The concept of communication in Islam
By: SYED KAZIM
Source: Radiance Weekly
The ability to communicate effectively is necessary to carry out thoughts and visions to people. It helps convey directions and provide synchronization. Without communication, there is no way to express thoughts, ideas and feelings. The importance of communication becomes much more crucial when you are on a mission or need to fulfill a goal. Without a means to communicate, you will stand isolated. The ability to effectively communicate is very important when it is usually underestimated and overlooked. Communication is a necessity as we need to convey the message and spread ideas. The importance of communication is crucial for any success because we need to reach out to people in order to fulfill the mission. It is in the basic nature of every individual to communicate, even a person who is dumb communicates through action.
Allah created man with a basic function to communicate. Allah says in the Qur’ān, “He has taught him to talk (and understand)” (Qur’ān 55:4). Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) used both written and oral communication as per the need and requirement. He used written communication where information had to be recorded for future use and reference and used oral communication where information had to be communicated to people immediately.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) has given high importance to written communication because it could be preserved and be used for future reference. The best example of the use of written communication is the Qur’ān which was recorded and preserved as and when it was revealed. It was recorded on tablets, bones, animal skins and date palms. Shortly after the passing away of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) the Qur’ān was compiled into a single book by order of the first Caliph Abu Bakar and at the suggestion of his future successor Umar.
Today this written communication, which is the Qur’ān, has gone on to become the biggest living miracle in the world. It was revealed more than 1430 years ago, and even today it remains the same without a dot being added or a dot being removed. When we compare the first copy of the Qur’ān with the one which is printed today, it has no difference. Today there are crores and crores of copies of the Qur’ān across the world and they are all the same. Today what we recite as the verses of the Qur’ān is exactly the same as was presented before the world by Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) and this Qur’ān today is playing the role of giving ultimate guidance to entire mankind. What better example would we want of a written communication being preserved for more than 14 centuries?
When Prophet Muhammad invited many kings to Islam, he used the medium of written communication to communicate the message to them. As he could not meet everyone in person, he used the mode of written communication and sent the letters through one of his companions. He wrote a letter to Ashamah bin Al-Abjar – then king of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), a letter to Juraij bin Matta (Muqawqis) – then king of Egypt, a letter to Chosroes – then emperor of Persia, a letter to Heraclius – then emperor of Byzantium, a letter to Mundhir bin Sawa – then governor of Bahrain, a letter to Haudhah bin Ali – then governor of Yamamah, a letter to Al-Harith bin Abi Shimr Al-Ghassani – then king of Damascus and a letter to Abd bin Al-Julandai and his brother Jaifer who was the king of Oman. Today the Muslims have adopted various tools to communicate the message of Islam; they use booklets, pamphlets, folders, etc.
Allah also tells people what they need to communicate so that their speech becomes the best. Allah says in the Qur’ān, “And who is better in speech than one who invites to Allah and does righteousness and says, ‘Indeed, I am of the Muslims’.” (Qur’ān 41:33). Allah says in this verse, that the better in speech are those who invite people to Allah. How magnificent is this book which also tells its readers as to what they need to speak so that it might become better!
The Qur’ān demands that a debt transaction must be written down. Allah says in the Qur’ān, “O you who have believed, when you contract a debt for a specified term, write it down. And let a scribe write (it) between you in justice. Let no scribe refuse to write as Allah has taught him. So let him write and let the one who has the obligation (i.e., the debtor) dictate. And let him fear Allah, his Lord, and not leave anything out of it. (Qur’ān 2:282). The debt transaction should be written down and not hesitation or laziness should be shown in getting that document prepared. This shows the importance which the Qur’ān gives for the financial transactions to be recorded on paper which is a form of written communication.
In order to call people to Salah many ideas and suggestions were given but at the end it was Adhan which was finalized which is tool of oral communication. It is also considered to be the official call for Salah. “When the number of Muslims increased they discussed the question as to how to know the time for the prayer by some familiar means. Some suggested that a fire be lit (at the time of the prayer) and others put forward the proposal to ring the bell. Bilal was ordered to pronounce the wording of Adhan…” (Bukhari).
Adhan has become such an effective and powerful tool that it reminds people about Salah when they are busy in their worldly and personal affairs. When Bilal stood up and called the Adhan, the voice of Bilal resounded throughout Madinah and the people came running to Masjid Al-Nabawi.
And today this communication has become one of the living miracles of Islam. The major cities of Indonesia are Java, Sumatra, Borneo and Saibil. As soon as dawn breaks on the eastern side of Saibil, at approximately 5:30 am local time, Fajr Adhan begins. Thousands of Muazzins in Indonesia begin calling the Adhan. Then the Adhan goes through various countries and at the end it reaches the Atlantic. Prior to the Adhan reaching the shores of the Atlantic, the process of ‘Zuhr Adhan’ has already started in east Indonesia. If we were to ponder over this phenomenon thoughtfully, we would conclude the amazing fact that there is not even a single moment when hundreds of thousands of Muazzins around the world are not calling the Adhan on the surface of this earth.
