Silence and Speech Etiquette
A Contribution to the Study of Islamic Ethics
When speaking of silence, the Koran employs three different verbal roots (ṣ-m-t, s-k-t, n-ṣ-t); on the basis of this linguistic profusion, Arabic Islamic culture has elaborated a complex conception of silence, which embraces an element of abstention, linking it to passivity and stillness, and a cognitive element, linking it to listening and learning. The exegetical corpus and above all the moral literature, represented here chiefly by the learned Sunnite Ibn Abī al-Dunyā of Baghdad (d. 281/894)’s Kitāb al-ṣamt wa ādāb al-lisān, equate silence with verbal discipline and award it the status of an Islamic value, to the extent that it is posited as an optimal attitude in the believer’s relation with God and with other members of the Islamic community.
Keywords: Koran • Ibn Abī al-Dunyā • Silence