The power of words is astonishing. Some have the power to stir the emotions, to lighten one’s load. Others strike like a knitting needle pushed through the heart; that piercing pain that arises on receipt of harsh sentiments. Others still just perturb.

Last night I could not sleep because words had unsettled me. My chest was tight. Fear not, it is apparently just asthma which seems to be triggered by stress, the stress no doubt triggered by my oversensitivity. The words were not addressed at me in particular, but they still jarred against me, making my brain fizz.

Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching says the Quran.

I wish we did. Even when they come from my dearest friends, from people I may agree with, even when they are not targeted to me, there are words which cause me unease. Why do some of those who are apparently closest to the spirit of tawhid address others with such contempt, while the more distant perhaps find the most pleasant words even for their enemies? Why is it that in our zealous desire to convey the truth, we abandon good manners and common etiquette?

I know I am oversensitive these days; I know this skews my response from time to time; but this condition is very real. I have a friend who spent his early days as a Muslim amongst the ultra-salafis until he could take their harsh words no more. Ripping into him with their tongues, they left him in tears in a public gathering more than once. Traumatised by those years, he has left them far behind. But now he has harsh words for them, indeed for all salafis. It is not true that these people are alone in suffering from this disease. We all do and we all do it. We all condemn one another, forgetting that we are brothers. I have seen and heard the harsh words of both the salafi and the sufi, the traditionalist and the modernist, the sunni and the shia.

We forget that we are but brothers. We forget the true Prophetic instruction on how we should advise one another when we er, or when we do not know. Our words are harsh for him on the other side, forgetting that he is actually on our side. If some of us are remiss, then advise us in the best of ways. If some of us have made mistakes, remind us in a way that is kind. If I do not have knowledge the like of yours, invite me to the way of our Lord with wisdom and beautiful speech.

The power of words is indeed astonishing. No wonder we are warned to maintain control of our tongues at all times, and of our typing finger by extension. What a vast amount of timber can be set ablaze by the tiniest spark. I don’t think this only refers to the destruction caused by a rumour; isolated words also hurt and crush the soul. Words can be uplifting, words can be light, words can be a comfort and words can be a guide. These are our halal openings and we must evaluate all that falls without.

Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching.

And may Allah have mercy on us all.

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