The Art of Conversation

Notwithstanding the importance of the spoken word, very few people are acquainted with the art of conversation. In order to make an impression, people use words the listeners find too difficult to understand, thereby defeating the very purpose of conversation. The speaker has to bear in mind that listeners (at times) may be inferior to him in intellect. He, therefore, has to come down to the level of the listeners if he wants to convey the message clearly and effectively.

The speaker must not shout or scream to make a point. He should not be abusive or vulgar, and above all, he must speak politely and answer questions (if any) without losing his calm.

Hazrat Aishah (RA) once said: “The most revered Prophet’s (SAW) words were so clear that everyone could understand them.”…… (Abu Dawud). Aware of the capacity of the people, Allah the Most Merciful says in the Quran: “We have sent down the book in simple Arabic so that you understand it.”

The most revered Prophet (SAW) has directed Muslims to speak pleasantly and cheerfully. A speaker should not unnecessarily strain his cheek muscles. The speaker must receive listeners cheerfully. This is in accordance with the sunnah of the Holy Prophet (SAW). The beloved Prophet (SAW) answered questions from strangers very politely, even if they were rude. One day a man called on the most revered Prophet (SAW) and sought permission for zina. The pious companions (RA) lost their cool, but before they could harm the man, the most revered Prophet (SAW) came to his rescue and addressed him politely. “How would you react if someone commits adultery with your mother, wife, sister or daughter,” the Holy Prophet (SAW) questioned. The message was conveyed, and the stranger left a wiser man. Had the Holy Prophet (SAW) ridiculed and humiliated him, or allowed His pious companions (RA) to harm him, the message could not be effectively conveyed.

Similarly, an ordinary man stood up in the Prophet’s (SAW) mosque and asked Hazrat Umar (RA) how he had managed such a huge cloak from a small piece of cloth.  Umar the Great (RA), whose very name would send shivers down the spines of Persian kings, did not lose his composure. He explained his position politely.  “A good word is an act of kindness.” (Al Bukhari, Al Muslim) That is what speakers must ensure.

Listeners too have to behave properly. They must listen keenly what is being said. They should not interrupt the speaker, or each other. Questions, if any, can be answered at the end of the conversation. A person who interrupts a speaker has been equaled to a pickpocket.

The speaker has to ensure the involvement of listeners in the conversation. This can be achieved by speaking clearly and pleasantly and by sticking to the topic. The moment a speaker deviates from the topic, listeners will start losing interest, or turn inattentive. Similarly, if the speakers stick to their allotted time, (if a schedule has been fixed), their audience will not get impatient or restless.

The most revered Prophet (SAW) would never interrupt his pious companions (RA). He would speak only when they had finished. The holy companions (RA) also behaved in a similar fashion.  When the Prophet (SAW) spoke, they would lower their gaze and listen keenly and patiently.