some people, even if their consciences tell them to be forgiving towards someone who has wronged them or to speak politely to someone who has spoken harshly to them, prefer not to forgive and to answer the insult with a greater one. according to this warped way of thinking, to speak peevishly, to ridicule another person with arrogant and insulting words and to respond with insolence and disrespect is actually a sign of superiority.
of course, these ideas are totally contrary to the qur'an. in the qur'an, allah gives us the following examples of how blessed polite language is and how it always brings benefit to human beings:
do you do not see how allah makes a metaphor of a good word: a good tree whose roots are firm and whose branches are in heaven? it bears fruit regularly by its lord's permission. allah makes metaphors for people so that hopefully they will pay heed. the metaphor of a corrupt word is that of a rotten tree, uprooted on the surface of the earth. it has no staying-power. allah makes those who believe firm with the firm word in the life of this world and the hereafter. but allah misguides the wrongdoers. allah does whatever he wills. (surah ibrahim: 24-27)
as we see in this verse, a person who speaks edifying words and lives according to them will find great beauty and incomparable blessings both in this world and in the world to come. on the other hand, a person who speaks unedifying words and lives according to them is walking along a dark road that will end in the fire.
a believer speaks well and wisely to everyone he meets during the day. wherever he may be, he speaks about allah's deen, gives advice from the qur'an, speaks words that recall allah and the good character of the messenger of allah, may allah bless him and grant him peace, and speaks to people with respect. in order to encourage his friends, he praises their good qualities that correspond to the teachings of the qur'an and the sunnah and he speaks in a way that will help people to continue through the day more joyfully and lively. we may compare this behaviour of believers to the good fruit tree in the verse above.
however, some people prefer not to speak about the good qualities of others but want to humiliate them by pointing out their errors and shortcomings. as we pointed out, in the verses in surah ibrahim, our lord draws our attention to this and compares this kind of language to a corrupt tree that bears no fruit. just as a harsh word destroys a good relationship, it will also dampen the enthusiasm of the other party and be the cause of sorrow and regret.
on the other hand, when a believer speaks with someone giving him advice about how to remedy his shortcomings or pointing out his errors, he will take care to choose the best words. in doing this he will be fulfilling the following command of allah:
say to my slaves that they should only say the best. shaytan wants to stir up trouble between them. shaytan is an outright enemy to man. (surat al-isra': 53)
as allah says in this verse, shaytan tries to get people not to say good things to one another and, in this way, to make them enemies. when a negative word is spoken, shaytan immediately starts to introduce suspicions to pry each side apart. a person who feels uncomfortable because he has been addressed unpleasantly will be influenced by the insinuations of shaytan and respond in the same way to his opponent. this will damage or even destroy their friendship. but a positive word will avert the possibility of shaytan's drawing people into error. for this reason, believers make every effort to speak to one another as positively as possible so that shaytan will not have the occasion or the conditions to interfere. such an attitude will be the means by which they will increase their bond of friendship. our prophet, may allah bless him and grant him peace, has commanded believers always to practice high conduct and to speak positively:
"do not envy one another; do not hate one another; do not turn away from another; and do not undercut one another, but be you, o slaves of allah, brothers." (muslim)
"greeting a person is charity. acting justly is charity. a good word is charity." (bukhari and muslim)
"there is nothing heavier in the scales than good character." (imam ahmad and abu dawud)