The Etiquette of Keeping Company

One’s etiquette in social situations is the key foundation to having strong relationships with other people. This article is the first in a series taken from the On Demand Course: Discussion on Sulami’s Adab of Keeping Company.

Learning about the etiquette of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) gives us a framework on which we can base our lives.  

In general, it is the Sunna to keep company. The most intensely spiritual of our worldly acts, which is the prayer, is done in the congregation. We congregate for it. We congregate to break our fast. And we congregate for Hajj and the like. 

Remaining Alone

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) warned about remaining alone. He reportedly said:

“Be with community and beware of remaining alone because the shaytan is close to the one alone and is more distant even from two. Whoever wishes for the vast expanses of paradise, let them hold fast to the group.” 

Being with others is not easy. The believer who mixes with people and is patient with their hurt is better than the believer who essentially isolates himself. 

In general, you need to keep company. Keep good company. There is time for company and there is a time to be alone.

Too Much Company

There can be too much company, which is when one is so busy with people that you don’t have time to be alone with Allah, where one does not make time to benefit religiously by remembrance, devotion, recitation of the Quran, reflection, and so on. 

For those who think they are alone but expose themselves to certain media, they are keeping the company of that digital media. That is detrimental because the human being needs company. 

Allah says:

یَـٰۤأَیُّهَا ٱلنَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقۡنَـٰكُم مِّن ذَكَر وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلۡنَـٰكُمۡ شُعُوبا وَقَبَاۤىِٕلَ لِتَعَارَفُوۤا۟ۚ 

“O mankind: Verily We created you of a single male and female, and but made you peoples and major tribes to know and appreciate your own kindred ties with each other” [Quran, 49:13; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

The capacity to keep company with others is beneficial. The heart needs it. Your emotional well-being needs it. It is part of your being able to grow. 

Good Character

Identify good companionship for yourself. See people who exemplify the good character that we see in the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Avidly seek them out for good company.

The company we keep has social, emotional, and religious benefits. It is a means for you to cultivate good character. Act on good character. Respond with good character. Learn good character by keeping good company. 

You may notice that this person is kind, this person so humble, this person so caring. This person sacrifices much and this person is patient. Benefit from them.

Learn from the character of your teachers and those around you as much as you learn from their words. There are many people whom you can learn from even though they may not formally teach you anything.

Imam Sulami

Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami died around the year 420AH. He was a great Imam of the spiritual path. He was also a great and distinguished scholar of many sciences, particularly the science of hadith. 

In his work, The Etiquette of Keeping Company, he mentions the proper manners of company, relating them to the Hadith of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).

A much later scholar, Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (d.971AH), one of the great Imams of the Shafi‘i school, abridged the text into sixty proper etiquettes. He lived over 500 years after Imam Sulami. 


Good character and good manners bind society together. Having etiquette, in our conduct, in how we eat, in how we drink, etc. beautifies one’s actions and betters relationships. Consider the example of eating and making noises aloud. You are not sinful but it turns people away. 

One of the central elements of the Quranic narrative are the stories of the Prophets and also the stories of the righteous. Reflect on their character and conduct. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly said, “I was only sent to complete virtuous character.”

Character and conduct is very important. The believers most perfect in faith are those best in character.

On Family and Proper Manners 

One of the best things we can do for our families is to exemplify good character. We do that out of love and emulation of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Bear in mind that your family sees you at the worst of times. 

Ask Allah. If you care for your family, pray for them with every prayer. The scholars say, “Make your manners the flour and your reminders like salt.” If you are making baking bread, you use some salt. If all the other ingredients are in place, a little salt enough.

The most important response is your character.Think about what will be a beneficial response. Sometimes it can help to consult before responding. Some things take time. The point is to facilitate change towards the good. 

If you do not know how to respond in the way that is most loved to Allah and his Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) then do not do it. It is not from weakness, but from strength to consult.

The concern of the scholar or the experienced friend is to assist you.