Speak Good or Remain Silent!
From the Five Pillars dawrah with the Shaykh, in Medinah (2012). Here, he explains the Ḥadīth of the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam), “Whosoever believes in Allāh and the last day then let him speak good or remain silent.” Shaykh ʿAbdullāh al-Bukhārī is a former student of Shaykh Muḥammad Amān al-Jāmī and is well known to the Salafi scholars. Translated by Abū Ḥakim Bilāl Davis.
Narrated by Abū Hurayrah, and collected by Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) said, “Whosoever believes in Allāh and the last day then let him speak good or remain silent.”
The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) was given the ability to make short statements with broad meaning; meaning, that they have many different benefits. His statements/responses are comprehensive and encompass a number of issues.
This Ḥadīth revolves around a principle regarding silence and speech. What we conclude from it is that speech nor silence is blameworthy absolutely—neither are they praiseworthy absolutely.
There are 4 categories of speech:
- speech that one is rewarded for
- speech that one is punished for
- silence that one is rewarded for
- silence that one is punished for
The Shaykh quoted some lines of poetry "Protect your tongue O mankind that it does not bite you; for indeed, it can be a snake." He explained that one should not speak on what does not concern him/her. You should be cautious of statements that you constantly have to give excuses for. Do not speak unnecessarily; rather, be silent much. The Salaf used to be silent much but when they spoke their speech had a lot of benefits.
A person who jokes much has a chance of falling into blameworthy speech. The Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) did joke but not continuously, and when he did he was always truthful in his jokes. And his jokes would never cause harm to others.
From the things that the soul yearns for is to speak so that is something that we have to make jihād against. Observe more than you speak.
From the silence that one is punished for is when one remains silent when the ḥaqq needs to be proclaimed and clarified, and when bāṭil needs to be refuted. Shaykh al-Bukhari continues with a lengthy explanation of the speech and silence that are praiseworthy and dis-praiseworthy and how to know the difference between them, and how to improve your character by acting upon the Ḥadīth.
He advises to continuously check yourself and make sure that you are always speaking the truth; reflect on your speech before you utter it because as Shaykh al-Shafī'ī said, “Once your speech leaves your mouth you have no control over it; whereas, before it leaves your tongue you have full control over it."
Take account of yourself before you are taken into account.