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In the chapter Al-Hujurat (The Apartments), the Qur’an gives a commandment relating to social ethics. The translation of this verse is as follows: Believers, let not some men among you ridicule others: it may be that the latter are better than the former: nor should some women laugh at others: it may be that the latter are better than the former: do not defame or be sarcastic to each other, or all each other by [offensive] nicknames. How bad it is to earn an evil reputation after accepting the faith! Those who do not repent are evil-doers. (49:11)

Those negative habits referred to in this verse relate to the use of the tongue. People generally tend to point out others’ weaknesses and, even if there are none, they will try to invent some, and then make negative remarks. Giving people nicknames or making derogatory remarks is a common habit in both men and women. Giving a nickname means calling someone by the wrong name. This kind of negative remark worsens the healthy atmosphere of a society. It is like social pollution. Believers are strongly exhorted not to indulge in such negative practices.

Making negative remarks about others is not simply bad for others, but acts like a boomerang. It is bad for both parties. A person who uses such undesirable language pollutes his own nature, having committed a moral crime by uttering negative words against another. Moreover, he pollutes the ethical atmosphere of the whole of society. This is a general piece of advice, but it is meant especially for believers, because believers are those who have given a firm commitment to God Almighty, in terms of which they are not supposed to indulge in this kind of unworthy activity. This is tantamount to breaking the solemn pledge they have taken at the time of declaring their belief.

It is a fact that to err is human. Nevertheless, if anyone indulges in these unwanted practices, even if it is unintentional or mistakenly, he must, on the one hand, apologize to the person about whom he has passed a negative remark, and, on the other hand, he should ask for forgiveness from God Almighty. Repentance is as good as correcting your mistake.

Every man and woman is responsible for building a healthy society. It is their social duty not to indulge in such activities as may cause damage to the healthy atmosphere of a society. The individual has only two options: either he should refrain from indulging in such undesirable activities or, even if he only occasionally commits this kind of error, he must very soon repent and try, in all sincerity, to compensate for it by taking corrective measures. These kinds of practices are against the plan made by the Creator. Calling others by nicknames, passing derogatory remarks, or attempting character assassination, are all like poison, not in the physical sense, but in the psychological or ethical sense. Believers are required to be self-disciplined in their morality, for those who fail to adopt this kind of ethical discipline will be severely punished by God.

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