Learn from the Prophet ﷺ how to communicate

Learn from the Prophet ﷺ  how to communicate

I am not getting into the ongoing debate about whether it is allowed or not allowed to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet (peace be upon him), but we certainly should celebrate his character in our life. As he was the best of Allah’s creation, we should try to emulate the beautiful aspects of his character in our life. To talk about the Prophet (peace be upon him) is like trying to talk about the ocean, where does one start?

My focus will be how we can improve the way we communicate by learning from the Prophet (peace be upon him). A major proportion of our problems in our relationships (with family, friends and colleagues etc.) and at work, whether they are small businesses or large corporations, stem from miscommunication. So often, small misunderstandings escalate and snowball into more serious issues, simply because we did not manage to explain something clearly or did not understand what someone meant.

Words are not knives

How did the Prophet (peace be upon him) communicate with his Companions? What can we learn from this? In the Quran itself, Allah instructed the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Ummah to communicate by choosing the best words, as Allah Almighty stated:

Tell my servants to say what is best. (17:53)

This does not mean that we sharpen our knives as though we are going into battle when we speak, as is the case on many occasions and during many conversations. Rather, when you communicate, make a conscious effort to choose the words which will convey a good meaning in the kindest way.

This is not very easy, given that we are creatures who love to talk and we do not always put thought into what comes out of our mouths. However, we are obliged to follow the Prophet (peace be upon him), because he is the perfect role model, and we need to bring our character in line with his character as much as possible.

Think before you speak especially when you are angry

In order to have the best speech the first thing we need is a grip on our emotions. Not in the sense that we have no feelings, but that when we are provoked, we do not react with anger. The Prophet (peace be upon him) would always repel the bad with the good. We need to do the same.

Some people find it easier than others to remain calm, but as anything in life, we need to train ourselves. Always consider, what the Prophet (peace be upon him) would say in that situation. Imagine if the Prophet (peace be upon him) was in your situation, how would he respond? Definitely not like me or you. His response would be wise. Let’s copy him and elevate our status by following his example.

Speak clearly – not too fast, not to slow- and concisely

Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) described how the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to speak.  She said he did not rattle on and on the way people sometimes do. Some people speak so quickly they do not pause for breath. It is hard to follow what they are saying, and they do not let you get a word in edgeways. This is not the Sunnah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) by contrast spoke slowly and clearly. We need to learn how to speak this way. If you speak too fast, remember to breathe, to pause, and to speak more slowly – not too slowly, simply at a pace that helps people to understand what you mean.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) had a mission – he had to deliver God’s message, so it was critical that he did this with clarity. At times depending on the size of his crowd, he would repeat what he said 3 times to allow everyone to hear it, and to understand it, and for his words to reach people at the back. Hence he repeated himself and spoke clearly.

‘Urwah narrated that ‘Aishah said:

“The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) did not speak quickly like you do now, rather he would speak so clearly, unmistakably, that those who sat with him would memorise it.” [Tirmidhi]

When the Apostle of the Allah (ﷺ) gave a talk, a man could count his words if he wished to count. [Abu Dawoud]

If you do not speak clearly, people may miss the point of what you are saying and later you might be annoyed that they did not follow your instructions. It creates friction needlessly. Therefore make your speech clear, and concise and make it easy to understand.

Say it with love

Finally depending on the scenario, and most importantly in difficult scenarios, you need to say what you want to say with love. This is to diffuse the tension and reduce the possibility of arguments. When you have the right intention, and you say it with love, the person listening will understand. 

Sometimes you are saying the best thing or best words, but you’re using the wrong tone, it is as if you’re insulting someone. The tone of your voice is important to regulate and monitor. Is the tone of your voice high pitched or low pitched? Is it sarcastic? Is it with compassion? Your tone will convey all this. The Prophet (peace be upon him) would choose the right tone to speak to his audience. Whether he was encouraging them, or warning them, or softening their hearts – his pitch would vary to convey it appropriately. Of course it came naturally from the heart.

Anas ibn Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لَا يَسْتَقِيمُ إِيمَانُ عَبْدٍ حَتَّى يَسْتَقِيمَ قَلْبُهُ وَلَا يَسْتَقِيمُ قَلْبُهُ حَتَّى يَسْتَقِيمَ لِسَانُهُ وَلَا يَدْخُلُ رَجُلٌ الْجَنَّةَ لَا يَأْمَنُ جَارُهُ بَوَائِقَهُ

“The faith of a servant is not upright until his heart is upright, and his heart is not upright until his tongue is upright. A man will not enter Paradise if his neighbour is not secure from his evil.” [Musnad Aḥmad]

The purer the heart, the purer the tongue

This means that the quality of one’s words depends on the quality of one’s heart. There is a direct correlation between the faith, the heart and the tongue. The tongue reflects what’s in the heart, the heart reflects your faith. They are interconnected.  The one who is always spouting foul language, is reflecting the poor quality of his heart. He has a heart that needs purification. And this shows that he has weak faith. Thus our communication is very revealing as it exposes whether we are good or bad.

