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Show gentleness in your language (DW#605)

Then speak to him a gentle word haply he may mind or fear.[Quran 20:44]

This verse from Sura Taha is addressed in the first instance to Prophet Musa (Moses) (as) when he was going to address the Pharaoh Almost counterintuitively, he is told that instead of being harsh, standing his ground or telling the tyrant off, he should speak to him mildly and gently.

The principle of speaking gently to those who are on an opposing side and most likely to trigger you is, in fact, the most intelligent and brilliant way to communicate.

When you are talking to someone who you do not have a relationship with, or someone who has very different views, our tendency is to criticize and stand our ground. This can seem like an attack to the other person, almost guaranteeing that they will not hear you or consider what you have to say. While you are speaking, they are busy thinking of ways in which you are wrong and how they are going to defeat your arguments.

If, on the other hand, we start by...

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Speak nobly to your parents (DW#604)

"and speak to them a generous word [Quran 17:23]"

This segment is from a verse in Sura Isra that we have already visited this month. Here Allah is advising us that an important part of honouring your parents is how you speak to them.

Qawlan Kariman means noble words, gentle and soft words showing honour and esteem.

We have a major obligation of excellence of conduct towards our parents. After God, they are the most important object of our love, attention and affection.

And because children mean so much to parents, the hearts of parents tend to be very sensitive towards their children. A careless word from a child which the child may not think twice about, has the power to deeply wound those that gave birth to him and raised her.

Such words from children are doubly painful because

a) They come from one whom you love most in the world and have sacrificed for and because
b) Parents tend to blame themselves for the conduct of their children. It is easier for a parent to believe that...

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Speak the best (DW#603)

And say to My servants (that) they speak that which is best[17:53]

This verse from Sura Bani Israel lays out the general and foundational principle for speech in Islam: Speak that which is Ahsan(beautiful, excellent, kind)

That which is the best encapsulates all rules and principles of good communication. The famous saying (which has been attributed to many different sages and masters over the years) comes to mind:

Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates:

At the first gate, ask yourself "Is is true?"
At the second gate ask, "Is it necessary?"
At the third gate ask, "Is it kind?"

This saying, although clichéd, has the wisdom to help us pause and become conscious of our words. Because talking is so natural we are often unaware of the power of our spoken words, our speech can sometimes run away from our mouths before we have had a chance to engage our brains.

So let us explore these three gates:

Is It True?

Few of us would ever admit to lying intentionally. But...

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The root of good words (DW#602)

Yesterday we discussed verses 24 & 25 of Sura Ibrahim where the Quran compares good words to a good tree:

Have you not considered how Allah sets forth a parable of a good word (being) like a good tree, whose root is firm and whose branches are in heaven,Yielding its fruit in every season by the permission of its Lord? And Allah sets forth parables for men that they may be mindful.[Quran 14:24-25]

Today let’s deepen our understanding of this parable by exploring a narration from Imam Ali (as), where he says:

Speech is implanted in the heart and deposited in the thought, strengthened by the intellect conveyed through the tongue; its body is the letters, its soul is the meaning, its adornment is punctuation and its order is reason.

This profound saying has so many layers of meaning that it is not possible to do it justice here. For today, let us simply reflect on the process of communication.

What comes out of our mouths is not the beginning of communication. The thought and...

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Recognize the power of words (DW#601)

Have you not considered how Allah sets forth a parable of a good word (being) like a good tree, whose root is firm and whose branches are in heaven,Yielding its fruit in every season by the permission of its Lord? And Allah sets forth parables for men that they may be mindful.[Quran 14:24-25]

The verses for today’s reflection are from Sura Ibrahim and they compare the impact of words to that of a tree.

So what is a Kalimat Tayyabba, a "good word"?

In the first instance, it is a word that calls to righteousness, to the Truth. But it is much more than that.

The Quran compares a good word to a good tree (and later an evil word to an evil tree). It is interesting that we consider trees to have solid psychical mass while we rarely consider our words in the same way. We think that they are spoken into air and disappear in the next moment. (And sometimes we wish that they did!)

On the other hand, we have all experienced the power of words to connect and heal people and also perhaps...

