Responding to Vulgarities
Shaykh Jamir Meah gives advice on how best to respond to vulgar language used by others in the workplace.
Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
I come in to contact with people in my work place as I go about my work who, as a means of conversation swear for example when mentioning the weather, or talking about the work load or to show appreciation of how it’s almost time to go home.
In response, as this is just a passing remark as they pass me, I tend to smile or laugh and they say something in response and carry on with my work.
Is it permissible for me to laugh or smile like this obligingly as my intention is not to show approval of the vulgar word and I myself do not swear?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
Thank you for your question.
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, advised us, “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand, and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue, and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart, and that is the weakest of faith.” (Muslim)
The way to deal with these situations depends on the type of people you are working with, their reaction, and the potential consequences for you. Unfortunately, swearing and vulgar language is now acceptable in some work places and common place in social circles.
Since more than one person uses offensive language in your office, it would probably be difficult to kindly ask them not to swear, as this may well affect your position and general working relationship. The minimum is to hate such language in your heart, which all of us are able to do.
Smiling or laughing at only the general meaning of their sentence is not sinful in itself, such as the relief that the day is almost finished, even if they swear when expressing it. However, in order not to encourage them, I would suggest not smiling or laughing when they use vulgarities, rather, either stay silent if that is not awkward, or reply with something positive or constructive that is clean, with the intention of showing good character. Knowingly or unknowingly, they may stop swearing in front of you.
Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.
22: Guarding Speech, Condemnation of Envy & Rancour – Renewing Religion: An Overview of Ghazali’s Ihya – Shaykh Walead Mosaad