In this day and age when obscenity, vulgarity and lewdness are becoming more and more a part of one’s life and persona, where immature youth feel the need to drop a few swear words every now and then just to fit in or sound cool or intimidating, I felt it important to share a few narrations that reinforce the position of Islam on the usage of such language and other forms of abuse. Unfortunately, with the advent of Social Media, many Muslims feel that typing behind an account makes it some what legitimate or less sinful for one to swear in every Tweet or Facebook status of theirs. This post below is a loose translation and part-paraphrasing of the chapter on Hitting, Swearing, Cursing and Taunting from the book Jami’ al-Sa’daat, by Sheikh Mahdi Naraqi (Farsi Translation by Jalaal ul-Deen Mujtabavi; Volume 1, Chapter 15, Page 381). This book has not been translated into English, although a decent English summary of the book does exist, titled: Jami’ al-Sa’adat (The Collector of Felicities). It may be of some benefit to read the part titled: The Various Types of Vices, before reading this post.
Hitting, swearing, cursing and taunting are generally uttered out of enmity and hatred, and many times these remarks are uttered in a state of anger or with the intention of abusing someone. It is also possible that abusing and swearing become a habit of an individual due to the habits of a society, or his companionship with those who use such language. Sometimes individuals are motivated to use such language due to their closeness to material wealth and when encountering a moment when they have to give away such wealth. This would be considered one of the vices caused by the power of lust; except when the individual has control over his anger and emotions, even if such emotions were developed as a result of lust.
There is no doubt that these acts are reprehensible and obscene, and thus have been declared forbidden in religious law. They are a cause of vitiation of man’s action and the loss of his wealth and his end. Furthermore, any act that is even merely associated with vilification, harassment or exerting harm upon others, qualifies for the censure of it, because these acts become an extension of those who commit them. Intellect and the religious law agree with one another in terms of confirming the ugliness of each of those acts and that they are a cause of one’s destruction.
There is no doubt that every sane person would consider hitting someone without a legal reason wrong and all tribes of the human race, even those without a religion, will condemn it. And in this regards, there are many narrations that exist, for example: “Anyone who hits another man with a whip, Allah (swt) will hit him with a whip made of fire.”
Obscenity, Swearing and Vulgarity
The origin of obscenity, swearing and vulgarity are a result of an evil soul. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “A believer is not a taunter, curser, obscene or indecent.”
- And he also said: “Beware of obscenity and swearing, because Allah (swt) does not like obscenity and vulgar speech.”
- And he said: “Entrance to heaven is forbidden on every obscene person.”
- And he said: “Surely obscenity and vulgarity are not compatible with Islam.”
- And he said: “Indecent speech and bayaan (betrayal of secrets) are two branches from the branches of hypocrisy and duplicity.” And in a narration it has been mentioned that the word bayaan over here refers to the discovery and expressing of a matter or a secret, whose discovery and expressing is not permissible.
- And he said: “There exist 4 people who will suffer in hell. And one of them is a man from who’s mouth pus continuously flows, and he is someone who would utter obscenity in the world.”
- And he said: “Don’t swear at people, that as a result you earn their enmity and hatred.”
- And he said: “Allah (swt) has made heaven forbidden upon the disgraced and shameless abuser, who does not care about what he says or what is said to him; and if you investigate and inspect him, either he is a result of adultery or from the company of Satan.”
- And he said: “Allah (swt) hates he who has an obscene tongue and he who is a persistent beggar.”
- And he said: “Know that wicked is he, from who the slaves of Allah (swt) detest his companionship, as a result of his vulgarity.”
- And he said: “Abusing a believer is immoral, and fighting with him is disbelief, and eating his meat (due to backbiting) is a sin, and the sanctity of his wealth is like the sanctity of his blood.”
- And he said: “A person who abuses a believer, is like a person who is on the precipice of destruction.”
- And he said: “The worse people near Allah (swt) on the day of Judgement are those who were honoured and respected by others, due to the fear of their evil. “
- Imam Sadiq (as) has said: “One of the signs of Satan’s participation in one’s action, where there is no doubt, is when a person is an abuser, and he does not care about what he says or what is said to him.”
- And he said: “Obscene language is from misery, and misery is from fire.”
- And he said: “Anyone, who’s tongue people fear, will be in the fire.”
- And from Imam Kadhim (as), it has been narrated regarding two men who swore at each other that: “He who started swearing is more unjust and his sin and the sin of his partner (the individual sworn at) is upon him, as long as the oppressed does not exceed.”
What is Obscenity?
Obscenity is an expression of a distasteful act or the usage of obscene words and expressions. Many times obscenity makes use of sexually related terms, genitals and other associated terms, and the corrupted and shameless people use such expressions very frankly. However, the righteous and honourable people do not make use of such expressions; in fact if the mention of such words becomes a necessity, they make reference to them implicitly.
