Taking A Non Muslim As A Role Model

Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Question: Is it permissible to admire and take non-Muslim as a role model for their humility and good qualities without wanting anything to do with their disbelief?

Answer: Wa ‘alaykum assalam wa rahmatullah wa barkatuh

I pray you are well.

Yes, this admiration of good conduct and character is permissible. The Messenger of Allah said, “Clearly, I have only been sent to complete righteous character.” (Ahmad). This hadith indicates that other nations have good character, but its pinnacle is found in the teachings of Islam.

Follow the Messenger of Allah

Allah told us the He sent us the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, as an excellent role model for us to follow: “Indeed there is for you, in the Messenger of Allah, an excellent exemplar…” (33:21). Make him the person who you emulate, you’ll never be let down.

From amongst the living, there are many righteous people and scholars who embody some aspects of his perfect conduct. No one can embody it all besides him, Allah bless him and give him peace. This is safer, as they are likely to uplift and inspire you in every way. More than someone who does not know or embody the sunna can.

Islam recognizes the virtue of individuals, Muslims, and non-Muslims alike. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, honored the daughter of Hatim al Tayyi’, a man is known for his great generosity, simply because his father was an honorable man.

A sounder approach is to pray for those non-Muslims within whom we recognize virtue. Ask Allah to guide them to Islam, and they’ll have the virtue of iman to add to their list.

May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.

[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 where, for 18 months, he studied with erudite scholars such as Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh Abdurrahman Arjan, Shaykh Hussain Darwish, and Shaykh Muhammad Darwish. In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years in Sacred Law (fiqh), legal theory (Usul al-fiqh), theology, hadith methodology, hadith commentary, and Logic with teachers such as Dr. Ashraf Muneeb, Dr. Salah Abu’l-Hajj, Dr Hamza al-Bakri, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Dr. Mansur Abu Zina, and others. He was also given licenses of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabir and Shaykh Yahya Qandil. With Shaykh Ali, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic sciences, tafsir, Arabic grammar, and Arabic eloquence.

10 Steps to Firm-Footedness in Seeking Knowledge of Fiqh

In this brief podcast, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani provides 10 genuinely useful tips on gaining and retaining a firm grasp of your knowledge of fiqh.

See also:

“From knowing nothing to becoming a student of knowledge”
Advice from Habib Ali Al-Jifri for Seekers of Knowledge
The Etiquette of Seeking Knowledge

Habib Umar’s Advice to the Seekers of Sacred Knowledge
Shaykh Áwwamah’s advice for Students of Sacred Knowledge
Importance of Intention in Seeking Knowledge


How Two Of The Salaf Proved the Existence of God, by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Sometimes we imagine that the problems of our age are unique, but this is not the case. Atheism is not new. At the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and even before that, at the time of previous prophets (peace be upon them all), there were people who denied the existence of God. Rebecca Slenes tells us more, based on Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s teaching of Ghazali’s Foundations of Islamic Belief.

In one of the commentaries of the Creed of Imam al-Tahawi (Aqida Tahawiya), Siraj al-Din al-Ghaznawi, an eminent Indian scholar who migrated to Egypt, gives some examples of how the early Muslims (salaf) discussed with atheists about the existence of the Creator. Through these examples, we see the importance of translating knowledge into wisdom and insight that speaks directly to people’s realities and to their hearts.

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani reminds us that a good argument is not just sound and coherent, but it is also compelling and convincing. To be effective, one needs to have a deep understanding of the context and where people are at, coupled with a deep concern for their eternal well-being. This is the concern of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. It is the concern shown by the the salaf in these stories. We have translated two of them here.

Story of Jafar al-Sadiq

One of the great imams of Islam, Jafar al-Sadiq (may Allah be pleased with him) was the 5th descendant of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and died in the year 148.

It is related that some the atheists denied the existence of the Creator in the presence of Jafar al-Sadiq. Jafar said to him, “Have you ever seen the sea and its awesomeness?”

Here, Jafar used an example that the man would relate to. This man probably lived far away and had travelled by sea. There may have been signs of this on him. It shows us the need to be attentive to people and their backgrounds.

The man said, “Yes, I have travelled by sea and there was a storm and the ship sank and the sailors drowned. I clung onto some planks of wood, then even the planks went away from me. I was pushed away by the clashing of the waves until I reached the shore.”

