An excerpt from a talk by Shaykh Mokhtar Maghraoui published in The Muslim Voice a few years back seems fitting and worth re-reading:
"When Mu‘adh asked Rasool Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) “will we be held accountable even for the words we utter here and there?”, Rasool Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) replied, “Oh Mu’adh may your mother mourn you! (i.e. something bad is coming, if you don’t understand this…you’re dead!) – What else, but the harvest of the tongue causes most people to be dragged on their faces into the Fire of Hell!”, and Allah tells us, “every word uttered is recorded by the angels”. Yet what is the ni‘mah we use most? – It is the tongue, and one ‘aalim said that if we used our other senses as much as we use our tongue, they would collapse with fatigue! However, in this natural order that Allah has created, He has indicated things to some of the believers who have some hikmah (wisdom) left, such that one ‘aalim said, Allah created the tongue and He created two gates before you get to the tongue (teeth and lips), remember Allah does not create in vain, every creation has wisdoms in it. Abu Dardah (RadiyAllahu ‘Anhu) is related to have said “do justice to your ears, for you were given two ears and one tongue in order that you listen/hear more than you speak”. A wise man once said, “my tongue is like a scorpion, if I let it go, it will begin by biting me”. Every word we utter is most likely a poisonous bite that we’ll have to reckon with on the Day of Judgment. Yet the desire to speak is so intense because the nafs inside is at a lower state. One great ‘aalim was asked by a serious student of great akhlaaq “when shall I speak?”, he answered, “when you have the urge to speak, keep quiet and when you have the urge to keep quiet, you may speak”. Rasool Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) with his exalted state of khuluq used to have prolonged intervals of silence, and when he spoke, he spoke gems, diamonds, and pearls. He (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “whosoever has imaan (faith) in Allah and the Day of Judgment let him speak a word of khayr or remain silent” – what is khayr? It is that which helps us in our journey to Allah and the purpose for which we were created, it is not relative to our nafs nor to relativist morals, anything that does not help us fulfill the purpose for which we were created, is logically not beneficial. The tongue, my dear brothers and sisters is the most used key by Shaytaan to enter the qalb and occupy it – backbiting, sewing the seeds of hatred, ridiculing, making fun of people, lying, conspiring with words, and these days we actually have ‘talk’ shows where people get paid tonnes of money to lie and ridicule others and it’s called civilized entertainment. By Allah! - We will be asked for every word we utter! And those whom Allah exalted in knowledge and practice of that knowledge, kept their tongues jailed. Thus said one of them (Rahimahullah), “there is nothing worthier of long sentences of jail than the tongue”, but remember, the nafs in that lower state feeds the desire to speak and to speak that which is not beneficial to the ultimate purpose for which we were created."
Allah clearly mentions in the Qur’an:
‘Woe to whoever disparages others behind their back or to their face’
Some useful reads:
What does it mean, "Leave that which does not concern you?" If I am interested in something, doesn't it "concern me?"
Slander, backbiting, holding one’s tongue and leaving that which does not concern one...
Lying to Keep a Promise
Fulfilling the Rights of Others
I am Unable to Guard My Tongue from Backbiting. What Shall I Do?