Excitement through Eloquence or Carrot and Stick Approach

Article translated to : العربية



excitement through eloquence or carrot and stick approach

excitement can be achieved mainly through visual and aural methods. there is incitement in figures of speech, and this is well known to the speakers of arabic who have an interest in rhetorical styles, but others who are not interested or familiar with the art of the language can see the style as normal.

first type: excitement through matters related to the arabic language

the prophet (peace be upon him) is the most eloquent speaker. narrated abu huraira: the prophet (pbuh) said, "i have been given the keys of eloquent speech and given victory with awe (cast into the hearts of the enemy)…" [bukhari]

the prophet (pbuh) is sent to all the people including arabs, the masters of eloquence and rhetoric. this is why a lot of hadiths (prophetic sayings) include many lingual and rhetoric aspects.


first: summation then elaboration

when the prophet (peace be upon him) used summation, it was usually to encourage attendees to ask for more details. this is an exciting approach to engage listeners and attract them to what will be said. this is like mentioning a number of attributes or items, then to mention the details of these attributes and items, or when he (pbuh) said general summarized words which would lead the listener to ask for more details.

on the authority of abu ruqayya tameem ibn aus ad-daaree (ra)1 that the prophet (peace be upon him) said: 'the deen (religion) is naseehah (advice/sincerity)'.

in some narrations of the hadith the prophet (pbuh) repeated this statement three times then he was silent.

this incited the companions and led them to wonder saying:

((we said 'to whom?'he said 'to allah and his book, and his messenger, and to the leaders of the muslims and their common folk.')) [related by muslim]

it is clear that in some narrations there are elements of excitement such as:

first: summation to stimulate the souls of listeners and encourage them to ask for more details.

second: repetition of what was summed up. this is why it was said by ibn hajar al-hatimi:

((the style of the haidth indicates that the scholar may summarize the lesson he is going to deliver to listeners, he does not have to explain a lot of details at the beginning to attract the student to hear more and inquire about the unexplained details. this is more engaging and interesting to listeners than being overwhelmed by a lot of information at once.))

an example of this style is the hadith narrated by ibn abbas that the delegates of 'abd-ul-qais came to allah's apostle and said, "o allah's apostle! we are from the tribe of rabi'a and the infidels of mudar tribe stand between us and you, so that we cannot come to you except in the sacred months2. therefore we would like you to give us some instructions which we may follow and convey to our people staying behind us." the prophet said, "i order you to observe four things and forbid you (to do) four things: (i order you) to believe in allah testifying that none has the right to be worshipped except allah; to offer the prayer perfectly; to pay the zakat3; and to give one-fifth of the war booty to allah. and i forbid you to use ad-dubba, al-hantam, an-naqir and al-muzaffat." (these are names of utensils in which alcoholic drinks were served.)

in the hadith, the prophet (pbuh) said: (i order you to observe four things and forbid you (to do) four things)

then he detailed what he summarized at the previous sentence, namely the four things to observe and the four things to avoid.

his sentence (i order you to observe four things), there is summation and also the same about his sentence (and forbid you (to do) four things).

ibn hajar said:

((the wisdom of summation before elaboration is to attract the spirit to listen to the further explanation to absorb and memorize the following details. if the student forgets any point of the specific number of details that he memorized from the teacher, then he will realize that he misses a part of what he heard.))

another example of employing summation then elaboration is the hadith of the pillars of islam. the prophet muhammad (pbuh) said: "islam is founded on five pillars; to testify that 'there is no deity except allah, and muhammad is the messenger of allah;' to establish the ritual prayers; to give zakat; to fast during the month of ramadan and to perform the pilgrimage to the house (in makkah)."

the prophet (pbuh) first summed up the main idea by saying (islam is founded on five pillars), then he elaborated it further by explaining each point of the five such as uttering shahada, praying, giving zakat, fasting ramadan and performing hajj.

second: mentioning the predicate before the inceptive or the object before the subject

setting forth the part of speech that should be delayed or mentioned later and delaying what should be mentioned first cause excitement and attraction of listeners, because it is irregular and unexpected as it does not follow the traditional rules of the language. it is needless to say that such break of rules has to have a reason; it is usually to excite listeners to listen attentively to the lesson. an example is the hadith narrated by abu hurirah that the prophet (peace be upon him) said: "two words loved by the most merciful one, light on the tongue and weigh heavily in the balance; subhan allahi wa bihamdihi, subhan allahil adheem (glory be to allah, and praise, glory be to allah, the supreme)"[sahih al-bukhari; 7:67, muslim; 4:2071]

two words is the predicate, loved by the most merciful one is an adjective, and finally subhan allahi wa bihamdihi, subhan allahil adheem are the inceptive.

al-sharqawi said:

