Maintaining Ties

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

The main emphasis here is on continuity. Be thinking about all the various ways of good in the relationship. Mercy is that you care about their good and you do the good for them. Gentle concern is that you want ease for them, not hurt. for them. 

Think of ways of good that you can choose to highlight. Be appreciative. Very often, we pick on things to criticize. 

Be continual in maintaining ties. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly said, “Keep your relations moist even if it be just by giving salam.”

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

“Whoever doesn’t express mercy isn’t given mercy.”

Whoever does not express mercy to people is not given mercy by the All-Merciful. There are many similar narrations as well. “It is the merciful who are shown mercy by the All Merciful. Be merciful to those on earth and the Lord of the heavens will be merciful to you.”

Sometimes we think of mercy as just being some abstract sense of care. Mercy is not mercy unless expressed. Be continual in mercy, gentle concern, soft words, consistent goodness, and in maintaining ties.

That consistency is a means to Divine mercy as well.

Merciful Concern

Look at people with the critical eye, not of putting them down, but, the critical eye of merciful concern. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to walk behind his companions frequently. They found that strange because normally the leader would walk ahead. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Leave my back for the angels.” 

When the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) walked, the angels would walk with him. The companions observed at least four or five main reasons why the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) walked behind the companions. One of them, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) mentioned himself, “Leave my back for the angels.” The second was out of his humility. The third was to teach humility. Even if you are the leader, do not distinguish yourself from others. 

A fourth was that he used to carefully observe his companions who looked like they were in financial difficulty, Who was sad? Did anyone feel down? Was someone feeling weak? Who looked sick? etc. He used to attend to those concerns (Allah bless him and give him peace). 

Soft words are very important. When you notice that someone is going through difficulty, particularly be more gentle towards them. 

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly said, “Righteousness is good character.” 

Consistent Good

Fulfill all possibilities of good. How can you do that? Question yourself, “What can I possibly do for this person?” Then do as much as possible. That is a high quality. The difference between just maintaining ties when you travel to visit people and having righteousness is that by maintaining ties, you will take a gift. As for righteousness/fulfilling all possibilities of good it could be for example knowing four people in that place, “What does each of them need? What would benefit the most?” You try to take of that as much as you can. 

One of the great scholars of Pakistan traveled to Jordan with several cartons worth of books. He paid for excess baggage to bring them. They were not his books. He would carefully choose books to give to different scholars, students, etc. When he went back to Pakistan, he sent several cartons worth of books and other gifts.

Every single person he met, he sent them some gift that was appropriate to the person. He gave little explanations too. For some people, he sent envelopes of a decent amount of money. This is the idea of consistent goodness.

All Character

Shah al-Kirmani, one of the great early Muslims, said:

“Spirituality is all character. Whoever has better character than you, has more spirituality than you.”

This is not to compare oneself with others, but that one of the greatest tests on one’s spiritual journey is the test of character. 

When annoyed, upset, disappointed, or angered, how do you respond? That is part of the struggle. 

Strive to cultivate these qualities. Texts like this serve as a mirror, this is how Allah and His Messenger have called us to be. This is how the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his companions, may Allah be pleased with them, and the early Muslims lived.

This is how the righteous of the Umma live. We do our best to approximate. Ask Allah for these qualities.