Brief Advice to Muslim Sisters

When you intend to visit your relatives or your Muslim sisters, carefully select the appropriate day and the hour of your visit and its duration. There are appropriate and inappropriate times for paying visits even to relatives and friends. [1]

Ensure that your visit is pleasant, brief and enjoyable. 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 tiresome during which conversation moves from being purposeful and valuable to being aimless and useless.

The honourable Tábi’í, Muhammad Ibn Shiháb Az-Zuhrí [Rahimahullah] said, “When a meeting becomes too long, shaytan then has a share in it.”

Ensure that during the visit most, if not all your talk, is of value. Keep away from backbiting, gossip and idle talk. A wise muslim woman (and man) does not have time for such talk.

[1] This also applies to phone calls.

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Answer Only If You Are Asked

If a colleague was asked about something that you know, do not hasten to answer. Instead, you should only say something when you are asked. This is a better etiquette, and a nobler attituse. It generates interest in what you say, while enhancing your respect.

The honourable Tábi’í, Mujahid Ibn Jabr [Rahimahullah] recalled that Luqman, The Wise [Rahimahullah], said to his son, “If another person was asked a question, never hasten to give the answer, as if you are going to gain booty or win a prize.” By doing so, you will belittle the one who was asked, you will offend the questioner and you will draw the attention of the foolish people to your stupidity and ill-manner.

Shaykh Ibn Batta [Rahimahullah], the Hambalí jurist and Muhaddith said, “I was with Abu ‘Umar Az-Zahid Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdul Wahid Al-Baghdadi the Imam and linguist, also known as Ghulámu Tha’lab [Rahimahullah]. He (Abu ‘Umar [Rahimahullah]) was asked regarding an issue. I hastened and answered the enquirer. He turned to me and said, “Do you know the nosy and inquisitive ones?” suggesting that I was a nosy person. This made me feel very embarrassed.”

“If I leave out a single etiquette of Islam, I fear…”

‘Abdullah Ibn Mubarak [Rahimahullah] said:

“If I leave out a single etiquette of Islam, I fear that Allah will deprive me of all that He has bestowed me with.”

Discussion and Debates

If you are having difficulty understanding some of what has been said by the speaker, restrain yourself until he finishes, and thereafter ask for clarification gently, politely and with a proper introduction. Do not interrupt a person’s talk. This is contrary to the proper manner of listening and stirs up contempt in the heart. However, this is not the case if it is a gathering of studying and learning. In such a case, asking questions and initiating a discussion is desirable if conducted respectfully and tactfully and only after the teacher finishes.

Khalifah Al-Ma’mún [Rahimahullah] said, “Discussion entrenches knowledge more than mere acceptance.”

Imam Haitham Ibn ‘Adi [Rahimahullah], a known scholar and historian as well as, one of the companions of the four khalifahs, Abu Jafar Al-Mansúr, Al-Mahdí, Al-Hádí, and Ar-Rashid [Rahimahumullah] said, “The men of wisdom say:

“It is disrespectful to overwhelm people as they speak and to interrupt them before they end their speech.”

Adopt the Art of Listening

If a person starts telling you something that you know very well, you should pretend as if you dont know it. Do not rush to reveal your knowledge of it or interfere in his speech. Instead, you should show your attention and concentration.

The honourable Tábi’í, Imam ‘Atá Ibn Abi Rabáh [Rahimahullah] said, “A young man would tell me something, I would listen to him as if I never heard it before, although I may have heard of it even before he was born!”

Khalid Ibn Safwán At-Tamimi [Rahimahullah], who was a companion of two khalifahs, Sayyiduná ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz and Khalifah Hisham Ibn ‘Abdul Malik [Rahimahumullah]  said, “If a person tells you something which you have heard before, or news that you already know of, do not interrupt him so as to exhibit your knowledge to those present. This is a sign of being rude and ill-mannered.”

The honourable Imam ‘Abdullah Ibn Wahab Al-Quraishi Al-Misri, who is a companion of Imams Malik, Laith Ibn Sa’d and Thawri [Rahimahumullah] said, “Sometimes, a person would tell me a story that I have heard before his parents had wed, yet I listen as if I never heard it before.”

Sayyiduná Ibrahim Ibn Junaid [Rahimahullah] said, “A wise man once said to his son, “Learn to listen properly just as you learn to speak properly.” “Listening properly means, maintaining eye contact, allowing the speaker to finish the speech, and restraining yourself from interrupting his speech, even if you are aware of what he is saying.”