And likewise, in the case of one’s spouse, it is not decent to use explicit words in order to refer to her, as such remarks may not imply respect and chastity. For example, it must not be said: ‘Your wife or my wife’, but rather it is better to say: ‘The veiled ones of your house or my house’ or ‘The mother of the kids’ and the similar terms. Furthermore, if someone has a defect or flaw from which he is ashamed of, if the mention of it becomes necessary, it is not decent to use explicit words to explain it. For example vitiligo and ringworg and the likes of these – for example if someone wants to ask the cause of vitiligo or ringworm, he shouldn’t say when did you start suffering from vitiligo or ringworm? – but rather with a figurative and non-explicit expression he should say: “When did this condition happen to you?” and likewise. Because specification in these matters is entering into obscenity.
Thus, all obscene words without a doubt are prohibited and discouraged, even though some of them are worse and uglier, and therefore the sin of them is more, whether they are said with an excuse of swearing and harassment, or out of fun and jokes, or with some other excuse. Thus because obscene words and expressions are different, some of them are worse than others, and sometimes due to the norms of cities and nations, they have different implications. In any case, some of these words and expressions are makruh (detested) and some are haram (forbidden).
Cursing is not permissible – except in situations where it is used to drive away and separate away someone from Allah (swt) – and therefore it is without a doubt reprehensible. Unless the person has traits that according to the Islamic law, deem him to be a cause of leading others further away from Allah (swt). In the narrations, cursing has been strongly considered reprehensible. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has said: “A believer is not a curser.”
It has been narrated from Imam Baqir (as): One day the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said during a sermon: “Do you want me to describe the worse of you?” They said: “Yes O Messenger of Allah.” He said: “Someone who prevents others from his gifts, someone who hits a servant of Allah (swt), and someone who travels alone”. The men thought that Allah (swt) has not created anyone worse than this, so then he said: “Do you want me to describe those worse than this?” They said: “Yes.” He said: “A person who swears and a person who curses, who every time the names of the believers is mentioned near him, he curses them, and when his name comes in between the believers, the believers curse him.”
And Imam Baqir (as) has said: “When a curse comes out of the mouth of the curser, it travels back and forth between him and the person who was cursed; and if the person who was cursed is worthy of it, it attaches itself to him, and if not, it returns back to the curser.”
Cursing is known to be an act that separates one away from Allah (swt), or an act that wishes for someone else to be separated away from Allah (swt). The reality of the first case is unknown and no one is aware of it except Allah (swt), and the second is not permissible except in cases where someone possesses traits that takes others away from Allah (swt), therefore cursing is not permissible except when a person of sound judgement considers it to be so. And those individuals for whom cursing has been prescribed in the religious law, are disbelievers, oppressors and the lewd, as has been mentioned in the Qur’an. Therefore, there is no doubt in the permissibility of cursing either by explicit words, or in general, as in if it is said: Curse of Allah (swt) be on the disbelievers. Or in a way that it is said specifically for certain types of disbelievers. However, regarding a definite individual about who there is certainty that they possess traits of disbelief, oppression or lewdness, cursing them is permissible.
But in regards to what some have said that cursing anyone is not permissible, except for whom it has been proven explicitly through the texts, such as Pharaoh or Abu Jahal, because it is possible that any specific person who possess even one of the three traits could eventually repent and depart from this world as a Muslim, and subsequently he is near Allah (swt) and not far from Him, is not an argument that is readily acceptable. This is because whatever that can be used from the Words of Allah (swt), the speech of His Prophet (pbuh) and the speech of the ‘Aaimmah (as) is that attributing a curse to a specific person is permissible, in fact from them it is proved that cursing certain individuals who are rejecters and people of malice, is from one of the most beloved worships and one of the best ways to seek nearness to Allah (swt).
- Allah (swt) says: [2:161] Surely those who disbelieve and die while they are disbelievers, these it is on whom is the curse of Allah and the angels and men all;
- And He also says: [2:159]. . .on them shall be Allah’s curse, and the curse of those entitled to curse
- The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Allah (swt) curses the liar, even if he lies as a joke”.
And in regards to Abu Sufyan, who in a thousand stanzas spread malice about the Prophet, the Prophet (pbuh) said: “O Allah, I can neither recite poetry, and nor am I worthy of reciting poetry. O Allah, instead, for every word of this poetry, send upon him a thousand curses.” And Ameer ul-Mo’mineen (as) has also been reported to have cursed a crowd. And there is a narration that in his Qunoot of his obligatory prayers, he cursed Mu’awiya, Amr bin al-Aas, Abu Musa Ash’ari and Abu A’awar al-Salami, even though his (as) perseverance was greater than them all, and his treatment of those who had done bad to him was greater. So thus, if cursing them was a disobedience to Allah (swt) and a contradictory to Islamic laws, the Imam would not have cursed them in his obligatory prayers.
