What is the penalty for oppressing with the tongue?

Details of the Question

- What is the sin and penalty for oppressing a person with the tongue?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

People who oppress others with their tongues both spiritually and materially are regarded to have oppressed twice.  

One of them is that they oppose the commandment of Allah by committing a haram deed; they have to repent since they oppress the boon of spirit with the body, which is something entrusted to them by Allah.   

The other is that they harm Allah’s slaves spiritually and materially with their tongues. If they have caused only spiritual harm, they have to ask forgiveness from them. In addition, if they have caused material harm along with spiritual harm, it is necessary to compensate for the material harm.  

Language (tongue) is the most important cultural tool of the society.

Tongue is one of the most important organs and the most important things entrusted to a person by Allah. It is necessary to use it very well. Otherwise, it will be a disaster for us.

The disorder of the tongue causes the heart to deteriorate, and the deterioration of the heart causes the weakening of belief.

It is necessary to avoid the harms of the tongue because the harms of the tongue destroy love and respect among people and discredit humans and humanity.

If the harms of the tongue continue, the will of man becomes weak and starts to regard the sins of the tongue legitimate, which may cause a person to lose his belief – God forbid.

We would like to summarize the harms and oppressions of the tongue briefly:

1. Telling lies

Lying means to hide the truth, to say the opposite of what one knows and to speak about something one does not know as if he knows it definitely.  
Allah orders people to tell the truth in the Quran (al-Ahzab 33/70) and tells them to keep away from bad words.

…Shun the word that is false(al-Hajj 22/30)

Safvan Ibn Sulaym narrates:

Once, the Prophet was asked, “Can a believer be cowardly?

The Prophet answered, “Yes.” 

He was asked,Can a believer be stingy?” The Prophet answered, “Yes.” 

He was asked,Can a believer be a liar?” The Prophet answered, “No.” (Muwatta, Kalam 19)

2. Perjury

Perjury (false testimony) is a bad thing that disturbs man, loses his rights, spoils communities, paves the way for bad deeds and causes justice to collapse. It includes both telling lies and slandering.

“Those who witness no falsehood, and, if they pass by futility, they pass by it with honorable (avoidance);.” (al-Furqan 25/72)

“O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” (an-Nisa 4/135)

The Prophet (pbuh) repeated his statements about perjury several times and attracted our attention, expressing how dangerous it is:

Once, the Prophet (pbuh) said three times, ''Shall I inform you about the most severe of the major sins? ''

They said, "Yes, O Allah's Messenger!"

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, "To join others in worship with Allah and to be undutiful to one's parents." Then, he sat up from the he had been reclining and said, "Listen carefully! Telling lies and giving a false witness.” He kept on saying it. We did not want him to feel sad more and wished he would stop. (Bukhari, Shahadat 10, Adab 6, Isti’dhan 35, Istitaba 1; Muslim, Iman 143)

We should not forget that by giving false testimony, one slanders a person who is right, oppresses him and violates his rights, defames an innocent person, hides the crime of the real criminal, commits a sin openly, keeps away from Allah’s consent, harms justice, causes social problems and disasters, and destroys families. Innocent people remain in prison for many years.    

3. Lying under oath and sell goods by telling lies

It is haram to swear a false oath. The Prophet regards false oath among the major sins:

“The biggest sins are to join others in worship with Allah; to be undutiful to one's parents; to kill somebody unlawfully; and to take a false oath.” (Bukhari, Ayman, 16, Diyat 2)

We should keep away from telling lies and doing business based on lies in any case. Telling lies, committing perjury and swearing a false oath are diseases that will cause us to burn in Hell. 

4. Slandering

Slandering is forbidden by verses and hadiths:

“And those who annoy believing men and women undeservedly bear (on themselves) a calumny and a glaring sin.” (al-Ahzab 33/58)

But if any one earns a fault or a sin and throws it on to one that is innocent, He carries (on himself) (Both) a falsehood and a flagrant sin.” (an-Nisa 4/112)

In a hadith reported by Ubada b. Samit, the Prophet (pbuh) asked the new Muslims not to slander and mentioned it in the allegiance, making them promise not to do it:  

“Swear allegiance to me not to join anything in worship along with Allah, not to steal, not to commit fornication, not to kill your children, not to accuse an innocent person and not to be disobedient when ordered to do a good deed.” (Bukhari, Iman, 7)

Let alone slandering, the religion of Islam prohibits searching other people’s faults with the following statement: "And spy not on each other behind their backs" (al-Hujurat, 12); thus, Islam regards it appropriate to forgive others’ mistakes.  

The Prophet expressed the value of covering people’s mistakes in the eye of Allah as follows: "If a person hides the mistake of a Muslim, Allah will hide his mistake on the Day of Judgment."

Allah regards testimony by four witnesses necessary for the crime of fornication to become definite. Otherwise, it is regarded as slander and the penalty for those who accuse chaste people of fornication is stated as being flogged eighty times in the chapter of an-Nur and states that the witnessing of those people will definitely not be accepted.

This shows us that a Muslim should take care of himself first and that he should keep away from the issues that do not interest him. He should check himself to see whether he makes such mistakes.

5. Backbiting, gossiping and talking behind someone’s back

According to what Abu Hurayra narrates, once the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked, "Do you know what backbiting is?" The Companions said, "Allah and His Messenger know it better."

Thereupon, he said, "it is talking about your brother in a manner which he does not like."

Somebody said, "What if he really does what I mention?" Thereupon, the Prophet made the following warning:

"If what you assert is really found in him, you backbite him. If that is not in him, it is a slander." (Muslim, Birr, 70)

What is called “gossiping” among people is regarded as backbiting.

