Correction of Speech
Ayatullah al-Uzma Naser Makarem Shirazi
Tongue is interpreter of heart and key of personality
Correction of tongue and speech has assumed a major importance in moral discussions because tongue is interpreter of heart, representative of intellect, key of man's personality, and the most important window to man's soul.
In the other words, what is depicted on the tablet of man's soul (including mental, emotional and sentimental events), first of all emerges on the tongue and within his speeches. If in the past, physicians recognized a major part of moderation and unbalance of temperament through the condition of tongue, nowadays psychoanalysts mostly seek mental problems within the individuals' speeches!
On these accounts, ethic scholars consider a special importance for correction of tongue and deem its correction as the sign of spirit's perfection and strengthening of prominent moral virtues and habits.
This reality is also stated in the traditions of the Prophet's House A.S. in short and interesting phrases. Two following phrases narrated respectively from Imam Ali A.S. and Imam Sadegh A.S. is evidences for this claim:
1- Man is hidden under his tongue.(1)
That is to say not only scientific personality, but also moral and social personality and in general his humanistic personality is under his tongue, and as long as he has not spoken, his fault and virtue is concealed.
2- Firmness and straightness of belief is not possible without firmness and straightness of heart, and the latter too will not exist without firmness and straightness of tongue.(2)
Thirty great sins, which originate from tongue
The importance of correction of tongue is made clearer when we know that a large part of sins as a large part of good deeds are performed by tongue.
Ghazali has narrated twenty types of vices and sins for tongue as follows:
1- Speaking about the affairs not concerned with man.
2- Rant and babbling
3- Speaking about forbidden affairs like description of meetings of wine, gambling and unchaste women.
4- Dispute and fussing (caviling and objecting others for wrong purposes as humiliating them or one's own pedantry).
5- Enmity and affray and quarrel in utterance
6- Affectation in speech and trouble in rhythm and such like
7- Abuse and insult
9- Profane singing and unsound sings
10- Indulgence in humor
11- Irony and mockery
12- Disclosing mysteries of others
13- Lie promise
14- Lie in speech and oath
17- Hypocrisy in speech
18- Inappropriate eulogy
19- Negligence from speech's elegance and tools and mistakes thereof
20- Vulgar questions in respect to complicated issues related to beliefs, which can not understand them
Surely, pests and vices of tongue are not restricted to what "Ghazali" has numerated. For instance, following affairs are among the vices of tongue, which are not stated by him:
2- False evidence
4- Spreading fornication and unfounded rumors and roorbach, although being mentioned as a probability
5- Harshness in utterance
6- Improper insist (like Children of Israel, and etc)
7- Molestation of others with one's speech
8- Blaming one who is not despicable
9- Ungratefulness with tongue
10- False propagation and encourage to sin
There is no doubt that correction of tongue should be studied and taught as one of the most critical moral issues.
The importance of this subject is made clear when we consider this fact that tongue is the simplest and easiest and cheapest means available for man, and its speedy function is not comparable with anything else, and so we shall be very careful of it, and in this view, we can resemble it to the useful materials having an explosive power and capability. As man takes care of them attentively, he should always be watchful to this sensible organ.
Silence and reticence
Taking into account the above risks caused by leaving tongue free, ethic scholars have deemed silence, in cases that speaking is not necessary, as one of the ways for prevention of those great risks, and a lot of traditions are mentioned about it from Prophet S.A. and Prophet's House A.S., and this is the reason why a number of great men have started purification of their carnal soul from this matter.
Moreover, silence causes a condition of "reflection" and "spirituality" and "clear-sightedness", which is noteworthy, and perhaps for this reason we read in the biography of Zachariah, God's great prophet that three days of his silence and dumbness was put as the sign of fulfillment of his supplication concerning request for child:
Said: Thy sign is that thou shalt not speak to men, though being without fault, for three nights.(3)
And Mary was ordered to vow silence fast:
Say: I have vowed to the All-merciful a fast, and today I will not speak to any man.(4)
We read about the states of Islam's Prophet S.A. that before revelation, he has been silent and reflected, and meditated about the mysteries of creation in Hara cave for several days.
We can summarize advantages of silence in following affairs:
1- Silence insures man against a lot of sins. Prophet S.A. says in his short and meaningful phrase:
Whosoever mums is saved.(5)
The reason for this issue is clear, because most of sins are performed by tongue. As Prophet S.A. says:
Most of man's mistakes are in his tongue.(6)
And it is narrated from the Prophet in another tradition:
Keep your tongue save a good utterance and thereby you will overcome Satan.(7)
2- Silence invites man to thinking and reflection which are the sources of his spiritual life, and thus silent people are typically thinker, resourceful, and man of action. In contrast, talkative people are often frail and show less action.
It is narrated in a tradition from Prophet S.A.:
When you find a believer silent and courtly, contact with him that he teaches you wisdom.(8)
And also it is narrated from Imam Ali A.S.:
As intelligence increases, speech decreases.(9)
In addition to the fact that silence is the best means for reviving reflection power, above phrase may refer to this point that a plenty of mental powers are used for speaking. When these energies are saved, they will form a massive power by which understanding great realities is possible. Furthermore, silence is tranquilizer of soul and moderator of sentiments.
3- Chattiness as the opposite point of silence, makes man improvident, because it increases man's errors, decreases his shame, and breaking the barrier of shame as a result of excess of errors, it simplifies evil deeds for man as Imam Ali A.S. says:
He, who speaks more, commits more errors. He, who commits more errors, becomes shameless. He, who is shameless, would have less fear of Allah. He whose fear of Allah is less, his heart dies. He, whose heart dies, enters Hell.(10)
And perhaps on this account, silence is considered as one of the important sorbs.
Worship has ten portions, nine of which exist in silence.(11)
It should not be mistaken; silence is not like seclusion and dissociation which remove the object of sin. Rather, it is a sort of avoiding sin, and in cases that man finds a desire to some sins including slander, sin, when he selects continence and silence, he has acquired a virtue for his health.
It should be also mentioned that silence when speaking is necessary, is considered as one of the greatest faults, and is the sign of weakness, humbleness, disability, lack of spiritual bravery, and fear of else than God.
It is also noteworthy that as most of sins are performed by tongue, a large portion of services and good deeds, like God's remembrance, guiding people, training and education, bid to good, and forbid of wrong, warfare with utterance, too is performed by tongue.
1- Nahjol Balaghe, aphorisms, no. 148
2- Majlessi, Beharol Anvar, 262/75, and Mohajjatol Beisae, 193/5
3- Mary sura (19), verse 10
4- Mary sura (19), verse 26
5- Majlessi, Beharol Anvar, 90/77 and Mohajjatol Beisae 192/5
6- Feise Kashani, Mohajjatol Beisae, 194/5
7- Feise Kashani, Mohajjatol Beisae, vol. 5, page 195
8- Feise Kashani, Mohajjatol Beisae, 195/5
9- Nahjol Balaghe, aphorisms, no. 71
10- Nahjol Balaghe, aphorisms, no. 349
11- Feise Kashani, Mohajjatol Beisae, 196/5