Sūrat al-Hujurāt | Verse by Verse
“You who have faith,” having believed in Allāh and His Messenger, “Do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet,” blurting out words thoughtlessly, rather observe due propriety when speaking to him, and do not speak in a voice louder than his, else you will be guilty of violating proper conduct with him. “and do not speak loudly to him,” in a way that would upset or irritate him, “as you do to one another”. Instead, speak calmly, with deliberation, restraint, solicitude, respect and love, falling silent when he speaks and deferring to him, “lest your actions come to nothing” devoid of any reward “without your realising it” because you risk upsetting him. If you upset him, Allāh is angered and Allāh would render the deeds of those who anger Him void without their even knowing.
The phrase “You who have faith” has been repeated to emphasise the point that the qualities mentioned are qualities of true faith, and to drive home the respect that is due to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). The repetition also signifies that the second prohibition is not merely a repetition or emphasis of the first, but stands on its own merit.
“Do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet” Qatādah said, ‘People would raise their voices in the Prophet’s presence and speak to him loudly, so in this āyah they were admonished and prohibited from doing so.’
The Muslim must engender an attitude within himself of receiving the revelation willingly and internalising it. He must treat the āyāt of the Qurʾān as if Allāh is addressing him directly and do all that he can to implement the guidance of that āyah in his daily life. There is a beautiful, compelling example of how the early Muslims would do just this.
When this āyah was revealed, the companion Thābit b. Qays, a famous orator of the Anṣār, sat down in the middle of the road and began to cry. ʿĀṣim b. ʿAdī happened to be passing and asked him what was wrong. He replied,
‘This verse. I fear it was revealed because of me as I have a loud voice.’
He was slightly deaf and so spoke loudly without realising. He then secluded himself in his house. When the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) heard about this, he called Thābit and asked him why he had done this. He replied,
‘An āyah which I read, I fear I may have raised my voice to you and spoken loudly, and I think all of my deeds could well have been ruined without my knowing!’
Allāh’s Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “Are you not content that you will live a praiseworthy life, that you will be killed a martyr and that you will enter Paradise?!” He replied, ‘I am content with the tidings given to me by Allāh and His Messenger and I will never raise my voice to Allāh’s Messenger.’ It was then that Allāh revealed the next āyah of this Sūrah.
Anas commented, ‘We used to see Thābit walking among us knowing that he was one of the people of Paradise. During the battle of Yamāmah,’ when the Muslims were fighting the forces of the false prophet, Musaylimah, ‘our forces suffered a setback. Suddenly, Thābit was there, having put on his perfume and shrouds, saying, “The worst habit is the one you acquire from your enemy! Do not set a bad example for your companions.” Then he fought until he was martyred, may Allāh be pleased with him.’
Bukhārī recorded another version of this incident from Anas b. Mālik who said, “One day, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) noted that Thābit b. Qays was absent and asked after him. A man said, ‘Allāh’s Messenger! I will find out what is wrong.’ That man went to Thābit and found him sitting at home with his head lowered and asked, ‘What is the matter?’ Thābit replied, ‘An evil matter!’ He told him that he used to raise his voice above the voice of the Prophet and feared that his good deeds had become void and that he would be among the people of the Fire. The man went back to the Prophet and conveyed Thābit’s statement. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“Go back to him and deliver him this news: you are not among the people of the Fire. Rather, you are among the dwellers of Paradise.”
When a Muslim hears a command from Allāh or His Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), he is supposed to implement it as soon as possible, as evidenced by the companions here, rather than procrastinating and delaying.
There are, of course, exceptions to this prohibition which have been established through other texts such as the injunction to call adhān, or when saying the takbīrs of ʿĪd, etc.
The quality of fine conduct taught here applies not only to interactions with the Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) but to anyone else we may speak to.
The core reason for not raising one’s voice above that of the Prophet’s (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) is due to the respect that is accorded him because of his status and the love a believer has for him. Therefore, the proscription of raising one’s voice over his also implies that one not speak a great deal in his presence because a person who is respectful and in awe of another will naturally not speak frequently or loosely with him. Moreover, it also implies that one should not consider his words above or more important than the Prophet’s (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam).
