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We can find a famous Hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari, in which Prophet Muhammad (S) stated that he was sent to humans to perfect good characteristics. And if we read the Prophet (PBUH)’s Seerah and scrutinize the way he lived, we will see this in practice. In the Hadith collection of Sahih al-Bukhari, Imam Bukhari included a volume called “Kitab al-Adab,” meaning the Book of Manners. Dig a little deeper, and you can find hundreds of Hadith on the topic.
According to Abu Hurayrah, when people asked the Prophet (PBUH) about something that will lead most people to paradise, he mentioned taqwa, i.e., fear of Allah, and having a good attitude. The study of Islamic etiquette is something quite profound. Islam is an all-encompassing religion. One of the things it aims to perfect is human behavior.
Good manners are a highly regarded human characteristic all over the world. A good person is usually called that on the basis of his mannerisms. Alternatively, a rude person with crude and unrefined manners may have the reputation of being a bad person. At heart, it may be the other way around. This is why having good manners is of utmost importance. Having the correct adab is much more likely to bring you closer to other humans and to give advice than anything else. In Islam, this is important for a multitude of reasons, as we will discover in this article.
The character of Prophet Muhammad (S)
Allah has included a telling verse in the Quran that pertains to this topic. In Surah Aal Imran, Allah says that the Prophet (PBUH) was lenient with his people due to His Mercy. Allah then goes on to say that if the Prophet (PBUH) had been rude toward his people and harsh on them, they wouldn’t have listened to him. This is a great subliminal message for everyone who engages in Dawah or preaches Islam. Manners are important.
If we read the biography of Muhammad (S), we find that he was a very kind-hearted man. This preceded his appointment as a prophet. This was his nature from a young age. He was always gracious toward people and polite and courteous. He was compassionate and sympathetic, and never haughty or proud. In fact, he would stand in prayer all night long, begging for Allah’s forgiveness out of humility.
The story of the Black Stone reveals a lot about Prophet Muhammad (S)’s manners and his reputation in society. This incident took place before prophethood. The people of Makkah were renovating the Kaabah, with a few different tribes participating in it. However, when the time came to place the Black Stone in its rightful place, the tribes fought over it. They decided that the next man to enter the area the following day would decide their fate. When they saw it was Muhammad (S), they were pleased because they knew of his manners and trustworthiness. Sure enough, he came up with a solution that satisfied everyone and resolved the fight.
The topic of the Prophet (PBUH)’s manners is immense, and one can write a whole book on it. For now, it is sufficient for us to know that he was among the best-mannered people in history.
Enjoining good and forbidding evil
Allah has put repeated emphasis on this in the Quran. Muslims do not only need to focus on themselves and their own actions, but they should also be aware of their community. Islam is a religion that largely focuses on the good of the Muslim society.
It is for this reason that enjoining the good, including good manners, is something that Islam recommends highly. By the same token, we must also speak against all forms of evil.
Enjoining good includes several positive characteristics that Muslims should try to have within themselves and also promote in the community. Allah mentioned all these various manners in the Quran: thinking good of people, being good to guests, walking humbly, feeding the poor, keep promises, speak nicely, greet people, speak gently, preach in a wise manner, forgive others, be patient, be lenient… and the list goes on.
Forbidding evil is a very important aspect of Islam. Unlike the Western concept of “live and let live,” Islam focuses on what’s good for the community. If people allow each other to do whatever they want, it will lead to harm. Evil actions are usually caused by bad manners or evil characteristics. Allah mentioned several evil acts in the Quran: lie, insult, backbite, bribe, gossip, rudeness, ridicule, shouting, anger, oppression, steal… and much more.
Manners toward parents
One of the things that Allah has emphasized the most in Islam is being good to parents. In Surah al-Isra, Allah mentions the worship of Him as the first thing He obliges humans to do. After that, he mentions good treatment toward parents. Allah even says in this verse that a person should not say something as little as “uff” to them! He commands us to speak to them in a noble way.
Being good to parents is a constant theme in Islam. Allah and the Prophet (PBUH) emphasized this and good manners are part and parcel of being good. In the following verse, after the one about not saying “uff,” Allah tells us to lower the wing of humility over them, i.e., always be humble and serve them. Then He provides us with a dua, where we ask Allah to have mercy upon our parents in the same way as they did upon us.
