6 April 2007

Adab in the "Modern" world

Perhaps our greatest need in today’s adab-less society is really to look at our simple courtesy, our adab, the significance of our social behaviour, so we can take heed to the fact that as Muslims, we’re not just defined by the way we dress or our look. Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Christians, many people grow their beards for example, the distinguishing factor though that makes the believer stand out, is not the length of his beard, but his adab. When we see a Muslim with a long beard and jubba, we are the first to say Masha’Allah, but when was the last time we said Masha’Allah to the adab, the manners, and the etiquettes of others with us? The true essence of adab is that no person is harmed by that person’s actions or tongue.

“A complete believer is he from whose tongue and hand (actions) his fellow Muslims are safe”.
(Bukhari & Muslim)

Sadly in today’s society, many Muslims are increasingly gaining a somewhat immoral, corrupt, deceptive reputation. The fine line between right and wrong has become increasingly blurred and the need for guidance in terms of moral guidance has never been greater. The following story was related by a famous scholar from the asian sub-continent:

“A man came to visit a scholar with his son. They travelled some distance to come, by train. The train fair for adults was classed as 13 and above which seemed quite expensive to the man, as his child had just passed the age of 13. When they arrived to see the scholar, he enquired of the journey, and how it must have cost a fair amount of money for them to travel there. The man told the scholar, “Oh no, my child looks under 13, so his fair was half”. The scholar then told the man of the great sin he had committed. This was not only a major sin, but the man was guilty of theft and deception; by carrying out an act to ‘save money’.”

This story highlights that we are often so obsessed with a good act, we become blind to the major sins we may commit and be teaching to our children. We may think on occasion “Oh we’ll get away with it”, but the ethics of our conduct with others are effectively what will be held to account on the Day of Judgement, so how can we become so blind to the scale of sin we are committing? It is all well and good for us to be devoted Muslims, praying 5 times a day, fasting, giving charity etc, but these are just a few branches of Islam, it’s our akhlaaq, our mua’malat (acts of welfare or good with our fellow Muslims) that really define our characters, and our true identity as believers. When we look to perfect our own characters, we must look at the greatest example Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) sent to the believers as an example. The Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه وسلم) character was such that his actions emanated mercy, patience, kindness, gentleness, justness, and sincerity to all.

Anas (رضى الله عنه) said:
“I served the Messenger of Allah when he was at home and on journeys from the time he came to Medina, to the day he died (صلى الله عليه وسلم). He never said to me about anything I had done, ‘Why did you do this?’ nor did he say to me about something I had not done, ‘Why didn’t you do such and such?’

(Al-Adab Al Mufrad)

Anas (رضى الله عنه) said:

“Whenever Allah's Apostle greeted somebody, he used to greet him three times, and if he spoke a sentence, he used to repeat it thrice”.

(Sahih Bukhari: Book of seeking permission)

Many non-Muslims, reverted due to His (صلى الله عليه وسلم) noble manners. Today, how many people revert to Islam because of the character, manners and etiquettes of the Muslims? The state of our affairs is now such that some non-Muslims are better in manners than Muslims. Even the etiquettes of bartering leave us to take things to such an extreme, we become so miserly we want everything for as cheap as possible. We don’t care that the seller may be making a loss, or that his heart is not content in the sale, we just want, want, want. When we’re driving on the motorways, how many of us give way to other drivers or get road rage? When was the last time you got angry at someone that overtook you? SubhanAllah, we need to take a step back and really take a look at how just we are with others. Do we have even a grain of mercy or patience within us?

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
“You must be gentle. Whenever there is gentleness in some matter, it adorns it and whenever it is taken away it disfigures it.”

Such was the obedience and eagerness of the companions, subhanAllah, that after the revelation of this verse; it is narrated by Abdullah ibn al Zubayr that whenever Umar ibn al-Khattab wanted to speak to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). He would talk almost in whispers to the point that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) could hardly hear him and would ask him to repeat what he said.
Such basic issues are continually being ignored amongst the Muslims everywhere. In the Quran, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) addressed the companions of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم):

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَرْفَعُوا أَصْوَاتَكُمْ فَوْقَ صَوْتِ النَّبِيِّ وَلَا تَجْهَرُوا لَهُ بِالْقَوْلِ كَجَهْرِ بَعْضِكُمْ لِبَعْضٍ أَن تَحْبَطَ أَعْمَالُكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَشْعُرُونَ- إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَغُضُّونَ أَصْوَاتَهُمْ عِندَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُوْلَئِكَ الَّذِينَ امْتَحَنَ اللَّهُ قُلُوبَهُمْ لِلتَّقْوَى لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةٌ وَأَجْرٌ عَظِيمٌ
“O you who believe! Raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet, nor speak aloud to Him as you speak aloud to one another, lest your deeds become fruitless and you perceive not. Those that lower their voices in the presence of Allah’s apostle, Allah has tested their hearts for piety, for them there is forgiveness and a great reward.”
(Quran: Surah al-Hujraat, verses 2-3)

Lying, breaking promises, becoming foul mouthed at the first sniff of anger, how many of us are guilty of this, and forget the imminent warnings:

إِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ فِي الدَّرْكِ الأَسْفَلِ مِنَ النَّارِ وَلَن تَجِدَ لَهُمْ نَصِيرًا

"The hypocrites are in the lowest levels of Hell and you will not find anyone to help them".(Surah an-Nisa :verse 145)

Narrated by 'Abdullah bin 'Amr (رضى الله عنه) : The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, "Whoever has (the following) four characters will be a hypocrite, and whoever has one of the following four characteristics will have one characteristic of hypocrisy until he gives it up. These are: (1 ) Whenever he talks, he tells a lie; (2) whenever he makes a promise, he breaks it; (3) whenever he makes a covenant he proves treacherous; (4) and whenever he quarrels, he behaves impudently in an evil insulting manner."

(Sahih Bukhari & Sahih Muslim)

A Muslims akhlaaq should be such that others trust him. It is only when we put into practice the example of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) that we will truly achieve love for him and truly please Allah (سبحانه وتعالى).

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