Observing Silence

The Prophet of Islam once observed, “One who believes in God and the Last Day should either speak words of goodness or keep quiet.” It is true that failure to speak up and tell the truth when the occasion calls for it can (according to a hadith) earn one the name of ‘dumb Satan.’ But, there are many occasions when observing silence is more proper and more important. One example of how essential it is to observe silence is provided by an incident at the battle of Uhud in which the Prophet having been injured in battle had fallen down in a cave, away from the eyes of the people. His enemies proclaimed that he had been killed, and confusion prevailed among the companions. In the meantime, a companion of the Prophet caught sight of him and exclaimed, ‘Here is the Prophet.’ At that moment the Prophet motioned to him to keep quiet (so that the enemy would remain ignorant of his being alive). Another instance is the hadith, which says that asking the assembly to keep quiet while the Imam is giving a sermon is an absurd act. (That would amount to making noise.) Observing silence at individual meetings too is a good principle to follow, but when the matter pertains to the whole community it assumes an even greater importance. At a delicate moment the observance of silence by a leader can check a riot from taking place. While an ill-timed speech by a leader can lead to a full scale riot, leaving in its wake the loss of hundreds of innocent lives and property worth crores of rupees burnt to ashes. It is in this sense that sister Consolata has observed: “The greatest number of failings in a community comes from breaking the rule of silence.”