Khatib Baghdadi [Rahimahullah] said in a poem:

A talk never interrupt

Though you know it in and out

Talk in a Suitable Tone

If you speak to a guest or any other person, whether in a gathering or alone, make sure that your voice is pleasant, with a low audible tone. You may raise your voice in accordance to the need. Raising your voice unneccessarily is contrary to proper manners and indicates lack of respect for the person to whom you are talking. This manner should be maintained with friends, peers, acquaintances, strangers, the young and the old. It is more important to adhere to this with one’s parents or someone of their status or those elderly and notable persom whom you ought to respect.

The Qur’án tells us that the advice of Luqmán, The Wise, to his son was:

وَٱغۡضُضۡ مِن صَوۡتِكَ‌ۚ

“And lower your voice,” [Surah Luqman:19]

He directed him to speak in a gentle manner , for speaking loudly is detested and ugly.

Verse two and three of Surah Hujurat read:

يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ لَا تَرۡفَعُوٓاْ أَصۡوَٲتَكُمۡ فَوۡقَ صَوۡتِ ٱلنَّبِىِّ وَلَا تَجۡهَرُواْ لَهُ ۥ بِٱلۡقَوۡلِ كَجَهۡرِ بَعۡضِڪُمۡ لِبَعۡضٍ أَن تَحۡبَطَ أَعۡمَـٰلُكُمۡ وَأَنتُمۡ لَا تَشۡعُرُونَ (٢) إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ يَغُضُّونَ أَصۡوَٲتَهُمۡ عِندَ رَسُولِ ٱللَّهِ أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ ٱلَّذِينَ ٱمۡتَحَنَ ٱللَّهُ قُلُوبَہُمۡ لِلتَّقۡوَىٰ‌ۚ لَهُم مَّغۡفِرَةٌ۬ وَأَجۡرٌ عَظِيمٌ 

“O ye who believe! raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet, nor speak aloud to Him In talk, As ye may speak aloud to one another, Lest your deeds become vain and ye perceive not. Those that lower their voices In the presence of Allah’s Messenger,- their hearts has Allah tested for piety: for them is forgiveness and a great reward.”

Sayyiduná ‘Abdullah Ibn Zubair [Radallahu anhuma] said that: “After the revelation of these verses, whenever Sayyiduná ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab [Radiallahu anhu] wanted to address Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam], he (‘Umar [Radallahu anhu]) would talk as if he was whispering. Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] would even enquire about some of what Sayyiduná ‘Umar [Radiallahu anhu] said, because he did not hear him well.” [Sahih Bukhari]

Hafidh Adh-Dhahabi [Rahimahullah] wrote in his biography of Imam Muhammad Ibn Sírín [Rahimahullah], the eminent scholar and great Tábi’í, that:

“Whenever he was in his mother’s presence, he would talk in such a low tone that you would think that he was ill.” [Tárikhul Islam, vol. 4 pg. 197.]

In his biography of ‘Abdullah Ibn Awn Al-Basri [Rahimahullah], a student of Imam  Ibn Sírín [Rahimahullah] and one of the famous scholars, Hafidh Adh-Dhahabi [Rahimahullah] noted:

“Once, his mother called him and because he responded with a voice louder than hers, he was fearful and he repented by freeing two slaves.”

‘Ásim Ibn Bahdalah Al-Kufi [Rahimahullah], the famous qári said, “I visited Sayyiduná ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz [Rahimahullah] and a man spoke loudly. To this Sayyiduná ‘Umar [Rahimahullah] replied: “Stop! You need not talk loudly. You should only talk loud enough to make your listeners hear.” [Tárikh Dimashq]

The Manner of Offering Condolences

When offering condolences about the plight of a relative, friend or acquaintance, it is mustahab (preferable) to make du’a similar to the following du’a for your deceased brother. This is a du’a which Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] recited to Ummu Salamah [Radiallahu anha] at the death of her husband:

الّلهمَّ اغْفِرْ لأَبِى سَلَمَةَ وَارْفعْ دَرَجَتَهُ فِى الْمَهْدِيِّينَ وَاخْلُفْهُ فِى عَقِبِهِ فِى الْغَابِرِيْنَ وَاغْفَرْلَنَا وَلَهُ يَا رَبَّ الْعَالَمِينَ وَافْسَحْ لَهُ فِى قَبْرِهِ وَنَوَّرْ لَهُ فِيهِ

“O Allah! Forgive Abu Salamah, elevate his status among the guided people and look after the family that he left behind. O Lord of the universe! Forgive us and him, comfort him in his grave and lighten his stay (in the grave).” [Sahih Muslim]

It is desirable that your conversation with the bereaved person be aimed at lightening the effect of the calamity. This could be done by mentioning the reward of patience over that calamity, the transitory nature of life on earth and that the hearafter is an everlasting abode.

