Give Due Respect

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

People have a sense of self-dignity. This is not about feeding their arrogance. People may be accustomed to a certain way of being dealt with. Give them due respect as to who they are, not how you perceive them from the past.

Do not be deluded by the respect other people give. The early Muslims said, “If you deal with people and you are not respectful of them, that is from lack of understanding and lack of intellect.” This will not result in good relations. 

Go out of your way to express respect for them. Keep the company of people who are embodiments of proper manners.  

If food is served, for example, you do not just say, “Here is the food, come take it.” You serve it to them. Choose what they like. Actively think about how you can express love and appreciation. 

Check Your Ego

Check your nafs (ego). The nafs wants to put others down to affirm itself. You need to struggle with your nafs to be able to express respect for others. You do not know the final state of people.

This is both physical company and virtual company. Give greetings of peace to people such as “Assalamu alaikum,” “Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,” and “Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh.” 

Have other niceties such as, “I hope you are doing well,” and “How are things with you and your family?” The etiquette of greeting, of inquiring about them, of thanking and being expressive in one’s thinking. 

Show Affection

Have caring affection. Mean it. Yeah, you mean it. Imam Junaid Al-Baghdadi was asked, “What is adab?” He replied It is the art of keeping good company.” It is an art. You have to learn it. Observe how people do it. Notice those good customs.

Be ready with four ways to greet somebody for example. Four ways to ask about somebody. Four ways to thank. Do not just say, “Thank you,” say, “Thank you. I appreciate that. That was so nice.” 

Reportedly, one of the people who was not yet a companion during the Meccan phase had gone on a trip to Yemen. He had grown up with the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and he loved the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) as a human being.

In Yemen, he saw these kingly garbs that had been owned by one of the rulers of Yemen. They were extremely expensive. It cost him the whole profit of his trip from Mecca to Yemen by camel. He said, “This befits no one but Muhammad Ibn Abdillah.” So he bought it for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). 

He came and gave it to him in private. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly did not accept it freely, but paid for it and then accepted it. Everyone was amazed at how the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) pay for it even though things were so tight financially. 

Show Courtesy

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not ask him for the price of how much it was. Even though he had not told anyone because it was very embarrassing. Mecca is a city of traders. Anybody would say you went all the way to Yemen and made no profit because you bought this one piece of clothing for somebody whom most of the cities had enmity with.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) refused it. 

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) paid for it in full without asking about its price. Then the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) put it on and came out of his house wearing that garment with that man and he said, “So by Allah, I never saw anything in anything else more beautiful than him in these.”

Soon afterward, that man became Muslim.

Pay Attention

Consider if someone gives you overcooked and dry burgers and they ask you how they are. One may think of saying, “They are wonderful” intending that it is wonderful that you brought that. Or, “I really like burgers.” 

Be present with with people. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was described, “He used to give every one of his sitting companions their share until each person would think that there is no one more dear to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) than them.” 

If there are five people, give everyone due attention. Greet people, and ask (those who it is appropriate to ask) about their name. Cultivate knowledge of etiquette.

Notice that different societies and cultures have their beautiful norms. The believers are like the bee. They take from every tree and every flower the best of it. 

Be Dignified

Take good care of what you wear. Comb your hair. Do not be lax just because you are with family. The etiquette of keeping company is not just how you behave when you are outside of the house. 

In traditional societies, if you looked at Muslim neighborhoods, the houses from the outside were plain, very dignified, but reasonably plain. Their beauty was on the inside. The most beautiful thing of them was the courtyard. 

They say the courtyard is like the metaphor of the heart. From the outside, the believer is dignified, maybe a little bit plain but, the real beauty is on the inside.

Retain Trust

Use terms of respect with your family. Speak to your spouse (where appropriate) with terms of endearment. Guard their secrets. This is critical in relations. Nothing breaks relations like this. 

A secret is not necessarily something that they explicitly make confidential, “Do not tell anybody.” Rather our beloved messenger, (Allah bless him and give him peace) put it in very simple terms, “Meetings are a trust.”

Trust is something that must be guarded. Anything that is said in a meeting between two individuals or even in a meeting that is not public (even a private lesson) is private. A family gathering is private. 

If someone mentions that a certain person is sick. Can you tell others in the wider family? The assumption of anything said in a meeting or a gathering is that it is private. It can only be disclosed when you have considered and are sure that it can be disclosed. Be careful about it. 

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly said, “There is no faith in one who does not uphold their trusts.”

Discretion and Care

In general, the idea of discretion, tact and not being too public about things is very important. Right? There’s an amazing hadith of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) on this.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly said, “Seek assistance in your needs through secrecy because anyone who has a blessing is envied.”

If you are working on something or you are about to do something, be discreet. Consider how you declare it and to whom you declare it first as well as how you declare it, and when you declare it.

If someone tells you something, the sunna is to be discreet about it. Do not go and tell everyone else. The hearts of the free are graveyards for secrets. The hearts of the virtuous are treasure chests of secrets.

You do not tell anyone else unless you are sure that the person who told you or the person spoken is fine with you disclosing that. Do not assume everything is fine. Rather, ask. 

Some of the scholars when dying would ask that everyone besides the immediate family leave the house and sometimes they even ask that their children to leave the room. Why? They were not sure what they would be saying in their final moments. They did not want to disclose anyone’s secrets. That is part of really caring for others.