Holding the Tongue and Saying Nothing but the Truth
By: Ayatullah Shaheed Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim
Another feature of control over emotions that is highly recommended by the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) is to control the desire to speak by imposing precise supervision over it. Strict warning has been issued on the unrestricted use of the tongue by the Holy Legislator Who knows about the damages caused by a slip of the tongue, especially in the field of social relations.
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) has reported that Luqman the wise said to his son, O son, if you claim that speech is silver then silence must be gold.¯1
This pithy saying has become a proverb expressing the importance of keeping silent.
According to a validly reported tradition, Imam al-Ridha (‘a) has said: Knowledge, forbearance, and keeping silent are signs of sagacity. Indeed, silence is one of the doors to wisdom. Indeed, silence yields affection. Indeed, silence is the guide to every item of decency.¯2
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have narrated the following account: The Holy Prophet (S) said to someone who had visited him, “May I guide you to a matter that will make you enter Paradise if you do it?”
“Yes, you may,” said the man.
“Give others from that with which you are endued by Almighty Allah,” instructed the Holy Prophet (S).
“What if I am needier than the one to whom I should give?” asked the man.
“You may then support the oppressed,” instructed the Holy Prophet (S).
“What if I am too weak to support them?” asked the man.
“You may then give proper advice to the clumsy,” instructed the Holy Prophet (S).
“What if I am clumsier than they are?” asked the man.
“Then,” the Holy Prophet (S) instructed, “You must control your tongue except from saying good things. Does it not please you to have one of these qualities, one of which draws you towards Paradise?”¯3
On the other hand, the Holy Imams (‘a) have highlighted the significance of speech when it becomes necessary to say something or when good results are expected.
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: To speak the truth is better than keeping silent in the face of the wrong.¯4
Imam ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn (‘a) is reported to have said: Pleasing talk increases wealth, promotes sustenance, postpones the death term, endears to family members, and leads to Paradise.¯5
Demonstrating the accurate balance between speech and silence, the Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have said to Abu-Dharr, O Abu-Dharr, he who mentions Almighty Allah among the unmindful is just like a warrior for the sake of Almighty Allah among absconders. O Abu-Dharr, to sit with a righteous person is better than sitting alone, but to sit alone is better than sitting with a wicked person. Likewise, to speak wisely is better than keeping silent, but to keep silent is better than saying evil things. O Abu-Dharr, forsake verbosity and use the fewest words to express your view. O Abu-Dharr, the least thing due to which one is described as liar is to narrate whatever he hears. O Abu-Dharr, nothing needs to be detained for as long as possible, than the tongue. O Abu-Dharr, Almighty Allah is present at the tongue of every one who articulates; therefore, one must fear Almighty Allah and know what he says.¯6
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said to a man who had spoken too much, O man, you are humiliating and belittling speech. When He sent His messengers, Almighty Allah did not send them to distribute gold and silver; rather, He sent them with speech. He has also introduced Himself to His creatures through words, indications of Him, and signs.¯7
Suppression of Rage and Steadfastness against Envy
In the same field of control over emotions, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) have taught their followers to suppress their feelings when they are enraged, or have the desire to defend and avenge themselves upon those who maltreat them, especially when they are right or wronged. In such situations, it becomes necessary to employ one’s reason, good sense, and willpower to overcome such surging feelings and sweeping passion.
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported through a valid chain of authority to have said: The best of gulps is anger that is swallowed despite being unbearable, for the size of reward is always proportionate to the size of misfortune. Almighty Allah has never loved a people but that He tries them with afflictions.¯8
Through a valid chain of authority, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is also reported to have said that Imam ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn (‘a) used to say, I do not prefer having the best kind of camels as recompense for exposing myself to humiliation. I have never swallowed anything dearer to me than a gulp which I do not requite.¯9
Counting the qualities that should be enjoyed by His righteous servants, Almighty Allah says (in the Holy Qur'an), …Those who restrain their anger and pardon men. Allah loves the doers of good to others. 3:134
In his instructive direction to Imam ‘Ali (‘a), the Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have said: O ‘Ali, I will convey to you a commandment that you should retain. You will keep yourself in goodness as long as you follow my commandment. O ‘Ali, for those who suppress their anger while they are able to punish, Almighty Allah will endow them with security and satisfying faith on the Day of Resurrection.¯10
Falling under the same topic, the Holy Imams (‘a) have advised their followers to act patiently towards the envious, who irritate people and stimulate various emotions and feelings through their weird behavior. This sort of tribulation has been one of the harshest social ordeals the faithful believers have to bear patiently.
Through a valid chain of authority, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is reported to have said: Act steadfastly against those envious of blessings. You cannot award those who have disobeyed Almighty Allah in your capacity with any reward better than obeying Him in the way you treat them.¯11
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is also reported through a valid chain of authority to have quoted the Holy Prophet (S) as saying: Almighty Allah has already taken a promise from the faithful believers that they should patiently bear four tribulations; the first and harshest of which is the tribulation of a believer who follows his same faith but envies him, a hypocrite who traces his footsteps, a devil that seduces him, or an infidel who believes that he must fight him. After all this, how can we find many faithful believers?¯12
1. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:528, H. 5.
2. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:527, H. 1.
3. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:527, H. 4.
4. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:529, H. 10.
5. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:530, H. 16.
6. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:531, H. 1.
7. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:533, H. 5. Refer also to Sections 117-120 of vol. 8 where you can find tens of narrations indicating the same topic.
8. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:523, H. 1.
9. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:523, H. 2.
10. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:524, H. 11.
11. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:526, H. 1.
12. - Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:526, H. 2.
The last statement of the tradition means, “Because of all these tribulations, the true faithful believers are hardly any.” [Translator]