((the prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned the predicate and adjective before the inceptive to influence listeners and to make the statement appealing to them, because what they learn with concentration and effort is more effective than the easy meaning that is obtained without any effort.))

another example is the haidth by the prophet (peace be upon him):

((two habits, whoever maintains them will enter paradise, they are easy and the ones who do them are few. the companions said: what are they, o messenger of allah?

he (pbuh) said: to say alhamduliah, allahu akbar and sobhan allah at the end of each prayer, ten times each. when you go to bed also to say alhamdulilah, allahu akbar and sobhan allah, each of them for a hundred times, the sum will be two hundred times and fifty mentioned by the tongue and two thousand and five hundred in the balance (record of deeds). who among you commit two thousand and five hundred sins? they said: how come the ones who do them are few? he (pbuh) said: satan comes to any of you in prayer and reminds him of such and such, so he doesn’t say them, and he comes to him at the time of sleep and make him sleep so he doesn’t say them.))

preceding and delaying can also be bymentioning the punishment before the guilt.

this is to shed light on the punishment to attract listener to listen to the kind of guilt linked to the preceding punishment. an example is the hadith narrated by abu dhar (r.a) that the prophet (peace be upon him) said: ((there are three to whom allah will not speak on the day of resurrection and will not look at them or praise them, and theirs will be a painful torment.” the prophet (pbuh) repeated it three times. abu dharr (r.a) said: “may they be doomed and lost; who are they, o messenger of allah?” he (peace be upon him) said, one who lets down his lower garments (below his ankles) out of arrogance, one who boasts of his favors done to another; and who sells his goods by taking a false oath.)) [sahih muslim]

as we can see, the prophet (pbuh) mentioned the punishment: ‘allah will not speak on the day of resurrection and will not look at them or praise them, and theirs will be a painful torment’.this excited the narrator and made him ask the prophet (pbuh) about the kind of people who will receive such punishment: ‘may they be doomed and lost; who are they, o messenger of allah?’the prophet (pbuh) explained the nature of their guilt that led to the punishment. thus, this style of speech achieved the aim which is to attract listeners to listen attentively to what will be said next and engage them in the intended lesson as reflected in the narrator’s question to the prophet (pbuh).

the same applies to denying faith, or attributing disbelief or hypocrisy,then comes the mention of the sins that made them deserve this description. this is clear in the hadith in which the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) said: ((whoever has (the following) four characteristics will be a pure hypocrite, and whoever has one of these characteristics, has one characteristic of a hypocrite unless he gives it up. if he speaks, he tells a lie; if he gives a promise, he breaks it; if he makes a covenant he proves treacherous; and if he quarrels, he behaves in a very imprudent, evil, insulting manner (unjust).)) [sahih bukhari]

another example is the hadith narrated abu shuraih that the prophet (peace be upon him) said:

(("by allah, he does not believe! by allah, he does not believe! by allah, he does not believe!"

it was said, "who is that, o allah's apostle?"

he said, "that person whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil.")) [sahih al-bukhari, volume 8, number 45]

in the two above mentioned hadiths, we notice the preceding affirmation of hypocrisy or denying of belief prior to the further explanation of the reasons for these very negative qualities. it reflects a catching engaging style which can be easily noticed by anyone interested in such kind of rhetoric.

second type: excitement through asking questions and requiring answers from listeners

attracting the attention of listeners by asking questions is very important. it is very clear in the sunnah4 of the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him). many of us remember only such style of eloquence in the haidths, namely asking questions, because they are various and diverse in the prophetic sayings. it was found that stimulating listeners and attracting them by asking questions is reflected in a number of cases:

the prophet (peace be upon him) might ask questions in matters that are well known to them (the companions and muslims in genera):

first: to confirm these matters that they know, if they give the right answer.

second: to clarify to them that the true meaning of what was said is unlike what they have in mind, if they give the wrong answer.

third: to attract their attention to things they don’t know the answer to them, by this he (pbuh) encourages them to seek the explanation and learn important things.


asking questions to listeners to confirm the information they already know:


narrated abu bakr: the prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) stated: “time has rotated as same as the first day on which the lord created the heavens and the earth. a year contains twelve months, four of them are sanctified. three are successive: dhu al-qi'dah5, dhu al-hijjah6 and muharram7 and the fourth is rajab8 which falls between jumada9 and sha'ban10.“which month is this?” “allah and his apostle are the most knowledgeable,” we answered.the prophet paused for a considerable while that we thought he would call another name to that month. “is it not dhu al-hijjah?” asked the prophet.“yes, it is,’ we replied. “which land is this?’ asked he.“allah and his apostle are the most knowledgeable,” we answered. the prophet paused for a considerable while that we thought he would call another name to it. “is it not al-balda11?” asked the prophet.“yes, it is,” we replied. “which day is today?” asked the prophet.“allah and his apostle are the most knowledgeable,” we answered. the prophet kept silent for a considerable while that we thought he would call another name to it. “is it not the nahr day12?”asked the prophet. “yes, it is,” we answered. the prophet said, “your souls and estate and honors are sanctified among you as same as the sanctification of this day in this month on this land. you shall meet your lord, and he shall examine your deeds. after me, return not to deviation by beheading each other. the witness should inform the absent. it may happen that an indirect receiver is being more committed than the direct.” [sahih al-bukhari, 5/126]

