Hadith 15: Say a Good Word

On the authority of Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him), the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak good things or keep silent. Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should be courteous and generous to his neighbour. Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should be courteous and generous to his [travelling] visitor.” (Recorded in al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The Narrator

This was hadith was narrated Abu Huraira, who narrated more hadith than any other companion. His brief biography was provided at the beginning of hadith 10, you can find it here.

“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak good things or keep silent.”

We can see here that the Prophet (s) began this reminder with the explicit mention of belief in Allah (swt) and the coming of the Last Day. This should be a reminder to us of the motivating factor behind all our actions. We will be called to account by Allah (swt) on the Last Day. Everything we do will come before us on that day so we should call ourselves to account before we are called to account, and we are reminded to be careful about what we say.

The Prophet (s) instructed us to ‘speak good things’ or remain silent. What does it mean to ‘speak good things’? There are numerous types of speech that fall into this category, including reciting Qur’an, remembering Allah, making supplications, enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, giving dawah, enjoining family relations, making peace between two people etc.

Speaking good words also implies refraining from bad speech. As we discussed in the hadith concerning the perfection of Islam, it should be remembered that saying something about someone that they would not like to hear, even if it is to say that they are short or fat etc, is considered backbiting in Islam and is a punishable sin. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:

“And do not backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it [so hate backbiting]. And fear Allah. Verily, Allah is the One who accepts repentance, Most Merciful.” (Surah al-Hujuraat:12)

The Prophet (s) once stated that nothing caused people to enter Hellfire like the actions of their tongue. So we need to weigh our statements before we make them. If they contain good then we can say them, but if they contain bad then we should refrain from speaking the words and that will be recorded as a good deed for us InshaAllah.

It’s interesting to note that complete and correct practice of the religion of Islam, entails meeting the rights of Allah through worship and obedience, and the rights of other human beings through acts such as refraining from backbiting and honouring them as neighbours and guests. Both these things need to be perfected before we can perfect our Islam.

If we find that we do not to have the characteristic of speaking good words or remaining silent, then we should realise that we are not as close to Allah (swt) as we should be, and that there is room for improvement in our practice of our religion. Let’s try and weigh up our words before we utter them. Will we find them in the scale of good deeds on the Day of Judgement or the scale of bad deeds?

If you feel you have uttered bad words ask Allah (swt) to forgive you and to help you refrain from doing so in the future. Add to your scale of good deeds by making it your habit to make dhikr of Allah on a daily basis as you go about your activities. The Messenger of Allah (s) said,

“There are two statements that are light for the tongue to remember, heavy in the scales and are dear to the Merciful: Subhan Allahi wa bihamdihi, Subhan Allahil Adheem [Glory be to Allah and His is the praise, (and) Allah, the Greatest is free from imperfection]‘.” (Recorded in al-Bukhari and Muslim).

“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should be courteous and generous to his neighbour.”

Here we can illustrated the relationship between belief in Allahthe Last Day and how one treats one’s neighbour. SubhanAllah, how complete the religion of Islam is. There is nothing that is not taken into account. If we believe in Allah and the coming of the Last Day, then we must treat our neighbour well.

Being courteous and generous to our neighbours includes helping them when they need assistance, visiting them when they are ill, checking on their welfare, being kind to them in speech etc. This would also include guiding them to what is best even if they are non-Muslims. In this case, the obligation of dawah would fall upon us.

Both the Qur’an and the Sunnah place a great emphasis on treating one’s neighbour well. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:

“Worship Allah and join none with Him in worship, and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor who beg, the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a non-relative, the companion by your side, the wayfarer and what your right hands possess. Verily Allah does not like such as are proud and boastful.” (Surah al-Nisaa:36)

We can see in this verse that Allah (swt) has combined His rights with the rights people over one another. Each holds its own importance and the obligations must be met to perfect our practice of Islam and to earn the highest reward on the Day of Judgement.

Let’s ask ourselves if we are treating our neighbours with their due respect, and if not, if there is anything we could do to remedy the situation? Can you think of an act of kindness that you could do to earn then pleasure of your neighbour? If we do it seeking the pleasure of Allah (swt) then, by His (swt) grace, we should find our reward on the Day that matters most .

“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should be courteous and generous to his [travelling] visitor.”

The Messenger of Allah (s) stated that whoever  believes in Allah and the Last Day should also be generous and courteous to their visitor. This kind of courtesy and generosity includes taking care of their needs, preparing food for them and making them feel comfortable without extravagance or waste.

The implication of this is that wherever the Muslim travels, if they call on their fellow Muslims, they should be made to feel at home. This, in turn, increases the feelings of brotherhood, sisterhood and love amongst the Ummah. The reference here is particularly to the guest who is arriving from outside of a town or a further away place, there are different obligations for one who is a local guest.

In respect to the duration of stay and therefore the obligation to serve the guest, another hadith states:

” Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should be generous to his guest. His jaaizah [special gift] is one day and night. He is to be entertained for three days. Whatever is beyond that is charity. It is not lawful for a guest to stay with his host to the point that he makes things difficult for him.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

As human beings we are generally sociable creatures, and out of necessity, we have certain relationships with other members of society. Islam provides us with guidelines and sound principles for what our obligations are in respect to the treatment of one another. We should show kindness, generosity and courtesy to our kinsfolk, neighbours and guests, and our fellow Muslims should not fear any harmful speech from us. These principles go a long way in making sure that society as a whole operates in a united and co-operative way.

Extracted from Commentary on the Forty Hadith of Al-Nawawi (Vol 2) by Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo Pages 633-654

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