Smile and Be Cheerful

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

Smiling and having a smiling face. Being cheerful is one of the traits of the true servants of Allah.

Despite having greater responsibility and concern than anyone else, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was constantly cheerful and smiling, even though he was continual in his deep concerns (Allah bless him and give him peace). 

Companion after companion said “I’ve never seen anyone smile more than the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace).

Smile with Contentment

Part of this arises from a spiritual state. We are not smiling for people (as that is a transactional smile), rather, smile in contentment with Allah. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) would be smiling in contentment with Allah. 

It is surprising how little we smile as Muslims. Looking serious is not from the traits of the righteous. The righteous are those who rightly follow the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). He was ever smiling (Allah bless him and give him peace). 

Smile with dignity, never with folly. Nearly all the laughter of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was smiling. He (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not laugh out loud. He would have a wide smile or a wider smile or a very wide smile till his molars could be seen. That is the dignified smiling of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). 

Allah says:

 إِذۡ هُمَا فِی ٱلۡغَارِ إِذۡ یَقُولُ لِصَـٰحِبِهِۦ لَا تَحۡزَنۡ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ مَعَنَاۖ 

“When the two were in the cave, when he said to his companion: ‘Grieve not, Allah is truly with us’” [Quran, 9:40; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld] 

If you are not smiling, people may get concerned and worried. When you have that goodness towards them, you want to put them at ease.

Ibn Abbas was asked, “What is good character?” He reportedly replied, “Good character isn’t something very difficult. It is a smiling face and kind words.” 

Serve with Contentment

The Prophet’s gathering (Allah bless him and give him peace) was described, “They would not part except having tasted something.”

Most of the scholars explain that they would not leave except having experienced something that increased their faith.

There is also the literal sense, having tasted something that almost invariably, something, even if small, even if it be dates. 

Consider having some kind of sweet or candy at the door. When people leave there would be something to take with them. 

Serve your guests. The rights of the guests are known by those noble. It may seem convenient to say, “The water is in the fridge and this is here and that is there,” but serve them. 

If you have people at your house, do not just say, “The food is ready, it is on the grill, make your burgers,” but, actively strive to be the one serving. 

This is not just with your seniors or friends. It is also with those junior to you. 

There is a false etiquette with our teachers where one seeks to be polite yet it is in a manner that makes us distant from them: not visiting them. You may make an excuse that they are busy but everybody is busy. The Sunna was not abrogated by busyness. Furthermore, we do not invite them over or spend time with them.

Benefit from their character and wisdom. If a scholar comes to town, invite him over or to go visit them. Take food.

Feed People

Feed people. They are going to be eating at least two meals a day pretty much every day of the year. Figure out some time where they can eat with you or you can take food over to them.

Whoever believes in Allah and the last day, let them honor their guest. You cannot follow that sunna unless you have people over. 

We should be honored if someone is visiting. It may be convenient for them to stay at a hotel but, have them stay with you. You do not have to be fancy. Dividers could be used. 

Serve in the Sorrow and Joy

“Laugh, and the world laughs with you; 

Weep, and you weep alone” [Wilcox, Solitude]

That is the nature of worldly relations. We do not share with people just in their joys. The true friend is the one who is there for you in your sorrow and distress. That entails a degree of closeness.

It entails that we go beyond superficiality in relations. That we really know how people are doing, not out of prying into their affairs or testing their privacy. One of the things is to ask them questions but to go beyond the superficial. 

Some of the early Muslims did not like the question, “How are you?” because the question is insincere. They did not ask sincerely wanting to know. And when the person says, “I am fine,” they do not really mean it. 

They were so careful about being truthful in their concern. Their relations were not superficial . 

One of the ways one asks is, “How are your parents doing? Your children? Your this or that?” 

Our master Ali bin Abi Talib reportedly said:

“Your true friend is the one who is there for you. One who would hurt himself in order to help you. And if the trials of time break you apart, they would ruin themselves to bring you back together.” 

Such friends are rare. The challenge is to be such a friend.

Maintain Balance

Have a balance. Show concern but do not aggravate the distress of the hurt individual. Uplift to assist. 

With those who are sick, etiquette is not to ask about their sickness. Rather, say words of encouragement. 

To share in that does not mean that you wallow in that with them. Neither should you ask probing intimate questions. Listen to them. Be sensitive. 

Do not be too positive as that can be hurtful. Take people where they are. Be of assistance. Be of encouragement as is suitable. When you are not sure, just listen. 

Sometimes it is not necessarily just the scholars and the righteous. We may have someone in the family with extraordinary empathy. Learn by observing. 

Sometimes when you are not sure, go with somebody else or discuss with somebody who knows them well. Consider calling someone asking, “How are they doing,” so you get a little bit of background that helps you be appropriate to the particular situation. 

Make your manners the main meal and your words like salt. Too much salt is overbearing in food.