Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Good manners akin to worship|
|07/24/01 at 02:05:11|
|Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh|
Good manners akin to worship
The Prophet [saw] emphasizes that Muslims should have [i]good manners[/i] as a very desirable accomplishment. Indeed, the term "good manners" is rather inadequate as a translation of the expression the Prophet [saw] uses. The Arabic phrase combines good manners with a refined moral sense and an overall attitude which always prefers what common sense indicates to be the more desirable choice. Hence, when we speak of good manners in an Islamic context, we have to bear in mind that the phrase has much wider associations.
We can appreciate that broad sense of the phrase when we reflect on the following Hadith in which Abu Hurairah quotes the Prophet [saw] as saying: "The best of you with regard to being genuine believers in Islam are those who have the best manners, provided that they acquire a sound knowledge of their religion." (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad and Ahmad).
What the Prophet [saw] tells us in this Hadith is that people who have good manners need only to acquire a good understanding of Islamic teachings in order to be the best of the faithful. At the first glance, this equation may seem to need some justification. Little reflection, however, will show that it is absolutely correct.
Every commandment, directive, or instruction of God, requiring us to do certain things or to refrain from doing others, recommending us to adopt a certain attitude or restraining us from reacting in a particular way has our interest in mind. The aim which is served by all these teachings, and by every single one of them, is to make of us better people. It is needless to say that a person who has a thorough understanding of these teachings, knowing which of them is compulsory and which is recommended, which must be observed at all times and which may be relaxed according to situation, develops a good sense of the Islamic ideal of human character. If such an understanding is coupled with a natural aptitude to observing good manners, then all the requirements for making a virtuous person are fulfilled.
There is, however, another element which is needed to make the mixture complete. This element is to believe in Islam. That means believing in the oneness of God and that Muhammad [saw] is His messenger. The point is that every virtue acquires a rich increase in real value when it is tied to faith. In the absence of faith, it remains shaky and cannot establish its roots in people's hearts. There is no denying that among non-believers there are people of good character. They may abide by a strict standard of morals. If such people believe in God and the Day of Judgment, they become infinitely better persons. This is a fact of life which we understand from this Hadith and another which is akin to it. Once the Prophet [saw] was asked who were the best people. He first determined that his interlocutors were asking about people's characters. Then, in answer, he said: "The best among them in pre-Islamic days are the best in Islam, provided they acquire a good understanding of it." This Hadith clearly recognizes that among nonbelievers there are virtuous people. If these become Muslims and understand Islam well, they become much better people.
For a better understanding of the import of these two Hadiths, it may be useful to give a brief outline of the aim of Islamic teachings, commandments and directives. We can say in general terms that all Islamic teachings aim at correcting our beliefs so that we have a thorough understanding of the concept of the oneness of God, fulfilling our worship duties and conducting our transactions with fairness. As a correlative to these, we have to refrain from what God has forbidden us and to fulfil what He has recommended or enjoined upon us. Muslim scholars have explained that there are five things which we need to preserve and look after.
These are religion, body, mind, offspring and property. We preserve our religion by understanding it and by guarding against the alien ideas which may adulterate our concepts and principles. We also need to fulfil our worship duties, whether these are verbal, mental or involving action. It is worth noting here that all worship must be dedicated purely to God and they, in turn, help us maintain the purity of our religion. God also commands us to look after ourselves, keeping our bodies and minds in a good state. It is forbidden for any human being to kill himself or destroy any part of his body. He is also required to look after his mental health. Moreover, it is strictly forbidden to injure anyone else, whether physically or mentally. To regulate all that, Islam provides detailed legislation and specific punishments for certain crimes, leaving other punishments to be determined by Muslim judges according to the circumstances of the offence. It is also important to look after our offspring, and that includes the duty of having only legitimate children. For this reason, Islam provides legislation which regulates marriage and divorce. It forbids causing any injury to any child whether by his parents or anyone else. Again, Islam wants us to look after our property and to respect the property of others, forbidding us to take anything which belongs to another person except in one of the legitimate ways approved by Islam. In order to understand all these matters, God has sent us messengers with detailed messages, and undertaken to preserve the final and most complete of these messages, i.e. Islam, intact so that it remains available to all mankind in all generations.
When we bear all that in mind, we understand that acquiring a good standard of Islamic knowledge is bound to help a believer improve his character and influence those with whom he comes in contact, motivating them to become better people. When his knowledge is combined with good manners, he provides a good example of the high standard Islam wants for its followers.
So far, we have tried to place equal emphasis on good knowledge of Islam and good manners. The two are mutually complementary. When a person acquires both of them in equal measure, he climbs steadily on his way to a sublime standard of humanity. In some religious countries, devotion is emphasized so strongly that worship seems to be an end in itself. In Islam, worship has a dual purpose: to maintain faith pure and to improve the character of the worshiper. Hence, Islam encourages voluntary worship, especially in the depth of the night, when a person is alone, standing up to worship in preference to sleep and rest. Such worship has a profound influence on the character of the worshipper. Because of this influence, the Prophet [saw] and his companions were commanded in the early days of Islam to stand up in worship at night, to help them formulate their new characters and to give them an additional strength of faith. The Prophet [saw] and his companions fulfilled this order, spending several hours in the night in prayer and worship. They did that for a whole year devoting a portion of one to two thirds of each night to worship. This directive was later relaxed to make night worship voluntary, but strongly recommended.
Bearing that in mind, consider the following Hadith in which Abu Hurairah quotes the Prophet [saw] as saying: "Through good manners, a man may attain the high standard of one who stands up at night in worship." (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Al-Hakim and Abu Da-wood).
The Prophet [saw] is obviously referring here to a person who consciously implements what good manners and high moral values require of him in all his dealings with other people. The Prophet [saw] is not referring here only to a small set of universal virtues. He is referring to a high standard of good manners and a refined sense of virtues and moral values.
According to one scholar, the lowest degree of good manners is to react to ill-treatment by relatives and friends with forbearance, to forgo what one may earn of reward, to show compassion to those who may transgress and to pray God to forgive them. If this is the lowest standard of good manners, we imagine what a high standard means.
[i]By Adil Salahi - Arab News - 18 June 1999[/i]
Wassalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh
Haniff (with 2 f's)
|Re: Good manners akin to worship|
|07/24/01 at 07:42:36|
This topic reminded me of a discussion I had with a sister, in regard to good manners.
In every society manners differ from other societies. For example at the table- in America it is "proper" to eat with utensils.
Does anyone know if there are hadith about Prophet Muhammad pbuh acting in a different way then he would customarily, when he was with kings or peoples of different nations?
I wonder if we should ask our children to continue to eat with their fingers, and licking them and forgoing the napkin, when in school, restaurants, non-Muslim friends and families homes?
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