Spiritual Activism Riad Saloojee

21 – Slips of the Tongue and Pen

The first step in purifying our hearts (qulub) is to become vigilant regarding the use of our senses.  Our senses are the gates to our hearts (qulub). Whatever I allow through my senses and limbs will either beautify my heart or corrupt it.  Indeed, the contents of my heart – my emotions, thoughts, ideas and will – are all the result of the choices I have made in the use of my senses.

Our saintly scholars have specified seven important portals to the heart: the eyes, ears, tongue, hands, feet, stomach and sexual organs. The Divinely revealed texts mention them all. But specific mention is given to the tongue. In one tradition, the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) stated that if we guarantee him the purity of our tongue and private organs, he will guarantee us Paradise.

The tongue has been singled out for mention because it is prolific in disobedience to the Divine. The tongue is responsible for lying, backbiting, slander, verbal abuse, vain speech, exaggeration, hypocrisy, false praise – and the list goes on and on.

For this reason, the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) taught that the key to all good is to restrain the tongue. “Are people not cast into the Fire upon their faces due to the harvest of their tongues?” he asked. The word harvest could not be more appropriate. Words have tremendous consequences: hurt that never heals, marital discord, family conflict, social strain, political tensions, and even war.

We take the tongue’s power very lightly. The Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) warned that a person would say a word that he or she deems insignificant but will be thrown into the depths of Hell because of it.

Controlling the tongue is a difficult and painful struggle. The intent of controlling the tongue is to learn how to talk in balance, to speak only what is beneficial and beloved to the Divine. The Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) taught that one who believes in Allah should speak that which is good or remain silent.

We live in a global society that emphasizes talking. We are taught to speak, express, promote our views, broadcast ourselves. We have innovated different media to encourage us to give free rein to our tongues.  With an audience at the touch of our fingertips, we are encouraged to share the personal day-to-day minutiae of our lives with strangers. And to maintain our captive audience, we need to ensure that our tongues and pens keep generating interesting, engaging, risqué and even scandalous material.

The Muslim activist is busy speaking, writing, communicating, commenting, critiquing, dialoguing and discussing. There is often little time for quietude and sincere evaluation of the quality and quantity of our words.

Ultimately, every word of ours is recorded. And every word is an evidence. When it remains within the normative framework of Islamic values, it is for me; when it does not, it is against me.

Knowing this, I must undertake a struggle (mujahadah) to watch what I say; not talking unnecessarily; not talking when my lower-self (nafs) demands to talk; treasuring my moments of silence; and making time for remembrance of Allah and reflection.

I should never forget that the Beloved (peace and blessings be upon him) was the busiest man in history. He accomplished what no man or woman has ever accomplished, and what none will ever accomplish. Yet, he (peace and blessings be upon him) was described as having extended moments of silence.

There is no inherent disconnect or contradiction between Islamic Spirituality and social or political activism.  In fact, Islamic spirituality is not only relevant but essential to all forms of activism.  This podcast with Shaykh Riad Saloojee will present a paradigm for a spiritually-inspired activism where activism achieves what it was always meant to be: a vehicle for nearness to the Divine through genuine individual and social ethical change.  

This series will comprise of seven discussions that will explore 1. The foundations of Islamic spirituality; 2. The spiritual ethos that is the basis of all activism; 3. The ailments of activism unhinged from spirituality; 4. The laws that govern activism; 5. The importance of “inner,” spiritual activism for beneficial “outer” activism; 6. Vignettes from Prophetic activism; and 7. An application of how spirituality must inform true environmental activism.


For more podcasts by SeekersGuidance, visit SeekersGuidance.org/podcasts .