The following verse states how bad backbiting is:

“…And spy not on each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, ye would abhor it...But fear Allah: For Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.” (al-Hujurat 49/12)

6. Talebearing

The Prophet states the terrible result of talebearing as follows:

“A talebearer cannot enter Paradise (unless he serves his penalty or he is forgiven)." (Muslim, Iman 169)

Talebearing, which means reporting a statement of a person to another person, is one of the bad traits that cause people to fall out with one another and disturb peace in the community. Even if the statement reported from one person to another is true, it is regarded as talebearing since it causes people to fall out with one another. 

Those who commit talebearing do not only cause people to fall out with one another but also bring about irreparable harms like enmity, hatred, grudge, revenge and hostility from time to time.  
So many families have been scattered, so many partnerships have ended, so much blood has been shed and so many enmities have occurred due to talebearing. The aim of the religion of Islam is to unite people and to strengthen the ties between them.  

Those who are talebearers have the following characteristics:

  • They are sinners.
  • They try to drive a wedge between people.
  • They want bad things about people.
  • We should not rely on the news they bring.
  • We should give them advice.
  • We should not tell others what they tell us.
  • We should not disclose secrets.
  • Talebearing is among major sins.
  • The prayers of talebearers are not accepted.
  • They are among the worst slaves of Allah.
  • They are hypocrites.
  • They will be punished in the grave.
  • They are damned people.

7. Swearing, bad words, slander, mocking, spying

It is forbidden by the Quran to utter statements that will harm the honor and dignity of others. Bad and ugly words like swearing, mocking and slandering should not exist in the life of a perfect believer. Our Lord prohibits uttering them. Man is regarded as a human to the extent that he controls his hand, tongue and private parts. 

We should think about the statement of the following verse when we try to control our tongues:

“O ye who believe! Let not some men among you laugh at others: It may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): Nor let some women laugh at others: It may be that the (latter are better than the (former): Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames: Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be used of one) after he has believed: And those who do not desist are (indeed) doing wrong.” (al-Hujurat 49/11)

In fact, a person’s controlling his tongue is associated with belief in the Quran:

“Allah loveth not that evil should be noised abroad in public speech, except where injustice hath been done; for Allah is He who heareth and knoweth all things.” (Nisa 4/148)

“Woe to every (kind of) scandal-monger and-backbiter” (al-Humaza 104/1)

8. Having (bad) thoughts (suspicion) about others, unnecessary words

Zann means, thinking, perceiving, doubt and information that is not certain. It means to accuse of a person without a reason and to think that somebody does/did something bad.

Some of the verses regarding the issue are as follows:

“O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin...”  (49- al-Hujurat:12)

"…And ye conceived an evil thought, for ye are a people lost (in wickedness)." (al-Fath, 48/12)

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Avoid suspicion because it is the worst lie.(Bukhari, Adab, 58/6064)

Measures to protect the tongue

- Having a strong belief freed from doubts.
- Regular worshipping.
- Remembering and mentioning Allah all the time.
- Reading the Quran and meditating on the life of the Prophet.
- Abandoning the places that cause people to commit sins or correcting them.
- Attending places that remind of Allah.
- Trying to be together with good and righteous people.
- Attending religious talks and circles of religious knowledge.
- Changing and developing our perception of education.

Conclusion

A Muslim is a person who shows respect to others’ rights, who avoids the deeds that will harm others and from whom people expect good things. The Prophet (pbuh) states the following in a hadith:

"A Muslim is a person from whose tongue and hand people are safe.” (Tirmidhi, Iman, 12)

The best of you is the one whose goodness is hoped for; and people are safe from his evil. And the worst of you is he whose goodness is not hoped for; and people are not safe from his evil.”  (Tirmidhi, Fitan, 76)

The bad deed will definitely reach its doer. A person who does a bad deed will encounter it in the hereafter even if he does not encounter it in the world:

“And pursue not that of which thou hast no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning).” (al-Isra 17/36)

“The plotting of Evil will hem in only the authors thereof.” (Fatir 35/43)

We need to try to control our tongues knowing that nothing can be concealed from Allah. We need to try to keep our tongue away from lies, perjury, slander, backbiting, talebearing, swearing, and bad words. We need to know that we will be called to account for every deed and word of us:

“Or do they think that We hear not their secrets and their private counsels? Indeed (We do), and Our messengers are by them, to record.” (az-Zukhruf 43/80)

According to what is reported from Abu Hurayra, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked, “Do you know who is bankrupt?” 

The Companions said, “In our opinion, a bankrupt is one who has neither money with him nor goods.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

“The bankrupt of my ummah will be he who will come on the Day of Resurrection with prayers and fasting and zakah but whose thawabs of good deeds will be given to others because of having cursed others, having accused others of fornication,  having consumed the wealth of others unlawfully and shed the blood of others and beat others, and upon whom the sins of others will be loaded when his thawabs are not enough to compensate for the rights of others he violated. Then, he will be thrown into Hell.” (Muslim, Birr 59)

The poet Yunus Emre expresses the issue in a nice way in the following poem:

"If one knows how to use the word, the word makes that person proud
If one speaks carefully, the word makes the work best."

"There are words that stop war and there are words that make the dead live
There are words that make a poisonous dish a delicacy"

"One has to know the manner of the word, and not use bad words
One word makes this hellish world like Heaven
Yunus! Now speak in a good manner. Speak the best of words
Be careful! A single word can keep you away from His presence."

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