In one of the most well-known Hadith, we find out the status of mothers in Islam. A man asked the Prophet (PBUH) about who is most deserving of his companionship. The Prophet (PBUH) replied with “Your mother” three consecutive times, then said your father. This shows the immense amount of respect and reverence Muslims must have for their mothers. Having the right adab and manners is, therefore, a foregone conclusion.
In yet another Hadith, a man asked Muhammad (S) about the deeds that Allah loves the most. He replied that the most virtuous one is to perform prayer (salah) on time. His next suggestion was goodness to parents. After that, he stated Jihaad in the path of Allah. That it’s greater than Jihaad shows its significance.
Good manners in our everyday lives
One of the ways in which the Prophet (PBUH) encouraged us to have good manners is by being thankful toward Allah and by praying toward him alone. This is reflected in the many Sunnah actions that we should try to emulate.
Amongst the most well-known Sunnah is saying Assalam alaikum (may peace be upon you) when meeting someone. The other person should respond with walaikum salam warahmatullahi wabarakatuh (peace, mercy, and blessings of Allah be upon you also). Offering the salutation is a Sunnah, but the reply to it is actually fard (obligatory).
Saying things like Bismillah before eating and drinking, Alhamdulillah after sneezing, SubhanAllah when seeing something magnificent – these are all things that help us to remember Allah and inculcate good deeds in us.
Allah also commanded us to refrain from entering people’s houses until they invited us in. He prohibited Muslim couples from having sexual relations during the woman’s menstrual cycle.
Another thing that falls in this category is for Muslims to follow the correct etiquette and ethical code of life. That includes abiding by societal norms that are in line with Islam. The Prophet (PBUH) even outlined the ways that Muslims should relieve themselves.
The importance of manners for dawah
One of the most pertinent points regarding good manners in the modern-day context is when we see its relation to preaching and dawah. Islam instructs Muslims to tell other people about Allah and His Prophet (PBUH) and to invite them to the Quran. This is something that many Muslims do diligently all over the world nowadays, especially in Western countries.
One of the most striking features of dawah is that people are willing to listen to a soft-spoken person more often than not. This refers to non-Muslims or even Muslims who may have gone off the straight path. We shouldn’t confuse good manners with speaking about only the positive aspects of Islam. During dawah, preachers also mention the punishments of hell, etc. However, doing so in a manner that doesn’t antagonize the listener is very important.
Bad manners or rudeness are often a reason for why some preachers fail to get their point across. They may preach very aggressively and start off by yelling at the receptor and saying that they are destined for hell. This is not a good approach because it puts people off.
Another thing that we must keep in mind is that dawah done in the right way with good manners leaves a good impression of Islam. The receiver will be more willing to learn about Islam. He may even be impressed enough for him to do research about Islam, and who knows, accept Islam one day. On the other hand, harsh manners will leave a negative impression. The receiver may think those manners are representative of Islam, which causes him to turn away from the religion.
The way to paradise
The Prophet (PBUH) once stated that the dearest of Muslims to him on the Day of Resurrection would be those who have the best attitude.
It is important for us to understand that good manners and adab are an important characteristic of a good Muslim. It is possible in some rare occasions for a person to be a good Muslim at heart who truly loves and admires Allah, yet he fails to showcase good manners in the way he treats humans and animals. However, most of the time, there is a correlation. If a person is ill-mannered, the chances are that he may not be well-versed with the Quran or the Sunnah.
Lastly, we should also keep in mind that in life, we must keep learning and improving. Humans make mistakes all the time, but there are three types of humans. The first is the type who doesn’t bother about right and wrong and do whatever they want. The next is the type who know when they are doing something wrong, but they persist with it. The last is the type who know when they are doing something wrong, and they try to improve themselves. It’s important for Muslims to fall into this last category.
We should think of adab in the same way that we think of good and bad deeds. Humans are prone to committing bad deeds, but as Muslims, we understand that to enter paradise, we need to minimize those and do more good deeds. The same applies to manners. After all, if a person is committing good deeds all the time, but then goes and disregards the Islamic teachings about parents and mistreats them, can he truly be successful in Allah’s eyes? Something for us to ponder over.