GOOD MANNERS AND COURTESY

Good manners are the most important provision of the traveler of the straight path. A person cannot be both pious and quarrelsome and unkind.

We should not forget that Devil was banished from the Divine presence not because of lack of knowledge or actions but because of bad manners. This is why the best thing which destroys Devil is good manners.

The object of spiritual discipline is to make people to attain the consciousness and understanding of being watched by Divine cameras all the time; so that the qualities such as courtesy, elegance, good manners, and modesty become his natural characteristics.

What make a human being better than other creatures are good manners. A human being gains his esteem in the presence of Allah the Almighty through his courtesy, elegance, good manners, and modesty. This is why there is a special place for good manners and courtesy in the hearts of the friends of Allah. In fact many Sufis describe Sufism as “good manners and courtesy.”

Shāḥ Naqshiband, who was trained under the spiritual guidance of Amir Kulāl, endowed himself to the service of the sick and stricken people in the early years of his affiliation with his Sufi order in order to annihilate his pride and understand the real meaning of the state of nothingness. He narrates his state at the time as follows:

“I served my master for a long time. My pride decreased to such a level that when I saw a creature of Allah the Almighty on my way, I started to stop and wait for it to go. I could not take a step before the creature. My service continued for seven years. As a result of my service, I have attained such a spiritual state that I started to feel the supplications of animals to the Lord Almighty.”

For the wise souls, everything in the universe is the manifestation of Divine power and might. In order to attain this spiritual state, human souls should be trained and refined through spiritual training. Thus it will be able to see the spiritual scenes and to deepen in wisdom, because many inconceivable secrets can be solved through wisdom. Spiritual secrets will not become evident until wisdom has reached a certain level of maturity.

Good manners are the most important provision of the traveler of the straight path. A person cannot be both pious and quarrelsome and unkind. As a creed, the spiritual essence of Islam is tawhid or believing in the oneness of Allah, and, in practice, good manners, uprightness, and compassion. In this regard, it can be said that Islam is composed of measures of elegance, courtesy, cleanliness or “good manners.” How elegantly Jalal al-Dīn Rumī  states this reality in the following lines:

“Open your eyes and look carefully into the word of Allah from beginning to the end. The whole Qur’ān, all of its verses, is but explanation of good manners.”

Friends of Allah have attained such high levels of spirituality through their good manners. Imam Rabbānī  says that:

“None can make progress towards unity with Allah the Almighty without complying with the measures of good manners. The way of great Sufis is composed of good manners from beginning to the end.” And the most significant of good manners is the ones observed towards our Creator.

GOOD MANNERS TOWARDS ALLAH THE ALMIGHTY

We should not forget that the devil was banished from the Divine presence, not because of his lack of knowledge or actions, but because of his bad manners. This is why the thing that the devil hates most is good manners.

How nicely Rumī explains this state:

“When Devil refused to prostrate before Adam and disobeyed the command of Allah, he said:

“My essence is fire, while his essence is clay. Would it be appropriate for someone who is eminent to prostrate to someone who is low?”

Because of this impertinent response, Devil is cursed and banished from Divine presence. In addition to his rude response, Devil attempted to argue with his creator.”(Fihi Mā Fīh, p. 159)

Abū ‘Alī al-Daqqāq (may Allah have mercy upon his soul) says that:

“Leaving good manners requires to be banished from Divine presence. Whoever misbehaves in front of the Sultan, he would be sent to the door; and if he misbehaves at the door, he would be sent to the barn.”

Our predecessors advised us to take lessons from the states and fates of ill-mannered people in their saying “Learn your manners from the ill-mannered.” We should think about the end of Demon and take lessons from it.

A servant who shows the appropriate manners towards Allah the Almighty avoids all kinds of reckless actions, and realizes his mistakes and heedlessness in his worship and dealings with others. He protects himself/herself from the illness of too much reliance upon his actions.

We should not forget that no matter how good our actions are, they are like a bucket of water poured into an ocean. We should never see our worship and services adequate in comparison to the blessings of Allah the Almighty. We should compare our actions to the acts of the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh), not to that of the ordinary person in contemporary society, since Allah presents us Ansār and Muājirūn as examples. On the other hand, those who have the appropriate manners of servitude are aware that all goodness comes from Allah the Almighty, and all kinds of weakness come from their own selves.

