Adab 04: The Adab of Homes – Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Ustadh Tabraze Azam writes on the adab or etiquette of the home – a blessing from Allah and a place of joy, safety, privacy, and prayer.
Allah has made your homes a place to rest, and has given you tents from the hide of animals, light to handle when you travel and when you camp. And out of their wool, fur, and hair He has given you furnishings and goods for a while. (Sura al Nahl 16:80)
Homes are havens of serenity and comfort. They are a shelter from the heat and cold. They offer privacy from the gaze of others, safety for belongings, protection from harmful animals, insects and the like, and many other benefits. They are truly a blessing.
Allah Most High reminds us at the end of the subsequent verse, “This is how He perfects His favor upon you, so perhaps you will fully submit to Him.” (Sura al Nahl 16:81) Namely, acknowledge the one who blessed you with all that you have, and worship Him alone with sincerity as He fulfilled even your most basic human needs by His Grace.
The famed Egyptian master of the inward and outward sciences, Ibn ‘Ata Illah al Sakandari, stated in an aphorism (hikma):
Whosoever isn’t grateful for His blessings makes himself liable to losing them. And whosoever is grateful for them has tied them down by their reins.
We also know that gratitude is directing blessings toward that for which they were created. There is much guidance from Allah and His messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, regarding the standards of Muslim homes, and gratitude entails that we strive to adorn our homes with these matters as much as reasonably possible. Gratitude is more than mere words.
A home that is adorned with Islam is a home which reminds of the delights of Paradise. Allah Most High says, “But those mindful of their Lord will have elevated mansions, built one above the other, under which rivers flow. That is the promise of Allah. And Allah never fails in His promise.” (Sura al Zamar 39:20)
The condition, here, is that these people were “mindful” of Allah. They made meaningful life decisions, and put Allah before all else. In seeking to become of those genuine, beloved, people of adab, we’ll be looking at some of these matters in this post.
Supplicating During Entering and Exiting
The Lady Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, told us that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to remember Allah “in all of his states.” (Muslim) It will probably take the rest of us a little practice to get to a stage where we are always remembering Allah, but we could do worse than recalling the blessed words of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, upon entering and exiting our homes. An easy way to learn these supplications is to write them down and put them beside the door.
Abu Dawud recorded that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to say upon leaving the house: “O Allah, I seek Your protection from going astray or leading others astray; from slipping or letting others slip; from being oppressed or oppressing others; and from acting ignorantly or others acting ignorantly towards me.” (Abu Dawud)
بسم اللهِ ، توكّلتُ على اللهِ ، اللهم إنّي أعوذ بك أن أضِلّ أو أُضَلّ ، أو أَزِلّ أو أُزَلّ ، أو أَظْلِمَ أو أُظْلَمَ، أو أَجْهَل أو يُجْهَل عليّ
And when he would enter, Allah bless him and give him peace, he would say, “O Allah, I ask You for the best entrance and the best exit. In the Name of Allah do we enter and in the Name of Allah do we leave, and in Allah, our Lord, do we trust.” (Abu Dawud)
اللَّهمَّ إنِّي أسالكَ خيرَ المولجِ وخيرَ المخرجِ باسمِ اللَّهِ ولجنا وباسمِ اللَّهِ خرجنا وعلى ربِّنا توَكلنا
Making a Prayer Space in the Home
Abu Dawud recorded a tradition in which the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, instructed that prayer spaces be made, according to some scholars, within homes, and that they are kept clean and perfumed. This is particularly useful for women as they can get the reward of a spiritual retreat (i’tikaf) whenever they step into such an area with an intention of such. But it is generally praiseworthy for both men and women to have a prayer space (musalla) in the home. The spiritual light (nur) of such spaces can affect the state of the entire home.
This can be an area in a room, or a standalone room itself. Sacred spaces like this facilitate focus in prayer and other devotional acts. For men, they should be primarily used for the non-obligatory prayers (sunna/nawafil). As for obligatory prayers, men are generally expected to pray them in congregation at the mosque, if reasonably possible. When it is difficult to do so, this space can be used for congregational prayers too. Women, on the other hand, may perform all of their prayers in this designated space.
Personal Spaces and Avoiding Solitude
Allah Most High says, “Believers, your slaves and any who have not yet reached puberty should ask your permission to come in at three times of day: before the dawn prayer; when you lay your garments aside in the midday heat; and after the evening prayer. These are your three times for privacy; at other times, there is no blame on you or them if you move around each other freely.” (Sura al Nur 24:58)
This verse points to the proper adab of private spaces- spaces which aren’t communal except at certain times of day. This is because it aids in avoiding that which is harmful (such as seeing nakedness) and teaching children and others about privacy which is what homes are all about.
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him and his father, one of the foremost of the Companions (sahaba) in stringently following the sunna of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, reported that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, interdicted “being alone and sleeping alone.” (Ahmad) Remaining with the group, or in good company, then, is a means of warding off feelings of loneliness or depression. Further, it can form the basis of uplifting support at home, as you’re less likely to engage in that which you wouldn’t otherwise do, and people who will help if you’re hit by hard times or sickness.
One of the things the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, taught us is to have some moments together with the household. Abu Dawud reported that a group of people came to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, saying that they eat but don’t feel full. He responded, Allah bless him and give him peace, by stating, “Perhaps you’re eating separately?” to which they admitted as such.
