Etiquette of Conversation

These are 10 reminders that can serve as an aid for having fruitful conversations. They can be used by couples when talking with one another, by Muslims in giving Da’waah to non-Muslims, or any other situation:

1) Don’t challenge. It is important not to challenge the other party as this can agitate their Kibar (pride) and make them more prone to disagreeing.

2) Don’t say “You are wrong.” When you try to show their error bluntly, they are more likely to hold on to their position even if they come to realize that they are wrong.

3) Admit you are wrong. If you realize that you are wrong about a certain point, don’t hesitate to acknowledge it. This will make them know that you are seeking the truth, and not trying to impose your own opinion.

4) Honest praise. Praise the good qualities of the other person. This is definitely a heart-softener. Do make sure that your praise is truthful and in its place.

5) Ask confirmatory questions. Ask questions for which you expect an affirmative reply from the other party. These will make them more close to the correct position you are trying to show them.

6) Leave the food for the bird on the ground; don’t expect it to come to you. When you want to get your correct position over to the other party, it is a good idea to propose it in the form of a suggestion and let the other party arrive at their decision by themselves; don’t force them to, for they won’t comply.

7) Don’t interrupt, listen attentively. This is very important. Nobody likes to be interrupted when they are speaking. Everybody likes to be listened to. Let them say all that they want to say and listen attentively, and when they are finished, start speaking. What is worse is to disagree with them while they are expressing their opinion.

8) Adapt their position. Put yourself in the other person’s position to see what is wrong with it. If you see nothing wrong, then there is probably nothing to argue about.

9) Common grounds. Try to highlight your common grounds so that you can resolve the issues in which you are disagreeing over. Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aalaa) commands us to give Da’wah to the Christians by showing them our common grounds and then rectifying where they went wrong (Surah Aali ‘Imraan, verse 64).

10) Move their feelings. Emotions play a major role in people’s decisions. Moving somebody’s feelings in a positive way (not hurting their feelings!) is likely to bring about good results.

The upshot of these points is to ask Allaah to help you and the other party to see the truth as truth and accept it, and see falsehood as falsehood and reject it, and to know that it is only by the will of Allaah that these points can bring about benefit.

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Originally adapted from a lecture by Shaykh ‘Adnaan ‘Abdul-Qaadir.

Swearing by Allah

To confirm a statement, many resort to swearing by the name of Allah SWT or one of His attribute. This is a bad habit that should be resisted. The name of Allah should not be used so lightly, and to swear by it is very serious matter. Allah SWT in Surah Al-Nahl says “And do not take your oath to practice deception between yourselves, with the result that someone’s foot may slip after it was firmly planted”. Always remember the hadith of the Prophet Sallalaahu alaihi wa sallam reported by Bukhari and Muslim “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should say something good or remain silent.

{Allah’s Messenger (SAWS) said: “The best of people are those of my generation, then those who follow them, then those who follow them, after which there will come a people whose testimonies will precede their oaths and whose oaths will precede their testimonies. (Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim)

This Hadith discourages frequent swearing. People rush hastily into swearing oaths and bearing witness before they are requested to do so, as if these matters are of little moment. This reduces respect for the name of Allah.}

Selecting Suitable Topics

In Surah Al-Hajj, Allah described the believer “And they have been guided to the purest of speeches; and guided to the path of Him who is worthy of all praise.” When you talk during your visit, don’t speak unless you are asked to, or unless you know that your speech and words will be well received and will please the host and other guests. Don’t prolong your speech. Use a proper tone of voice. Anas reported that “the Prophet’s S.A.W.S. talk was clear and concise. Not too much nor too little. He disliked loquacity and ranting.” Bukhari narrated a Hadith in which Aisha said “The Prophet’s S.A.W.S. talk (was so little) that you can count his words”.

If you hear the Azaan you must listen and respond to the call of Allah. Many people, even those with Islamic knowledge continue talking while the Azaan is being called. This is rude, since those hearing the Azaan should listen to it and quit speech, study and even Qur’an recitation. Solemnly they should repeat the words of the Azaan and reflect on the words of the highest call. We should listen to the Azaan, whether we are at home, office, shop, or attending a lesson, even if it’s a religious lesson. Imam al-Kasani in Badaiu Al-Sanaei’ said: “Those hearing the Azaan or Iqama should not talk. Even if reading Qur’an or doing other noble things, everything should be stopped to listen and respond to the Azaan.”

The Azaan is the food of the soul nourishing it with faith and elevation. Do not forgo your share of it. Teach this to your children and friends. Al Bukhari narrated a Hadith by Abu Saeed Al-Khudri that the Prophet S.A.W.S, said “If you heard the call say like what the Muezzin is saying.” In another Hadith reported by Jaber that the Prophet S.A.W.S. said “He serves my help on the day of judgment who said when hearing Azaan: O Allah, the Lord of this perfect call and imminent prayer, please award Muhammad S.A.W.S. the help, nobility, and the desired status you promised him.”

Imam Abdul Razaq narrated in his Musanaf that Ibn Juraig said: “I was told that people used to listen to Azaan like they would listen to recitation of Qur’an. They would repeat after the Muezzin. If he said: Come to prayer, they will say: With the help and power of Allah. If he said: Come to the good deed, they will say: With the will of Allah.”

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.”

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]