The words of those who abandon their worship and go astray “what can I do? This is my fate” are just statements of selfishness and fiendish heedlessness. Allah the Almighty bestows the motivation to worship for those who intend to worship, while He creates obstacles before those who have no intention to worship. This is why finding excuses for not worshipping and blaming fate is plain foolishness and a great disrespect against Allah the Almighty. We should remember that because of such disrespect Satan slipped and went astray.

This is why what upsets Satan most is to see the believers who show proper respect, obedience, and consent in other words show proper manners of servitude.

One of the greatest objects of Sufism is to raise people to the state of isān or the state of realization of being in the presence of Allah all the time, and thus to show good manners towards Allah. Sufis say that:

“Hold on to good manners externally and internally. Because if someone makes a mistake about his manners externally, he gets external punishment; while those who commit mistakes about their inner manners will be punished internally. Whoever loses his good manners gets away from Allah the Almighty, even if he thinks that he gets closer to Him and even if he thinks that he is accepted, in fact he is rejected.”(Bursevī, Ismail Hakki, Ruul Bayān, X, 401)

Therefore, instead of showing defiant rejection, we should show contentment about the things that our Lord has predestined for us. We should accept that they are for our benefit and this way of thinking is among most significant spiritual manners.

On an occasion, a Hadith scholar saw young Bayazid al-Bistamī and liked his actions. In order to test Bayazid’s intelligence and comprehension, he asked:

“O Boy! Do you know how to perform ritual prayer?”

Bayazid replied:

“With the permission of Allah the Almighty, I know.” The scholar asked again: “How is it?”

Bayazid said:

“I start praying in such a feeling that “Dear Lord! I came to Your presence in order to fulfill your command”. Then I say “Allah is the Greatest”; recite verses from the Qur’ān; bend down with reverence; then modestly prostrate; and finally make my farewells saying al-salāmu alaikum wa-rahmatullah.

The man was astonished and asked:

“Why do you let people to caress your head while you have such deep understanding and are such an intelligent boy?” The man thought that people’s fondness and compliments may give Bayazid pride and he wanted to warn him.

The young Bayazid gave the hadith scholar the following wise response:

“They are not caressing my head but they are touching the goodness that my Lord has bestowed upon me. How can I stop them to touch something that does not belong to me?”

A believer needs to reach such a state that he should accept that all the goodness that comes from Allah the Almighty, and he should not attribute anything to his own self.

The most valuable manner towards Allah is to revere Him. And the best manifestation of reverence shows itself in our worship. Friends of Allah state that:

“Worship takes a person to Paradise; while reverence and good manners in worship takes him to Allah the Almighty and makes him His friend.”

Anas b. Mālik (r.a) says that:

“Showing good manners in actions is a sign of their acceptance.”

Hiḍir (a.s) advises to say the following prayers:

“Dear Lord! Bless me with good manners in worshipping You.”

Because friends of Allah live being aware of that they are always in the presence of Allah the Almighty, they pay utmost attention to their external good manners in addition to their inward manners. This can be expressed as keeping the state of reverence and respect out of worship as well. In fact Allah the Almighty says in the Holy Qur’ān in this respect that:

“Those who are constant at their prayer”(70; 23)

“And those who keep a guard on their prayer”(70; 34)

Jalal al-Dīn Rumī interprets these verses as follows:

“A servant keeps his state in prayer, after he is out of prayer as well. Thus he spends all his life in reverence, respect, and good manners; and watching his tongue and heart. This is the state of real friends of Allah the Almighty…”

The object of spiritual discipline is to make people to attain the consciousness and understanding of being watched by Divine cameras all the time; so that the qualities such as courtesy, elegance, good manners, and modesty become his natural characteristics.

Dawūd al-Ṭāī narrates that:

“I have been with Abū Ḥanīfah for twenty years. During all those years, I paid attention to him and I have never seen him bare headed neither when he was alone nor when he was with others. I haven’t seen him stretching his legs even when he was resting. I asked him:

“What is wrong to stretch your legs when you were alone?” he said:

“It is better to show your manners when you are in the presence of Allah the Almighty.”

Mahmud Sami Ramazanoglu  has never been seen stretching his legs or having a meal leaning his back to something. He used to recite the following lines to the people around him:

Good manners are a crown made from the light of the Lord

Put this crown on and be safe from all kinds of troubles

People cannot act freely when they are in the presence of a sultan or someone who is at a high rank, like they do in other places and at other times. Friends of Allah are the ones who are aware of their existence in the presence of Allah the Almighty and accept this situation without any evidence. In other words they live being conscious of the meaning of the verse:

وَهُوَ مَعَكُمْ اَيْنَ مَا كُنْتُمْ

“…and He is with you wherever you are…”(57; 4) This is why good manners embrace all aspects of their lives.

