Quadruple Filter Test (T.U.N.G.)

Muadh ibn Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) once asked the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) for advice to enter Paradise and to stay away from Hell. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) outlined some advice for him.

Then the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  asked, “Shall I tell you of that which holds all these things?” Muadh said: “Yes, O Messenger of Allah.”

So he took hold of his tongue and said, “Keep this in control.” Muadh asked, “O Messenger of Allah! Shall we really be accounted for what we talk about?”

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) replied, “May your mother lose you! People will be thrown on their faces into the Hell on account of their tongues.” [Riyadh As-Salihin]

This hadith alone makes a believer wary of the way he uses his tongue, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) regarded it as the means to holding together all other means of entering Paradise and avoiding Hell fire.

The great scholar Imam Al-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said, “If he wants to speak, then if what he wants to say is good and he is confident that he will be rewarded for it, whether it is obligatory or praiseworthy, then let him speak, but if it does not seem to him that it is good and he will be rewarded for it, then let him refrain from speaking, whether he thinks it is haram (impermissible) or makrooh (disliked) or permissible. Based on this, it is recommended to refrain from saying permissible words and we are enjoined to avoid this, lest it lead us into something that is haram or makrooh, which is what happens in many cases or in most cases.” [Source]

There is an ancient story attributed to various speakers, but the gist of it is as follows:

In ancient Greece, Socrates (the famous philosopher) was visited by an acquaintance of his. Eager to share some juicy gossip, the man asked if Socrates would like to know the story he’d just heard about a friend of theirs.

Socrates replied that before the man spoke, he needed to pass the “Triple-Filter” test.

The first filter, he explained, is Truth.

“Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to say is true?”

The man shook his head.“No, I actually just heard about it, and…”

Socrates cut him off.

“You don’t know for certain that it is true, then. Is what you want to say something good or kind?”

Again, the man shook his head.“No! Actually, just the opposite. You see …”

Socrates lifted his hand to stop the man speaking.

“So you are not certain that what you want to say is true, and it isn’t good or kind. One filter still remains, though, so you may yet still tell me. That is Usefulness or Necessity. Is this information useful or necessary to me?”

A little defeated, the man replied,“No, not really.”

“Well, then,”Socrates said, turning on his heel.“If what you want to say is neither true, nor good or kind, nor useful or necessary, please don’t say anything at all.”

It was narrated from Hasan Al-Basri (may Allah have mercy on him) that a man said to him, “Indeed, someone has backbitten you.” So Hasan Al-Basri sent a dish of sweet dates to the back biter and he said: “I heard that you have given me your good deeds as a gift, so I would like to repay you for it; but please excuse me for I am unable to completely repay.” Source: Bariqah Mahmudiyyah

It is narrated on the authority of Abu Musa Ash’ari: I asked the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) which (attribute) of Islam is more excellent.  Upon this he remarked:  One in which the Muslims are safe, protected from the tongue and hand of (other Muslims). [Sahih Muslim]

Narrated Sahl bin Sa’d:  Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Whoever can guarantee (the chastity of) what is between his two jaw-bones and what is between his two legs (i.e. his tongue and his private parts), I guarantee Paradise for him.” [Sahih Bukhari]

Conversation is an important and perhaps unavoidable part of daily life. It involves verbal as well as written communication. It has become extremely easy to share our thoughts with others either directly in conversation or indirectly through online platforms that give every person a podium to be heard. It has become reflex action to broadcast our thoughts without reflecting on them.

Drawing wisdom from Divine revelation and the wise elders of the past, a mindful Muslim can catch himself before he falls and implement the value of speaking good or remaining silent by keeping in mind the following test.

Before one speaks, one must assess if what he is about to use his TONGUE for is actually T.U.N.G.:

  • True
  • Useful
  • Necessary
  • Good


Further Reading

Dangers of the Tongue; Ethical Discourses Volume 1; Ayatullah Naser Makarem Shirazi

The Bad Consequences of the Tongue

Avoiding Sins of the Tongue

Backbiting In Islam And Its Punishment