The concept of ‘sticks and stones may break bones, but words never hurt’ does not stand in Islam. In Islam, we have always been taught that words can hurt as much as stones. Words can inflict as much pain as sticks. A broken bone can be mended, but a broken heart can not as easily be mended from hurtful words.

Hence, in Islam there is no real distinction between physical and verbal attacks. That is they way of looking at it. When we look at it from that prism, many of the teaching of Allāh and His Rasul come together, make sense and appear very consistent.

The alternative view is that as long as you do not hurt a person physically, you can say whatever you like to them; in their presence and their absence. The harm that this approach can cause is now slowly being acknowledged. We are now starting to see laws being developed to tackle hate crime and misogyny whereas Islam has dealt with these issues from the very beginning, because of this lack of distinction between physical and verbal attacks.

[This short excerpt is based on ‘The Madinan Society: A Tafsīr Of Sūrat ʾal-Hujurat – Part 8’ which was delivered by Shaykh Riyadh ul Haq on Friday 23rd September 2016].