The friends of Allah are careful about their manners even when they are away from the eyes of the people. For instance, the friends of Allah are sensitive about wearing skullcaps all the time, which are worn as a sign of respect during the ritual prayers.

When one of the Companions asked the Prophet (pbuh) if he was allowed to wear anything he wants when he was alone, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) told him:

“Allah is more entitled than people that bashfulness should be shown to him.”(Abū Dawūd, ammām, 2/4017)

Our ancestors, who were molded with Islamic manners, manifested the best examples of manners, reverence and respect. Salomon Schweigger, who was a Protestant priest, writes the following lines in his travel book about the Muslims:

“Muslims cover themselves even when they are in the bath house. How respectful people they are! We should learn good manners and decency from them, whom we call barbarians.”[1]

Covering oneself is a characteristic of human beings. There is no such issue for other creatures. Covering oneself is also a natural manner of servitude. In fact Adam and Eve (r.a) felt ashamed and looked for something to cover themselves when they were in Paradise, even though they were there all alone. Therefore covering oneself and bashfulness are natural characteristics of human beings.

Showing respect towards Allah also embraces other beings according to their closeness to Allah the Almighty. The second most significant respect should be shown towards the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).

MANNERS TOWARDS THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH (pbuh)

The companions of the Prophet (pbuh) manifested the best examples of manners towards the Prophet (pbuh). They depicted their state of respect as follows:

“We sat down around the Prophet (pbuh) so quietly that as if birds were over our heads and if we moved that they would fly away.”[2]

The companions’ respect towards the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was so great that most of the time they even considered it rude to ask him questions. Because of this, they would wish for a bedouin from the desert would come and ask the Prophet (pbuh) the questions they had in mind, so that they could too benefit from his answers.

Out of their respect, there were very few companions who could look at the face of the Prophet. It was even narrated that among the companions only ‘Omar and Abū Bakr (r.a) could look at Prophet’s face during his sermons. (Tirmidhī, Manāqib, 16/3668)

‘Amr b. Āṣ, conqueror of Egypt, explains this as follows:

“And then no one as or dear to me than the Messenger of Allah and none was more sublime in my eyes than he, Never could I, pluck courage to catch a full glimpse of his face due to its splendor. So if I am asked to describe his features, I cannot do that for I have not eyed him fully.”(Muslim, Kitāb al-Imān, 192)

When we dare to describe the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) with our limited understanding, we ask for Allah’s forgiveness for our unintentional mistakes in describing His Messenger.

On the other hand, sending greetings and praising the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), when his name is uttered, is among the commands of Allah the Almighty to the Muslim nation. It is stated in the following verse:

“Surely Allah and His angels bless the Prophet; O you who believe! Call for (Divine) blessings on him and salute him with a (becoming) salutation.”(33; 56)

It is remarkable to see that while all the prophets (a.s) are mentioned in the Qur’ān by name, the Qur’ān does not address the Messenger of Allah as “O Muhammad!” He (pbuh) is addressed as “O Prophet! or O Messenger of Allah!” Allah the Almighty invites all the believers to follow this manner in their lives:

“(O Believers) Do not hold the Messenger’s calling (you) among you to be like your calling one to the other; ….”(24; 63)

Ibn ‘Abbās (r.a) says about this verse that:

“People used to address the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) as “O Muhammad! or O Abū al-Qasim!” Allah the Almighty prohibited them to use such addressing towards him. Afterwards, people started to address him as “O Allah’s Apostle! or O Messenger of Allah!”(Abū Nuaym, Dalāil, I, 46)

Therefore, as his followers, mentioning only the name of our Prophet is against the appropriate manners. Together with his name, we should also mention his sublime and holy attributes. We should also respect everything close to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).

The state of the Ottoman sultan Yavuz Selim, who loved the Prophet (pbuh), is a good example for us. He conquered Egypt in 1517 and took over the office of the caliphate. On Friday February 20th, when preacher of the Malik Muayyad Mosque called him as “ākim al-aramayn al-Sharifayn or ruler of the two honorable cities or Mecca and Medina”, he stopped the preacher and told him with tearful eyes:

“No, no! I am not the ruler of these blessed places. On the contrary, I am “ādim al-aramayn al-Sharifayn or the servant of the two honorable cities or Mecca and Medina.”

