SLANG AMONG MUSLIMS, PERMISSIBLE OR NOT?
“He does not utter a statement except that there is an observer by him ready to record it.” [Sûrah Qâf: 18]
SubhanALlah… Dwelling on the topic of discussion, putting the above verse as a ‘companion’ will greatly assist our discourse.
Slangs are what? What do they stand for? What are their usage? Do Slangs and foul words have some connection? Subsequent paragraphs will critically examine all these.
“Slangs are informal language or words used by a particular group of people.” Slangs are most often spoken rather than writing, they can also be highly creative and shows that a language is constantly evolving over time, and inappropriate sometimes i.e Irish slang. Spanish slang. British slang. Italian slang etc.
However, what is known is that slang is a dialectal phenomenon ever existing and consistently modifying and dynamic among every subculture worldwide. Bethany K. Dumas and Jonathan Lighter argue that an expression should be considered “true slang” if it meets at least two of the following criteria: It lowers, if temporarily, “the dignity of formal or serious speech or writing”; in other words, it is likely to be considered in those contexts a “glaring misuse of register”.
Its use implies that the user is familiar with whatever is referred to, or with a group of people who are familiar with it and use the term.”It’s a taboo term in ordinary discourse with people of a higher social status or greater responsibility.” It replaces “a well-known conventional synonym.” This is done primarily to avoid discomfort caused by the conventional synonym or discomfort or annoyance caused by having to elaborate further.
Why Do People Use Slang?
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Indeed a servant will speak a word pleasing to Allah that he thinks to be insignificant, but because of it Allah raises him by many degrees. And indeed a servant will speak a word displeasing to Allah that he thinks to be insignificant, but because of it, He will consign him to the Hellfire.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî]
Because slangs are often only lucid by multitude in a certain group, using slang is, above all, a way to show that someone belongs to a clique. To show that the ‘clique-members’ are one of the crowd by using terms that others ‘out-of-clique’ don’t understand, and that they can relate verbally with people who decode just what you mean by using the slangs. For this reason, slangs is often a mark of being “approving,” or informed in the society.
‘Clique-members’ who are “members” of a group know the slang, and people who aren’t do not. Slangs are, therefore, in some context a way to use language to separate oneself from others. The best example of this is the way each generation of teenagers uses new slangs to separate themselves from their imaginary ‘uncool’ older generations and somewhat, their parents.
If Slangs are used for the above reason, it is clearly a form of unclear words to the general public/’non-clique’ members, and this isn’t encouraged and this is against the Sunnah. The Sunnah is to make one’s speech clear and audible so the listener can understand it. Anas ibn Maalik (May Allaah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) used to repeat his words three times when speaking, so that he would be understood.”
Slang is a vocabulary that is used between people who belong to the same social group and who know each other well. Slang is very informal language. It can offend people if it is used about other people or outside a group of people who know each other well.
For instance: a slang expression “Chicken” is slang for someone who isn’t very brave, and obviously, such can be offensive and regarded as vulgar word. Below words of Allah comes to mind: Surah Al-Hujraat, Verse 11:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا يَسْخَرْ قَوْمٌ مِّن قَوْمٍ عَسَىٰ أَن يَكُونُوا خَيْرًا مِّنْهُمْ وَلَا نِسَاءٌ مِّن نِّسَاءٍ عَسَىٰ أَن يَكُنَّ خَيْرًا مِّنْهُنَّ وَلَا تَلْمِزُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ وَلَا تَنَابَزُوا بِالْأَلْقَابِ بِئْسَ الِاسْمُ الْفُسُوقُ بَعْدَ الْإِيمَانِ وَمَن لَّمْ يَتُبْ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ
O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former; nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former, nor defame one another, nor insult one another by nicknames. How bad is it, to insult one’s brother after having Faith [i.e. to call your Muslim brother (a faithful believer) as: “O sinner”, or “O wicked”, etc.]. And whosoever does not repent, then such are indeed Zalimun (wrong-doers, etc.).
We must be vigilant not to speak falsehood. We must think about what we are saying and the possible consequences of our words before we go ahead and speak. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “A man might speak a word without thinking about its implications, but because of it, he will plunge into the Hellfire further than the distance between the east and west.” [Sahîh al-BukhârîandSahîh Muslim]Al-Nawawî comments on the meaning of this hadith, saying: “This hadith encourages us to guard our tongues. A person who wants to speak should think upon what he is about to say before he utters it. If it then shows itself to have some benefit to it, he may speak it; otherwise he should refrain from doing so.”