In this respect, it is desirable certain verses of Qur’an that are connected to that, or some of the well-spoken condolences if our ancestors. You may mention virtues such as the following:

وَبَشِّرِ ٱلصَّـٰبِرِينَ (١٥٥) ٱلَّذِينَ إِذَآ أَصَـٰبَتۡهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ۬ قَالُوٓاْ إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّآ إِلَيۡهِ رَٲجِعُونَ (١٥٦) أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ عَلَيۡہِمۡ صَلَوَٲتٌ۬ مِّن رَّبِّهِمۡ وَرَحۡمَةٌ۬‌ۖ وَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡمُهۡتَدُونَ 

(1) “Give glad tidings to those who patiently endure, who say when afflicted with a calamity: “To Allah we belong and to Him we return.” They are those on whom (descend) blessings and mercy from their Lord, and they are the ones who receive guidance.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 155-157]

كُلُّ نَفۡسٍ۬ ذَآٮِٕقَةُ ٱلۡمَوۡتِ‌ۗ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوۡنَ أُجُورَڪُمۡ يَوۡمَ ٱلۡقِيَـٰمَةِ‌ۖ فَمَن زُحۡزِحَ عَنِ ٱلنَّارِ وَأُدۡخِلَ ٱلۡجَنَّةَ فَقَدۡ فَازَ‌ۗ وَمَا ٱلۡحَيَوٰةُ ٱلدُّنۡيَآ إِلَّا مَتَـٰعُ ٱلۡغُرُورِ 

(2)”Every soul shall have a taste of death and only on the Day of the Judgement shall you be paid your full recompense. Only those who are saved from the fire and admitted to Paradise (Jannah) will have attained the object (of life). For the life of this world is but good and chattels of deception.” [Surah Áala Imran: 185]

كُلُّ مَنۡ عَلَيۡہَا فَانٍ۬ (٢٦) وَيَبۡقَىٰ وَجۡهُ رَبِّكَ ذُو ٱلۡجَلَـٰلِ وَٱلۡإِكۡرَامِ

(3) “All that is on earth will persish, but face of your Lord will abide (forever), full of Majesty, Bounty and Honour” [Surah Ar-Rahman: 26-27]

You may even mention ahadith of Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] such as the following:

اللَّهُمَّ آجِرْنِى فِى مُصِيبَتِى وَأَخْلِفْ لِى خَيرًا مِنْها

Allahumma aajur ni fee museebati wa akhlif li khairan minha.

(1) “O Allah! Reward me in my calamity and replace my loss with a better one. [Sahih Muslim]

أِنَّ للَّه مَا أَخَذَ وَلَهُ مَا أَعْطَى وَكُلُّ شَيْءٍ عِنْدَهُ بِأَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى

(2) “Indeed! Whatever Allah gives or takes belongs to him and everything is predestined by Him. [Sahih Bukhari & Sahih Muslim]

أِنَّ الْعَينَ تَدْمَعُ وَالْقَلْبُ يَحْزَنُ وَلَا نَقُولُ مَا يَرْضَى رَبُّنَا وَأِنَّا بِفِرَاقِكَ يَا أَبْرَاهِيمُ لَحْزُونُونَ

(3) When Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] mourned the death of his son, Ibrahim, he said the above which translates as : “My ears are tearful. My heart is full of anguish, but we will only say what pleases our Lord. O Ibrahim! We are indeed grieved over your separation.” [Sahih Bukhari & Sahih Muslim]

Also, it is very appropriate to use some of the sayings of the pious predecessors in this regard.

(1) Sayyiduná ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab [Radiallahu anhu] used to say, “Everyday we are told so and so has just died. Most definitely, one day it will be said: ‘Umar has died.”

