The tongue is one of Allah’s greatest blessings that He has given humans. Without a tongue and without the power of speech, life as we know it would not be possible. The first thing Allah did after creating the first human, Aadam (peace be upon him), was to teach him speech:
The Most Merciful
Taught the Quran
[And] taught him eloquence (The Quran, Chapter 55 Verses 1- 4)
The tongue is so instrumental in shaping our deen (spiritual life) and duniya (wordly life), that its use or misuse can lead to jannah (eternal paradise) or jahannum (eternal hell). Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) stated that if a person can guard what is between the jaws (the tongue) and what is between the legs (private parts), he or she will be able to enter jannah. In another hadith, our beloved prophet (peace be upon him) said that every morning, all the parts of a person’s body beseech the tongue to act in accordance with Allah’s laws, to fear Him, to not be corrupted and not to say anything that displeases Him. This is because, if the tongue deviates from the path of Islam, then the whole body will suffer the punishment of hellfire. The wrongdoing of the tongue is instrumental in our success or failure.
Scientifically, the tongue is made such that when it is injured in any way, it heals the fastest of all other bodily tissues. However, the injuries inflicted by the tongue (i.e. cruel words, lies, deceit, hateful or derogatory speech) do not heal and cut the deepest, so we should be aware of the effect of what we say. Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) advised those who believe in Allah and the day of judgment to only speak good otherwise to remain silent- this is the best recourse socially and from an Islamic viewpoint.
The tongue can be used in three ways, which are:
- Beneficial- to proclaim faith, to call people to Islam, to advise, for worldly matters such as to study or work
- Harmful- to lie, backbite, slander, mislead, cause strife and division
- Wasteful- in activities which are neither useful nor directly harmful, such as joking, singing, useless talk which wastes time and energy.
From an Islamic point of view, the only permissible function of the tongue is the beneficial one. When the tongue is used in harmful or wasteful ways, the consequences can be an eternity of suffering. We know this because of one of the incidents reported during Mairaj. During the ascension of prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) to the heavens, he was shown visions from both jannah (paradise) and jahannum (hell). In hell, he saw people who had been given nails of copper and who were tearing off the flesh off their faces with their nails while being burnt in hellfire. When prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) asked why the men were being punished thus, he was informed by angel Jibrael that”These are the ones who ate the flesh of people and tarnished their reputations.” Eating the flesh of people is a metaphor for backbiting and slander. Similarly, prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) saw people who lips and tongues were being sliced with metal knives. As soon as they were sliced, they would be made whole again, only to be sliced repeatedly all eternity. Angel Jibrael explained that “These are the public speakers of division in your Community: they say what they don’t do.”
So that is the fate of those who use their tongue in a haram way. The punishment for the sins of the tongue that we take so lightly, are so severe and are so explicitly stated in Islamic traditions, that they must serve as a constant reminder for us to guard ourselves from the fire of hell by using our tongue wisely.