“Allah does not like that evil should be mentioned in public except by one who has been done injustice. And Allah is all-hearing, all-knowing.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 148]
Another angle to look at the usage of Slangs is through the words of Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (May Allah’s Rahma be on him) on Speaking Slang Arabic: “In the Name of Allah, Many non-Arabs who learn proper Arabic find difficulty in communicating with regular, everyday people. The problem is that common Arabs don’t usually speak a very high level offus-haa(proper) Arabic, rather they speak ‘Aammiyyah, a lesser grade of Arabic slang. Students of the Arabic Language tend to have a strong stance against the use of this slang,‘ Aammiyyah. Perhaps the following words from the great scholar,Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen(may Allaah have Mercy on him), may provide some much needed insight into the issue:
بعض الناس تجده يسرع في الكلام ويغمغم في الكلام حتى إنالإنسان يحتاج إلى أن يقول: ماذا قال؟ هذا خلاف السنة، فالسنة أن يكون الكلام بينًا واضحًا يفهمه المخاطب، وليس من الواجب أن يكون باللغة الفصحى، بل ولا من المستحب إذا كان الناس ينتقدون ذلك ويرون أن ذلك تنطع. إنما تخاطبالناس بلسانهم، وليكن كلامك بينًا واضحًا كما في حديث أنس بن مالك _ رضي الله عنه _ أن النيي _ صلى الله عليه وسلم _ كان إذا تكلم بالكلمة أعادها ثلاثًا حتى تفهم عنه
“You find that some people speak too quickly, or they mumble in their speech, and people have to ask, “What did he say?” This is against the Sunnah. The Sunnah is to make one’s speech clear and audible so the listener can understand it. It is not even a must that proper (fus-haa) Arabic is used, nor is it even recommended, when the people are critical of this and consider it to be a kind of unnecessarily added difficulty (in communicating). Instead, speak to the people with their language, using clear, audible speech, as found in the hadeeth of Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him): The Prophet (may Allaah raise his rank and grant him peace) used to repeat his words three times when speaking, so that he would be understood. And Allaah knows best” NOTES: Source:His explanation ofRiyaadh as-Saaliheen(4/65). Read the sentence carefully to avoid misunderstanding the shaykh’s point. He was not advising against the use of proper (Fus-haa) Arabic. Rather, he was stressing the importance of communicating with the people with words they understand. The hadeeth was collected by al-Bukhaaree in hisSaheeh(#94). Edited by Nadeem Ahsan-Shah (may Allaah bless him).
Truly, we all know that we’ll be all be held accountable for our words and actions, big or small, whether it’s just an “Argh” or a half or full session of gossiping, foul words usage and backbiting. In the Holy Qur’an, Allah (SWT) said: “Man does not utter any word except that with him is an observer prepared [to record]. Q 50:18. This is enough as an admonition indeed; in the day, we say so many things without realizing how dangerous they are to our Eeman, passing comments about people, being tall, dirty, unwise, thin, fat, or idiots. We use vulgar language as if we won’t account for each words said, don’t we think that it’s all being recorded and will be presented to us on the Day of Resurrection? There are also numerous Hadith on the subject. Sahl ib Saad (ra) reported that Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) said, Whoevercan guarantee for me (that he will guard) what is between his jaws (tongue) and what is between his legs (private parts), I will guarantee him Paradise. [Bukharee].
Below are some kinds of speech that Islam prohibits when they associate with Slangs or not: Lying, Backbiting (forbidden for the speaker as well as the listener), talking about things that don’t concern us, spreading gossip, mentioning the defects of others, Vulgar language, Verbal abuse, Making fun of or mimicking others, Breaking promises, Denying or making fun of Islam, the Quran, the Prophets, scholars and religious personalities, Ridiculing men who wear beards, trousers above the ankles, and women who wear hijab etc Abu Hurairah (ra) reports that the Prophet (saws) said,Whoever believes in Allah and the last day, should speak good or remain silent.[Bukharee].
Convincingly, we can conclude that Slangs become permissible or not depending on the nature of the speaker’s ambition, it will be mostly appropriate to use clear words, terms, sentences, remarks and sign language to avoid being knowingly or unknowingly sinning as a result of using slangs, except if it is a widely slang known to the people we are in conversation with.
And Allah is our source of Guidance. We ask Him to forgive our wrong sayings and grant us good speech to say always.
Lawal Abdulafeez Arishekola