in the hadith, it is clear the great anticipation they felt when the prophet (peace be upon him) asked them about matters they already knew such as the day, month and place and then he (pbuh) confirmed such well-known information in the same exciting manner. this style was needed to achieve the aim that the prophet (pbuh) wanted to reaffirm, namely the great sanctification (sacredness) of souls, estate, honors exactly like the sanctification of this day (nahr day) in this month (dhu al-hijjah) on this land (makkah).

al-qurtoubi said:

((the question of the prophet (peace be upon him) about the three matters, and staying silent for a while after each question was to stimulate their attention, raise their awareness and prepare them for what he was going to mention to concentrate fully and listen carefully to him, and to sense the great statement that he (peace be upon him) was going to tell.))

ibn hajr commented:

this is why he (pbuh) said after this preparation:

your souls and estate and your honors are sanctified among you as same as the sanctification of this day in this month on this land…” to exaggerate in stating the sacredness of such things, the things mentioned in the haidth are already known to them but they did not answer because they were afraid that the prophet (pbuh) was going to change their names.


(1) ra: radya allah anhu/anha [may allah be pleased with him/her]

(2) sacred months are called "al-ashur al hurum", they are the four sanctified months during which warfare is prohibited. the pre-islamic arabs also considered warfare blasphemous during the four months, a view that has been confirmed in islam.

(3) zakat: one of the five pillars of islam, is the giving of a fixed portion of one's wealth to charity, generally to the poor and needy. the zakat is an act of piety through which one expresses concern for the well-being of fellow muslims, as well as preserving social harmony between the wealthy and the poor.

(4) the sunnah is the ways, teachings and activities of prophet muhammad (peace be upon him). muslims should emulate the sunnah of the prophet to be good muslims.

 (5) dhu al-qi'dah: is the eleventh month in the islamic calendar. it is one of the four sacred months in islam during which warfare is prohibited, hence the name ‘master of truce’.

(6) dhu al-hijjah: this is a very sacred month in the islamic calendar, marking the end of the year. it is in this month in which the hajj pilgrimage takes place."dhu al-hijjah" literally means ‘possessor of the pilgrimage.’ it is during this month that pilgrims from all around the world congregate at makkah to visit the kaaba. the hajj is performed on the eighth, ninth and the tenth of this month. day of arafa takes place on the ninth of the month. eid ul-adha, the ‘festival of the sacrifice,’ begins on the tenth day and ends on the 13th.

(7) muharram: is the first month of the islamic calendar. it is one of the four sacred months of the year in which fighting is prohibited. muharram is so called because it is unlawful to fight during this month; the word is derived from the word haram, meaning "forbidden". it is held to be the most sacred of all the months, excluding ramadan.

(8) rajab: is the seventh month of the islamic calendar. this month is regarded as one of the four sacred months in islam in which battles are prohibited. when prophet muhammad (pbuh) sighted the moon of rajab, he used to pray to allah in the following words: "o allah, make the months of rajab and sha'ban blessed for us, and let us reach the month of ramadan (i.e. prolong our life up to ramadan, so that we may benefit from its merits and blessings)."

(9) jumada al-awal and jumada al-thani: they are the fifth and sixth months in the islamic calendar. the origin of the word is as follows: the word jumda, from which the name of the months is derived, is used to denote dry parched land: land devoid of rain, and hence denote the dry months.

(10) sha'ban: is the eighth month of the islamic calendar. sha'ban is one of the meritorious months for which we find some particular instructions in the sunnah of prophet muhammad (pbuh). it is reported in the authentic ahadith that prophet muhammad (pbuh) used to fast most of the month in sha'ban.

 (11) al-balda: is another name of the holy city of makkah which is situated in saudi arabia and is the birth place of prophet muhammad (peace be upon him). prophet ibraheem (peace be upon him) built the kaaba there and muslims go to perform hajj (pilgrimage) there.

(12) nahr day: the tenth day of dhul-hijjah is the greatest day of hajj. it is known as yawm an-nahr (the day of sacrifice), since it marks the ending of the major rite of hajj. it is on this day that the muslims commemorate the bounties and blessings of allah. it was recorded in a hadith by imam ahmad that the day of nahr is the most virtuous day to allah. the messenger of allah (peace be upon him) said: “the greatest day of hajj (pilgrimage) is the day of an-nahr.”


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