The Manners of Visiting

This post has 358 views.
ISLAMIC MANNERS … 3
by Shaykh Abdul-Fattaah Abu Ghuddah (RA)

3.1 KEEPING APPOINTMENTS, DELAYS AND CANCELLATION

In the first verse of Surat Al-Mai’da, Allah called upon the believers ‘O’ you the Believers, fulfill your promises.’ In Surat Maryam Allah also praised Prophet Ismail may peace be upon him ‘He was true to his promise. He was a Messenger and a Prophet.’

To keep an appointment is vital to our lives, since time is the most precious commodity, once wasted it could not be replaced. If you made an appointment, whether to a friend, colleague or for business you should do your utmost to keep this appointment. This is the right of the other person who gave you part of their time and may have declined other appointments. Not only have you disrupted their schedule but you have marred your image and personality. If your punctuality becomes lousy you will lose people’s respect. You should keep all your appointments whether it was with an important person,a close friend or someone else. You will be responding to the call of Allah in Surat Al-Issra’ ‘and keep your promises. The promise is a responsibility.’

It is enough to know that our kind Prophet gave an appointment to one of his companions. The companion came three days later. The Prophet gently reprimanded him ‘You have caused me some trouble. I have been waiting expecting you since three days.’ The companion probably had an excuse for this delay. Then, he had no means to inform the Prophet about his inability to meet the appointment.

Today, fast and reliable communication means are available everywhere. As soon as you realize you will not be able to keep an appointment, you should inform the other parties to enable them to utilize their time. Do not be careless or irresponsible. Do not think that the appointment is so unimportant that it does not merit a notice or an apology. This is totally irrelevant. Regardless of its importance an appointment is a commitment. It must be kept or canceled properly in advance.

Never make a promise while you do not intend to keep it or fulfill it. This is forbidden as it falls within lying and hypocrisy. Al-Bukhari and Muslim narrated that the Prophet said: ‘Three traits single out hypocrites, even if he prayed and/or fast and claimed to be Muslim: If he talks, he lies. If he promises, he does not keep it. If he is entrusted, he betrays the trust.’

Imam Ghazali in Al-Ihya said that this Hadith fits those who promise while intending not to fulfill it, or those who, without excuse, decide later not to fulfill a promise. Those who promise but could not fulfill, their promise due to a proper excuse are not hypocrites. But we should be careful not to create excuses that are not valid. Allah knows our inner thoughts and intentions.

3.2 DECLINING A VISIT

If you visit friends with or without an appointment and they apologize for not being able to receive you, accept their apology without ill-feeling. You should understand that something may have come up compelling them to decline your visit. Their own affairs, or the state of their house, may have made your visit inconvenient. It is perfectly all right for them to ask to be excused.

The follower (Tabi’ee) Qatada bin Di‘ama Al-Sadüsy said: ‘Do not hang around at the door of those who declined your visit. Accept their reason, leave to attend your business, and let them attend their own business.’ Do not ask for reason or explanations. Imam Malik used to say: ‘Not all people can disclose their reasons.’ Accordingly, when it comes to visiting, our righteous ancestors used to say to their hosts: ‘Perhaps you just became busy and cannot receive us,’ making them feel at ease in case they wanted to be excused. Imam Al-Tabari in his Tafseer (18:113) reported that a man of Muhajirin said: ‘All my life, I wanted to practice this Sura ‘If you are told to turn back then do so, it is much better for you’ but I could not. I was hoping I will seek permission to visit a brother and he will tell me: Go back! I gladly will go back fulfilling this directive to Allah.

This particular etiquette is very important in order to remove any ill-feelings that could linger because of declining of a visit. Allah SWT said, ‘If you are asked to go back, go back: that makes for greater purity.’4 Many people do not know what to do, and become disturbed by the visit of someone whom they do not want to receive under the circumstances, and may resort to lying. Not only their children learn these bad manners, but such behaviour may lead to antipathy.

The Quranic etiquette provides a better alternative to such unpleasantness and guards us against lying. It provides for the host to kindly present a reason to visitors and asks that they accept it in good faith and without hesitation: ‘If you are asked to go back, go back: that makes for greater purity.’