The Friday sermon is another strong medium which is used for mass communication. It is used as a very strong medium to communicate the message to the Muslim Ummah. Educated people gain knowledge by reading books but this medium is very important to teach and guide the uneducated masses and the people who are not able to read, as this acts as the only source of guidance for them.
The primary objective of the Friday sermon is to educate, inspire, guide, and strengthen the faith of the congregation by providing the community with encouragement, hope, and guidance for day-to-day living based on Qur’ānic teachings, sound Prophetic traditions, and general Islamic principles, to guide fellow community members to read and further research their faith in general and the topics covered in the sermon in particular. The Friday sermon also aims at addressing problems or calling for reform, and fostering respect for all, regardless of race, nationality, faith, gender, orientation, or disability. And to communicate all this in a manner that is absolutely respectful to all people and to all religious traditions.
As time has passed, the main objective behind the Friday sermon has weakened. Many scholars spend the precious 30 to 40 minutes in narrating stories and focusing issues which are not of great importance and concern. Even today if the Friday sermons are used effectively, we can witness a drastic change in the attitude and characteristics of the Muslim Ummah.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) also used the medium of giving speech whenever he had to communicate something important to a large group of people. Two best examples of this are the first open preaching on Mount As-Safa and the final sermon which he delivered during the Hajj pilgrimage. The first and last address of Prophet Muhammad was through a speech as the message had to be communicated to the masses.
From the Qur’ān and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) we also get to learn certain dos and donts of communication. We learn to speak the truth, to speak good words, to greet others with peace, to thank people, to be polite, etc. We also learn not to lie, not to backbite, not to speak in a high tone with our parents and elders or anyone else, not to hurt someone’s feelings, not to abuse, not to taunt, not to call others by nick name, not to indulge in any kind of talk which is vulgar in nature, etc. All these dos and donts help a person become better in character. Thus communication helps an individual to improve his personality and become a better human being.
On one end Islam tells us to speak in a low tone with elders and parents on the other hand it guides women not to be soft in speech while talking to strangers. Allah says in the Qur’ān, “O you wives of the Prophet! You are not like other women. If you fear Allah, then do not be soft in your speech, lest he is whose heart is a disease (lecherousness and lust) should be moved with desire, but utter customary speech.” (Qur’ān 33:32). Generally, the voice of women is sweet and when they talk with extra softness then people hearing it will get lecherous thoughts about them. Therefore, Allah demands that while talking to men, women should not talk with artificial softness. And when this is the demand of righteousness, every woman should follow it. This advice addressed to the Prophet’s wives is not meant only for them, but also for other women. It means that the wives of the Prophet should be very strict in following these directions and they have to be extremely careful in these matters. Thus in order to avoid any source of temptation and allurement of men, Islam commands women to speak in a high tone.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) said, “He who truely believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak good or keep silent” (Bukhari and Muslim). In this hadith Prophet Muhammad makes it clear by giving a principle of communication that a person if he wants to speak, should speak good or else he should remain silent.
Among all the prohibitions with respect to communication, the greatest is with respect to backbiting which the Qur’ān strongly condemns and also Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) disliked it. Allah says in the Qur’ān, “O you who have believed, avoid much (negative) assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is accepting of repentance and Merciful.” (Qur’ān 49:12).
Allah says in the Qur’ān, “O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.” (Qur’ān 49:6). In this verse Allah makes it clear that when someone comes to you with some information, whom you feel is disobedient, confirm the information before sharing it with others because if wrong information is shared, it will lead to misunderstanding, conflict and will disrupt the peace in the society.
Generally, people break off ties with their close relatives as if nothing matters, siblings not talking to each other for days, weeks, even months at a stretch. Actually people stop communicating with one another in order to display their anger. But Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) has strictly commanded people not to stop taking with his brother. He said, “It is not lawful for a Muslim to forsake his (Muslim) brother beyond three days; and whosoever does so for more than three days, and then dies, will certainly enter the Hell.” (Abu Dawud) Thus in Islam communication has a very significant role, not speaking to a brother and dying in that state would lead a person to Hell. Communication is not only the tool to share ideas but also a strong one to bridge ties and strengthen relationships.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) said, “Whoever gives me surety to safeguard what is between his jaws and what is between his legs, I guarantee for him (entrance into) Paradise” (Bukhari and Muslim). What is between one’s jaws is the tongue, which is used for communication, from this hadith one will come to know the significance what Islam has given to the act of communication. Rightly using communication will lead us to Paradise, as guaranteed by our beloved Prophet.
Every act of Islam revolves around communication. Communication plays a very important role in everyone’s life as it acts as a source of information, helps people socialise, and alter individuals’ attitude, and much more. Islam has given high importance to written communication especially when some information has to be preserved for posterity; the best example for the world in terms of preserving the information is the Qur’ān. Islam has used oral communication to invite people, the best examples being the call of Adhan and the use of speech when some information had to be communicated to the masses at one point of time. Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.