Reflection No. 174 on Q 21:4 – The Impact of a word
قَالَ رَبِّي يَعْلَمُ الْقَوْلَ فِي السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
Qālā rabbi ya‘lamul-qawla fis-samā’i wal-ardhi; wa huwas-samī ‘ul-‘alīm
He said, ‘My Lord knows every word [spoken] in the sky and the earth, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-knowing.’
(Sūratul Ambiyā’, Number 21, Āyat 4)
In this verse the Holy Prophet (s) reminds people that Allah is aware of every word that is spoken, publicly or privately. He is all-Knowing, and is aware of unspoken words also, words that float around in the mind, plans that are thought out and planned. No speech, spoken or unspoken, remains hidden from Him.
Words have a great impact, on the life of the speaker as well as the lives of those they reach. The ability to affect with the spoken word is the most potent tool of the human being. Great results can be achieved through the wise use of the tongue and the power of communication. Words can comfort and console, spread joy and bring out the best in others. Kind words, words of praise and affection, words of wisdom and guidance – these are the words that promote good and virtue in the world. It is our weapon against the evil and suffering that is casting a gloom over the world. We may not be able to put a stop to it, but we can at least counter it by spreading as much good as we can in the world.
The tongue can also do a lot of negative things if not kept in check. Words have the power to hurt deeply, to create rifts and conflicts, to offend and disturb, and even to spread corruption on earth. A lot of harm can be done through the tongue. Imam Muhammad al-Bāqir (a) says: Surely this tongue is the key to all good and all evil. So it befits a believer to guard it the way he would guard his gold and silver. (Mīzānul Hikmah, H. 17868)
The tongue has a right over its owner. Imam Zaynul ‘Ābidīn (a) says: It is the right of the tongue that you should consider it too respectable to utter obscene language; and you should accustom it to good (speech), and discipline it with good manners, and keep it silent except in time of necessity and for spiritual and material benefit, and keep it away from useless talk which may cause much harm with little benefit; and you should be kind to people and say good things about them. (Risālatul Huqūq)
Think carefully about the words you say, and even those you don’t say. Use this verse to remind you of where your words reach, to the Lord who gave you the tongue and blessed you with the power of communication. Thank Him by using it in His way.
Āytaullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh;
Muhammadi Rayshahrī, Mīzānul Hikmah;
Imam Zaynul ‘Ābidīn (a), Risālatul Huqūq