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Be kind to your parents even if they don’t share your faith (DW#600)

Today’s verse makes a distinction between respect and obedience towards parents.

And if they (both) contend with you that you should associate with Me what you have no knowledge of, do not obey them, and keep company with them in (this) world kindly [Quran 31:15]

So while the general injunction is to obey parents, this verse lays out an important exception to the general rule.

If your parents are forcing you towards disbelief or encouraging you towards polytheism, you may not obey them. Parents have more rights over you than anyone else. But this right does not include the right to come between you and your relationship with God.

However, this exception does not absolve children from the duties of showing excellent conduct and compassion towards their parents.

According to scholars, this verse was revealed when some new converts to Islam were emotionally blackmailed by their parents to give up the faith. These new converts were in a very challenging situation since the faith...

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Be grateful to God and to your parents (DW#599)

Be grateful towards Me and towards thy parents [Quran 31:14]

Today’s verse continues our discussion from yesterday about showing ehsaan (excellent courtesy) and rahma (loving-kindness and compassion) towards parents.

An essential part of the courtesy towards parents is to show them gratitude. The gratitude towards parents in this verse is linked to gratitude towards God Himself. It is through the medium of our parents that He gives us existence and it is through them that He nurtures us and raises us from weakness to strength. Parents then, are a means of transmission of Allah’s bounties towards us.

This verse is particularly applicable today where the world seems to have shifted to a child-centered place. Parents struggle to set boundaries and children feel more entitled to material and nonmaterial possessions and accommodations than ever before. Putting this verse into action would perhaps begin to redress the balance of entitlement and gratitude.

 

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Remember your mother’s labours (DW#598)

Continuing our theme of loving-respect towards parents, today’s verse is from Chapter 31, Sura Luqman where Allah says:

We have enjoined upon man goodness towards his parents: his mother bore him by bearing strain upon strain, and his utter dependence on her lasted two years: [Quran 31:14]

This verse also emphasises the children’s duty of loving-kindness, compassion and excellent courtesy (ehsaan) towards parents. The verse then shifts to the particular contribution of the mother in bringing up children. Islamic narrations are clear on the principle that the mother’s status for the child is higher than that of the father. This verse explains why.

Since the mother bears the child, nurses him and does the hard physical and emotional labour related to child-rearing, her contribution is recognized and acknowledged. The verse alludes to the hardships of pregnancy, labour and breast-feeding. This is the time when she is the one who is greatly impacted by the child. It is...

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Lower your wings (DW#597)

Today’s verse is also from Sura Israa [The Night Journey] where Allah says:

Lower unto them the wing of humility out of compassion and say, "My Lord! Have mercy upon them, as they cherished me when I was little." [Quran 17:24]

As we said yesterday, Islam lays great emphasis on the courtesies towards parents, especially as they age. This verse also expresses the abundance of mercy, affection, and humility with which adult children should aspire to treat their parents.

Here, a beautiful image is evoked of a bird that lovingly spreads its wings over its offspring to shelter and protect them in the nest.

Scholars explain that this metaphor of a high-flying bird which lowers her wing out of tenderness to her offspring is apt because when the parent was strong and the child was helpless, parental affection was showered on the child and so when the child grows up and is strong, and the parent becomes increasingly helpless, the child must do the same for the parent. However, the child...

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Deal with Ehsaan towards your parents (DW#596)

This week we will explore some Quranic injunctions for dealing with our parents, a relationship which the Quran holds as the most sacred of human relationships with the highest expectations of virtuous behaviour from children towards their parents.

Today’s verse:
And your Lord has commanded . . . ehsaan (virtue, goodness, kindness, excellent courtesy) to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) "Uff" nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word.[Quran 17:23]

In the above verse from Sura Israa (the Night Journey) Allah pairs the command to worship only Him with the command to show ehsaan towards our parents.

The Arabic word ehsaan is a word with profound meanings including goodness, beauty, perfection, excellence, generosity.

This verse specifically counsels virtuous behaviour towards parents as they age. This time of life is where the roles of parent-child relationship are turned around. The parent, who has been the...

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