The best habits
The best habits
What makes us humans different from all other life forms is that we can modify or change our behavior. A person can be taught to eat with his fingers or with a fork just as a person can learn to stay up all night and sleep during the day. In fact, the best habits are those which are the most beneficial to us humans. Obviously it wouldn’t be good to hit yourself in the head with a stick when you meet someone. At the same time it would probably be a bad idea to always pour swamp water in your bathtub. In addition, many societies have tried to set standards for behavior and manners at the personal and social level. The Chinese, for instance, bow to each other when they meet, some South American Indian tribes have the custom of washing each other’s hair and Americans are taught not to put their elbows on the dinner table.
For Muslims, Adab or manners and behavior relate directly to their character, or Akhlaq. As a matter of fact, the Adab has been developed over many centuries. Rather, one man taught us everything about how to be good to others and good to ourselves. It was the Blessed Prophet Muhammad, and none other, who taught humans the finest mode of civilization that ever existed. By following his great example, humans’ character or Akhlaq becomes refined, cultured, pleasant and full of social graces.
The challenge now is to learn what Adab, or Islamic manners, entail, and then to put them into practice. In fact, nearly every Muslim knows that he or she must say “Assalamu’alaikum,” “Peace be to you,” to each other when they meet one another. But this is just one small part of the many manners muslims should make a part of their daily life. The Blessed Prophet Muhammad is a model and his path is the best to follow.
“You have indeed in the Messengers of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct,) for any whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and who remember Allah much.” (Qur’an, 33:21).
Manners for greeting
Adab or manner and behavior comes from the Qur’an and Sunnah. Any cultural practices that one follows must not go against these two sources. Islamic culture must come first if we are true believers. In addition, when two Muslims meet each other, after exchanging the greetings of peace they should shake hands. The Blessed Prophet said that the better one is the one who lets his hand go last. The Prophet said:
“Those who are nearest to Allah are those who are the first to give a greeting.” (Tirmidhi)
The greeting of Islam, “Assalamu’alaikum,” “Peace be to you,” has a special significance for us. The word “peace” is the highest and the most honored term, and it is the best word for people to use between each other. Allah says about it:
“Peace is a word from a Merciful Lord.” (Qur’an, 36:58)
Furthermore, if a small group comes to a larger group, the rule is that the smaller group should greet the larger one first. If some people are sitting down, they should not stand up if someone comes to join them. The Blessed Prophet didn’t even like people to get up for him. Moreover, a younger person should greet an older person first and when a greeting is given, the reply should be something equal to or better than that. If someone, for example, says, “Assalamu’alaikum,” you can reply with “Wa alaikum assalamu” which is an equal greeting. Or you can improve upon it by adding, “Wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu” “And the mercy of Allah and his blessings” or some other nice phrase.
Respect for people
Islam teaches us to have regard for others. If we don’t treat all people with respect then we have no Adab, or manners. Furthermore, with regards to elderly people, we are supposed to treat them with kindness and respect. Think about it! They have lived a long time, much longer than you. And they’ve already gone through trains and struggles you have yet to experience. And in the case of your parents, they spent a lot of time and effort raising you. The Blessed Prophet declared:
“Whenever a youth honors an old person because of their years, then Allah will give him or her somebody to honor him or her when they are old themselves.” (Tirmidhi)
In addition, Allah commands us to address the elderly in kindness and not to lose patience with them or insult them if they frustrate us. He said:
“…Don’t say to them a word of anger, nor repel them, but address them honorably.” (Qur’an, 17:23)
Similarly, guests are also to be treated well. When a person invites another to their house, food should be served and the guest should be made to feel welcome and at home. At the same time, for their part, the guest should not seek to take advantage of his or her host. The Blessed Prophet advised in another saying that the guest should not overstay his welcome and should respect the privacy, home and family of the host. The Blessed Prophet stated:
“He who believes in Allah and the Last Day should honor his guest as he deserves.” A person asked, “Messenger of Allah, what does a guest deserve?” The Prophet answered, “A day and a night of what he deserves, and hospitality for three days. More than this is charity.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Islam teaches that there are some types of behavior which are not good for people to engage in when they have dealings with each other. A Muslim is not allowed to spy on another Muslim. Also, if some gossip about a person comes to us, we are not to believe in it or spread it around. Rather, we are to find out the truth for ourselves. In addition, we are not allowed to tease each other or call each other hurtful names. If two Muslims fall to fighting, we must break it up and solve the problem. No cursing or foul language should be used and we must all present ourselves as dignified, refined and decent human beings. This is the best Akhlaq, or character.