Characteristics of the Shia
Salman b. Mahran said, “I entered into the presence of as-Sadiq (as) while there were a group of people from among the Shia in his company and he said the following to them, 'O' assembly of Shia! Be a beauty for us (the Ahlul Bait) and do not be a source of embarrassment for us. Speak to the people in good ways and protect your tongues. Save your tongues from speaking things that do not need to be said, and which are detested.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 65, pg. 161)
Imam Ja'far b. Muhammad as-Sadiq (as) brings up two issues in this tradition - the first being a general rule and regulation, while the other is a clear example that must be put into practice.
The general rule is that through our actions, we must not be a source of embarrassment for the Ahlul Bait meaning that we must act in such a way that when people look at us, they would immediately send blessings upon those whom we follow and would say, “Congratulations to people such as yourself that have been trained and nurtured as you have been.” We must not be a source of shame for the Ahlul Bait since they are the progeny of the Prophet (S).
The 'Ulama of the Science of Akhlaq have stated that for those traversing the spiritual path towards reaching Allah (SwT), the first step that must be taken is to correct one's tongue, and as long as the tongue and what one speaks is not corrected, the heart will never become purified.
The tongue is the key to the entire essence of a person such that we are able to discern what kind of a person an individual is by his method of speech.
It is stated that:
إِخْتَبَرُوهُمْ بِصِدْقِ الْحَدِيثِ
“Test and examine people by the truthfulness of their speech.”
If a person's tongue is under lock and key, then one will definitely speak very carefully, with honesty, and will be extremely vigilant in what one says.
One of the ways to protect the tongue is just as the final commandment in the tradition states that one should:
كُفُّوهَا عَنِ الْفُضُولِ
“Prevent it (the tongue) from speaking excessively.”
Speaking less is one of the first things a person can do to begin his journey on the path towards Allah (SwT) and this is known in the books of Akhlaq as sumt or keeping quiet.
One scholar has said that there are five things which can any person who has defects within himself become a perfect and complete person and they are: silence, fasting, waking in the night (to pray), seclusion, and the constant remembrance of Allah (SwT).
Truly, if a person were to practice these five things, one would definitely become closer to Allah (SwT).
The first of the points mentioned which is silence, does not mean that one does not speak at all. Rather, it means that one should not speak if it is not necessary and one must avoid and kind of foul or vulgar speech!