Actions Speak Louder Than Words
The most important method used by the Prophet of Islam (SAW) was the practical method. He would act according to his words. Because of that, his actions are one of the reliable sources in Islam called the Sunnah (Tradition). He himself acted upon his words and instructions and used to train others to do the same in order to more effectively affect others. The Glorious Qur’an reproaches the people who don’t do what they say. It says:
“It is most hateful to Allah that you should say that which you don’t do.” (61:3)
As Muslims saw that the Prophet (SAW) was acting upon his words and ideas, they became more loyal to Islam because the best manifestation of one’s opinions and beliefs are one’s actions and education and training can be learned through actions more than through words. 1
One of the strongest desires in human beings is the desire to imitate. A child learns many customs, ways of eating, communication, speaking, dressing. Man imitates others all through his life. But in the 5th or 6th year this desire increases. A child is not aware of corruption in the society and cannot plan his/her goals. So, he follows his/her parents and mimics their actions.
A child needs an example in his/her life in order to know what to do. What behavior to have, and how to face difficulties. He needs to learn how to solve problems and how to cope with them. 2
For this reason Allah introduces His Prophet (SAW) as the best example for mankind:
“So I put the best example for him who hopes in Allah and latter day and remembers Allah much. (33:21)
During history, the Prophet (SAW) was the best and most important symbol for mankind. By using his actions more than his words he served as the best instructor for mankind.
Moreover, children learn visually more than audibly. Research done by psychologists prove that 75% of learning happens through eyes, 13% through ears, 6% through touching, 3% through taste and 3% through smelling. So it is the parents’ and teachers’ responsibility to guide children to the right path by their own actions, because the tongue of action is more effective than the tongue of words (i.e. speech).
Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (AS) says: “Guide the people towards Allah by your actions not by your tongue.” 3
Martyr Beheshti in an explanation of this Hadith, says: “If we are asked from when Muslims collapsed? We have to answer from the time that words became more than actions. Faith is a light which shines from the believer’s heart and goes to others’ hearts without the use of the tongue.” 4
Imam Ali (AS) says: “The advice which no one rejects, and no benefit equals, is the one which is received through action not through words.” 5
Again the Imam (AS) says: “How can one correct others while he/she is unable to rectify himself/herself.” 6
Imam Khomeini’s (RA) daughter, Dr. Farideh Mostafavi concerning the purification and practical education of Imam Khomeini (RA), says: “He never dictated the religious orders to us as his family. We learnt through observing his behavior and actions. We were unconsciously affected by them and always tried to be like Imam (RA) even though we couldn’t achieve such a personality. From the educational point of view he was our model. He never did anything which we were forbidden to do. For example, if he asked us to pray, he used to make ablution 30 minutes to noon to get prepared to pray, while we were playing in the yard. He never asked us to pray with him. He always used to call Adhan, but never asked us to stop playing and start praying.” 7
As Imam Khomeini (RA) used to practice prayer, his actions had the greatest effect on his children. According to psychologists, parents are the most effective and reliable models for their children. One of the experts in religious training wrote:
“Most human behaviors are based on learning and the center for learning is the family, because the essence of man’s personality is shaped and perfected in the family.“
He continues: “The most enduring as well as pleasurable learning is indirect learning. In this kind of learning, the learner observes his/her model and without any difficulty increases his/her knowledge.
In indirect learning, the learner voluntarily and consciously is attracted to what he/she observes and acquires all the positive and useful points. Most of the time in direct learning the learner doesn’t show the needed motivation to learn the subject.
In learning, observation of the characteristics of parents is very important to learners, especially if they are children and adolescents. The more the adult patterns are desirable, attractive and pleasant, the more their effect will remain and become more influential.
Children love desirable characters and want to attain them. Praying for small children is one of the actions which they first learn through observation and eventually have a special feeling towards. In this case, one who deals with children, like parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, have more responsibility.8
By Muhammad Reza Muttahari
1. The History of Education in Islam and Iran, p. 202.
2. Islamic Education, pp. 108-110.
3. Safinatul-Bihar, vol. 2, p. 278.
4. Persian Daily Newspaper Jamhoori Islami, dated 9/6/1991.
5. Ghorarul-Hekam, chapter 9, No. 162.
6. Awareness and Responsibility, pp. 1-5.
7. Along with the Sun, vol. 1, p. 100.
8. The Ways of Religious Education of Children, pp. 12, 15-17.