal form of greetings mostly used in Muslim communities. Rarely does a greeting go beyond these. It is reported that a man from the Yemen visited Abdullah ibn Abbas (radiAllahu anhu) and greeted him with the full greeting 'Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatu Allah wa barakatuh,' but added something extra. Ibn Abbas told him: 'A greeting of peace ends with the wish for Allah (God)'s blessings.' This means that Ibn Abbas thought that such addition is unnecessary.
However, Kharijah ibn Zaid, a scholar of very high standing who belonged to the generation that followed the Prophet's companions, i.e. the tabieen, used to write when he addressed the caliph: 'Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatu Allah wa barakatuh wa maghfiratuh wa tayyib salawatih.'

The added last phrases express a prayer that the addressee will also have Allah's forgiveness and special blessings. Kharijah would not have added these phrases if he had the slightest doubt about such addition being appropriate. His father was distinguished among the Prophet's companions for his scholarship. When we have two reputable scholars expressing opposite views, we say that one of them was aware of something the other did not know. Perhaps Kharijah was aware that when addressing a person of eminence, the use of additional phrases would be in order.

Another Hadith that speaks of the importance of the wording of the Islamic greeting quotes the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as saying:

'The Jews do not envy you for anything more than they do for the greeting of peace and saying Aameen.' This Hadith stresses the special distinction given to the Islamic greeting.

The Jews the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) refers to here are the ones with profound knowledge, such as the well- versed rabbis. They are the ones to appreciate the significance of the Islamic greeting, assalamu alaikum.
Aameen is a word which we say when someone addresses a prayer to Allah (God). It signifies a request made to Allah (God) to answer his prayer. This makes the prayer a collective one, with all those who are present joining their fellow Muslim in an appeal to Allah (God) on behalf of the one who is saying that prayer. But why would the Jews be envious of our greeting?

The word 'Salam', which means peace, is also a name of Allah. Using it in our greeting is a constant reminder of the special relation between a believer and Allah.

We have already mentioned that the Prophet has encouraged us to use the Islamic greeting often, and with all people. But how important is it to greet others?
To answer this question we mention a Hadith reported by Abu Hurairah (radiAllahu anhu) who quotes the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) as saying:

'A Muslim has a right against his fellow Muslim in six ways.' Asked what were these, the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)  said:
'(1)When you meet him, greet him;
(2) if he invites you, accept his invitation;
(3) if he seeks your advice, give him an honest and sincere advice;
(4) if he sneezes and praises Allah (God), bless him;
(5) if he falls ill, visit him; and
(6) if he dies, attend his funeral.'

[Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim]

The Hadith is clear in making it a duty of a Muslim to offer a greeting to his fellow-Muslim when they meet. The one who takes the initiative is in a better position. Although offering a greeting is a sunnah, which means that it is highly recommended, returning a greeting is obligatory. The other five aspects also help to cement relations within the Muslim community. All of them fall within the category of Sunnah, except for giving an honest advice, which is obligatory. A person who is asked for advice commits a sin if he deliberately and knowingly gives the wrong advice. To do so is dishonest, and dishonesty is forbidden in Islam.

Adil Salahi

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