Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: The Prophet, Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him, said: A person may utter a word that he thinks harmless, but it results in his falling in Hellfire [the depth of ] 70 years [in travel].
What does this mean? Can you give me an example of what is meant because I’m confused, does the word ‘harmless’ here mean unaware if something is sinful?
Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray that you are well, insha’Allah.
The word ‘harmless’ refers to one’s not considering it to be something evil and, more so, a sin for which one will be taken to account for.[Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir Sharh al-Jami` al-Saghir]
Abu Huraira narrates that the Messenger of God (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Verily a person utters a word, that he deems harmless, but it results in his falling into the depths of the Hellfire.” [Tirmidhi; Ibn Majah]
In a similar narration (hadith), reported by Muslim in his Sahih, Imam Nawawi commentates that the person does not think about what he is saying and, furthermore, does not fear the consequences which may arise because of it.
A Note on Holding one’s Tongue
Nawawi ends by stating that this is from the strong encouragement to hold one’s tongue and to only speak when there is some benefit in doing so; otherwise, one should keep it to oneself. This is understood from the words of the Messenger of God (Allah bless him and give him peace), “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should say the good or remain silent.” [Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim]
And Allah knows best and He alone gives success.
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani