8 July 2007

Choosing a seat

When visiting someone, one should sit where requested to by the host and should be weary of arguing with the host about the place they wish you to sit. If you sit where you want, you may overlook a private area of the house, or may cause some inconvenience to the hosts.
When the honoured companion, 'Adi ibn Hatam al-Ta'i (رضى الله عنه) embraced Islam, he came to Medina to the the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) honoured Hatam by motioning him to sit on a cushion, while he himself sat on the floor. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) took a leather cushion filled with palm fibre and threw it on the floor. "Sit on this" he said, "No, you sit on it", the companion responded. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) insisted "No, you". So the companion sat on the cushion whilst the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) sat on the floor.
(Ibn Kathir: al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya)

"Kharija ibn Zayada visited Ibn Sirin and found him sitting on a cushion on the floor and wanted to sit like him, saying, "I wish to sit as you sit". Ibn Sirin replied, "In my home, I will not be content to provide you with my ordinary seat. Sit where you are asked to sit".

It is hence important not to sit in the host's seat unless he invites you to do so. In this regard, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
"No person shall lead another in prayer while at the latter's house. No person shall sit, uninvited, at the favourite seat of the master of the house."

If one arrives early at a gathering and the host out of kindness directs you to sit at the most prominent seat, be prepared to stand up and give the seat to the elders, the notables or the scholars when they arrive after you. they deserve the seat more than you. do not be insensitive and tactless. Refusing to give up a seat to those who traditionally deserve it, only indicates lack of manners and common sense.

The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
"Those who do not respect the elders do not belong to us."

Remaining entrenched in ones seat does not help to elevate ones status, but will certainly raise eyebrows amongst those present. Insisting upon undeserved honour is considered arrogance. This rule applies equally to men and women. Being insensible does not enhance ones social status, but on the contrary tarnishes ones reputation. Honouring an honourable person will only improve ones standing and stir admiration for ones manners and humbleness. Something many today are in dire need of.
If one is sat in the second best place and a notable person entered the room, one should give up that seat for the person. To be respectful of the elders testifies good manners and social awareness/sense. Imam Muslim (رحمة الله عليه) reported that when organising the prayers the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:
"The wisest of you and the elders should stand behind me, then those below them then those below them."

A prominent person may call upon you to discuss a matter, or to answer a query, or to give you advice. If you sit beside or near them for this purpose, it is desirable that you return to your previous seat once the matter is concluded, unless that person insists you remain in that new seat. One should be aware of the place becoming so crowded that it causes a discomfort to those already sitting there and in these circumstances decline the invitation. These manners are based on common sense, but can be developed by socialising with prominent, tactful individuals; in order to enhance ones good manners and graceful behaviour.
If one is the youngest in a gathering, one should not sit before being invited to do so, or if one would be crowding others or forcing them out of their seat. If invited to sit, one should not proceed to the best place if others are more deserving of it, and one should be prepared to give up that seat to that person. doing this before being prompted to do so, may increase ones social standing and admiration of ones manners and good character.
1. Wait to be told where to sit and sit where requested.
2. Do not insist on sitting in the hosts seat, or where you wish, for you may see something private and cause inconvenience.
3. Accept whatever hospitality is offered.
4. Always give up your seat for the more deserving.
5. If you are the youngest, do not sit until invited to do so, and be prepared to rise for one more deserving of that seat.

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