The oft-quoted idiom ‘clothes maketh the man’ should long be passé – I believe language is the dealbreaker now. Words are chief in the construction of one’s character. It has everything to do with the kind of person you are. The words you speak reflect the state of your heart. So if you speak rotten words all the time, it’s time to reflect on your heart, your soul.
As a student of language, I have always been passionate about words, the morphology, meanings, the semantics, and a person’s psychological and social motivation behind his/her speech. Beyond the signifier lies its signifiant. And rarely is its signifier born without its denotation. All words mean something. It’s amazing how something as simple as words can carry the ability to do things that are beyond you. Words can change a person’s life, words can start a war, words can save you from suicide, words can make you cry, words can make you laugh, words can make you feel many things. So to those who say “Chill out, it’s just a word” to a profane lexicon of choice, I’d reply, “just????”
Hearing speech inundated with profanities is enough to rile me up. It’s increasingly prevalent amongst the youth no thanks to the television and movies… so much so that if you have a problem with uttering a bad word, you’re not cool enough. Or you’re simply “close-minded”. Some would argue that spouting profanities only strengthen the solidarity within a group. I’d say, I wouldn’t want the words shared between my loved ones and I to be words that are displeasing to my Lord. One of my biggest pet peeves is when one peppers profanities in one’s speech, as though no sentence is complete without an insertion of the ‘F’ word, or some other. It’s an immediate crime when I hear it from my students. Trust me, the slightest ‘what the hell’ will incur my wrath.
I believe that our natural state of conversation is pure and peaceful. The people you surround yourself with, the things you hear, have a profound influence on how you speak. So be careful with what and who you surround yourself with. It is not a light matter when speaking good words is being emphasised several times in the Qur’an:
“And speak to people good [words]”
– Qur’an, 2:83
“And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear [Allah]”
– Qur’an, 20:44
“And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace”
– Qur’an, 25:63
Coincidentally, I spotted this poster at the back of a classroom today which talked about the ettiquetes of speech summed up in the acronym THINK:
T: Is it True?
H: Is it Helpful?
I: Is it Inspiring?
N: Is it Necessary?
K: Is it Kind?
Think before you speak – are those bad words really important to deliver the message across effectively? If at all, it only shows the level of maturity one is at when he or she uses bad words to prove a point, or simply for the ‘fun’ of it.
Also, I was reminded of what Nouman Ali Khan said in one of his lectures:
“Allah has dignified you with beautiful speech. You don’t use foul language. There are no dirty words in your vocabulary. And when you hear them, you don’t laugh or find them enjoyable, you’ll react to them like you would to a filthy smell. You’re disgusted by them. Because Allah has given nobility to this tongue of yours. He gave this tongue the honour of reciting the Qur’an – it has no room for filthy language.”
So to sum it up – “Speak good, or remain silent“. Yet another timeless reminder by our Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). Choose good words and speak well, for your speech maketh what kind of man (or woman) you truly are.