The Age of Profanity and the Blessings of Good Words

During my first year of high school, I heard the F-word so frequently that I actually started saying it myself. One day, my father heard me say it. He advised me politely yet firmly to never use it again. I promised my father and since then, alḥamdulillāh, I have kept my promise.

Now, as I raise my own children, I have completely abandoned any foul words, even slightly impolite, like stupid, idiot, ‘what the hell’, ‘I don’t care’, freakin’, flippin’, ‘I hate you’, etc. And I have enforced the same values on them. For a very long time, they thought the S-word was stupid and the F-word meant funky; they were corrected at a masjid in the US.

It was easier to enforce this standard of language when they were homeschooled. However, as they have stepped into the “real” world, i.e. started school, and extended their circle of friends, they are becoming accustomed to hearing many of these words. Unfortunately, using swear words is very common at schools, and “slightly impolite” words are considered normal among Muslim and non-Muslim kids equally.

Back in my high school, I once had a discussion with a class fellow on the ineffectiveness of profanity. He believed profanity had to be used to emphasize a point. I remember him asking, “How will you describe a gorgeous looking girl without saying, ‘she is so f****** beautiful’?” While I didn’t see any reason why profanity had to be used to accentuate a point, he sincerely couldn’t understand otherwise. As much as I would like to think that this was the mindset of someone who didn’t know the importance of good words, Muslims have not shown any better conduct.

Regrettably, like many other issues, language has also taken a downfall in the past decade. Profanity has become so ordinary that mean words don’t even sound foul anymore. Alḥamdulillāh, my children do not use any cuss words, but I wonder how long someone could refrain from using words they hear 5 to 6 hours a day, every day. It is becoming harder to find them friends, Eastern or Western, who don’t habitually swear, forget the “slightly impolite” words. Children even swear at each other’s parents. If someone refrains from cursing back, he/she is considered a “wuss”. My standard of clean language is starting to appear a bit utopian!

Islam urges us to use pleasant speech and decent words. Selection of words distinguishes a human being and is a means to achieve Paradise or Hellfire. Countless aḥadīth emphasize the necessity of safeguarding one’s tongue, and a number of verses mention the virtues of using good words. Allah ‘azza wa jall compares good words to a virtuous tree:

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أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا كَلِمَةً طَيِّبَةً كَشَجَرَةٍ طَيِّبَةٍ أَصْلُهَا ثَابِتٌ وَفَرْعُهَا فِي السَّمَاءِ تُؤْتِي أُكُلَهَا كُلَّ حِينٍ بِإِذْنِ  رَبِّهَا

“Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches in the sky? It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord.” (14:24-25)

He ‘azza wa jall has ordered the believers to say:

وَقُولُوا لِلنَّاسِ حُسْنًا  “And speak to people good [words].” (2:83)

وَقُولُوا لَهُمْ قَوْلًا مَّعْرُوفًا   “And speak to them words of appropriate kindness.” (4:5)

And Allah ‘azza wa jall informed us:

إِلَيْهِ يَصْعَدُ الْكَلِمُ الطَّيِّبُ
“Whoever desires honor – then to Allah belongs all honor. To Him ascends good speech, and righteous work raises it.” (35:10)

While our religion holds good, pure language in high esteem, our youth (and adults) have succumbed to the use of profanity. It is heart-breaking to see even the good children use:

  • vulgar jokes
  • profanity to emphasize a point
  • swear at others
  • insult friends as a sign of “friendship”
  • use words that contain a demeaning/disparaging tone as a normal way of communication

Allah ‘azza wa jall commands us:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَقُولُوا قَوْلًا سَدِيدًا
“O you who have believed, fear Allah and speak words of appropriate justice.” (33:70)

قَوْلًا سَدِيدًا  is defined as:

قَوْلً: This is the speech that is released from a person’s mouth and reflects his inner self.
سَدِيدًا: indicates shooting an arrow that hits the target without even slightly deviating, i.e. it leaves the bow and goes straight to the target.