(2) The Khalifa ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul Aziz [Rahimahullah] said, “The person who has none of hos forefathers, between him and Adam [álayhis salam] alive, is indeed deep-rooted in death.”

(3) The illustrious Tábi’í, Hasan Basri [Rahimahullah] said, “O son of Adam! You are nothing but mere days. Whenever a day passes away, a part of you also passes away.”

(4) He also said, “Allah ordained that the ultimate resting place of the believers will be paradise, no less”

(5) Hasan Basri’s [Rahimahullah] student Malik Ibn Dinar [Rahimahullah] said, “The wedding of the one who fears Allah will be on the day of Judgement.”

A poet said:

We rejoice at the passage of days;

Whereas each day that passes brings us closer to death.

Another poet said in this regard:

We dont offer condolences because we are certain

Of life, but because it is the practice of our Religion;

For, the consoled and the consoling may live today

Tomorrow though they will vanish away.

A suitable poem in this regard is:

We die and live every night and day (by sleeping);

One day we will die and move away.

Another poem describes how oblivious humans can be to death:

We in this world are like passengers on a ship of load;

We think it still, but running is the boat.

I have quoted all these appropriate mourning quotations because I have witnessed many people engaging in discussions that do not befitt such a sad occasion. This adds to the distress and anguish of the bereaved. This is also contrary to the style and etiquette of Islam.

My comments: It would be better if more knowledgeable brother(s) are left to advise those close to the deceased to observe patience.

The Duty of Expressing Condolence

If a relative or a close friend of one of your friends happen to die, hasten to offer your condolences. You should share in his grief for that is the right of your family member, friend or fellow Muslim. If you can, you should attend the funeral and the burial at the cemettery. This is a highly rewarding gesture, an effective and stern admonition, and a lesson reminding you of the inevitable end of the entire creation.

A poet addressed a deceased person and said:

“While you were alive, you gave me many a lesson, reminder and admonition,

Today your death provides me with the most important lesson.”

Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] said, “A Muslim owes his fellow Muslim five rights; replying a greeting, visiting the ill, attending the funeral…” [Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim]

Imam Ahmad [Rahimahullah] reported that Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] said, “Visit the sick and follow the funeral procession, it will remind you of the hereafter.”

Condolences and Breaking Unpleasant News

When you have to break undesired news of a tragic accident, or the death of a close relative or friend, it is appropriate that you break the news in such a way so as to lessen its impact and make it as mild and gentle as possible. For example, in the case of death, you may say, “Recently, I learned that so and so has been seriously ill and his condition worsened. Today I heard that he passed away. May the mercy of Allah be with him.”

Begin by giving the name of the person in question. Do not break the news of a death by saying, “Do you know who passed away today?” This unduly manner frightens the listeners and prompts them to expect the worst, namely that the death involves someone close to them who may have been sick or old at that time. Rather, if you commence by mentioning the name of deceased, this will soften the impact of the news, reducing the listener’s apprehension, while the news will still be conveyed.

Convey the news of fire, drowning, or a car accident etc. in a similar fashion. Prepare the listener for the news in a way that minimises the impact. Mention the name(s) of the affected person(s) in a diplomatic way, and dont shock your companions or relatives when conveying to them such news. Some people may have weak hearts and such bad may news cause them great harm, which may even lead to them fainting and collapsing.

If it is necessary to convey such news, choose the appropriate time. Dont convey such news at a meal, before going to sleep, or during an illness. Wisdom and tactfulness are the best qualities to handle such a situation.

Other Manners of Visiting the Sick

One visiting the sick pught to wear clean clothes with good scent in order to make the patient feel better both spiritually and physically. At the same time, it is inappropriate to wear fancy clothes that are more appropriate for occasions of happiness. One should avoid wearing a strong smelling perfume which may inconvenience the sick.

Visitors should avoid causing distress to the sick by conveying bad news such as failing business, a death or similar bad news. Also, visitors should not enquire about the details of the illness for the purpose of mere conversation. This will not benefit the sick in any way, unless the visitor is a specialized physician. Similarly, visitors should not recommend to a patient any food or medicine that might have helped them or someone else. Such recommendations might lead the ill person, out of ignorance or desperation, to try it, causing further complications or even death.

Do not critcise or object to the treatment by the physician in the presence of the ill person for it cast doubt in the mind of the sick.

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