Significance of Silence in Islam

Silence
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Islam teaches us about the significance of silence in different contexts. We read in a hadith that a person who is silent is described as someone who has been saved. Abdullah ibn Amr reported:

“The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, ‘Whoever is silent has been saved.’” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi)

This reminds us that indeed when we are silent, we are more likely to remember Allah and the reality this life. It stops us from becoming so engrossed in matters of the Dunya, and it helps us to avoid saying things that will cause us to sin. In silence, we have the chance to reflect more on our lives and our deeds.

In another hadith we learn that the Prophet (SAW) said people should speak good words or remain silent. We read:

Abu Shuraih reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him honour his guest and recompense him.” They said, “O Messenger of Allah, what is his recompense?” The Prophet said, “It is for a day and a night, as good hospitality is for three days and after that it is charity.” And the Prophet said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him speak goodness or remain silent.”

In another narration, the Prophet said, “It is not permissible for the guest to overstay his welcome, such that he burdens his host.” (Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)

The Prophet (SAW) also said that modesty and speaking less are two branches of faith. We read:

Abu Umamah reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Modesty and reticence are two branches of faith. Profanity and temerity are two branches of hypocrisy.”
Al-Tirmidhi said, “Reticence is to speak little. Profanity is to speak obscenely. Temerity is to speak too often, such as those preachers who preach at great length and with eloquence, to be praised by people in what is not pleasing to Allah.” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi)

We learn in another hadith that the Prophet (SAW) would observe silence for long periods of time. Simak reported:

“I said to Jabir ibn Samrah, ‘Have you sat with the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him?’ Jabir said, ‘Yes, and he would observe silence for long periods of time and laugh little. His companions would mention poetry in his presence and some of their affairs. They would sometimes laugh and smile.’” (Musnad Ahmad)

We read in a hadith that the Prophet (SAW) said people should listen silently when the Imam is reciting the Qur’an. Abu Musa al-‘Ashari reported:

“The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, ‘When the Imam recites the Quran, then listen quietly.’” (Sunan Ibn Majah)

Before the Prophet (SAW) began the opening exaltation of prayer, he would be silent for a short while. In that time, he asked Allah to purify him from his sins. We read:

Abu Huraira reported: When the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, began the opening exaltation of prayer, he would remain silent for a short while before reciting. I said, “O Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be ransomed for you! What do you say in the silent period between your exaltation and recitation?” The Prophet said, “I say: O Allah, make the distance between me and my sins like the distance between the east and the west. O Allah, purify me from my sins just as the white cloth is purified from filth. O Allah, cleanse me of my sins with the likes of snow, water, and ice.” (Sahih Muslim)