ISLAM TEACHES US GOOD MANNERS AND COURTESY

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

We should not forget that Satan 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 that destroys Satan 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 such qualities as courtesy, elegance, good manners, and modesty become their natural disposition.

That which makes a human being superior to other creatures is good manners. A human being gains their esteem in the presence of Allah Almighty through their 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.”

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. They will thus be able to see the spiritual scenes and deepen in wisdom, because many great mysteries 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 traveller 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-Din al-Rumi, may Allah sanctify his secret, 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’an, 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 Rabbani, may Allah sanctify his secret, says:

“None can make progress towards union with Allah 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 are those observed towards our Creator.

GOOD MANNERS TOWARDS ALLAH ALMIGHTY

We should not forget that Satan 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 Satan hates most is good manners.

How beautifully Rumi, may Allah sanctify his secret, explains this state:

“When Satan 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, Satan is cursed and banished from the Divine presence. In addition to his insolent response, Satan attempted to argue with his Creator.”

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 contemplate the end of Satan and take lessons from it.

A servant who shows the appropriate manners towards Allah Almighty avoids all kinds of reckless actions, and realises their mistakes and heedlessness in their worship and in their dealings with others. They protect themselves from the disease of excessive reliance upon their deeds.

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

Such utterances of those who abandon their worship and go astray as “What can I do? This is my fate,” are just statements of selfishness and utter heedlessness. Allah Almighty bestows the motivation to worship to those who intend to worship, while He creates obstacles before those who have no intention of worshipping Him. This is why finding excuses for failure to perform worship and blaming fate is plain foolishness and a great disrespect against Allah Almighty. We should remember that it was because of such disrespect that Satan deviated and went astray.

This is why seeing the believers who show proper respect, obedience, and resignation, or who in other words show proper manners of servitude is what disturbs Satan most.

One of the greatest objects of Sufism is to raise people to the state of iḥsan or the state of realisation of constantly being in the presence of Allah, and thus to display the best of manners towards Allah. Sufis say:

“Hold fast to good manners externally and internally. Because if someone makes a mistake in their external etiquette, they receive external punishment; while those who commit mistakes in their inner manners will be punished internally. Whoever loses their good manners distances themselves from Allah Almighty, even if they think that they draw near to Him; though they may think that they are accepted, they are in fact turned away.” (Bursawi, Ismail Haqqi,Ruh al- Bayan, X:401)

Therefore, instead of showing defiant rejection, we should show contentment concerning 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 the most significant of spiritual manners.

On an occasion, a scholar of hadith saw young Bayazid al-Bistami and was impressed by his actions. In order to test Bayazid’s intelligence and comprehension, he asked:

“Do you know how to perform the ritual prayer?”

Bayazid replied:

“Indeed. With the permission of Allah Almighty.” The scholar asked again, “How do you mean?”

Bayazid said:

“I start performing the prayer with the consciousness of having entered the presence of Allah in obedience to His command. Then I declare, ‘Allah is Great’, recite verses from the Qur’an, bow down in reverence, prostrate in humility and finally make complete my prayer saying, ‘May the peace and mercy of Allah be upon you.’

The man was astonished and asked:

“Why do you let people to caress your head (as they do to children) while you have such deep understanding and are such an intelligent young boy?” The man was afraid that people’s fondness and compliments might cause pride in Bayazid and thus wanted to warn him.

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

“They are not caressing my head but sensing the goodness that my Lord has bestowed upon me. How can I prevent them making contact with something that does not belong to me?”

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

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

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

Anas ibn Malik, may Allah be well pleased with him, says:

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

Khidr, peace be upon him, advises to make the following supplication:

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

Because the friends of Allah live in consciousness of being perpetually in the presence of Allah Almighty, they pay utmost attention to their external comportment in addition to their inward manners. This can be expressed as maintaining the state of reverence and respect one feels during worship at all other times as well. In fact Allah Almighty declares in the Qur’an concerning this:

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

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

Jalal al-Din al-Rumi interprets these verses as follows:

“A servant maintains their state during prayer, outside their prayer also. Thus, they spend their entire life in reverence, respect and good manners, and in examination of their tongue and heart. This is the state of the real friends of Allah 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 qualities such as courtesy, elegance, good manners, and modesty become part of their natural disposition.

Showing respect towards Allah, glory unto Him, also embraces other beings according to their closeness to Him. The second most significant reverence should be shown towards the Messenger of Allah, upon him be peace and blessings.

MANNERS TOWARDS THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH

The Companions of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, manifested the best examples of manners towards the Prophet. They depicted their state of respect as follows:

“We sat down around the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, so quietly that it was as if birds were perched upon heads and that they would fly away if we moved.”[1]

The Companions’ respect towards the Messenger of Allah, upon him be peace and blessings, 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 to come and ask the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, the questions they had in mind, so that they too could benefit from his answers.

Out of their respect, there were very few Companions who could look directly at the Messenger of Allah, upon him be peace and blessings. It was even narrated that among the Companions, only ‘Umar and Abu Bakr, may Allah be well pleased with them, could look at the Prophet’s face during his sermons. (Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 16:3668)

When we venture to describe the Messenger of Allah, upon him be peace and blessings, 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, upon him be peace and blessings, when his name is mentioned, is among the commands of Allah Almighty to the Muslims. 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)

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

Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be well pleased with him, says about this verse:

“People used to address the Messenger of Allah, upon him be peace and blessings, as ‘Muhammad!’ or ‘Abu al-Qasim!’ Allah Almighty prohibited them from addressing him thus. Afterwards, people started to address him as “O Messenger of Allah!” (Abu Nu’aym, Dala’il, I:46)

Therefore, as his followers, mentioning only the name of our Prophet is unbecoming. Alongside his name, we should also mention his sublime and blessed attributes. We should also respect everything close to the Messenger of Allah, upon him be peace and blessings.

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), Abu Lays, may Allah have mercy upon him, said:

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

This is why we should also say things to show our respect when their names are mentioned; the language we use in doing so is not of consequence. Since we are prohibited to call our biological fathers with their names, consider the degree of disrespect in specifying our spiritual fathers’ names.” (Ruh al-Bayan, VII:447)

In other words, one of the most significant manifestations of our respect to the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, is to show respect to the friends of Allah and the wise, who are the inheritors of the Prophet. 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 it to be a blessing to be around them as those who respectfully come into their presence leave with blessings.

The Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, says:

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

The warning “to be careful” in the above mentioned saying of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, means that one must not go into the presence of the perfect believers with hidden agendas and impure hearts. This is why there is the saying, “Watch what you say in front of a scholar; and watch what you have in your heart in the presence 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 Almighty.

In short, good manners are very important in Islam. Sensitivity about our manners starts with being reverent towards Allah and respectful towards His Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and His friends, and continues with being respectful to parents, to other human beings and to all other creatures.

Material wealth can be lost, but the richness of good manners will always stay with us. Therefore, believers should learn the principles of good manners and must try their utmost 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 in the company of good mannered and righteous believers.

[1]      See Abu Dawud, Sunna, 23-24:4753; Ibn Maja, Jana’iz, 37.