“and do not speak loudly to him as you do to one another,”
With regard to this, Qatādah said, ‘They would speak loudly to him (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and raise their voices, so they were admonished and prohibited from doing so.’ In another narration Qatādah also indicated that the prohibition did not just apply to addressing him in this manner, but also when people talked to each other in his (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) presence, ‘People would raise their voices in the Prophet’s presence and speak loudly, so in this āyah they were admonished and prohibited from doing so.’ This understanding is supported by the event leading to the revelation of this āyah, quoted above.
The phrase ‘do not speak loudly to him as you do to one another’ is with regard to our addressing him and calling him in the same manner as one would any other. Mujāhid explained, ‘Do not call him as you would one another; instead speak gently, with due propriety, and say, “O Messenger of Allāh…”’
Ḍaḥḥāk said that this āyah was similar to the āyah
لَّا تَجْعَلُوا دُعَاءَ الرَّسُولِ بَيْنَكُمْ كَدُعَاءِ بَعْضِكُم بَعْضًا
He went on to say, ‘Allāh forbade them from calling to him like they would call to one another. He ordered them to honour and respect him, and to call him by his titles of Prophethood,’ i.e. by saying Yā Rasūlallāh or Yā Nabiyallāh instead of Yā Muḥammad.
In fact, this is the way of Allāh Himself in the Qurʾān. When He addresses the Prophets, He does so using their names, but when He addresses the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) He does so using his titles.
“and do not speak loudly to him as you do to one another”
When considering this āyah carefully, we can see that it does not simply prohibit speaking loudly in his presence but that it is the loose, carefree and jocular manner that they would speak with each other that is prohibited as is any manner that would upset or irritate him (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). They are instructed to speak to him with respect and love and with an audible voice.
Not speaking to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) as one does to any other means giving him precedence when he speaks, falling silent, listening attentively and deferring to him. Allāh alludes to all of this with His words,
النَّبِيُّ أَوْلَىٰ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ
The Prophet is closer to the believers than they are themselves.
Many scholars have correctly highlighted that the sanctity of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) remains intact after his death. His words that have been recorded and are read out after his passing have the same sanctity as if they were spoken by him during his lifetime. Therefore, when his words are read, those listening should be attentive, listen respectfully and with dignity, and not raise their voices. The listener should be keen to hear and obey without any reluctance, just as if the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) were alive and speaking to them directly.
The scholars have also disliked that a person raise his voice by the Prophet’s (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) grave. One time, ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb heard two people raising their voices in the Prophet’s Masjid. He went to them and said, ‘Do you not know where you are? Where are you from?’ They replied that they had come from Ṭāʾif. He said, ‘Had you been from Madīnah, I would have beaten you!’
The scholars have also disliked that voices be raised in the gatherings of the scholars, out of respect for them, since they are the inheritors of the Prophets.
“lest your actions,” the Arabic sentence, an taḥbaṭa, has the governing word omitted, and has been interpreted to mean ‘to avoid the risk of’ (liʾallā taḥbaṭā) as stated by ibn Qutaybah or ‘for fear that your actions’ (makhāfata an taḥbatā) as stated by al-Akhfash.
“lest your actions come to nothing,” Abū Isḥāq said, ‘This shows that it is obligatory to respect and honour the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) within what is permissible in Islām. A person needs to be mindful and circumspect when speaking about the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) because he could well say or do something improper thus sealing his fate without even realising.’
In this respect, Allāh’s Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “A man might utter a word that pleases Allāh, Most High, without giving it a second thought, and on its account Paradise is written for him. A man might utter a word carelessly that angers Allāh, Most High, and on its account he is thrown into the Fire farther than the distance between the heavens and earth.”
Some scholars stated that the implication of the āyah is that all one’s deeds will come to nothing, and that only ever applies to a disbeliever. Hence, the āyah suggests that disrespecting the Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) will lead a person to further disrespect, causing the respect and love due him to diminish in his heart, until he arrives at point that he will say words of kufr when speaking of Allāh’s Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). May Allāh save us from reaching such a state.
“without your realising it” since someone who is gradually deteriorating will often not know that he is getting worse. A person who commits a sin once will feel regret, but if he keeps committing that sin, it will become habitual and that sense of regret and anguish will vanish.
