In modern society, characterized by the denial of the spirit, the material aspect of existence is seen as the only reality. Evil acts are not seen as transgressions of God’s commands, but only as acts against the outward social order or against nature.
The Messenger of God said, “If a servant was to secretly sin, he would only harm himself, but if he was to commit it openly and he is not made to change, the people would be harmed by it.”
The Prophet also said: “As soon as obscene language accompanies something it disgraces it, and as soon as modesty accompanies something it adorns it.”
In this tradition modesty is contrasted with obscene language. Obscene language is the open utterance of low and depraved language which, when expressed, immediately devalues the good deeds of the doer regardless of how noble those deeds are. Modesty, on the other hand, indicates the separation of the ego of the doer from the beauty of his action, thus adorning that action by his humility. In short, modesty is humility whilst experiencing one’s own relative perfection.
Today the use of obscene language pervades societal inter-relations. Shielded by the anonymity of mass society, we hear people uttering the vilest expletives in public without any apparent care for their own respect or that of others in their vicinity. This behavior is normalized by the media itself, in books, films and in contemporary music and they are merely reflections of reality and expressions of the right to free speech.
The use of swear words in response to frustration, and as expressions of emotional states is habit forming and short circuits the ability of the speaker to adequately and properly express him-self. As a habit, it could then cross over into other social situations that would be even more inappropriate such as in normal everyday speech with one’s wife and children, or even with one’s parents. This phenomenon can be seen in the following words of the Prophet (s) :“The most severe of major sins is for a man to use obscene language at his parents…. That man uses obscene language with another, and then he follows by using obscene language with his father and mother.”
The use of language is vitally important in organizing our thoughts, and the ability to do so is essential to problem solving. If we automatically revert to obscenities when we are frustrated or confronted by emotional trials we be-come impotent in solving them. Thus the habitual use of obscene language stifles our ability to express ourselves. This opposes the Prophetic saying that God is Beautiful and loves beauty for if our speech is not beautiful it would interfere with our ability to communicate with Him. Many of us save our beautiful words to inﬂuence all those we consider important but when it comes to our Lord we sufﬁce with hurried words and incomplete phrases. So habituation to swearing may even further compromise our ability to address God.
The supplications of the infallible Imams are great examples of such beauty of expression and the depth of feeling in one’s supplications. These supplications teach us how to communicate with God and how we should endeavor to speak to His exaltedness in a beautiful way. Thus with excellent speech, conduct and morals, we could have a positive effect upon our environment simply via our own example. And by exhorting the right and forbidding the wrong in whatever way we can, whether it is by the written or spoken word, or seeking to inﬂuence the institutions of society, we could have a direct and conscious effect upon our environment in ending corruption and creating a healthy environment for ourselves and our children.