Concurrently, it means a word/statement that is said without adding anything useless to it. In other words, a speech conveyed in the most cleanly and pure form. It has also been explained as:

“Together it consists of obligatory statements, righteous and beneficial statements, like salutation with salaam, and good words that brings about happiness in the hearts of the believers, and improvement among people.”[i]

What possible benefit, blessings or goodness can using words like damn, flippin’, freakin’, or other insulting words bring in a believer’s life?

Aim for the Stars

We must keep in mind that often we achieve less than what we had originally aimed to achieve. If we only aim for keeping our children from using swear words, the chances are our results will slouch at some point, and they may actually end up using profanity. However, if we try to aim high, and keep away from any insulting words or words that have no beneficial meaning, then even if we achieve less than our goal, inshaAllah they will still be safe from using profanity. And if we achieve our goal then alhamdullilah we definitely, with Allah’s help, have raised our children to a higher moral standard and kept them from اللغو.

اللغو: generally means any word/speech that is purposeless, does not bring about any benefit and is considered ill-speech.[ii]

Allah ‘azza wa jall told us that the people of Jannah will be safe from اللغو:

ا يَسْمَعُونَ فِيهَا لَغْوًا
“They will not hear therein ill speech…” (56:25)

Most importantly, Allah ‘azza wa jall described those believers who are successful as:

وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنِ اللَّغْوِ مُعْرِضُونَ
 “And they who turn away from ill speech.” (23:3)

Benefits of Pleasant Speech & Good Words

I now conclude with the last part of the verse from Sūrat’l-Aḥzāb. Though Allah commands us to say قَوْلًا سَدِيدًا, He gives us an incentive:

يُصْلِحْ لَكُمْ أَعْمَالَكُمْ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ
“He will [then] amend for you your deeds and forgive you your sins.”

The result of using righteous words and pleasant speech leads towards Allah’s forgiveness. Allah ‘azza wa jall improves and corrects one’s action and replaces the bad deeds and forgives one’s sins. This is the reward of those who are mindful of their speech and selective of their words so much so that using insults towards others doesn’t suit their personality anymore.

Would we not want our children’s actions to be corrected? What wouldn’t we give up to get their sins forgiven by Ar- Raḥmān? What wouldn’t we do to have Allah Himself, ‘azza wa jall, monitor their actions?

Knowing the blessings and excellence of clean language should only makes us more fervent to instill the habit of using good words and eliminating any foul/insulting words from their daily language. Hence, I urge parents to carefully monitor the selection of their children’s words and their own words at home.

May Allah ‘azza wa jall give us and our children tawfīq to use قَوْلًا سَدِيدًا.


[i] http://www.islamweb.net/media/index.php?page=article&lang=A&id=148349

[ii] http://www.dralsherif.net/Fatwa.aspx?SectionID=4&RefID=1212

 

14 / View Comments

14 responses to “The Age of Profanity and the Blessings of Good Words”

  1. The use of bad language has truly reached epidemic proportions. Most people if you advise them to stop, respond with, “Whats wrong with it? Everyone uses it.” Jazakallah Khair for giving us some answers.
    I was once asked if its ok to use substitute words like ‘what the flip’ or abbreviation instead of the actual profanity. What do you think?

  2. Sahil says:

    Well written article. This is really a big problem and it is scary to think what kind of world our children will be growing up in. Profanity and vulgar language is really becoming somewhat of a ‘norm’ in society. It is also evident in the workplace and is fast becoming a standard way of speaking amongst the youth.

  3. Aziza says:

    Excellent article MashaAllah. I remember how cool it used to be even in elementary school to use foul language and to talk about gross subjects. I truly pray that we, as Muslims, can set a good example to others by showing how beautiful and powerful speech can be…even without the profanities!

  4. Ahsan Arshad Ali says:

    sister Umm Reem, I feel like distributing this article among my colleagues in the office. Profanity has now become cool, and is the more effective mode of communication for many…This needs to be changed. I feel that it affects me negatively daily…May Allah protect the righteous from ill speech and help us replace it with that which is pleasing to Allah.
    A VERY important topic has been highlighted…May Allah reward you

  5. Yasmin says:

    Jazakallah khair for this much needed reminder!

