By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
Several hadith reports relate, in different ways, the importance of silence. According to one report (contained in the collection by at-Tirmidhi and in the Musnad of Ahmad) Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that the person who keeps silent has attained salvation.
This does not mean that people should completely stop speaking and become totally silent. Rather, what it means is that one should silently ponder on the matter that one is faced with and only then should one speak. This is the appropriate method. We should properly train ourselves and develop the habit of speaking less and keeping silent more, and of speaking only after we have properly thought out what we are going to speak.
This training can be done by developing the habit of being consciously aware of what we speak throughout every day. If we develop this awareness of what we speak in our ordinary daily conversations, we will be able to be aware of what we speak in novel or difficult situations, too.
Ordinarily, what most people do is that when they are faced with a situation, they react immediately and unthinkingly, blurting out whatever comes to their mind at that moment. This is not at all a proper way to react. Rather, one must first think, and then, on the basis of that, begin to speak. If you respond in this way, you can save yourself from having to later repent about what you had said, because once you say something, you can never take it back.
It generally happens that when one is faced with an unfavourable situation, one flares up and speaks in an angry manner. A simple way to save oneself from this is to develop in one’s daily conversations the habit of first thinking and only then speaking. Once you become used to thinking and only then speaking in ordinary, day-to-day conversations, you will do just the same when you are confronted with difficult situations. Controlling yourself in ordinary, daily conversations will make you able to speak in the same way, keeping yourself under control, in emergency situations, too, based on your mental discipline.
Most conflicts and strife in this world are actually over words. Some words provoke hatred and violence. Other words nourish peace and humaneness. If people only do this one task”of thinking before speaking and speaking while keeping their emotions under control”most conflicts and strife will die even before they are born.
To be able keep oneself under control and speak is a very great thing. Only those people possess this attribute who keep examining themselves and constantly inspect and take account of their thoughts, words and actions.
When you hear something, you ought not to react immediately. Instead, you should pause for a while, ponder on what you have heard, and think of what your ideal response should be. This will guarantee that you reply in a proper manner to what you have heard. You will respond to stones with flowers!