One of the values on which the Qur’an lays emphasis is silence. But it is not silence just for the sake of silence. Qur’anic silence is for contemplation, to understand more and more, to enhance your learning. It is a culture of silence in the complete sense of the word. There is a relevant verse in the chapter Al-A‘raf (The Heights), the translation of which is as follows: When the Qur’an is read, listen to it with attention, and hold your peace, so that you may receive mercy. (7:204)
This means that when the Qur’an is recited, you should remain silent and listen to it with total attention. This verse gives us a general principle with a particular reference, that is, when you read or listen to or observe something, keep complete silence and try to understand it, focusing all your attention on it. This kind of habit is very important if the spirit of learning is to be inculcated. The Qur’an tries to develop one’s thinking capacity, it tries to build a mind that can understand things in their deeper sense and analyze them with objectivity. The art of silence is necessary to be able to accomplish all these things.
There is a saying: “When I am speaking, I am not listening, and when I am not listening, I am not learning.” This saying has the same meaning as is expressed in the aforementioned verse of the Qur’an. Silence is not simply refraining from speech. It is more than that. When the human mind, with its unlimited capacity, stops speaking, it instantly starts thinking. The mind is a supercomputer, switched on at the time of birth and continuing to function eternally. It can never be switched off. Thinking is a continuous process of the mind. The word ‘rest’ is not to be found in the human lexicon where the mind is concerned. What is thinking? It is to reflect, it is to consider, it is to activate and utilize your intellectual capacity. Bringing the intellectual faculties into play enables one to arrive at meaningful conclusions. The mind is the most elevated part of a human being and thinking is its supreme role. The Qur’an develops one’s thinking capacity, it tries to build a mind that can understand things in their deeper sense and analyze them with objectivity.
It is said that man is a thinking animal. So thinking is the most important process which occurs in a human being. All the great discoveries have been the result of thinking. But thinking is not an occasional activity of the mind: it is a continuous process, and it happens not only in the daytime but also when you are asleep at night. The only difference at that time is that it is transferred from the conscious to the subconscious mind. The issue of silence can be understood in this context.
According to the nature of mind, speaking means to stop the process of thinking, while when you are silent you are allowing your mind to carry on its thinking processes without any interruption. Just as a speed breaker on the road reduces the speed of the passing vehicles, human speech breaks man’s continuous journey of thought. Silence is a positive habit, it helps you to learn more and more and develop your personality unhindered.