Adab: Etiquettes of speech


Speech is one of the free gifts of nature. It is a blessing of Allah:

الرَّحْمَنُ (١) عَلَّمَ الْقُرْآنَ (٢) خَلَقَ الإنْسَانَ (٣) عَلَّمَهُ الْبَيَانَ (٤)

  1. the Most Beneficent (Allâh)! 2. has taught (you mankind) the Qur’ân (by his Mercy). 3. He created man. 4. He taught him eloquent speech.[1]

Whatever was mentioned explicitly in the Qur’an is of high level of importance, indicating its special implications in life.

This article will try to discuss speech, it etiquettes and implications from the Islamic perspective.

Good speech is a sadaqah

Sadaqah is a significant righteous deed and righteousness is the means to salvation.

 قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: ” كُلُّ سُلَامَى مِنَ النَّاسِ عَلَيْهِ صَدَقَةٌ كُلَّ يَوْمٍ تَطْلُعُ الشَّمْسُ “، قَالَ: ” تَعْدِلُ بَيْنَ الِاثْنَيْنِ صَدَقَةٌ، وَتُعِينُ الرَّجُلَ فِي دَابَّتِهِ تَحْمِلُهُ عَلَيْهَا أَوْ تَرْفَعُ لَهُ مَتَاعَهُ عَلَيْهَا صَدَقَةٌ “، وَقَالَ: ” الْكَلِمَةُ الطَّيِّبَةُ صَدَقَةٌ “، وَقَالَ: ” كُلُّ خُطْوَةٍ تَمْشِيهَا إِلَى الصَّلَاةِ صَدَقَةٌ، وَتُمِيطُ الْأَذَى عَنِ الطَّرِيقِ صَدَقَةٌ “

“Narrated Abu Hurairah: Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “There is a (compulsory) Sadaqah (charity) to be given for every joint of the human body (as a sign of gratitude to Allah) every day the sun rises. To judge justly between two persons is regarded as Sadaqah, and to help a man concerning his riding animal by helping him to ride it or by lifting his luggage on to it, is also regarded as Sadaqah, and (saying) a good word is also Sadaqah, and every step taken on one’s way to offer the compulsory prayer (in the mosque) is also Sadaqah and to remove a harmful thing from the way is also Sadaqah.””[2]

 Components of good speech

Good, correct or acceptable speech is among the qualities and identity of a believer. It is a statement that is true, appropriate, purposeful, just, beneficial, cautious and doesn’t cause harm. In order words, utterances that conform to proper Islamic etiquettes outlined for it. Good speech is better than silence, silence is better than evil speech. If you cannot adhere to the etiquettes, keep it shut.

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ، قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «مَنْ كَانَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَاليَوْمِ الآخِرِ فَلْيَقُلْ خَيْرًا أَوْ لِيَصْمُتْ، وَمَنْ كَانَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَاليَوْمِ الآخِرِ فَلاَ يُؤْذِ جَارَهُ، وَمَنْ كَانَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَاليَوْمِ الآخِرِ فَلْيُكْرِمْ ضَيْفَهُ»[3]

Abu Hurayah narrated that the prophet said: “whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day (i.e. the Day of Judgment) should say what is good or keep quite; and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should not cause harm to his neighbour; and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should honour his guest.

  1. Truthfulness

For any utterance to be acceptable and correct, it must conform to the reality of what is described. Any false statement or utterance is not acceptable.[4]

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَقُولُوا قَوْلا سَدِيدًا

O You who believe! keep your duty to Allâh and fear him, and speak (always) the truth.[5]

  1. Appropriateness

Each situation has utterance that is suitable to it. True speech must be applied in its proper situation.

 فَذَكِّرْ إِنْ نَفَعَتِ الذِّكْرَى

So give admonition, if the admonition will benefit[6]


Any good speech must have clear purpose: to present some admonitions, to clear some misconceptions, to give some descriptions of good or warn against misguidance. In any case, it must be in compliance with the truth and appropriate.

  1. Justness

A good speech must be fair and unbiased. Justice is an important part of any statement.

  1. Beneficial

Whenever you speak to prevent some harm or make some necessary changes, then you have you made a beneficial speech.

  1. Cautiousness

Statements should be carefully uttered or worded to avoid any possible complications or mistakes. This is especially important for (religious or political) leaders with large followers and wider publicity. Speech can never be withdrawn after it has been said. The process of correction is always difficult.

عن أبي هريرةَ سمعَ رسولَ الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – يقول: “إن العبد لَيَتَكلَّمُ بالكلمةِ ما يتبينُ فيها، يزلُّ بها في النارِ أبعدَ ما بينَ المشرقين”.[7]

Abu Hurayah narrated that he heard the prophet said: verily, a servant (of Allah) will speak with a word he never considered as important, and because of that, he will sink in hell (in dept) equivalent to a distance between the east and the west.


A good speech is a righteous deed and righteous deed will not cause harm to other people.

Every utterance is being recorded

The tongue is often used and can fill the record book faster than any other part of the human body. If properly used, it will be an opportunity to gather enough righteous deeds for salvation; otherwise it is will be a means of doom for its owner. We seek the protection of Allah from the consequence of our actions

مَا يَلْفِظُ مِنْ قَوْلٍ إِلا لَدَيْهِ رَقِيبٌ عَتِيدٌ

Not a word does he (or she) utter, but there is an observer by him ready (to record it).[8]

Some examples of bad speech

[1] Surat-ul-Rahman 1-4

[2] Sahih Bukhari, Book of Jihad no. 198

[3] Sahih Bukhari vol 8 pg 100

[4] Except some three exceptions recorded in the Sunnah: as part of war strategy, to settle dispute between quarrelling parties and to console a wife.

[5] Surat-ul-Ahzaab 70

[6] Surat-ul-A’alaa 9

[7] مُخْتَصَر صَحِيحُ الإِمَامِ البُخَارِي vol. 4 pg. 150

[8] Surat-ul-Qaf 18

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