The Good Word

The Good Word February 27, 2011

Many people lose their ability to speak after experiencing a stroke. My uncle was one of them, may Allah grant him a speedy recovery. They understand speech, but cannot formulate words, read or write due to ensuing damage in a particular region of the brain. They can, however, still curse. One explanation is that speech requires higher intellectual functions, whereas the ability to curse comes from a more primitive part of the brain. So, is it biologically easier for us to curse? I don’t know about that, but the Quran addresses speech so often that it should be taken seriously. For example:

Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, [making] a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky?

It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded. Surat Ibrahim v. 24-25

There are so many things that drain our patience during the day, making it hard to stick to good speech when frustrated. I recall partly observing my toddler have her way with a snack while unpacking our bags during a recent trip.  While she was contently eating her cereal one at a time at first, she discovered it was more satisfying to eat by the handful and drop bits of cereal onto her lap in the process. That quickly initiated her next idea and she turned the bowl upside down, gaily watching its contents spill out. She picked them up off the floor, careful to place every last one in her mouth. She was even conscious of the ones that had gotten stuck to the bottom of her feet during the descent from the chair to the floor. So logically, she lifted her feet up, brushed them off and welcomed them into her mouth as well. Certainly that was more interesting than eating them straight out of the bowl.

I admit it sounds cute. Yet, to one with a creative imagination, eating off a hotel floor is not the ideal tablescape for a child. I often have to watch what the next word out of my mouth will be. Jokingly, za3ra (trouble maker) often comes to mind, but I dispel it and irritably call her a hasana(blessing) instead. After all, it is from the sunnah to call people (even little ones) by the best of names. The Prophet (S) was once being served with water to make wudu by Abdullah bin Abbas, a young cousin of his (S). In a manner audible to the young boy, the Prophet (S) made the dua:  “Teach him interpretation and understanding of the religion.”

 Imagine bringing a kid and calling him a future hadith scholar to his face, that’s surely something to live up to! With this statement, the Prophet (S) gave Abdullah the confidence to be able to go on and become one of the most knowledgeable companions in tafseer and hadith. He has narrated over 1600 hadiths, despite the fact that he was 13 years old when the Prophet (S) died, and he is constantly quoted in the tafseer books.  His amazing legacy traces its roots back to this supplication made by the Prophet (S)—which I call a good word (back to the verses above). I try to keep this in mind so the next time I have an impulse to say something out of frustration, it is a good word.

What significance does the good word have to you?

                                                                                                                                  Dalal Kanan

Dalal is a 4th year PhD student in chemistry and a devoted mother to one gregarious toddler

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