Having a healthy and fruitful life begins with having positive relationships with others in all aspects. Our engagement with our spouse, children, parents, co-workers, and even neighbors influences our daily emotions and thus it is vital we keep those emotions in check and strive to engage in ways that bring us a sense of peace and contentment. The human being has an innate desire to be social—to converse and spend time with others.—However, often we confront obstacles when it comes to keeping up positive relations with those around us. Arguments and disputes are normal, they are part of every relationship, and pushing through the hard times and reconciling issues is a step that we all need to take. Imam Ali (p) has stated in a tradition, “When a believer intends to say something, he thinks it over in his mind. If it is good, he discloses it, but if it is bad, he lets it remain concealed.”1

Positive Communication

In a climate in which many share very strong opinions of just about everything, there is more opportunity to have our lives and day-to-day emotions thrown into a whirlwind of unhealthy conversation. This is even more reason to take lessons and inspiration from the Prophet and his pure household (pbut) in terms of how to engage with others. Numerous traditions advise being careful with our speech and being sure to use our tongue wisely. A powerful verse in the Holy Quran demonstrates that God is aware and vigilant over all our interactions when He states, “Have you not considered that God knows all that is in the heavens and the earth? There is not a single place wherein any secret counsel can take place between any three people without God being the fourth, nor five people without His being the sixth nor any gathering of more or less people, wherever it may be, without His being with them. On the Day of Judgment, He will tell them about their deeds. God has the knowledge of all things.”2 Thus, we need to be mindful of every word that we utter to those around us.

It is clear that being God-conscious in our speech is just as important as being God-conscious during prayers, fasting, or other acts of worship. Our words could be damaging, contrary to the statement that suggests “words will never hurt me!” from the famous nursery rhyme we learn as children.  We recognize this to be true from a young age, and as we get older and more mature, it is evident that the ways we speak can be a means to uplift or disgrace someone. In a tradition, Imam Ali (p) said, “The test of man is in his tongue.”3 God tries us by the way that we speak and communicate with others. Thus, it is very important for us to be careful with the language that we use, both in public and in private.

What about Arguments?

Arguments are intrinsic to social engagement and conversations with others, and it is very important to learn how to navigate them appropriately. God commands us in the Quran in this regard by saying, “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good advice and dispute with them in a manner that is best. Indeed, your Lord knows best those who stray from His way, and He knows best those who are guided.”4 As challenging as it may be, remaining calm, practicing patience, and communicating effectively utilizing “wisdom and good advice” as the Quran explains, is the most effective way to navigate any disputes. It is natural to have strong opinions or stark differences with others, particularly in the current polarizing socio-political climate, but raising our voices and speaking harshly have never been a way to get others to understand our perspectives. The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) states, “Blessed is he whose morals are good, whose attributes are pure, whose inner self is decent, whose appearance is good, who spends his extra wealth in the way of God and who swallows his extra words.”5 In another tradition, the Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) states, “Whoever seeks safety (from the fire), then let him protect that which comes out from his tongue.”6 From these words, we understand that we must choose our words wisely, because once we utter them, we are unable to take them back.  

Silence is Golden

A beautiful tradition from Imam Ali al-Rida (p) states, “Surely silence is a door from the doors of wisdom.”7 Often, it is more powerful to remain quiet. For example, if we are angry and not mindful, we may say something hurtful to those around us which will make us feel guilty and regretful later. Staying silent and thinking of the consequences of what we say before we utter anything is very powerful.

Bits of Advice

1. Think before speaking: Our parents and teachers may have taught this principle to us from a very young age, and a reminder is always important. Sometimes we say things without thinking them through, leading to our detriment and harming others on the way. Imam Ali (p) said, “The root of safety from error is thinking before acting and reflecting before speaking.”8

2. Be lenient and forgive: In the same way we may err in our communication, others will disappoint us. It is important that we forgive, forget, and learn to grow from the experiences, especially when others apologize for their wrongdoings. The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hp) states, “Shall I inform you of the best (most beneficial) traits for this world and the Hereafter? They are pardoning one who has done injustice to you, bonding with one who has cut off ties with you, doing good to one who has wronged you and giving to one who has withheld from you.”9

3. Know when to speak and how: In gatherings at work or even around the dinner table, when we disagree with others, it is important to know when and how to communicate. In addition, when we are hungry, tired, or upset, it is better to remain silent and not get into disputes with anyone.

1. Nahj al-Balagha, sermon 176.
2. The Holy Quran 58:7, Muhammad Sarwar translation.
3. Bihar al-anwar, vol 75, p. 90.
4. The Quran 16:125, Ali Quli Qarai translation.
5. Bihar al-anwar, vol.74, p. 125–126.
6. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 68, p. 286.
7. Al-kafi vol. 2, p. 113.
8. Al-Amudi, Ghurar al-hikam.
9. Mirat al-uqul, vol. 8, p. 192.

1- روي عن الإمام علي (ع): “اِنَّ الْمُؤْمِنَ إذَا أَرَادَ أَنْ يَتَكَلَّمَ بَكَلاَم تَدَبَّرَهُ فِي نَفْسِهِ، فَإنْ كَانَ خَيْراً أَبْدَاهُ، وَإنْ كَانَ شَرّاً وَارَاهُ”
2- قال الله تعالى: ((أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّـهَ يَعْلَمُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۖ مَا يَكُونُ مِن نَّجْوَىٰ ثَلَاثَةٍ إِلَّا هُوَ رَابِعُهُمْ وَلَا خَمْسَةٍ إِلَّا هُوَ سَادِسُهُمْ وَلَا أَدْنَىٰ مِن ذَٰلِكَ وَلَا أَكْثَرَ إِلَّا هُوَ مَعَهُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كَانُوا ۖ ثُمَّ يُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا عَمِلُوا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ))
3- روي عن الإمام علي (ع): ” بَلاَءُ الإِنسَانِ مِن اللِّسَانْ”   
4- قال الله تعالى: ((دْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ ۖ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ ۚ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِ ۖ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ.))
5- روي عن النبي (ص): “طُوبى لِمَن طابَ كَسْبُه، وَصَلُحَتْ سَرِيرَتُه، وَحَسُنَتْ عَلانِيَتُهُ، واسْتَقَامَتْ خَليقَتُه طُوبَى لِمَنْ أنْفَقَ الفَضْلَ مِنْ مالِه، وأمْسَكَ الفَضْلَ مِنْ قَوْلِه”
6- روي عن النبي (ص): “سَلَامَةُ الإِنْسَانِ في حِفْظِ اللِّسَان”
7- روي عن الإمام علي الرضا (ع): “إِنَّ الصَّمْتَ بَابٌ مِنْ أُبْوَابِ الحِكْمَة”
8- روي عن الإمام علي (ع): “أَصْلُ السّلاَمَةِ مِنَ الزَلَلِ الفِكْرُ قَبْلَ الفِعْل، والرَّوِيَّةُ قَبْلَ الكَلَام”
9- روي عن النبي (ص): ” ألا أُخْبِرُكُم بِخَيرِ خَلائِقِ الدُّنْيَا والآخِرَة العَفْو عَمَّنْ ظَلَمَكْ وَ تَصِلُ مَنْ قَطَعَكْ وَالإحْسَانُ إلى مَنْ أَساءَ إليْكَ وإعْطَاءُ مَنْ حَرَمَكْ.”

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