Allah stated that we cannot enter Jannah without a sound heart:

‎إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ

Except for him who comes to God with a sound heart.” [26:89]

Ibn Al-Qayyim commented on this ayah that the soundness of one’s heart is never complete until one is safe from 5 things:

1- From shirk polytheism that contradicts monotheism
2- And bid’ah innovation that contradicts the Sunnah
3- And desire that contradicts the command
4- And heedlessness that contradicts the remembrance
5- And inclination that contradicts monotheism and sincerity.
These five are veils from God, and each of them has many types.

ال ابن القيم رحمه الله تعالى:

قال تعالى: ﴿ يَوْمَ لا يَنفَعُ مَالٌ وَلا بَنُونَ . إِلاَّ مَنْ أَتَى اللَّهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ ﴾ [ الشعراء : 88 ].
ولا يتم لك سلامة القلب مطلقاً حتى يسلم من خمسة أشياء :1- من شرك يناقض التوحيد2- وبدعة تخالف السنة3- وشهوة تخالف الأمر4- وغفلة تناقض الذكر5- وهوى يناقض التجريد والإخلاص.وهذه الخمسة حُجبٌ عن الله، وتحت كل واحد منها أنواع كثيرة، وتتضمن أفراداً لا تنحصر.
من كتاب إغاثة اللهفان وكتاب الداء والدواء للإمام ابن القيم

Listen attentively and with genuine interest

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) listened it was to understand what the other person was saying. He was not busy preparing an answer in his mind – that is not listening. He wanted to understand where the other person was coming from. We see this in his conversation with his Companions, and it teaches that we need to focus on what others are saying, and not prejudge what they are saying before they have finished. The Prophet (peace be upon him) would listen to his speaker until they finished, and then ask if they had anything further to add. Only then would he reply. How many of us do this? I doubt that it is many.


When the Prophet (peace be upon him) spoke he would have a smile on his face, as described in the Shama’il – it reflected that he was a cheerful person. A smile diffuses any difficult scenario or conversation. He said that to meet your brother with a smile on your face is an act of charity. Thus he was encouraging us to increase our reward in our bank of good deeds by small but not insignificant gestures. Do not frown when you speak, unless the scenario requires it. If you have a colleague, friend, relative, or spouse, who is always grumpy, you don’t want to talk to them. You actually avoid talking to them, and they make you grumpy. Lack of communication can create distance and move the relationship in the wrong direction.

The best thing is to follow the prophetic guidance, when we speak we speak with good intention, we say the best thing, we pay attention, we choose the best words, we have a smile on our face, we allow the other to speak until they finish, we listen attentively and then we reply.  You go through The Prophet (peace be upon him) seerah and you find much more on that.  The Prophet (peace be upon him) taught us how to communicate in this best form.  When we communicate in the best way it increases love and friendship between people.

Give your full attention

Being addressed by the Prophet (peace be upon him) was very special and unique and those who follow his footsteps will be blessed with the opportunity to hear him speak to them one day inshallah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) made you feel that you were the most important person to him. When he spoke, he gave his full attention – he was not distracted, he was in a rush to disengage. If the person was to his side, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would turn his full body to face them, not just his face. This was one of his beautiful etiquettes in conversation. If we can apply this in our conversations, what a difference it would make – imagine when we are talking with our families, our spouse or our parents. When you pay someone full attention it gives you the flavour of the sweetness of faith. It is being all ears – having your senses fully focused on what the other person is saying, because you value them. How many marital problems, and friendship problems, start from one person feeling they are not being given attention? They were speaking but the other person was ignoring them –  they were on their phone, sending some messages, and they were not responding. This is definitely a recipe for disaster. It won’t increase love between people, it will destroy the love. When it keeps happening, the partner will feel humiliated and bitterness will take seed and grow.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) would even give full attention to his enemies. For instance, when he was negotiating with Quraysh, he would pay attention to their offer, even though their offer would be nonsensical.   

One of the other etiquettes of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was that he never interrupted his speaker. He would wait until they finished. In our communication, we do not wait for others to finish – we just shoot at each other and interrupt each other; we do not even letting others complete their sentence.  This is rude. Is not prophetic guidance – wait until the other person finishes before you respond to them.

‘Amr ibn al-‘As, who accepted Islam in the 8th AH and was appointed a leader in a battle just 6 months later. When he returned, he narrated that the way the Prophet (peace be upon him) spoke to him was so full of attention and interest that it made you feel you were the most special person to him. He said:

عَنْ عَمْرِو بْنِ الْعَاصِ، قَالَ‏:‏ كَانَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم، يُقْبِلُ بِوَجْهِهِ وَحَدِيثِهِ عَلَى أَشَرِّ الْقَوْمِ، يَتَأَلَّفُهُمْ بِذَلِكَ فَكَانَ يُقْبِلُ بِوَجْهِهِ وَحَدِيثِهِ عَلَيَّ، حَتَّى ظَنَنْتُ أَنِّي خَيْرُ الْقَوْمِ، فَقُلْتُ‏:‏ يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ، أَنَا خَيْرٌ أَوْ أَبُو بَكْرٍ‏؟‏ فَقَالَ‏:‏ أَبُو بَكْرٍ، فَقُلْتُ‏:‏ يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ، أَنَا خَيْرٌ أَوْ عُمَرُ‏؟‏ فَقَالَ‏:‏ عُمَرُ، فَقُلْتُ‏:‏ يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ، أَنَا خَيْرٌ أَوْ عُثْمَانُ‏؟‏ فَقَالَ‏:‏ عُثْمَانُ، فَلَمَّا سَأَلْتُ رَسُولَ اللهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم، فَصَدَقَنِي فَلَوَدِدْتُ أَنِّي لَمْ أَكُنْ سَأَلْتُهُ‏.‏الشمائل للترمذي.

“Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to turn his face and his speech directly towards the worst of people, thereby winning their hearts. He used to do the same with me, so that I thought I was the best of the people, so I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, am I better, or Abu Bakr?’ He said: ‘Abu Bakr,’ so I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, am I better, or ‘Umar?’ He said: ‘Umar,’ so I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, am I better, or ‘Uthman?’ He said: ‘Uthman!’ Whenever I asked Allah’s Messenger, he told me the truth, so I wished I had not asked him!’” [Shamail at-Tirmidhi]

Having experienced this attentive listening from the Prophet (peace be upon him) was convinced that he must be the most beloved person to the Prophet (peace be upon him). Yet when he asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) whom he loved the most, the Prophet (peace be upon him) enumerated so many people that he was disappointed and wished he had not asked the question! However this shows that the communication of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was so endearing that it won over people’s hearts.

The way the Prophet (peace be upon him) communicated was not just to turn his neck towards someone but to give them his full attention, so they felt the warmth from his pure heart – which was the soundest heart Allah ever created.

Is it possible for us to follow his footsteps? To give this level of attention to our spouse, our children and our friends, neighbours and employees – to m make them feel genuinely special to us. Not just superficially or for our self-interest. For the sake of Allah and to follow the blessed example of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Between spouses

A major problem in marriages is when spouses do not listen to each other when they speak – they are on different planets. When one comes back, the other one is mentally somewhere else. The more attention you pay to others the closer you become.

With training you can improve this.  Shut down all the disruptors. Stop using your phone when someone is talking to you. Put it aside and listen attentively. Don’t be engaged in anything else when someone is talking to you, especially when you are talking about close relations like parents, like spouse, like siblings and so on. It hurts a lot when you speak to someone and they are not paying attention. So don’t harm anyone. Stop this bad habit. I know people who have been married for years, but they’ve never been on the same page, why? Because one of them did not bother to give their spouse attention. The solution is easy – pay attention and focus. This is the way to resolve this issue. It will take some time to develop this habit, but if you really love that person, you need to pay attention, and it is their right to be listened to attentively. Vice versa, when you speak to someone, it’s your right to be listened to attentively. This is the way we should communicate; this is the prophetic way. 

Do not gossip

Among the tools we use to keep the heart sound is to do istighfar on a daily basis. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

‘There are times where my heart feels clouded (innahu la yughanu ‘ala qalbi); and I seek Allah’s forgiveness a hundred times a day.’

Ibn Mas’ud (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,

عن عبد الله بن مسعود -رضي الله عنه- قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم:

 ((لا يُبَلِّغُنِي أحدٌ من أصحابي عن أحدٍ شيئًا، فإنِّي أحبُّ أن أخرج إليكم وأنا سَلِيمُ الصَّدر)) رواه أبو داود

“None of my Companions should convey to me anything regarding another because I desire to meet every one of you with a clean heart.” [Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi]

This shows clearly that the heart is affected by gossip, backbiting and relaying bad news about others. If you want to keep your heart healthy, then disengage from all gossip because it is TOXIC. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not therefore like to hear anything bad about any of his companions because he felt it poisoned his heart making him cold and distant towards that person when he wanted to be warm and genuinely happy to meet them.

We need to work on our hearts and then our actions will follow. Do this to follow his footsteps to meet Allah with a sound heart.

Speak the truth

The Prophet (peace be upon him) always spoke the truth, even when he was joking. We should always tell the truth because being truthful is the main features of the believer. This is why when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked:

“Can a believer be a coward? He said, “Yes, he can be coward. Then it was asked whether a believer could be a miser? He replied, “Yes, he can be a miser”, it was then asked whether a believer could be a liar? He replied, “No, a believer cannot be a liar.” (Imam Malik, Mishkaat)

Self-assessment checklist

We need to tick these boxes and assess our shortcomings – we all have some shortcomings. Check yourself: When I speak to someone…

Do I interrupt?

Do I really listen attentively?

Do I really speak with a smile?

Do I mean what I’m saying or saying anything to save myself?

Am I always telling the truth?

How do I use my tone of voice?

How can we tick all these boxes?  We need to train ourselves. We ask Allah Almighty to enable us to follow the footsteps of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as much as we can inshallah.

Shaykh Haytham Tamim How to celebrate the character of the Prophet (peace be upon him) – Al Manar on 4th Oct {transcribed by Shamail Jawaid) and Khutbah 14th October 2022 (transcribed by Ayesha Khan)

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Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.