3.3 CONTROL YOUR EYES

When asking permission to enter a home, avoid glancing unnecessarily at its interior or beyond the guests’ quarters. This is shameful and harmful. Abu Dawood and Tabarani explained that Sa’d bin ‘Ubada (RA) said: ‘A man came and stood at the door of the Prophet (PBUH) asking permission while facing the door. The Prophet (PBUH) said, ‘Turn this way,’ turning him away and ordering him to move farther from the door, saying, ‘Asking permission is prescribed to prevent intrusion.’ ‘

Bukhari also explained in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad that Thawban (RA) recounted that the Prophet (PBUH) said: ‘A person should not look inside a house before getting permission, if you do [look inside before asking permission] , you have already entered [or trespassed].’ Al-Bukhari also stated in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad and Abu Dawood and Al-Tirmidhi narrated by Abu Huraira who said that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: ‘If the sight leaps, permission should be denied.’ Also, Al-Bukhari narrated that ‘Ammar bin Sa’id Al-Tujiby stated that Omar bin Al-Khatab said: ‘Whoever fills his eyes with the sight of the interior of a house before being permitted is a wrong doer.’

Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others narrated that Sahl bin Sa’d (RA) said that a man peeked through a hole into the room of the Prophet (PBUH) while he was scratching his head with a small pitch fork. When The Prophet saw the intruder, he told him: ‘Had I known you were looking I would have poked your eye! Asking permission is prescribed to prevent intrusion.’

3.4 REMOVING YOUR SHOES

When entering the house of your host, or even your home, be gentle as you enter or leave. Lower your eyes and your voice. As a rule, you should take off your shoes unless your host asks you to keep them on. Take off your shoes at an appropriate spot, and set them in an orderly fashion. Do not forget the manner in which you put the shoes on and take them off: you put on the right shoe first and you take off the left shoe first. It was noted by Muslim and others that the Prophet (PBUH) said: ‘When you put your shoes on, start with the right shoe. When taking your shoes off start with the left one. The right shoe is the first to be put on and the last to be taken off.’

Before entering your house or that of your brethren, inspect your shoes. If they are dirty, remove them or wipe the shoes against the ground. Islam is the religion of cleanliness and courtesy.

3.5 CHOOSING A SEAT

Sit where asked to by your host. Do not argue with your hosts about the place where they wish you to sit. If you sit where you want, you may overlook a private area of the house, or you may cause inconvenience to the house residents. Ibn Kathir narrated in Al-Bidayah wa Al-Nihayah that the honoured companion ‘Adi bin Hatam Al-Tay converted to Islam and came to Madina to see the Prophet (PBUH). The Prophet honoured Hatam by seating him on a cushion, while he himself sat on the floor. ‘Adi said: ‘…then the Prophet took me along and upon reaching his house, he took a leather cushion filled with palm fiber and threw it on the floor. ‘Sit on this,’ he said. ‘No, you sit on it,’ I answered. The Prophet insisted, ‘No you.’ So I sat on it while the Prophet sat on the floor.’ ‘

Kharija bin Ziada visited Ibn Sireen. He found Ibn Sireen sitting on a cushion on the floor and wanted to also sit on a cushion, saying, ‘I am content as you are.’ Ibn Sireen replied: ‘In my home, I will not be content until I provide you with what I am usually comfortable with. Sit where you are asked to sit.’ Do not sit in the patron’s seat unless he invites you to it.

In this regard, the Prophet (PBUH) said: ‘No person shall lead another in prayer while the first is at the latter’s house. No person shall sit, uninvited, at the favourite seat of the patron of the house.’

If it happened that you arrived early and your host, out of kindness, directed you to sit at the most prominent seat, be prepared to stand up and give this seat to the elder, the notable, or the scholar when they arrive after you since they are more deserving of this seat.

Do not be insensitive and tactless. If you refuse to give your seat to those who are considered more deserving of it by those around you, this will only indicate your lack of manners and common sense. You will become one of those referred to by the Prophet, when he said, ‘Those who do not respect our elders do not belong to us.’

To remain entrenched in your seat will not elevate your status, and it will certainly surprise those present. You will be considered a snob since you are insisting upon an undeserved honour. This rule applies equally to men and women. Insensibility does not enhance social standing. On the contrary, it will be a terrible mistake that will only tarnish your reputation. To honour an honourable person can only improve your standing and stir admiration for your manners and humbleness.

