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Appeal to reason (DW#610)

The Quran exemplifies the model of appealing to our sense of logic and reasoning. It does this by asking questions for us to ponder over and reflect on.
 
In the following verses, the Quran uses rhetorical questions to help us reflect and come to logical conclusions:

Has man not seen that We created him from a drop, and behold, he is a manifest adversary?
And he has set forth for Us a parable and forgotten his own creation, saying, "Who revives these bones, decayed as they are?" 
Say, "He will revive them Who brought them forth the first time, and He knows every creation [Quran 36:77-79]

These questions are posed to those who rejected the resurrection and final accounting. Their argument was: how can we be recreated if our bones have already turned to dust? The counter-argument presented through rhetorical questions is that the recreation cannot be harder than the original creation. He who created you in the first place, can He not bring you back? 

 
When...
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How to debate and dispute (DW#609)

In the following verse from Sura Nahl, Allah says: 

and dispute with them in a manner that is best [Quran16:125].

 

Communicating effectively and mindfully with respect and compassion does not mean that we always agree with the other person. Reality is that in relationships and in life, we may find ourselves on opposing sides of an issue.

 

This verse reminds us how to engage in communication when there is clearly a difference of opinion or values.
 
Firstly, such conversation needs to be done with the right intention. We can speak up for what we believe, defend our truth, remove doubts and misconceptions, but we must always do with respect and compassion. When we dispute or argue in this way, we are not defending our own power of status. We come from a place of respect, love and compassion, intending good for all concerned.
 
For the next few days, let us explore the elements of a good discussion or argument. 
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Let not aggressive speech upset you (DW#608)

Yesterday we discussed how to deal with aggression towards our faith and values. 

Today’s verse is related to the same idea. In Sura Yunus, the Prophet (saw) is told: 

And let not their speech grieve you; surely all honor belongs to Allah; He is the Hearing, the Knowing. [Quran 10:65]

 

As we have been saying, words are powerful. They have the power to heal and the power to hurt. Even if we work on being mindful of our words, reality is that not everyone will respond. We may still encounter aggression and criticism. And sometimes such words will greatly impact our emotional and mental wellbeing, especially if we sense that they are unfair and are motivated by hate rather than love. We may replay these words again and again in our minds, allowing them to fester and unbalance our wellbeing. We may lose faith and confidence in our beliefs by being subject to such hate speech.

 

This verse reminds us that the words that others may speak are not necessarily...
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Speak insightful words (DW#607)

These are they of whom Allah knows what is in their hearts; therefore turn aside from them and admonish them, and speak to them effectual words concerning themselves. [Quran 4:63]

The verse from Sura Nisa teaches the Holy Prophet (saw) how to deal with the hypocrites – those who professed belief with their tongues but harboured resentment and ill will towards the Prophet (saw). They were perhaps the most challenging enemy that he dealt with because they posed as friends and used covert means rather than open warfare to try and derail his mission. 

The Prophet (saw) is instructed to turn away from these disbelievers—that is, to avoid openly punishing them. Instead, he is to admonish them and seek to persuade them with penetrating words rather than confronting them aggressively with force. 

Scholars explain that turning away here may also mean to refuse to accept their excuses. Instead, he is to politely but firmly speak to them with Qawlan Baleegha,...

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Say what you mean (DW#606)

O you who believe! be careful of (your duty to) Allah and speak the right word [Quran 33:70]

The verse from Sura Ahzab exhorts believers in particular to speak "Qawlan Sadid", words that are truthful, just, appropriate. 

The reward for such language in spelled out in the following verse where Allah says:

that He may set your deeds aright for you, and forgive you your sins. [Quran 33:71]

The expression qawl sadid signifies, literally, "a saying that hits the mark", words that are truthful, relevant and to the point. It is speech that is upright and free from any corruption. It means speaking in a way such that the outward expression corresponds to the inward meaning of what we trying to say. This applies specially when we are giving testimonies or bearing witness to something but is also a widely applicable principle of communication. 

How and when can we use this? 
1)    In our relationships: Very often even in our closest relationships, we do...

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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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