Allāh has commanded the believers to respect and honour the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), to defend him and revere him. But He has also commanded the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) to be gentle and merciful to the believers in return,
وَاخْفِضْ جَنَاحَكَ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ
Lower your wings over the believers.
فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ لِنتَ لَهُمْ ۖ وَلَوْ كُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لَانفَضُّوا مِنْ حَوْلِكَ ۖ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي الْأَمْرِ ۖ فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّـهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ
Out of Allāh’s mercy you are gentle in your dealings with them – had you been harsh, or heard-hearted, they would have dispersed and left you – so pardon them and ask forgiveness from them. Consult with them about matters, then, when you have decided on a course of action, put your trust in Allāh. Allāh loves those who put their trust in Him.
Points of Benefit
1. A Muslim is not allowed to raise his voice to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), or speak loudly to him, or in his presence as we do with any other.
2. A Muslim is not allowed to address the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) directly using his name, rather we should call him by his titles.
3. A Muslim cannot speak loosely or frequently in the Prophet’s (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) presence.
4. A Muslim does not think his words are more important or better than the words of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam).
5. When the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) speaks, a Muslim falls silent and defers to him.
6. A Muslim must not anger Allāh, lest his deeds be rendered null and void.
7. A Muslim must receive the revelation and internalise it, implementing it in his life.
8. A Muslim rushes to implement the command of Allāh and His Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam).
9. The sanctity of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) remains after his passing.
10. His words are to be listened to respectfully and quietly. They are to be obeyed and his guidance followed.
11. Voices are not to be raised by his (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) grave.
12. He (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) is to be defended and honoured.
13. Voices are not to be raised in the gatherings of the scholars.
14. In general, a Muslim is not to raise his voice or shout at others.
15. A Muslim is careful and prudent in word and deed.
16. A Muslim does not look down on any deed that he does; though it may seem small, it may be great in Allāh’s sight. Allāh has given a grievous warning to those who raise their voices to the Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) or speak loudly to him as they would to each other. He has also promised a great reward to those who subdue their voices in his presence as the following āyah shows.
17. It is possible for a person to have sins recorded against him without him even being aware.
18. Allāh is aware of everything down to the tiniest detail. Here, He shows us that He was fully aware of the dispute that Abū Bakr and ʿUmar had.
 Ibn Kathīr
 Ibn ʿĀshūr, Zuhaylī
 Rāzī, ʿAdawī
 Ṭabarī, ʿAbdu’l-Razzāq, ʿAbd b. Ḥumayd
 Muslim #119
 Ṭabarī, Ṭabarānī #1316, Ḥākim 3:234, Bayhaqī, al-Dalāʾil 6:355, ibn Saʿd. Ibn Ḥajr, al-Fath 6:621 said the isnād of the version cited by ibn Saʿd was ṣaḥīḥ.
 Bukhārī #4846, Muslim #119
 Qurṭubī, ibn ʿĀshūr
 Zuhaylī, Shaʿrāwī
 Ṭabarī, ʿAbdu’l-Razzāq, ʿAbd b. Ḥumayd
 Ṭabarī, Suyūṭi referenced it to ʿAbd b. Ḥumayd and ibn al-Mundhir
 Another interpretation of this āyah is, “Do not regard the Messenger’s summons to you as being like one of you summoning another.”
 Al-Qur’ān, 24:63
 Ṭabarī, Ibn Abī Ḥātim
 Qurṭubī, Thaʿālabī
 Shaʿrāwi, cf. al-ʿIzz, Bidāyatu’l-Sūl fī Tafḍīl al-Rasūl
 Qurṭubī, Abū Ḥayyān
 Ibn ʿUthaymīn
 Al-Qur’ān, 33:6
 Ibn al-ʿArabī, Qurṭubī, ibn Kathīr
 Qurṭubī, Thaʿālabī, ibn Kathīr, Abū Ḥāyyān
 Bukhārī #470
 Qurṭubī, Thaʿālabī, Abū Ḥayyān
 Wāḥidī, Rāzī
 Bukhārī #6478 from Abū Hurayrah.
 Rāzī, Ibn ʿAṭiyyah, ibn ʿĀshūr
 Al-Qur’ān, 15:88
 Al-Qur’ān, 3:159