If you happened to sit in the second best place and a notable person entered the room, you should give up your seat to that person. To be respectful of our elders is evidence of your good manners and social sense. Imam Muslim reported that the Prophet said, when organizing prayers, ‘The wisest of you and the elders should stand next to me, then those below them, then those below them.’

In the gathering, a prominent person may call upon you to discuss a matter, or to answer a query, or to give you an advice. If you sat beside him or near him, it is desirable that you return to your previous seat once the matter is concluded unless that person or other notables insist that you remain at your new seat. This is provided that by doing so, the space does not become so tight as to cause discomfort to those already sitting there. Manners are based on common sense. They could be developed by socializing with prominent and tactful individuals. By observing how they act and behave, you will be able to enhance your common sense, good manners and graceful behaviour.

You could be called to a gathering where you are the youngest. In such cases, do not sit before you are invited to do so. Do not sit if you will be crowding out others, or forcing others to leave their seats for you. If you are invited to sit, do not proceed to the best place when there are others more deserving of it. Be prepared to give up your seat to such individual. Doing this on your own, before being requested to do so, will enhance admiration and respect for you.

3.6 A VISITOR IS NOT AN INSPECTOR

When you enter a home, whether as a visitor or an overnight guest, do not closely examine its contents as an inspector would. Limit your
observation to what you need to see. Do not open closed closets, or boxes. Do not inspect a wallet, a package, or a covered object. This is against Islamic manners and an impolite betrayal of the trust your host has accorded to you. Uphold these manners during your visit and seek to cultivate your host’s love and respect, and may Allah bless and protect you.

Imam Muhasibi in Risalat Al-Mustershidin said: ‘The duty of sight is to preclude forbidden sights and not to try to see what has been hidden or covered. Dawood Al-Ta’i said ‘I was told we will be accountable for our minor gazes as we are accountable for minor deeds.’

The Arabic poet Miskin Al-Darimi said:

‘My neighbor should not worry if
his door is not closed.’

3.7 TIMING YOUR VISIT

Choose an appropriate time for your visit. Do not visit at inconvenient times such as mealtime, or when people are sleeping, resting, or relaxing. The length of the visit should be in accord with how well you know the hosts, as well as their circumstances and conditions. Do not overstay your welcome by making your visit too long or burdensome.

Imam Al-Nawawi said in the book of Al-Azkar: ‘It is strongly recommended for Muslims to visit the pious people, the brethren, the neighbours, friends and relatives, and to be generous, kind, and obliging to them. However, the extent of the visit varies according to the host’scircumstances. The visit ought to be conducted in a pleasant manner and at convenient times. There are numerous sayings and traditions in this regard.’

3.8 GREETING

If you enter a room, greet everyone inside. If you want to shake hands with those present, start with the most eminent, the most knowledgeable, the most pious, the oldest or those who have similar Islamic distinctions. Do not overlook the most distinguished or most eminent and start with the first person on your right. If you cannot decide who is the most reputable, or if those present happen to be of comparable status, then start with the elderly, for they are easier to recognize.

Al-Bukhari explained that the Prophet said, ‘The elder! The elder!’ In another version he said, ‘The elderly come first.’ ‘Abu Yalla and Al-Tabarany in Al-Awsat reported that the Prophet (PBUH) said: ‘Start with the elderly, or , he said, ‘with the notables.’ ‘

3.9 SITTING BETWEEN TWO PERSONS

If you enter a room do not sit between two persons. Instead, sit on their left or right side. Abu Dawood reported that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: ‘No one is to sit between two people without their permission.’

Sometimes two persons will be kind enough to favour you by making room for you to sit between them. Acknowledge this kind gesture by accepting their offer. Do not sit crossed-legged to crowd them out. A sage said: ‘Two persons are considered immoderate: a person to whom you give advice and he arrogantly holds it in contempt against you, and a person who is favoured with a seat in a room and he sits crossed-legged.’

If you are seated between two people, do not eavesdrop and listen to what they say, lest their conversation be a confidential or private matter. Eavesdropping is a bad habit and a sin. Al-Bukhari reported that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: ‘Whoever listens to people’s
conversation against their wishes, will be punished by liquid lead being poured down their ears on the day of Judgment.’

You should seek to benefit from the company and wisdom of the elders who are described as ‘ a fruit at the end of the season.’ I would add, ‘a sun wearing the veil’ since it will leave us and disappear at night. Be keen to attend the gatherings of the elders whether scholars, pious persons, nobles, or relatives. Soon you may lament their departure and your loss.

It is an inappropriate Muslim manner to whisper to someone sitting next to you if you are in a group of three people. The third person will feel deserted and isolated and will think the worst of thoughts. The Messenger (PBUH) hated this. Imam Malik and Abu Dawood reported that he said: ‘No two shall exchange whispers in the presence of a third person.’ That the Prophet used ‘No two…’ in an assertive negative form, indicates that such a mistake is not only inappropriate but an unimaginable and instinctively despicable. ‘Abdullah Bin Omar was asked, ‘What if they were four?’ ‘Then it does not matter,’ he answered, meaning it is not irritating then to whisper or to mutter. If a friend entrusted you with a secret, do not betray him or her. Do not tell it even to your best friend or closest relative.

3.10 THE HOST’S DUTIES AND THE GUESTS’ RIGHTS

If you are having a guest overnight, be hospitable and generous. But do not exaggerate when providing food and drink to your guest. Moderation without excess is the Sunnah. You should try your best to make your guest’s stay pleasant and comfortable during wake and sleep. Inform your guest of the direction of Qibla and show them the way to the bath.

Your guest will need to use towels after showers, ablution or washing hands before and after meals. Make sure that they are fresh and clean. Do not offer towels that you or your family members have used. It is also a nice idea to offer guests some perfume and a mirror. Make sure that the toiletries and bath accessories they will be using are clean and sanitized. Before leading your guest to the bathroom, inspect it and remove anything that you don’t want your guest to see.

Your guests will need rest and a quiet sleep. Spare them the noise of the children and the house as much as possible. Remove intimate clothing from their view. If the guest is a man, remove all women’s clothing and belongings. This is a desirable, decent practice that will leave you both feeling comfortable. When meeting your guests, serve them with tact and respect. Dress properly and look your best but do not overdo it. The close relationship between you is no excuse for negligence or indecency in your manner or look. Imam Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad reported that our forefathers used to look their best when visiting each other. Be kind and generous to your guests. As a rule do not ask them to help you with house chores. Imam Shafie’ said ‘Gentlemen do not employ their visiting guests.’

If you visit a relative or a friend, you should be considerate of your host’s circumstances and work commitments. Shorten, as much as possible, the length of your visit, since every person has various duties, obligations and responsibilities. Be considerate of your hosts and help them with their business , house chores and obligations. While at your hosts’ house, do not inspect and examine every corner, especially when you are invited beyond the guest room, lest you see something you’re not supposed to notice. In addition, do not bother your hosts by asking too many questions.

3.11 STAY IN TOUCH

If you cannot visit your relatives, friends or acquaintances, you should still keep in touch by calling them or sending them a letter. This will leave them with a deep amicable impression, and will keep the relationship alive. Al-Fadhl ibn Marwan, the vizier if the Abbasid Khalifah al-Mu’tasim said, ‘Inquiring about friends is [like] meeting them.’

In this regard, I would like to quote two poems:

If dear friends missed meeting each other
Then, the best meeting is a letter

I will be grateful every day
To a friend sending greetings while far away

3.11 A BRIEF ADVICE TO MY SISTERS

A specific advice to my dear Muslim sisters: If you want to visit your relatives or your Muslim sisters, carefully select the day and the hour of your visit and its duration. There are appropriate and inappropriate times for paying visits even to relatives and friends.

Do your best to make the visit a nice, brief, and pleasant one. Avoid turning it into a boring, wearisome, inquisitive and lengthy visit. Instead, it should be a visit whose purpose is to rekindle and nourish an old friendship or kinship. The visit is desirable if it is short and considerate, and it is undesirable if it is long and tedious during which conversation moves from being purposeful and valuable to being aimless and useless. The honourable follower Mohammed ibn Shihab Al-Zuhri said: ‘When a meeting becomes too long, Satan increasingly participates in it.’

Make sure that during a visit that most, if not all of your talk, is of value and benefit. Keep away form backbiting, gossip, and idle talk. Astute Muslim women do not have time for such nonsense