Sheikh Tusi narrates that: “Imam Sadiq (as) used to finish his prayers by cursing 4 individuals.” And if someone researches what occurred between Imam Hassan (as) and Mua’wiyah and his allies, and that the Imam cursed them, and the narrations that exists in al-Kafi and other books of narration and the curses sent upon those who are eligible for it due to their errors and the specific names that have reached us, they will know that this form of cursing is from the practices of the religion. But what has reached to us from Imam Sadiq (as), such as: “Do not be a curser,” and other statements like that, are regarding the prohibition of cursing someone who is not deserving of it. And that which has been narrated from Ameer ul-Mo’mineen (as), that he prohibited the cursing of the people of Syria, if it is an authentic narration, perhaps it was said with the hope that it would bring the people towards Islam and the truth.
In conclusion: Cursing the proponents of oppression and deviation and the expresser of disbelief and immorality is permissible and in fact recommended, however attributing the curse to other believers is not permissible, except when there is certainty that they possess one of the traits that would cause them to be worthy of being cursed. And knowing whether someone possesses such traits cannot be based upon guesswork; it is not permissible to accuse a believer of lewdness and disbelief without research and reaching certainty.
The Prophet of Allah (pbuh) has said: “No man should accuse another man of disbelief, and no one accuses another man for immorality, because if it is not as it is claimed, the accusation will return back to him.”
Furthermore, cursing inanimate objects and animals is also not appropriate, and it has been narrated that: “No one curses the earth, except that the earth sends a curse upon those who are the worse of sinners,” and it has also been narrated: “The Prophet (pbuh) considered a woman who had cursed a camel and a man who had cursed a camel, blameworthy.”
Doing a prayer to cause harm to a Muslim and damning them is like cursing and it is not worth doing, even if it is an oppressor, except that a person becomes hopeless due to the evil, harassment and damage caused by the oppression. It has been recorded in a narration, that sometimes an oppressed curses an oppressor to such an extent that it becomes a punishment for himself, and this excessiveness remains with the oppressor and on the Day of Judgement becomes a creditor for him.
Imam Ali ibn Hussain (as) has said: “When the angels hear that a believer has uttered bad speech towards his brother, and is cursing him, they say: ‘You are a bad brother for your brother. Control your tongue, O whose own sins have been covered up. Look at yourself and be grateful towards Allah (swt) who has hidden your sins and deficiencies.'”
However, contrary to cursing, praying for the well being of a Muslim brother is a great obedience to Allah and is a great means for a person to get closer to Allah, and its benefits are numerous. In fact someone who prays for another is essentially praying for themselves.
- The Prophet said: “When a person in the absence of his brother, prays for him, the angel says: ‘And for you as well the same as this.'”
- And he said: “Sometimes a prayer of a person is not answered in his right, rather it gets answered for a believing brother of his.”
- And Ali ibn Hussain (as) said: “When the angels hear that a believer has prayed for a believer brother, in his absence, or has remembered his good deeds, they say: ‘What a good brother you are for your brother, that you are praying for his well being, although he is absent from you, and you remembered his goodness. Allah (awj), has given you twice of what you had prayed for him and of what you remembered of his goodness, praised you twice as much and has exalted you over him.'”
And a similar narration has also recorded from Imam Baqir (as). And the traditions regarding the merits of praying for believing brothers are numerous, and what greater dignity is there that you pray for a believer who is oblivious of it, as gifts of forgiveness and prayers reach him. And you know nothing about the extent of joy his soul encounters due to this. While his family and children are busy distributing his legacy among themselves and taking pleasure from his wealth, you in the midst of the nights, feel sympathy for him and remember him, and seek forgiveness for him from Allah (swt).
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has said: “A dead body in a grave is like someone who has drowned in the ocean and tried to grab on to anything to be saved, and is awaiting for prayers from his children, or father, or brother, or relatives and near ones. And prayers of the living ones, are like lights, that enter the graves of the dead and this is tantamount to a gift, which the living ones send to each other. Thus, when someone prays for the forgiveness of a dead or prays for them, the angels place the prayers on a tray of light, and enter upon the deceased and say: ‘This is a gift that fulaan brother of yours, or fulaan relative of yours has sent for you, and the deceased gets happy with the gift just like a living person does.'”
Taunting is also from the acts that are considered reprehensible and is a cause of loss in this world and punishment in the hereafter. Imam Baqir (as) has said: “Refrain from taunting the believers.”
And he said: “There is no human that taunts a believer, except that he dies the worse death, and he deserves not to be returned back to goodness.”
 Regarding this narration, it has been narrated: It was said to the Messenger (pbuh): “O Messenger of Allah, is Satan participating in between the people?” He said: “Have you not read the words of Allah Almighty that he said to Satan: and be a partner in their wealth and children.” (Surah Isra: 64)