أصْدَقُ كَلِمَةٍ قالَها الشَّاعِرُ، كَلِمَةُ لَبِيدٍ: (أَلا كُلُّ شَيءٍ ما خَلا اللَّهَ باطِلٌ)وكادَ أُميَّةُ بنُ أبي الصَّلْتِ أنْ يُسلِمَ. البخاري
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: The most truthful line of poetry any poet ever uttered is the phrase of Labīd, ‘Indeed, everything, except for Allāh, is of no value. Sahih al-Bukhari
Every speech and action not done for Allah is in vain. Labib entered Islam. The other Jahiliy poet the Prophet (ﷺ) mentioned, Umayyah bin Abi Salb, did not accept Islam. But the Prophet spoke well of him saying he was close to Islam because his poetry contained beneficial speech, tawheed, and was close to the truth.
Poetry is the skilled expression of feelings and ideas given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm. The poet shows his skill and rich knowledge of the rhythm and meaning of words. It is impressive and moving to listen to. But like ordinary speech, it has to be weighed not just by its measure but also by its meaning and demeanour (conduct). It is beautiful when it is beneficial and thus rewardable. But it is ugly when it is harmful and thus reprehensible. This is the meaning of the Prophet’s (ﷺ) prohibition against poetry in the hadith:
«لَأنْ يَمْتَلئَ جَوفُ رَجلٍ قَيْحًا يَرِيهِ، خَيرٌ مِن أنْ يَمْتَلئَ شِعرًا»
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)said, “It is better for anyone of you that the inside of his body be filled with pus which may consume his body than it be filled with poetry.” Sahih al-Bukhari
Anybody who has suffered stomach ulcers will see the simile and even feel the pain and perhaps watch what they say! It is not hard to refrain from using insults and being rude in poetry, public speaking, and debates. Imagine, similar to how pre-Islamic poetry was memorised because of its superior rhythm and style, today influential speakers skilled in the art of public speech (like poetry) have their catchy phrases, clickbait titles, and thumbnails saved and also shared with millions of people around the world.
Pre-Islamic (Jahiliyya) poetry was sometimes noble, but mostly immoral, containing insults against people’s lineage, backbiting, rude and profane, praising evil and encouraging oppression. Aisha narrated that when the subject of poetry was mentioned to Allah’s Messenger (saws) he said, “It is speech, and what is good in it is good, and what is bad is bad.” So in the day of social media influencers with millions of subscribers, if you happen to be a skilled public speaker or big influencer, please watch what you say! Let your public speaking be knowledge and wisdom, not ignorance and insults, like the poetry praised by the Prophet (ﷺ):
«إنَّ مِنَ الشِّعرِ حِكمةً»