Guarding the Tongue (Hifdh-ul-Lisaan) : Imaam an-Nawawee

Imaam Abu Zakariyaa Yahyaa bin Sharaf An-Nawawee
Al-Ibaanah Book Publishing

About the Book:

Before you is a chapter from the great book “Al-Adhkaar” of the great scholar of the seventh century, Abu Zaakariyaa Yahyaa bin Sharaf An-Nawawee. This is a very beneficial chapter entitled “Hifdh-ul-Lisaan” [Guarding the Tongue] The original source, Al-Adhkaar, is one of the prize works of Imaam An-Nawawee in which he compiles and discusses the texts related to what is recommended and forbidden from speech, focusing on adhkaar (words of remembrance) and ad’iyyah (supplications). In the last part of the book, as he explains, Imaam An-Nawawee devotes a chapter to what is forbidden and disliked from speech, such as backbiting, gossiping, and slander, bringing the evidences from the Qur’aan and Sunnah on the obligation of guarding the tongue from evil speech.

We advise every sincere Muslim to read and benefit from the words on this very important topic, which many Muslims are neglectful about. And we advise them to reflect sincerely on the evidences so that they can beware of falling into sinful speech.

Quotes from the Book:

“Know that every individual who falls under the category of being responsible for his actions (mukallaf) must guard his tongue from all types of speech, except for that speech which consists predominantly of some benefit. So in a situation where speaking and refraining from speech are both found to contain the same amount of benefit within them, then the Sunnah is to refrain from it, altogether. This is because the allowable speech (equal in benefit and harm) paves the way towards that which is forbidden as well as disliked. Rather, in most cases, this will be the result, and applying safety, at that point, will not be able to soothe it in the least.”

“As for the narrations reported on the Salaf concerning this matter, then they are also abundant. There is no need for mentioning them after having heard the previous reports. However, we will briefly inform of some of them.

It has reached us that Qass bin Saa’ada and Aktham bin Sayfee once met and one of them said to the other: ‘How many faults were you able to find in the son of Aadam?’ The other responded: ‘They are too numerous to count, however, the faults that I was able to account for numbered eight thousand. I also discovered one thing which if put into practice, all of these faults would be kept hidden.’ He asked: ‘What is it?’ He responded: ‘Guarding the tongue.’

Abu ‘Alee Al-Fudayl bin ‘Iyyaad (rahimahullaah) said:

‘Whoever limits his speech to be in accordance with his actions, will minimize his speech on that which doesn’t concern him.’

Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee (rahimahullaah) said to his student Rabee’: ‘O Rabee’! Do not speak about things that do not concern you, for indeed every time that you speak a word, it takes control of you and you do not have control of it!’

‘Abdullaah bin Mas’ood said:

‘There is nothing that deserves to be imprisoned more than the tongue.’

Others have stated:

‘The example of the tongue is like that of a savage beast. If you do not lock it up, it will set out against you.’

In the previous chapter, we stated that backbiting was when an individual mentions something about a person (in his absence), that the latter dislikes to have mentioned – whether by using verbal statements, through writings, or by making a gesture indicating him or pointing him out by eye, hand or head.

“Everything by which one causes others to understand the deficiencies found in a Muslim, then that is considered the backbiting that is forbidden. An example of this is when someone tells others that “such and such” individual walks with a limp or that he walks while humped over or anything similar to that from the aspects by which one desires to narrate in order to belittle the individual. All of this is Haraam (forbidden) – there being no difference of opinion in this regard. Another example of this, is when an author mentions a specific individual in his book, saying ‘Such and such person says this…’ desiring to degrade him and dishonor him. This is Haraam. However, if his intention is to clarify that person’s mistake so that it will not be followed, or to clarify his deficiency in knowledge so that he will not mislead others or have his opinions accepted, then this is not backbiting. Rather it is advice (naseehah), which is an obligation and for which he will be rewarded if that is what he (truly) intended. Likewise, if the author or anyone else speaks generally, saying: ‘these people’ or ‘this group says such and such, and this is an error’ or ‘a mistake’ or ‘ignorance’ or ‘negligence’ or similar to that, then this is not backbiting. Backbiting is only when one mentions a specified individual or a specific group of people (whether by name or insinuation).

“Know that it is upon the one who hears a Muslim being backbitten to oppose it and prevent the one doing the backbiting. If he is not able to prevent him with his speech, then he should stop him with his hand. If he is neither able to do so with his hand or with his tongue, then he should get up and leave that gathering. And if he hears his teacher (shaikh) being backbitten – or anyone else who has a right over him, or if the person (being backbitten) is from the people of righteousness and nobility, then his concern with what we have mentioned above should be greater.”

Download the Full Book PDF : Guarding the Tongue

Table of Contents:

  1. Chapter: Guarding the Tongue
  2. The Prohibition of Backbiting and Gossiping
  3. Important Points related to the Limits of Backbiting
  4. How does one Prevent himself from Backbiting
  5. What Type Of Backbiting Is Permissible?
  6. What should one do when he hears his Shaikh, Friend of Someone Else being Backbitten?
  7. The Backbiting Of The Heart
  8. Expiating Oneself and Repenting from Backbiting
  9. Concerning Gossiping


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