  6. The moral degradation of society..

  7. Infidelicious says:

    About a 100 years ago the word “bloody” was very controversial in an English stage play. Just goes to show how times change. Yes, words get harsher, then lose their edge only to be replaced by even harsher expressions. It’s called evolution.
    But rather than forbidding your children to speak like their peers, perhaps it’s better to teach them more advanced words, like instead of “F*ing” say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”

  8. none says:

    JazakAllah khair. I’ve fallen prey to this as well. There was a period where I had stopped using swear words, but it has crept back into my environment and speech. I really needed this reminder. May Allah bless you for it. 

  9. Hussain3 says:

    Perhaps it’s worth considering this issue from a slightly different point view. People will continue to do what they are doing so long as they feel that it is beneficial for them, or they feel like the cost of change is too high. The incentive structure is what I would focus on trying to change.

    At the moment, the world is signalling to your children that it is advantageous and indeed beneficial to use profanities. You mentioned at least two such advantages in the article:

    (1) Not coming across as a “wuss” -> being able to stand up for yourself -> not being bullied in school [this is incredibly important, do not underestimate it]

    (2) Having a much broader arsenal of persuasive tools. In the playground, people who swear are able to express emotion more powerfully than those don’t. If you can elicit an emotional in others, then you are much more likely to persuade or control them. Saying “Give me the football”, is nowhere near as powerful as “Give me the F***ing ball!”, and in the playground – power wins.

    I can add a few more:
    (3) Not wanting to feel left out.
    (4) Rebelling against authority.
    (5)

    Therefore, while giving your children a good example to follow is certainly a step in the right direction, I fear that it is nowhere near enough. In order to ensure your children do not swear, they must see clear demonstrations of why not swearing is the better course of action. You must place them in situations where only he who speaks eloquently succeeds, to counteract the environment they face each day in the playground where success is synonymous with swearing.

    Furthermore, they must be provided with an alternative form of action which is able to stand up to and indeed exceed the benefits (above) that they would otherwise receive from swearing. No child should be expected to refrain from swearing at the expense of playground respect, good friends, social proficiency and companionship.

    Finally, while your quotes from the Quran and Hadith are certainly powerful, even the most devout believer will move away from them if he cannot see evidence of their truth in his daily life. While you can command your children not to swear because it has been decreed by God, eventually they will need to make this decision for themselves. Unfortunately, the words of Quran must with stand the constant pressure of the situations your children encounter where swearing proves itself to be useful [the child who was able to gain classwide admiration for swearing at his teacher, the child who kept his lunch money by swearing at the bullies, or the bully who was able to steal from another child using swearing as a tool]. This is not a fair fight.

  10.  Jazaakee Allaahu khayran wa baarak Allaahu feekee, Umm Reem, for sharing this article.  It has been a topic of discussion between myself and my wife for years, especially as it would relate to our children.  I think the crux of the matter, for me, is how you put with regards to aiming for the stars – we need to overshoot the goal we’re actually aiming for, lest we fall short.  Likewise, if we want good for our children, we need to precede them in that good, and aim high, as there will be more than enough influences throughout their lives working against what we want for them.

  11. Aeae says:

    My mom did the same thing with my siblings. She would give us the glare if we even said “stupid” or “dumb” and alhumdulillah til this day, I can never cuss. It literally won’t come off my tongue, even if I tried. 

  12. K.Azam says:

    OMG! I needed it. Soothing for my heart.

  13. Shifa Khan says:

    Assalam o alykum warahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.

    Dearest sister,
    I really love all the articles you publish as they are full of authentic sources and proper guidelines. i really respect your efforts to enlighten us lay-men and women with so much. As much as i want to continue praising you, i really want you to extend to me your personal email id so i could reach you easily and have you answer tonnes of personal queries.
    I’d be waiting for your reply. Jazak Illahu khairan.

  14. Satria Fazrurrohman says:

    I am really interested in conducting this topic into an academuc research as my graduating paper, thank you so much for the precious information, cause I can write the research using Islamic view..

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