Etiquettes of a Muslim’s Social Life
“Do not exceed the limits in Deen unlawfully and do not follow the vain desires of people who have gone astray before, led many astray and have departed from the Straight Path.” (Surah Maaidah, 77)
A Muslim owes another Muslim several rights; making Salaam, answering his call – be it an invitation for meals or a call for help, when he sneezes and says, “Alhamdulillah” then to respond with, “Yarhamukallah”, to visit him when he is sick, and to attend his Janaazah Salaat when he passes away. These are rights owed to another Muslim in his presence.
Then there are other rights germane to his absence, for instance to respond to backbiting aimed at him, to reject slander against him, etc. Some obligatory etiquettes pertaining to these rights shall be addressed today.
Perimeters of Islam
It should be understood that Akhlaaq and Mu’aasharat (the moral and social code of Islam) also have prescribed limits and rules, just as the laws pertaining to Namaaz and Roza (Salaat and Saum) have. As a consequence of excesses and deficiencies in these limits and rules a person ends up abusing the rights of others. Just as a four-rakaat Namaaz is not discharged if five or three rakaats are read, Asr Salaat is not discharged during the time of Zuhr, Qiraat is not permissible in Rukoo’ – in fact it is sinful – fasting till Asr is not Roza and it is a sin to fast till Isha, similarly the laws pertaining to Akhlaaq and Mu’aasharat also have their limits. Immoderation and imperfection in these limits result in the perpetration of wrong. Hence it is obligatory to be aware of their etiquettes and limits.
The way of socializing adopted nowadays clearly reveals that most people are unaware of the laws pertaining to social behaviour, as if they do not even regard it to be part of Deen and hence whatever comes in their mind they carry out. Hence they do not ascertain the laws of these.
Some who know somewhat consider deficiency and imperfection in the moral and social code of conduct to be bad, but they do not consider immoderation to be bad. For them excesses and over-indulgence are unquestionably desired and cherished, whereas earlier it was learnt from the Aayat of the Qur’aan that exceeding the limits is reproachable. Just as deficiency is bad, similarly, excess is also bad.
Transgressing the Limits
Consider Salaam. Look at the excesses people commit here. They make Salaam whilst another is engaged in Zikr, engaged in Tilaawat of the Qur’aan, during the Khutbah and during Azaan. These types of excesses are also not favourable in the Deen. The prohibition of these is in the Aayat:
“Do not commit excesses in your Deen”. (Surah Nisaa, 171)
The similitude of this is like a medicinal prescription. If a physician prescribes a certain quantity of a medication, now if a person thinks that since the physician has prescribed this medication there should certainly be benefit in it and the more of it is taken the greater will the benefit be, and thus he increases the dosage, it will never be beneficial because the benefit is conditional to a prescribed amount. Similarly, by virtue of the Shariah being spiritual treatment its injunctions should be viewed similar to the dosages prescribed in medicines. Therefore, observing less or more will invariably produce harm.
Allah Ta’ala states:
“These are the limits by Allah. Therefore do not go beyond them.” (Surah Baqarah, 229)
A Subtle Reminder Not To Be Complacent
People are lax in regard to rights and etiquettes and care not in this regard. In fact, some rights, notwithstanding that these are of a lessor category than the major rights, have been accorded special attention in the Qur’aan. Obligatory rights are discharged in view of people understanding them to be obligatory. However, the rights which people consider to be non-obligatory, they will surely be complacent in regard to these rights. This is subtly alluded to in the Aayat which places wasiyyat (bequest at the time of death) before dain (debt). Allah Ta’ala says:
“…after wasiyyat bequeathed or debt.” (Surah Nisaa, 12)
This is despite the fact that after fulfilling the burial rights discharging the mayyit’s debt is of prior importance, thereafter his bequest. But Allah Ta’ala mentioned wasiyyat first because there is greater complacency in regard to wasiyyat. All acknowledge the incumbency of discharging the mayyit’s debt. Moreover there are creditors to demand the right. On the other hand, wasiyyat per se is a voluntary act. So wasiyyat was placed before debt to make known the importance of ensuring the discharge of the deceased’s bequest.
Be that as it may, we shall now mention etiquettes pertaining to those rights. The first is Salaam which is Sunnat alal kifaayah, however, the negligence carried out in this is that people do not see whether it is time to make Salaam or not. Sometimes it is prohibited to make Salaam, like at the time of Ibaadat, whether the other person is engaged in Zikr or Qur’aan or Namaaz. Salaam on these occasions is forbidden because it is drawing the occupied person from attention to Allah to oneself. The similitude of this is like a person is busy talking with the governor and another tries to draw his attention away from the governor. Will this not be lack of decorum?
One Buzrug says that a person who tries to divert the attention of one engrossed in the remembrance of Allah is struck immediately with the anger of Allah. Yes, if any urgent matter has come up then this is entirely a different matter. For example, if a person is in danger of injuring himself then it is necessary to break one’s Salaat to rescue the person.
Also, remember that just as it is forbidden to make Salaam to a person occupied in the Zikr of Allah, similarly it is prohibited to do anything which distracts him from his Zikr, such as coughing or clearing one’s throat to draw his attention.
Similarly, some people waiting for another who is engaged in Zikr stare at him. This also unsettles a person. If you wait for someone then wait at a place where the occupied person does not see you, so that his heart does not become uneasy.
Some forms of customary etiquette are troublesome. Such etiquette should be forsaken. Look at the illustrious Sahaabah! They would not stand for Rasoolullah (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) as they knew that it was disliked and heavy on Rasoolullah (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam). Respect is to court the pleasure of one’s Buzrug to the extent that if one learns explicitly or by indication that one’s Shaikh is not happy at anyone walking along with him then one should not give him this trouble. If he feels uncomfortable by anyone holding his shoes then don’t even handle his shoes.
Moulana Fatah Muhammad Saheb (marhoom wa maghfoor) was one day coming out of the Jaami’ Masjid after Jumah Salaat. A person came and wanted to carry Moulana’s shoes. Out of humility Moulana was disinclined to give his shoes. This person was adamant. Moulana held on tightly to his shoes. This ignoramus grabbed hold of Moulana’s hands with one hand and forcefully snatched the shoes away with his other hand. Just consider how much pain and trouble this person caused Moulana just for the sake of carrying out some customary etiquette. He transgressed the limits of adab and acted rudely. This is the product of ignorance. And these things are not to be treated lightly.