“Gather together upon your food, mention the Name of Allah, and you will be blessed in it,” he replied, Allah bless him and give him peace, teaching us that there is a special secret of increase (baraka) in gathering for meals which facilitates righteous actions. Other traditions report that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The most beloved of food is that which has the most hands in it.”
Planting Trees and Other Greenery
Imam Nawawi called one of his famed works Riyad al Salihin, which can be roughly understood as: “The lush green, river-filled gardens of the righteous.” There is something, then, other-worldly about greenery and natural beauty. In one tradition (hadith), the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, encouraged beautifying the earth so much so that he encouraged planting your seedling even if the Final Hour arrives. (Bukhari, Al Adab al Mufrad)
Similarly, he, Allah bless him and give him peace, also said, “There is no Muslim who plants a tree or sows a crop from which birds, man or beasts eat but that it is charity for him.”
There is also a Qur’anic imperative to cultivate the earth. Allah Most High says, “He is the One Who produced you from the earth and settled you on it.” (Sura Hud 11:61) “Settling” referring to the building on earth and cultivating its land with crops, trees and the like.
Beauty is the hallmark of a believer. Ao if you are able to adorn the garden of your home with greenery, or the inside your home if you don’t have a garden, in a dignified and manageable manner, then do so. Interestingly, studies have shown a positive correlation between greenery – essentially trees – and health. Thus, not only does such planting have a positive impact on yourself, it also impacts your neighbors and wider community.
The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “The smallest branch [of faith] is removing something harmful from the pathway,” (Muslim) If this is the case with walkways and roads, then the same should apply to our very homes. The emphasis on cleanliness in our religion is not lost on anybody. The places where we eat, drink, sleep and worship should be preserved from that which is unclean or unbecoming. Ensuring that the home is free from bad odors, filth and anything distasteful should be a priority as it can affect the entire state of the home and its people. Further, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) told us, “Indeed, the angels find foul what humans find foul.” (Muslim)
In the same vein, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, also encouraged us to wash our hands after eating and to wipe our plates clean. (Abu Dawud) One of the wisdoms in this is that leaving such dishes in an unwashed state can attract harmful creatures such as pests. The general rule is that utensils should be taken care of before bed, except in cases where there is an excuse, need or benefit in doing otherwise.
Closing Doors, Turning off Appliances before Bed and Covering Food
Everything in the sunna has a benefit in both this life and the next. Jabir, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, ordered doors to be locked and children to be brought indoors when night falls because the “devils spread at that time.” (Bukhari) Children may often be too young to recite supplications of protection, and the devils are particularly active at this time, so they should be brought indoors until this time passes.
There is also an encouragement to cover food overnight. Bukhari related in the same tradition that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, told us to “cover our food containers and mention the Name of Allah.” He, Allah bless him and give him peace, was always watching out for his community (umma) out of love and concern for them, and that’s why he interdicted leaving an open flame running overnight. (Bukhari) In our times, this would apply to appliances and the like, unless there is reasonable surety of safety such as their being designed in such a manner.
Worship in the Home
Making the home a haven entails adorning it with that which Allah loves. When this happens, even the angels find tranquility in such a place. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, reminded us, “Don’t make your homes into graveyards. Indeed, the devil flees from a home in which Sura al Baqara is recited.” (Muslim) The traditions regarding daily litanies which are encouraged are too numerous to mention, but I’d advise getting a good book, memorizing a couple of supplications and bringing them into your daily routine.
Similarly, illuminating homes and bringing them to life is also a fulfillment of the prophetic encouragement where he, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “Leave something of your prayers for your homes.” (Muslim) He also said, Allah bless him and give him peace, “The best of prayers is a person’s prayer in his home, except for the obligatory prayer.” (Bukhari) When worship is happening in the home, Islam is happening, and everybody, especially the children, see how we are supposed to return to Allah in our affairs and become pleasing servants.
Assisting in Good (Ta’awun)
Allah Most High said, “Bid your people to pray, and be diligent in observing it. We do not ask you to provide. It is We Who provide for you. And the ultimate outcome is only for the people of righteousness.” (Sura Ta Ha 20:132) And He Most High said regarding the Prophet Isma‘il (Allah bless him and give him peace) that he used to command “his household to pray and give alms, and his Lord was well pleased with him.” (Sura Maryam 19:55) The basis is that shepherds care about their respective flocks, and being religious begins at home.
The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, was also at the “service of his family” whilst at home, as Lady Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, informed us. (Bukhari) Undoubtedly, the nature of service within the home can be expressed in a multitude of ways, but the idea is that all are working together in their journey to Allah- here, by fulfilling the Divine Command to assist in the good.
A home is one of the greatest blessings of Allah Most High. Just ask somebody who lost one, was kicked out, or simply doesn’t have a roof over their head. We ask Allah Most High for protection, renewed resolve to follow the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and his way, and a state of deep belief and gratitude for His favors upon us. “Why should Allah punish you if you are grateful and faithful? Allah is ever Appreciative, All-Knowing.” (Sura al Nisa 4:147)
And Allah alone gives success.
In this series of articles and podcasts, Ustadh Tabraze Azam discusses the meaning of adab and what it means for a Muslim to do things in the right way.