Then he took the carpet off the ground and prostrated on earth and thanked his Lord. And as a sign of his servitude, he put a plume in the shape of a broom on top of his turban from that day on.

Another magnificent example of respect was manifested by the oppressed and martyred Ottoman sultan Abdulaziz Khan. One day when he was lying sick in his bed, he was told that: “He had a message from Medina.”

He told his assistants:

“Help me to stand up immediately. I need to listen to the requests coming from these blessed cities standing. It is disrespectful to listen to the requests of the neighbors of the Prophet lying in bed.”

And he also performed ritual ablution whenever he got mail from Medina, kissed the letters for there was Medina’s dust over them and then gave them to his head clerk in order to be opened and read.

MANNERS TOWARDS THE FRIENDS OF ALLAH

After interpreting the verse “Do not hold the Messenger’s calling (you) among you to be like your calling one to the other” (24; 63), Abū Lays (may Allah have mercy upon him) said:

“We also understand from this verse that we should show respect to the teachers. It’s been pointed out that the rights of the teachers and virtuous people should be observed.

This is why when their names are mentioned, and the language does not matter, we should also say things to show our respect. Since we are prohibited to call our biological fathers with their names, think about how disrespectful to specify our spiritual fathers’ names.”(Ru al-Bayān, VII, 447)

In other words, one of the most significant manifestations of our respect to the Prophet (pbuh) is to show respect to the friends of Allah, the wise and Gnostics, who are the inheritors of the Prophet (pbuh). For spiritual ascendance, we need to respectfully appeal to the guidance of the friends of Allah, listen to and do our best to apply their advice in our lives. We should accept as a blessing to be around them. Because those who respectfully come in to their presence go out with blessings.

Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) says:

“Be careful about the sagacity of a believer; because he looks through the light of Allah.”(Tirmidhī, Tafsīr, 15)

The warning “to be careful” in the above mentioned saying of the Prophet (pbuh) means that “Do not go into the presence of the perfect believers with hidden agendas and impure hearts.” This is why there is a saying that “watch what you say in front of a scholar; and watch what you have in your heart in front of a friend of Allah.”

Therefore, we need to be more careful about our manners towards the friends of Allah. Talking, sitting and standing up in front of them without their permission, and being rude to them both reduces any spiritual benefit and incites the punishment of Allah the Almighty.

Whenever the Ottoman sultan, Yavuz Selim Khān went into the presence of the friends of Allah, he would not speak unless it was necessary. In fact when he visited Muhammad Badahshī  in Damascus, he did not speak, he just listened and then he left. The dignitaries with him were shocked and asked him:

“O our Sultan! You just listened. Why didn’t you say a word?” Yavuz Selim Khān replied:

“It is not appropriate for anybody, even for the sultan, to speak in the presence of a friend of Allah. Even though we are the sultans of this world, we always need the help of the sultans of the spiritual world. If my speech was needed, they would let us know and make me speak.” This was the courtesy and manner of Yavuz Selim Khān towards the friends of Allah.

Not just sultans, but also the laymen were careful about their manners towards the friends of Allah. During the last days of the Ottoman Empire, the captains who had cruises along the Bosporus used to invite their passengers to say prayers for Aziz Maḥmūd Hudāyī and Yaḥyā Efendī when they were passing close by their tombs.

In short, good manners are something very important in Islam. Sensitivity about our manners starts with being reverent towards Allah and respectful towards His Messenger (pbuh) and His friends; and continues with being respectful to parents, to believers and to all other beings.

Material wealth might get lost but richness of good manners will always stay with us. Therefore believers should learn the principles of good manners and should try to observe them. They need to be role models for humanity through applying those principles in their lives. In order to achieve this goal, we need to read and study the books about the principles of good manners; more importantly we need to be close to good mannered and righteous believers.

May Allah bless us all with the high morals of the Prophet (pbuh). May He bless us to be one of the courteous, nice, and respectful believers who benefit from the spiritual world of the friends of Allah.

Amin…

 

[1].      Ortaylı, İlber, Osmanlıyı Yeniden Keşfetmek, 88

[2].      See Abū Dawūd, Sunnah, 23-24/4753; Ibn Mājah, Janāiz, 37