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The Astonishing Power of Words

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Published January 3, 2024

By Laura El Alam

The average human speaks thousands of words each day. Social beings who crave meaningful connection, we regularly talk with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and sometimes even strangers. With all these conversations we are having–all the thousands of words that pass through our lips – how many of us are mindful of what we utter? How many of us stop to reflect on the immense importance of choosing our words carefully?


In Islam, the power of words cannot be underestimated. They have the potential to propel us towards Allah’s pleasure or drive us away from Him.


Our tongue, working with the lips and teeth, allows for speech which has enormous influence on the actions taken by the body. Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “When the son of Adam wakes up in the morning, all of his limbs defer to the tongue and they say, ‘Fear Allah regarding us, for we are only a part of you. If you are upright, we are upright. If you are crooked, we are crooked’” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi).

Maintaining an “upright” or wholesome tongue might seem easy, but the Prophet, peace be upon him, said that most humans fail this crucial test.  Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported: “The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, ‘Most of the sins of the children of Adam are on their tongues’” (al-Mu’jam al-Kabir lil-Ṭabarani).


We know, therefore, that the words we speak can be the main cause of earning Allah’s displeasure. Acts like backbiting, using foul language, belittling others, and lying are all ways we can sin with our tongues. On the other hand, we can use words to make a positive impact on the people around us and to earn Allah’s pleasure. In the Qur’an, God says, “Do you not see how Allah compares a good word to a good tree? Its root is firm and its branches reach the sky, always yielding its fruit in every season by the Will of its Lord. This is how Allah sets forth parables for the people, so perhaps they will be mindful” (14:24-25).


The Prophet (s) said, “A man speaks a good word without knowing its worth; Allah records for him His good pleasure till the day he will meet Him; and a man utters an evil word without realizing its importance; Allah records for him His displeasure till the day he will meet Him” (Riyad as-Salihin, Book 18, Hadith 1516).


Imagine! Our good words have the potential to bear beautiful fruit continually like a miraculous tree and to earn magnificent rewards that Allah will accumulate for the day we meet Him in the afterlife. How wonderful it would be to find an immense load of positive words we’ve uttered, saved and savored by the One who hears and records every single one!


Now that we are eager to use our words for good, what are some ways we can do this?


  • Give dawah. We can call others to Islam with our words. This might include explaining the basic rules and pillars of our faith, and it might also be more subtle. We teach others about Islam every time we use our tongues to tell the truth, to give sincere compliments, to say words of patience and encouragement rather than annoyance, to keep our language clean and our message wholesome. We can use our tongue for good in almost every interaction we have, and in nearly every circumstance with neighbors, coworkers, friends, family, and strangers.


  • Instill a love of Islam in our children. The way we speak about our faith will influence our children. When it is time to pray, do we sigh and say, “Ugh! I have to hurry up and pray maghrib?” or do we say, “Maghrib has just entered! Allah is waiting to hear from us and to answer our du’as!”


When a calamity strikes, do our children hear us say, “Why did Allah allow this to happen to me?” or “This is so unfair!” Or do they hear us utter, “There is no power or strength except with Allah,” or “Alhamdullilah” or, “Allah, please help me find a solution to this difficulty?”


  • Enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. In a world that is filled with inequity and injustice, we have the power to use our words to speak up for what we know is fair and good, and to decry unfairness and corruption. This takes courage, though. It is easy to speak about people behind their backs, or to complain from the relative anonymity of a social media post, or to grouse with friends. But to confront a tyrannical person directly . . .  to protest injustice face-to-face . . .  or to publicly praise a noble cause even when it’s not in line with popular opinion . . . that is a courageous and worthy use of words.


In the Qur’an, Allah tells us, “The Most Compassionate, He taught the Qur’an, created humankind, taught him speech”(55: 1-4).The speech that He has taught us has immense power. We can use it to please Him, make the world a better place, and earn unfathomably wonderful rewards in Paradise, or we can abuse it, causing disastrous results. When we think about it, it is disconcerting that the tongues that we take for granted and the words that spew from our lips in torrents can be so potent. We speak so much, yet we rarely stop to ponder whether our words are propelling us towards the Hellfire, or helping us reach heavenward like fruitful, blessed trees.

This article is a reminder to me and to all of us that our words deserve a great deal of thought and care. If we tend to be heedless with our tongues, it is time to break that habit and replace it with something better. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “He who believes in Allah and the Last Day must either speak a good word or remain silent” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim).


Let us make every effort to make good words – or silence – our only presentation to the world.

Avatar photo Laura El AlamAuthor Laura El Alam is a freelance writer, editor, and author of the award-winning children’s picture book Made From the Same Dough as well as over 120 published articles. You can visit her online at

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