By: Sister Jasmine Khan
I was travelling in a bus one day; it was crowded with school children on their way home. As I tried to tune out the chattering of shrill young voices, I looked around and felt that there was something wrong. Then I noticed that the seats were occupied by children, some as young as six or seven, while adults battled to keep steady standing in the aisle.
Many of us have forgotten some of the old school manners that our parents, grandparents, and teachers taught us. This is of course the key, manners or good conduct is instilled in us by our parents. After all, a child learns by watching, seeing and hearing what those around him do. In this increasingly frenetic world, making a good impression is vital, and good manners and respect for others can go a long way to ensuring that you do. There seems to be a lack of respect for what has been taught in the Quran and Sunnah when it comes to our behaviour. It is not that we do not know how we are supposed to behave; it seems more like a general carelessness in our conduct. “Good Manners” would appear to be a pet dinosaur, which is trotted out from time to time on very special occasions. In our daily life we seem to we care more for our possessions than for those around us. We are so focussed on the material, that we ignore the spiritual. In our drive for the outer trappings we contaminate our souls, and the souls of those around us. It is a basic human need to be acknowledged; when we fail to respect others, we are denying them their uniqueness as a fellow creation of Allah Ta’ala.
All praise is due to Allah Ta’ala who created the universe and taught His greatest Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) the best of manners, purified his character and conduct and adopted him as His friend. This is our perfect example; in fact, we are commanded by Allah Ta’ala to follow the Sunnah, and if we do, we cannot go wrong. Allah Ta’ala says “Say, (O Muhammad, to mankind); If ye love Allah , follow me; Allah will love you and forgive your sins. Allah Ta’ala is forgiving and Merciful. Say: Obey Allah and the messenger. But if they turn away, lo! Allah loveth not the disbelievers (in his guidance)”.Quran: Surah 3; Verse 31-32.Outer good manners are a reflection of inner good conduct. Our behaviour is a direct result of our thoughts, and good character and conduct is manifested in our actions. When we exert the power given to us by Allah Ta’ala as our Creator, we access the light of secret power within; with good manners this power is expressed outwardly as a rhyme of beauty; the beauty of the soul and that of actions. Our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) never behaved as if he was greater than others. Nor did He belittle people, or cause them embarrassment or humiliation. He always greeted people kindly, and showed respect to elders as well as to children. He once said: “The dearest of you to me are those who have good manners.” (Al-Bukhari)
However, when young people do not bother to greet elderly relatives living on their property, when they go to work and come back without checking up someone who lives a few steps from their back door, is it any wonder that the children do not bother to do so either. When parents shout at their children, address them without any respect for their feelings, are it any wonder that the youth of today are careless and have no respect for others?
Almighty Allah Ta’ala says:
“Certainly you have in the Messenger of Allah Ta’ala an excellent exemplar for those who hope in Allah Ta’ala and the latter day and remember Allah Ta’ala much.”](Al-Ahzab 33:21)
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) practised what he preached; he showed how we should live as individuals and as members of the society. He disciplined himself by staying aloof from quarrels and quibbles. He never engaged in bad language. How refreshing when we consider how most of us cannot refrain from getting involved in the problems of others. His exemplary manners make him a model for us to follow. He stressed the importance of good manners. He said: “The best of you is the best among you in conduct: (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) Also: “The heaviest thing to be placed in the balance of a believing slave on the Day of Judgement will be good behaviour. And Allah Ta’ala hates the one who uses bad language” (Hadith-AL Bayhaqi). Should we not take cognisance of this when next we feel like shouting of insulting those dear to us?
When asked what one needs to get to Jannah, The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) answer was: “Piety and good conduct”
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) went even further to declare that we will inhabit different levels in Jannah, based on good manners: “The dearest and nearest among you to me on the Day of Resurrection will be the one who is the best in conduct.” (Ibn An-Najjaar).
Ethics in Islam is different from any other ethical system because it is derived from a Divine source; the revelation from Allah Ta’ala. It cannot be changed, or manipulated to fit our desires. It applies regardless of time or place. This system has not been changed for thousands of years. What was considered good morals in the past will remain as good morals throughout time. What was considered as bad morals in the past will also remain so forever, even if society accepts it as a norm. The system of ethics is not affected by cultural norms, because Allah Ta’ala is the One who determines what is acceptable and what is not. The Noble Quran is very detailed and clearly mentions the significance of good manners. No other ethical system can match it. It teaches humans how to deal with every aspect of their lives; it is not a man made system; it is the Deen of Allah Ta’ala. He made it complete and integrated. Unlike other ethical systems, Islam’s moral system is a very detailed and complete package. Islam addresses every aspect of human life, no matter how minor. It does not lack anything that needs to be completed nor does it have any defects that need to be amended. The Deen of Islam guides our morals that deal with the individual, the community, and Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It also guides us on how to deal with rulers and how to honour and respect scholars. Islam even directs us on how to act during times of peace and war.
Allah Ta’ala favoured us by sending us Rasulullah (peace be upon him), so that he may teach us wisdom. Let us reflect on Allah Ta’ala’s words, study the Sunnah; and resolve to follow it, Insha’Allah. If you want a successful and happy life, then simply apply Islam to it, and you will have wonderful results. Good manners, self respect and respect for others go hand in hand. What a lovely gift to give to our children.
Imam Malik (RA) is reported to have said: The Sunnah is like the Ark, those who board will be saved, and those who don’t, will perish.