The Qur’anic Art of Effective Communication
PS: A pdf of this post is given at the end.
Most of the time I feel that I am unable to follow the gloriously graceful guidance provided to me by my Creator when it comes to talking with people and communicating with others. It could be due to lack of patience and wisdom. It could be due to my foolhardiness or because of the boisterous nature. This happens to me especially when I get agitated or angry due to circumstances or situations. And later on you end up feeling regret for not following the Qur’anic guidance.
One lesson life has taught me is if you want to prevail over your own self and hence over the situation, change your approach by adopting the Qur’anic guidance on communication and dialogue. People will listen to you, and you will be able to make your point clear.
Patience and wisdom are two basic ingredients that are needed to adopt effective Qur’anic communication methods. You also need presence of mind when you converse with people, especially while anchoring a program or delivering a public lecture. You need to keep people’s feelings and emotions in mind while talking to them. In any case, one must not be – and a Muslim should never be – cunning and calculative in one’s approach and dealing with people.
Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’aala, in His inimitable Speech, Al Qur’an Al Kareem, lays down highly effective and efficient communication techniques which if adopted will definitely bring about a positive result, Inshaa’Allah.
I will, Inshaa’Allah, present a few examples vis-a-vis the Qur’anic Art of Effective Communication:
قول Qawl is the key word coming from the verbal root Qaaf-waaw-laam ق و ل q-w-l which means ‘speech, talk, to say, to speak, to tell, a word, saying, utterance, remark, statement, declaration, report, account, doctrine, teaching’. Qawl is a verbal noun in Arabic.
1. قَوْلًا كَرِيمًا - Qawlan Kareema – A noble word, a generous speech:
“And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], “uff,” and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.” (Surah al Israa 17: 23)
When we converse with our parents, we need to be humble and generous by using noble, kind and respectful words and be generous in our talk. Contrast this with the rude approach adopted by the younger generation of this shameful era.
2. قَوْلًا سَدِيدًا – Qawlan Sadeeda: straight to the point, words of appropriate justice. Sadeed means apt, correct, straight, pertinent, to the point, direct.
In the Qur’an, Qawlan Sadeeda comes in two places:
a. While talking to people in normal day to day life:
“O you who believe! Guard your duty to Allah, and speak words straight to the point”. (Surah al Ahzaab 33: 70)
While talking with people, don’t act smart or beat around the bush but come to the point and be straightforward in your expression. Use apt words and speak directly. Don’t play with words.
Also one should draw a clear line between being straightforward and being rude.
Dear brothers and sisters, you must be aware that the above mentioned ayah is recited during the Nikkah Khutbah, marriage sermon. The purpose is clear. The parties concerned are clearly instructed to adopt openness in their mutual agreement, without hiding or exaggerating anything.
b. At the time of property division:
The guardians and the executors of property, at the time of property division, are commanded to say وَلْيَقُولُوا قَوْلًا سَدِيدًا nice and appropriate words of kindness to the weak offspring who are left behind. Read Surah An-Nisaa 4:9
3. قَوْلًا لَّيِّنًا – Qawlan Lay’yina : gentle speech, mild words.
While doing da’wah and inviting people to Islam:
“And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear [Allah].” (Surah Taha 20: 44)
This ayah tells Prophet Musa and Haroon (peace be upon them) to talk to Phir’oun, the tyrant, in a gentle way.
Contrast this with what is happening in the contemporary world where some Muslim individuals or organisations are so harsh and rude in their da’wah to non-Muslims! They are harsh even to those who are soft whereas Allah tells us to talk softly even to those who are hard-hearted!
The Qur’anic dictum is: Speak harshly, lose people. Communicate gently, win hearts!
4. قَوْلًا مَّيْسُورًا Qawlam Maysoora Easy word, gentle words.
“And if you [must] turn away from the needy awaiting mercy from your Lord which you expect, then speak to them a gentle word” (Surah al Israa 17: 28)
This ayah is about spending one’s wealth. The situation is, if somebody comes and asks you something, and if you are not in a position to pay them or fulfill their demand, then at least be kind enough to use easy, polite, soft, kind and gentle words. Don’t repel or be harsh on the poor and the needy. Tell them politely that if Allah gives you in future, you will definitely help them.
5. قَوْلًا مَّعْرُوفًا – Qawlam Ma’roofa. Honorable word, proper saying, words of appropriate kindness.
In four places in the Qur’an, this command تَقُولُوا قَوْلًا مَّعْرُوفًا is issued:
a. While proposing a woman in marriage, a Muslim man must address her in a honorable way. For example, ‘I desire someone like you’. Refer Surah al Baqarah ayah 2: 235
b. While treating and dealing with children, women and those under one’s care, Muslims are enjoined to speak to them in a goodly way using words of kindness and justice. Refer Surah an-Nisaa ayah 4:5
c. While executing property divison if there are other relatives, poor or needy present, Muslims are told to speak to them in an honourable way. Read Surah an-Nisaa ayah4:8
d. While addressing the noble wives of Prophet Muhammad sal-lal-laahu-alaihi-wa-sallam, the wives were commanded to talk appropriately when they happen to converse with men. Read Surah al Ahzaab ayah 33:32
6. قَوْلًا بَلِيغًا - Qawlam Baleegha. Far reaching, penetrating and words of insight.
“Those are the ones of whom Allah knows what is in their hearts, so turn away from them but admonish them and speak to them a far-reaching word.” (Surah an-Nisaa 4: 63)
When talking to the hypocrites, Muslims are enjoined to admonish them by using penetrating words so that they get a chance to think and apply their mind and hence change their hearts.
Now, dear brothers and sisters, I want to highlight other things which are related to the topic of communication:
1. We are indirectly advised NOT TO SAY or DO two things in life:
a. Not to say something that is قَوْلًا عَظِيمًا – Terrible word, grave saying.
The Qur’an declares that attributing children to Allah is terrible. To say that Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’aala has sons and daughters is a terrible lie and shocking indeed. It’s a grave folly on the part of the person uttering such a statement. Read Surah al Israa ayah 17:40
b. We should not commit the folly which the People of the Book did: قَوْلًا غَيْرَ الَّذِي قِيلَ لَهُمْ Communicating a word which has not been said to them/you!
Allah refers to the deliberately-distorting nature of the Jewish community. After the death of their Prophet (Prophet Musa alaihis salam) they distorted his sayings and teachings, changed the words to a statement other than that which had been said to them! Refer Surah Al Araaf ayah 7:162
A person must be honest in communicating truth to others. Not distort facts and figures by changing words and altering their meanings.
2. سَلَامٌ قَوْلًا مِّن رَّبٍّ رَّحِيمٍ – in the life Hereafter, “Salam” (Peace) will be the word that will be said by none other than the Lord Himself to the noble dwellers of Paradise. Read Surah Yaseen ayah 36:58
3. Man should be sensible in not calling upon those who can’t respond, help or harm. Read Surah Taha ayah 20:89 and Surah Ghafir ayah 40:60
4. Allah calls the words of His Book قَوْلًا ثَقِيلًا Qawlan Thaqeela Heavy word. Read Surah al Muzzammil ayah 73: 5
Al Qur’an is a heavy or weighty word in the sense that it brings huge responsibility on the bearers of Qur’an. To read, ponder over, implement its teachings and convey its message to the people of the world.
5. We all know that the Qur’an is a miracle of all miracles.
Allah could have used the same format as above, that is, Allah could have used ‘qawlan hasana’ to drive home the point but no! Allah, in His infinite wisdom, instead uses a richer phrase and asks us this beautiful question in a more distinct and eloquent way: