Surah Al-Hujurat in Our Lives (Final Part)

5 Surah Hujurat in our lives“Only those are the believers who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and afterward doubt not but strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah. Those! They are the truthful. Say: Will you inform Allah about your religion? While Allah knows all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, and Allah is All-Aware of everything. They regard as favour upon you (O Muhammad) that they have embraced Islam. Say: Count not your Islam as a favour upon me. Nay, but Allah has conferred a favour upon you, that He has guided you to the faith, if you indeed are true. Verily, Allah knows the unseen of the heavens and the earth. And Allah is the All-Seer of what you do.” (Al-Hujurat 49:15-18)

After warning the Bedouins about their unacceptable and disliked actions, Allah (swt), being the Most Merciful, shows us through this story, a way to repent and atone for our arrogance in thinking that we have done Allah (swt) a favour by being Muslims.


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Surah Al-Hujurat in Our Lives (Part 8)

22“O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. one of the Muttaqun (pious)]. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (Al-Hujurat 48:13)

In Ayah 13, we look at what Allah (swt) has commanded to all of humanity, not just believers. The call is to every member of society – a general rule for everyone on how to interact with each other or groups comprised of each other. Islam gives equal respect to everyone because, as humans, we are all Allah’s (swt) creations.

شَعَبَ – The same word is used for coral reef in the Arabic language. This word has two opposite meanings – separation (branching out) or connection (at the base), i.e., starting from one point and separating out or starting from branches and gathering into a single point. Example: From Adam (as) and Hawwa come every human being or all human beings go back to one father and one mother. All nations branch out into tribes and also further into smaller family groups. They all look different, as every person is unique based on their skin color, facial features and other characteristics. There is no concept of racism in Islam; it is not tolerated by Allah (swt). Allah (swt) created everyone – believers and disbelievers – equal. Think about it:

  1. Why do you put people down?
  2. Why are you proud of yourself?
  3. Why do you fight people?
  4. Why do you not see everyone as equal?
  5. Why do you differentiate among people?
  6. Do you have anything to do with the creation of another being?

Each tribe speaks a certain language or has a certain financial/educational status; Allah (swt) chose our nation and tribe for us. We think we know best, but only Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa) know best. The true blessing is that of Iman. Why should we degrade others due to something they have not and cannot choose? This Ayah removes discrimination, stressing that no one is better than another. The point is that we benefit from each other’s cultures and learn from shared virtues. The fact that we are born in a certain country or into a certain family does not give us the right to be arrogant due to heritage. This was Allah’s (swt) will alone; our existence is not our choice.

Preserving the bonds of kinship (Silatur-Rahim) has significant importance in Islam. Getting to know each other is vital for the success of societies. We should know who our relatives are in order to appreciate the family structure and enjoy good relationships with our kin. Being aware of relationships among families, tribes, and nations creates empathy and love within that structure.

Finally the closest to Allah (swt) and the most valued by Him is one who has Taqwa (piety). The criteria are not family association tribal links or skin colour – the defining factor is Taqwa. Only Allah (swt) knows what is in someone’s heart; only He can decide who has Taqwa. Your tribe, nation or family will not give you honour in front of Allah (swt). Your tribe, nation, or family name will not bring you closer to Allah (swt). Only Taqwa is the measuring scale for your relationship with Allah (swt). We are warned that we must not be judgemental about another person. Prophet Muhammad (sa) chose Bilal ibn Rabah (rtam), a former slave, for calling out the Adhan. He did not choose anyone from his family or other Arab Sahabah; no one questioned him – they all simply accepted his decision. This is what our attitude should be like; if Allah (swt) chooses someone, He knows best. It is not because of what we see in them and how we judge them. Hence, the Ayah ends with “Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.”

Allah’s (swt) knowledge encompasses everything – the apparent/hidden, future/present, possibilities/impossibilities, seen/unseen – nothing is hidden from Him. Allah (swt) is All-Aware of the “hidden” things – even the small things hidden in your heart. When used with the word العليم, additional depth and nuances are added to the meaning. Allah (swt) is All-Aware of things deep inside, hidden, secret, and unseen. He knows everybody’s secrets and so He is the only One Who can judge and assess Taqwa.

Keep in mind that this command and the attributes of Allah (swt) mentioned in Ayah 13 come after verses that talk about backbiting, calling others hurtful names and making false accusations, or, in other words, all the things a person uses to ridicule others. Allah (swt) now tells us that we are not qualified to judge. During the Farewell Sermon (Hajj), the Prophet (sa) advised the Ummah that the only redeemable quality on the Day of Judgement will be a person’s level of piety in front of Allah (swt) not who he was in life, his family name, or his connections; none of the latter things will benefit him. The test is Taqwa, and only Allah (swt) has knowledge of who the best is.

  1. If a person thinks very highly of his family name or status, it will lead him to transgress the boundaries defined in this Surah. He will become proud and arrogant.
  2. On Judgement Day, one of the questions that will be asked is: “Where are the pious?”
  3. The righteous will be honoured in front of everyone on the Day of Judgement.

We should focus on building our own character and safeguarding our Iman.

Adapted for Hiba Magazine by Tasneem Vali (Canada)

The Art of Saying NO


Art of saying 'No'Have you ever been in a situation, where you agreed to do something for no other reason but simply because you could not say ‘no’? So you agreed to do something, because you did not have emotional courage to refuse doing something or opposing something. But once you were in that position, because you did not agree to it with conviction and happiness, you ended up back-biting that person and thus burning away your good deeds!

This has happened to a lot of us. Imagine situations like someone telling you that they want to come over, and you end up saying ‘yes’, although that time was very inconvenient to you. Recall the day, when someone called you on your cell and you could not say upright that you were busy, and ended up lying and cooking up a story. Remember, when someone asked you for a money loan, and you did not want to give it, but ended up giving it, and doing so much Gheebat of that person that all the reward Allah (swt) had promised you, when you give loan to someone, was wasted away.

The situation becomes even graver, when you are in a leadership position. As a leader, you are not just responsible for yourself, but also the household, theJamaat or the organization you are a leader of. Situations like telling a colleague at work, who is also a friend, that he cannot be given a certain project or raise. Telling your children, as a parent, that a certain thing is not allowed. Or as a worker in Deen, telling a subordinate that even though you appreciate their suggestion for a different strategy of Dawah, it cannot be implemented.

Sometimes people in leadership positions over-commit and bite off more than they can chew, without considering their time limits. They say ‘yes’ to everyone and end up not respecting their commitments. This, again, adds to one’s sins. The challenge is in learning to understand your boundaries, so that you don’t get burnt out and, more importantly, so that you can honour the commitments you’ve already made to serve as a leader.

Sooner or later, a time comes in your life, when you realize that life is more than a popularity contest. You may be a people-pleaser, but you must be an effective leader. As leaders, and that is the central role of the Muslim Ummah as a whole, at times we have to say ‘no’ at the risk of getting on the wrong side of people, simply because we must uphold Adland justice at all times.

Since a leader needs to be firm yet humble, we are ordered to have consultations before deciding a matter. But while the opinions and suggestions of others should be taken into account, it is not a must to act upon them. Allah, the Most Exalted, says in His Glorious Book: “And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh­-hearted, they would have broken away from about you; so pass over (their faults), and ask (Allah’s) Forgiveness for them; and consult them in the affairs. Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah, certainly, Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him).” (Al-Imran 3:159)

See an example of this from the Sunnah of our beloved Rasoolallah (sa). When the Masjid-e-Nabawi was completed, the need arose for regular Jamaah. Rasoolallah (sa) asked the Sahabas to formulate some method of getting the Muslims together for Salah. The Ashab-as-Suffah volunteered to round up the Muslims for Salah, but this was time consuming and not effective. Other suggestions that came forth were: the beating of drums; the ringing of the bell like the Christians; the light of fire like the Zoroastrians; blowing of the horn like the Jews. Rasoolallah (sa) rejected all these suggestions and Bilal Ibn Rabah (rta) was asked to call out Assalaatu-Jaamiah for the time being.

In the second year of Hijrat, when the numbers in the Muslim rank were increasing, the need was felt for a more effective manner, in which to call the Muslims for prayer. One day, Abdullah Ibn Zaid (rta) in his dream heard an angel instructing him on the wordings of the Adhan (the call to prayer). He related his experience to Rasoolallah (sa), who in turn asked Bilal Ibn Rabah (rta) to learn the words and call the Adhan. When Hazrat Umar (rta) heard the Adhan, he rushed up to Rasoolallah (sa) and reported that he had also heard the same Adhan in his dream.
Thus, Bilal (rta) became the first Muadhin (caller to prayer) in Islam.

This is a classic example of how Rasoolallah (sa) used Hikmah (wisdom) in substituting the suggestion of one companion with that of others, without humiliating or jeering at anyone.

If you are a leader, people will not be offended by your rejecting their opinion, if an overall climate of trust and sincerity is present in the team. Also, the trust of the subordinates in their leader depends on the general Ikhlaq and relationship of the leader with them. The unbiased and impartial behaviour of a leader makes this easier.

Wise ones have said that out of Amr bil Maroof wa Nahi anil Munkir (enjoining good and forbidding evil) it is the latter that is tougher, because it involves negating the other person’s opinion.

When Abu Bakr (rta) was chosen as the Khalifah, and Usamah (rta) was awaiting orders from him, a group from the Ansar suggested that the expedition should be postponed until a later time. They sent Umar (rta) to talk to Abu Bakr (rta) to ask him to appoint a commander who is older than Usamah (rta). But as soon as he heard what Umar (rta) had to say, Abu Bakr (rta) got up, took him by his beard and said: “May your mother lose you, o Ibn Al-Khattab! Rasoolallah (sa) has appointed him and you want me to take him down? By Allah, I will never do it!” Gentle as Abu Bakr (rta) was by nature, he said ‘no’ as a leader, when it was needed.

Learning to say ‘no’ is a very powerful tool. Saying ‘no’ to certain engagements, people and choices, which take away from your goals to succeed, is very important. Think of ‘no’ as a friend protecting you from wasting time and energy. Be firm – not defensive or overly apologetic – and polite. This gives the signal that you are sympathetic, but will not easily change your mind, if pressured. If you decide to tell the person you’ll get back to them, be matter-of-fact and not too promising. If you lead people to believe you’ll likely say ‘yes’ later, they’ll be more disappointed with a later ‘no’.

The delicate balance is learning to say ‘no’ in a non-offensive, polite manner, while keeping the reigns of your good Ikhlaq in your hand and not degrading or hurting anyone.

The Art of Complimenting

Oct 10 - The Art of Complimenting

“You look amazing!”

“Your eyes are so beautiful!”

“Masha’Allah, what a beautiful house!”

“You delivered this Dars so effectively!”

“I don’t think anybody can cook as well as you do!”

Sounds familiar? I’m sure it does, because either we hear such words from someone or say them to others.

Today, praise is the shortest route to popularity. Be generous with compliments and you are that person’s ‘bestie.’ Criticize, even if sincerely and positively, and you may be thought of as jealous. But is praising an Islamically accepted social exercise? One of the attributes of Allah (swt) is Ash-Shakoor – the Appreciative. As humans, we do need to appreciate others and at times, also need appreciation and encouragement. But how and why are important questions for a Mumin.

Everyone loves a sincere compliment or encouragement. But often encouragement moves on to become praise and exaggerated adulation. Although all the mentioned words are similar, they do have very different meanings. ‘Appreciation’ means ‘a favourable critical estimate, a sensitive awareness or an expression of admiration, approval, or gratitude’. ‘Praise’ can mean anexpression of approval, commendation or admiration; but it can also mean the extolling or exaltation of a deity, ruler or hero. ‘Adulation’, however, goes a step further and means ‘excessive or slavish admiration or flattery.’

There is no doubt that Allah (swt) wants us to be appreciative and express gratitude. But in Islam, gratitude is expressed in the form of giving back something in return – a sincere Dua! The Prophet (sa) showed his appreciation for one of his generous hosts by giving him prayers of Barakah. Often, he showed appreciation not in words but by eating what someone got for him or wearing what was gifted to him. In the Prophet’s (sa) Sunnah, we do not see the exaggerated praise that people often shower on each other nowadays. In fact, according to Sunnah, excessive praise is not healthy, because our Muslim brother or sister can start losing humility. This is why praise even in matters of Taqwa can give a person a false sense of Kibr (arrogance), which can be detrimental to one’s Iman.

The Prophet (sa) did encourage his companions many a times. He praised the Haya (modesty) of Usman Ibn Affan (rta) and the Ilm and intelligence of Aisha Bint Abu Bakr (rta). He gave the title of the ‘sword of Allah’ to Khalid Ibn Waleed (rta) for his bravery in the battlefield. He acknowledged the natural gift of a beautiful, strong voice Bilal Ibn Abi Rabah (rta) had by making him the first Muadhin (caller to prayers) of Islam. Abi Musa Al-Ashari (rta) was praised for his beautiful recitation of the Quran, and the women of Ansar were praised for the fact that they were not shy to ask questions for learning matters of Deen.

Intense admiration can sometimes result in Nazar (evil eye), as we see in this Hadeeth: Malik related to me from Ibn Shihab that Abu Umama Ibn Sahl Ibn Hunayf said: “Amir Ibn Rabia saw Sahl Ibn Hunayf taking a Ghusl and said: ‘I have not seen the like of what I see today, not even the skin of a maiden, who has never been out of doors.’ Sahl fell to the ground. The Messenger of Allah (sa) was approached, and it was said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, can you do anything about Sahl Ibn Hunayf? By Allah, he can not raise his head.’ He said: ‘Do you suspect anyone?’ They said: ‘We suspect Amir Ibn Rabia.’” He continued: “The Messenger of Allah (sa) summoned Amir and was furious with him and said: ‘Why does one of you kill his brother? Why did you not say ‘may Allah bless you’? Do Ghusl for it.’ Amir washed his face, hands, elbows, knees, the end of his feet, and inside his lower garment in a vessel. Then he poured it over him, and Sahl went off with the people, and there was nothing wrong with him.” (Muwatta Imam Malik)

The one common factor that we see in the method of complimenting adopted by the earlier prophets, Prophet Muhammad (sa) and his companions is that the credit for any Khair (any praiseworthy attribute) is given to Allah (swt). A Mumin is well aware of the fact that all praise belongs to Allah (swt), Who is the source of all good. Isa (as) is reminded in the Quran that all the miracles he was able to perform were by the Izn (permission) of Allah. In Surah Yusuf, Prophet Yusuf (as) gives the credit to Allah (swt) for the gift of being able to interpret dreams and being able to resist a beautiful woman’s advances. The realization; that all good is actually from Allah (swt) makes a person humble.

In the light of Islamic principles, the following ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of complimenting would be useful to observe:


  1. Encourage and appreciate, where appreciation is due.
  2. Appreciate the people closest to you. Often, we forget to appreciate our families, colleagues and servants, but praise people in our outer circle of friends and acquaintances.
  3. Make special effort to appreciate your spouse, children and parents in particular.
  4. Make sure that your appreciation or praise is genuine and true.
  5. Make sure that your appreciation is to the point.
  6. Appreciate where you think it will encourage a person to do further good. For example, when a child has started to pray or recite the Quran beautifully or when a sister has started wearing the Hijab.
  7. Check your Niyyah (intention) when you praise someone. Is it just so you can become popular? Is it just because you are in that habit? Will it help that person do further good?
  8. Find other creative ways, besides verbal praise, to show encouragement. Sometimes a smile, a single gesture or a gift can say more than words.
  9. Be careful about what you are praising. Rather than praising such inborn qualities as good looks, it is preferable to appreciate a good deed or a good habit someone has acquired, so that they may continue it.
  10. Always say “Masha’Allah La Quwwata Illa Billah” or “Tabaarakallah”, when you like something.


  1. Avoid exaggeration in your praise, so that it doesn’t become an attempt to feed the ego and doesn’t border on adulation.
  2. Refrain from praising someone all the time, unless it would encourage them to continue a good deed.
  3. Don’t praise someone on doing something that displeases Allah (swt) or is forbidden in our Deen. For instance, appreciating the dress of a Muslim woman, who is not observing Hijab/Purdah.
  4. Don’t praise unless it is the truth.
  5. Avoid praising someone in his/her presence all the time!
  6. Never use praise as a social crutch to become popular.
  7. Don’t compliment someone with such adulation that they get afflicted with Nazar (evil eye). Instead, do Dua for them.
  8. Refrain from praising someone, even your children, excessively, as that person may start doing things to fish out praise, rather than for Ajar (reward) from Allah (swt).

As for when someone praises us, the Dua we are supposed to recite is: “O Allah, do not make me account for what they say and forgive me for what they have no knowledge, and make me better than they imagine.” (Bukhari)

Cell-Phones: The Ignored Etiquettes

Vol 7 - Issue 1 Cell phonesBy Laila Ansari

I got my first cell-phone in college mainly out of peer pressure and the heartfelt desire to be in the ‘in’ crowd. All popular kids had cell-phones with flashy charms and high-strung ringtones. It was fascinating to see them lost in the growing frenzy of text messaging or dejected in the wait of an expected call. But, with time, the situation has gotten alarmingly out of control: conversations are being constantly interrupted by ringtones, lectures are being ignored amidst jokes being sent across the classrooms, drivers are losing control of their vehicles and indecent content and images are corrupting minds.

However, the responsibility for the use of a cell-phone – whether good or bad – is on the person owning it. We wake up in the morning to the sound of our cell-phone’s inbuilt alarm, our loved ones can easily access us when we are away from them, we make important business correspondence, we check our emails, we conduct banking transactions, we pay bills – in short, we just cannot imagine our lives without our cell-phones.

Fortunately for us, Muslims, the Quran and Sunnah have laid down the basics of social conduct and self-control that can help derive etiquettes to allow Muslims to embrace advanced technology, without harming either their Dunya or Akhirah. Some of them are as follows.

Know when to switch off

How many times has it happened that you were absorbed in your prayers and were harshly pulled away from Allah (swt) by the cacophonic warble of your cell-phone? Your mind lost all its peace, and you were torn between concentrating on your prayers and considering, who could it be on the phone. Allah (swt) urges Muslims to pray with complete concentration. Allah (swt) says: “… And stand before Allah with obedience [and do not speak to others during the Salah (prayers)].” (Al-Baqarah 2:238) Men should switch off their cell-phones, especially when they go to the Masjid to offer their prayers, as ringtones distract not only them but others as well. In case they have forgotten to do so, and their cell phone rings in the middle of the congregation, they must switch it off immediately rather than waiting for the caller to abort the call himself.

Know when to attend calls

Attending calls or texting while conversing with a family member or having lunch with your close friend can be extremely rude and annoying.Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “If you are three, two should not converse secretly to the exclusion of your companion, for that hurts his feelings.” (Muslim)

Moreover, people should not attend calls while driving, as such an action puts in danger not only their lives but also those of pedestrians and other commuters. Being Muslims, we are obligated to refrain from any action which can harm other Muslims, as Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “A Muslim is one from whose tongue and hands other Muslims are safe.” (Bukhari)

Mind your voice

Loud talkers are often poor listeners and come out to be rude and imposing. It can be jarring to converse with such people, and they are often labeled as attention seekers. People should keep their tone such that they are audible only to the person they are talking to.Allah says: “And be moderate (or show no insolence) in your walking, and lower your voice. Verily, the harshest of all voices is the voice (braying) of the ass.” (Luqman 31:19)

Know where to attend calls

People who talk loudly on their cell-phones in elevators, public transport or other public places should refrain from doing so, as they can incite people near them to eavesdrop on their private conversations. Allah (swt) says: “O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not, neither backbite one another.” (Al-Hujurat 49:12) Here, spying refers to eavesdropping.

Use your gadgets wisely

Cell-phones are laced with gadgetry, such as high resolution cameras and video recorders. We see people casually taking pictures of their friends and colleagues via cell-phones, without prior consent, and sending them across via MMS. Some scholars maintain that taking pictures is impermissible in Islam, and such actions may offend people, who are strict in their religious values.

Lastly, one must be considerate and courteous whenever he/she uses his/her cell phone. The point is to refrain from creating nuisances for others in any way. As Muslims, we are expected to carry ourselves responsibly and wisely in every capacity.

Hospitality in Islam

Vol 2 -Issue 3 Hospitality in Islam

For a majority of us, who are over-committed, life moves in the fast lane, and guests are no less than a red light or worse – an interminable traffic-jam. The news of imminent visitors is frequently met with frowns or frenzied bickering.

The best guest is one, who does not burden the host. Failing to give a prior notice, visiting at inappropriate times, prolonging ones stay and burdening the host with expectations, on how one should be treated, disgruntles a host in our eastern civilization. A host is expected to be at the beck and call of his guests, stow away personal life and entertain the guest usually for an extended period of time.

The western world is tilted towards the other extreme. A guest must be prepared to depend as much as possible on himself, and might, occasionally, meet his host at breakfast, or may be dinner or any other time, when their schedules coordinate. For the visitor this may mean cooking for himself, doing his own laundry, taking the bus for errands or sightseeing, etc. The bottom-line is that the guest seeks his own comfort and thanks the host profusely for all the boarding facilities that would otherwise have cost a fortune.

These two extremes mar the spirit of hospitality meant to bring people together. The cultural baggage associated with each instance is far from the reasonable and pragmatic approach Islam takes to balance the guest’s and host’s needs.

Abu Hurairah (rta) reported the Prophet (sa) saying: “He, who believes in Allah (swt) and the Last Day, let him show hospitality to his guest…” (Bukhari, Muslim) Hafiz Salahuddin Yusuf in his commentary in Riyad-us-Saliheen states: “To honour a guest means to welcome him cheerfully, entertain him happily, according to our capacity, and have full regard of his comfort and rest.”

Abu Shuraih Khuwailid Bin Amr Al-Khuzai (rta) reported that he heard the Messenger of Allah (swt) (sa) saying: “He, who believes in Allah (swt) and the Last Day, should accommodate his guest according to his right.” He was asked: “What is his right, O Messenger of Allah (swt)?” He replied: “It is to accommodate him for a day and a night and extend hospitality for three days, and what is beyond that is considered charity.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

This Hadeeth deals more with the etiquette and scope of hospitality. On the first day and night, a guest should be offered the best entertainment. In the next two days, hospitality should be moderate. On the fourth day, the guest should leave for his destination. Yet, if the guest chooses to stay, he should not expect formal hospitality but rather seek to be as dependent on himself as possible. If the host willingly entertains the guest after three days, it will be considered charity on his part.

Allah (swt), the Exalted, says: “Has the story reached you, of the honoured guests (three angels; Jibril along with another two) of Ibrahim? When they came in to him and said: ‘Salam, (peace be upon you)!’ He answered: ‘Salam, (peace be upon you),’ and said: ‘You are a people unknown to me.’ Then he turned to his household, and brought out a roasted calf (as the property of Ibrahim (as) was mainly cows). And placed it before them, (saying): ‘Will you not eat?'” (AdhDhariyat 51:24-27)

The above Ayah from the Quran is an example of how the friend of Allah (swt), Ibrahim (as), entertained his visitors. He reciprocated their greeting, despite the fact that they were strangers to him. Furthermore, Ibrahim (as) quickly and discretely arranged for a meal without asking, if they would care for anything. The meal consisted of the best he could offer. Once the meal was ready, he placed it close to them and refrained from ordering them to eat; instead, subtly invited them to partake in the meal.

Jabir Bin Abdullah (rta) said: “Abu Al-Haitham Bin Al-Taihan prepared food for Allah (swt)’s Apostle (sa), and he invited the Prophet (sa) and the companions (rta). When they finished eating He (sa) said: ‘If some people enter the house of a man, eat his food, drink his drink and they supplicate (to Allah (swt)) for him, this is his reward.'” (Abu Dawood) It is, thus, commendable to utter a supplication for those, who provide hospitality or provide food for others.

Abdullah Bin Umar (rta) reported Allah (swt)’s Messenger (sa) as saying: “He, who does not accept an invitation, has disobeyed Allah (swt) and His Apostle (sa), and he, who enters without invitation, enters as a thief and goes out as a raider.” (Abu Dawood)

In another Hadeeth, narrated by Abu Hurairah (rta), the Prophet (sa) said: “A Muslim has six duties towards another Muslim: to salute him, when he meets him; when invited, to accept his invitation; when asked for advice, to give it to him; when he sneezes, to praise Allah (swt) and say: ‘May Allah (swt) have mercy on you;’ when he is ill, to visit him; and when he dies, follow his funeral.” (Muslim) Carrying out of these obligations is compulsory.

There are some instances, where it is recommended to decline hospitality offered.

Ibn Abbas (rta) said: “The Prophet (sa) forbade that the food of two rivals be eaten.” (Abu Dawood) This refers to those rivaling over hospitality to a guest. It is forbidden, because it involves the show and ostentation of one’s richness. Such an invitation should not be accepted.

Similarly, Safina Abu Abdul-Rahman said: “Once a man prepared food for Ali Bin Abi Talib (rta) and Fatima (rta) said: ‘I wish we had invited the Apostle of Allah (sa) and he had eaten with us.’ So they did. But when he came and put his hands on the side-ports of the door, and saw the figured curtain that had been put up at the end of the house, he left. So Fatima (rta) told Ali (rta): ‘Follow him and see what turned him back.’ So, Ali (rta) did and asked him (sa): ‘What turned you back, Apostle of Allah?’ He replied: ‘It is not fitting for me or any Prophet to enter a house, which is decorated.'” (Abu Dawood)

The Prophet (sa) left, because he disliked luxury and unnecessary decoration in the house. Thus, if an unlawful action is done in a house, where a guest is being entertained, he may leave or refuse the invitation altogether.

A Muslim should only invite the pious and avoid the evildoers. Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Do not be a companion except to a believer and let only the pious eat your food.” (Abu Dawood)

Also, a Muslim should not invite only the rich and exclude the poor. The Prophet (sa) said: “The worst food is that of a feast, to which the rich are invited and the poor excluded.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Likewise, a poor person’s invitation should be accepted.

The Prophet (sa) also clarified, which of the two invitations are more worthy of being accepted, when received simultaneously. Humaid Ibn Abdul-Rahman Al-Himyari said that a companion of the Prophet (sa) reported him as saying: “When two people come together to issue an invitation, accept that of the one, whose door is nearer to yours, but if one of them comes before the other, accept the invitation of the one, who came first.” (Abu Dawood)

Conclusively, just like every other aspect of Islam, rules of hospitality are also driven by wisdom and courtesy. Extending and accepting hospitality with grace gives believers reasons to rejoice. Lets not make it cumbersome for anyone and keep it simple and gratifying by Allah (swt) and His Apostle’s (sa) ways.

Hostility or hospitality?

If you are a guest…

  1. Do not disturb your host at odd hours; rather, visit at their convenience.
  2. Do not visit empty-handed. Gifts enhance love among people, even if it is only a single rose or a bar of candy.
  3. If your stay is an extended one, do not remain aloof. Mingle with the hosts and help them as much as possible in their household chores.
  4. Do not place unreasonable demands that burden your host.
  5. Do not use the host’s belongings irresponsibly. In other words, use them, as if they were your own.
  6. Do not backbite or ridicule your host, after you leave.

If you are a host…

  1. Do not lie deliberately to turn away visitors.
  2. Do not serve unwanted or stale food to your guests to make room in your refrigerator.
  3. Do not place expensive decorative pieces in your house, especially, if you expect young kids to accompany your guest.
  4. Do not embarrass the guest if he accidentally happens to break or misuse any of your belongings.
  5. Do not give your mood swings expression or ignore your guests altogether and make them feel unwelcome.
  6. Do not backbite or ridicule your guests, after they have left.

Islamic Social Etiquette

etiquetteAllah (swt) states in the holy Quran: “Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah (swt) Muhammad (sa) you have a good example to follow, if you hope for (the meeting with) Allah (swt) and the Last Day, and remember Allah (swt) much.” (Al-Ahzab 33:21)

Therefore, the Prophet (sa) is the best role model for every Muslim that has provided numerous examples in every aspect of human behaviour. The following pearls from his social etiquettes are enlightening.

Spreading the greeting of Salam

The Messenger of Allah (sa) commanded us to do seven things: to visit the sick, to attend funerals, to bless a Muslim, when he sneezes, to support the weak, to help the one, who is oppressed, to spread Salam (peace), and to help people fulfil their oaths. (Bukhari, Muslim)

He also said: “By the One, in whose hand is my soul, you will not enter Paradise, until you believe, and you will not believe, until you love one another. Shall I not tell you of something that if you do, you will love one another? Spread Salam amongst yourselves.” (Muslim)

Unfortunately, today in Islamic societies this greeting has been replaced by foreign ones, especially among new generations, who are either ashamed or consider it old-fashioned to use the Islamic greeting. Obviously, they are unaware that a simple ‘Assalam Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatahu’ can earn them thirty rewards from Allah (swt)!

Not entering anyone’s house without his permission

Allah (swt) commands: “O you who believe! Enter not houses other than your own, until you have asked permission and saluted those in them: that is best for you, in order that you may take heed.” (An-Nur 24:27)

Islam urges Muslims to do the following, when visiting others: “Whenever the Prophet (sa) came to a door seeking permission to enter, he did not stand facing it. He would stand to the right or to the left, and if he was given permission, he would enter; otherwise, he would leave.” (Bukhari)

Impatiently ringing the doorbell, yelling out the in mates name, and grumbling, when the person we had intended to visit is unavailable, are signs of impoliteness and impertinence. They have no room in a Muslim’s life.

Sitting wherever one finds room in a gathering

In a gathering, a Muslim should sit wherever he finds space. He is neither to push through the people in order to sit at the head of the gathering, nor make another give up his space for him. The Prophet (sa) taught his companions to adopt these etiquettes, when joining a gathering.

Jabir Ibn Samurah (rta) said: “When we came to the Prophet (sa), we would sit, wherever we found room.” (Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi)

The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “None of you should make another get up, then sit in his place. All of you should move up and make space (for the latecomer).” (Bukhari, Muslim)

The basic instruction is to accommodate and show courtesy. Nowadays, it is common not to leave any space available, because of improper seating arrangements, and the latecomer is usually forced to stand. Similarly, some make grand arrivals without realizing the disturbance they cause to an ongoing gathering or speech.

Avoiding yawning in a gathering

The Prophet (sa) advised Muslims: “If any of you wants to yawn, then let him suppress it as much as possible.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

If the urge to yawn cannot be resisted, then a Muslim should cover his mouth with his hand. The Prophet (sa) commanded: “If any of you yawns, let him cover his mouth with his hand, so that the Shaytan does not enter.” (Muslim)

Yawning is not only rude but a sign of boredom that may hurt the feelings of others. Even the very sophisticated manage to shock you, when they open their mouths as wide as a hippopotamus in the middle of a conversation.

Following the Islamic etiquette, when sneezing

Islam also teaches a Muslim, what he should say, when he sneezes, and what he should say, when he hears another sneeze.

Abu Hurairah (rta) said: “The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Allah (swt) likes the act of sneezing and dislikes the act of yawning. When any one of you sneezes and says ‘Alhamdulillah’, then he has the right to hear every Muslim say – ‘Yarhamuk Allah’. But yawning is from Shaytan, so if anyone of you feels the urge to yawn, he should resist it as much as he can, for when any of you yawns, the Shaytan laughs at him.’” (Bukhari)

Not looking into other people’s houses

A true Muslim does not spy on his host or pry into that, which does not concern him. The Prophet (sa) warned those, who let their gaze wander in gatherings in an attempt to see things that are none of their business.

The Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever looks into someone’s house without his permission, then it is permissible for the people of the house to take his eyes out.” (Muslim)

Not finding fault with others

The Prophet (sa) issued a stern warning against the danger of slandering other people’s honour and exposing their faults.

The Prophet (sa) said: “Do not hurt the feelings of the servants of Allah (swt), do not embarrass them, do not seek to expose their faults; whoever seeks to expose the faults of his Muslim brother, Allah (swt) will seek to expose his faults and expose him, even if he hides in the innermost part of his home.” (Ahmad)

Apart from the above, there are numerous other social etiquettes that will be discussed in future issues, Insha’Allah.

“Sorry” Made Easy

Vol 2- Issue 2 Sorry  made easyA friend arrives late for an appointment. Your teacher criticizes you in public. Your cousin loses the book you lent her. An acquaintance passes a remark that ends up hurting your feelings. Yet, none of them say they are sorry. No doubt, you get upset at the fact that people do not realize their mistakes and apologize for them.

However, in all fairness, are they the only ones to blame or are we partially responsible as well? How often have many of us made it difficult for others to apologize? I mean, finally someone musters up the courage to admit ones mistake and then apologizes only to get bad reactions in return for their noble efforts. I once heard a woman say, “Sometimes, if you say sorry to someone, they think themselves superior and act haughtily.” Imagine it was you apologizing, wouldn’t you like your apology to be accepted and your mistake forgiven, instead of being jeered at?

It is equally important to learn to accept the apology of others as well as forgive graciously and humbly. We can actually cultivate such courteous behavior by recalling the rewards Allah (swt) has promised in the Quran to those who forgive: “Those who spend (in Allah’s (swt) Cause – deeds of charity, alms, etc.) in prosperity and in adversity, who repress anger, and who pardon men; verily, Allah (swt) loves Al-Muhsinun (the good-doers).” (Al-Imran 3:134)

Allah (swt) the Almighty, the Creator of all things, with His infinite Mercy constantly forgives our sins, so why should not to forgive others?

Here are a few things for you to remember the next time someone apologizes to you. Know that it is not the time for digging up and settling old scores. You will only end up making things worse. If you need to clear misconceptions about the issue at hand, do not discuss it in an accusatory manner. Instead, provide constructive advice whenever possible. Indeed, some of us really do not know how to react or what to say, when somebody apologizes to us. Try saying something pleasant like: “Everybody makes mistakes,” or “I know you didn’t really mean it.” A smile at times is enough, or maybe a hug or pat on the arm or shoulder. By the way, a kind gesture goes a long way. And once you accept someone’s apology, let bygones truly be bygones. Neither dwell on it, nor talk about it with others.

We should strive to cultivate this noble trait from a young age. How? By responding to other peoples’ apologies with warmth and encouragement, making them feel comfortable about admitting their faults. If you do so, they will always be ready to admit their mistakes without shying away. And don’t forget to own up and apologize to them for your mistakes, too.

Finally, be sensitive to and recognize nonverbal apologies. Some people, like parents, older siblings, teachers, or elder relatives, find it difficult to make verbal apologies to those they consider their subordinates. Or maybe they just find it hard to do so. They usually prefer to make amends through kind deeds, praise, or nice gestures, such as, giving flowers or gifts. So, please recognize and accept both the conventional and unconventional forms of apologies.

The Etiquette of Joking

jokeMunqidh As-Saqqar presents the Islamic perspective on the seemingly harmless act of joking.

Generally, people believe that those who carry a happy-go-lucky attitude and indulge in excessive laughter are genuinely successful people. They may be the spark plug of a party but there is also a critical downside to this behaviour. Getting carried away to any extreme is strongly disliked in Islam, even if it means cracking jokes and making others laugh.

One may argue that laughing simply brings a few happy moments into the lives of others. However, it hardly stops there. This innocent intention unconsciously and at times deliberately hurts feelings, injures relationships, and creates animosity. Likewise, the person initiating excessive laughter loses his dignity and becomes impassive to other’s feelings.

A Muslim is expected to be serious as he was not created for the purpose of joking and amusement. When joking diverts a person from the purpose of his creation, which is to worship Allah (swt), it becomes dispraised. Excessive joking, which makes a person laugh too much, leads to the heart becoming hardened. The Prophet (sa) said: “Do not laugh too much, because excessive laughter kills your heart.” (Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and Ahmad)

The heart of a Muslim has to be alive and tender, so that he should be able to execute his struggle against Satan. Excessive joking will lead the heart to heedlessness. Satan pledged to distract the mankind and to misguide them. Allah (swt) says: “Iblees (Satan) said (to Allah (swt)): ‘By Your Might, I will surely mislead them all, except, among them, Your chosen servants.'” (Sad 38: 82-83)

Moreover, heedlessness is a characteristic of disbelievers. Allah (swt) says: “Then woe that Day to the deniers. Who are in (empty) discourse amusing themselves.” (At-Toor 52: 11-12) On the Day of Judgement, the disbelievers will be asked: “What put you into Saqar (i.e., Hellfire).” (Al-Muddaththir 74: 42) They will reply: “…We used to enter into vain discourse with those who engaged (in it).” (Al-Muddaththir 74: 45)

Joking becomes prohibited, when it involves un-Islamic behaviour, such as:

Scaring Muslims

Once, a group of the Prophet’s (sa) companions were on a trip. While one of them was sleeping, some others took the arrows of the sleeping one, which he kept for self-defence. When he woke up, he was frightened, due to losing them, so the others started laughing. Thereupon, the Prophet (sa) asked them: “What makes you laugh?” They replied: “Nothing, it’s just that we took this man’s arrows and that scared him.” Hearing this, the Prophet (sa) said: “It is not lawful for a Muslim to scare his fellow Muslim.” (Ahmad and Abu Dawood)

Lying while joking

The Prophet (sa) said: “Woe to the one, who tells lies to make people laugh, woe to him, woe to him.” (Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood and Darimi)

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that people said to the Prophet (sa): “You joke with us.” He replied: “I do but I only say that which is true.” (Tirmidhi & Ahmad)

Joking that may cause harm to others

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “None of you should point his weapon at his brother, as Satan may provoke him (to hurt his brother) and as a result, he would fall into a pit of Fire.” (Bukhari)

Joking which transgresses the limits of Allah (swt)

Joking could exceed the limits and reach to a point of committing major sins, such as mocking Quranic verses, the Prophet (sa), Islamic rules or Muslim scholars – just like the hypocrites did on the day of the battle of Tabook, when they mocked the Prophet (sa) and his companions. Due to this, Allah (swt) revealed the following verses: “And if you ask them, they will surely say: ‘We were only conversing and playing.’ Say: ‘Is it Allah (swt) and His verses and His Messenger that you were mocking?’ Make no excuse; you have disbelieved (i.e., rejected faith) after your belief.” (At-Tawbah 9: 65-66)

On many occasions, the Prophet (sa) used to joke. This certainly indicates that joking is lawful, provided it does not contain any of the mentioned prohibitions. The Prophet (sa) did not joke merely for entertainment-his jokes included instructions for his companions.

Joking for endearment

“Once, the Prophet (sa) went to visit Suhayb (rta), who was sick with an eye ailment. When he entered, Suhayb (rta) was eating dates, so the Prophet (sa) said to him jokingly: ‘Are you eating dates, while you have a sore eye!’ He replied: ‘I’m using the other eye to see.’ Thereupon, the Prophet (sa) smiled.” (Ibn Majah)

Joking for reforming the companions

“Khawwat Ibn Jubayr Al-Ansari (rta) was sitting with some women from the tribe of Banu Kab on the road leading to Makkah listening to their talk. The Prophet (sa) came across him there and asked him: ‘O Abu Abdullah, what are you doing sitting with these ladies?’ He replied: ‘I lost my camel and came looking for it’ (as a false excuse). The Prophet (sa) left him and went to take care of some affairs.

After a while Prophet (sa) returned and teased Khawwat (rta) saying: ‘O Abu Abdullah, has your camel given up running away from you yet?’ Khawwat (rta) said: ‘I was embarrassed and kept silent, and was avoiding him after that (because the Prophet (sa) realised that Khawwat (rta) was just trying to justify his sitting with the women), until we went back to Madinah.

When he saw me in the mosque, while I was praying, he sat down next to me, waiting for me to finish my prayer. Due to this, I prolonged my prayer. He (sa) said: ‘Don’t prolong your prayer, as I am waiting for you.’ When I finished my prayer, he teased me again: ‘O Abu Abdullah, has your camel given up running away from you yet?’ I was embarrassed and kept silent.

I kept avoiding him until one day he saw me, while he was riding his donkey and said: ‘O Abu Abdullah, has your camel given up running away from you yet?’ I replied: ‘I swear by Him, Who sent you with the truth, my camel has never run away from me, since I became a Muslim’ (i.e., confessing his sin, which the Prophet (sa) was trying to teach him to do by his joke). The Prophet (sa) said: ‘Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, O Allah, guide Abu Abdullah.’ After this, Khawwat Ibn Jubayr Al-Ansari became a much better Muslim.” (Tabarani)

The companions of the Prophet (sa) were the most serious of people, yet they used to joke. Bukhari mentioned in his book Al-Adab Al-Mufrad: “The companions used to play by throwing watermelon skins at each other, but when it was time for seriousness, they were real men.”