Imam Jafar said: “You were initially relying on the ship, the planks, and the sailors, but when these things left you did you still hope for safety?”

The man said “Yes”.

Imam Jafar said: “From whom did you hope for safety?”

The man was silent.

Imam Jafar said: “Verily in the Creator, He is the one in which you had hope in at that moment and He is the one who saved you from drowning.” And the man accepted Islam at his hand.

There are many lessons in this story, particularly related to the sunna of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) of knowing the background of the person one is dealing with. Saidina Ali ibn Talib, inspired by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), reminds us: “address people according to their understanding.” The story is also a marvelous depiction of our fundamental belief in God that cannot be denied. In moments of great danger all people, whether they affirm belief or not, tend to cling to hope of survival. The place of this hope is none other than God. Allah often tests us by taking things away from us so that we learn to place our hope in Him alone, showing us that “all things perish, except His face” (Quran 28:88).

Story of Abu Hanifa

The founder of the Hanfi school of jurisprudence, Abu Hanifa (may Allah be pleased with him) was one of the major jurists and scholars of Islamic civilization and passed away on the year 772.

It is related that Imam Abu Hanifa was a decisive debater against atheists. They used to be on the look out for any opportunity to kill him. One day they attacked him with their swords brandished as he was sitting in the mosque. They were about to kill him.

He said to them: “Answer me on one question and then you may do as you wish”.

They said: “go ahead!”

He said: “What would you say of a man who says: ‘verily I saw a ship full of cargo in stormy sea surrounded by surging waves and turbulent winds, yet the ship is sailing straight without a sailor directing her.’ Would you say that this is possible?”

They said: “No, that is not rationally possible.”

Abu Hanifa said: “Oh, Glory be to God, if the mind cannot accept that a ship sails straight without a sailor, how can it be possible for this world with its higher and lower details and all its changing states to exist with order without a Creator?”

They all cried and repented and entered Islam.

Here Abu Hanifa spoke directly to people’s intellect, calling them to believe through reason, which is a gift from God. They had come to kill Abu Hanifa and they all became Muslim at his hands. Subhanallah! He gave them life – the life of faith – after they had tried to kill him.

The importance of wisdom and mercy in addressing people

These are just a few examples of the ways of disputation of the early Muslims. We see how Imam Jafar and Imam Abu Hanifa used simple and relevant examples that spoke to people’s minds and hearts. We should reflect on the importance of wisdom and mercy in addressing people, speaking to them in accordance to their understanding, with patience and gentleness, using logical arguments and examples that they can relate to. These stories are timeless because they speak to all those of intellect. They are beautiful in that they show us the mercy of these early Muslims; even when faced with great hostility (when their lives were in danger), they used patience and wisdom and had a deep concern for those who were rejecting God. They were not debating with the intention to prove they were right or to demonstrate their knowledge; they were doing so out of sincere concern for people and for God. This is the concern and love of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that embraces all humanity and all living creatures.

We must learn and nurture this certitude and this love in ourselves and then learn to convey it with clarity in a compelling and beautiful manner because, as our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us, “None of you believes until you wish for others of the good that which you wish for yourselves!”

This reflection is based on a SeekersHub live class by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani on Ghazali’s Foundations of Islamic Belief Explained. Translation of stories from al-Ghaznawi’s Sharh Aqida Imam al-Tahawi, p. 40-42. Listen to the recording of a clip on the SeekersHub podcast: Stormy Seas: Two Stories on Proving the Existence of God.

[cwa id=’cta’]


Resources for seekers

What Happened When My Son Disturbed Junaid Jamshed in His Prayer

The recent death of Junaid Jamshed has shocked and saddened to many inside and outside Pakistan. SeekersHub volunteer, Hammad Din recalls a chance meeting with Jamshed, and how it touched him in a very deep way.

Last year my son, then 2 years old, joined me for a congregational prayer at our local mosque in Markham, Canada. We arrived a little late and I noticed the back of a very familiar head in one the rows ahead of us. Not thinking much of it, we joined the prayer right away.

I was that parent

From the second cycle onward something very unusual happened. My normally quiet son started crying loudly and continued to do so for the remainder of the prayer. He was so loud that I was sure he had disturbed everyone around us. The prayer finished and the familiar head of the person ahead turned out to be the famous nasheed artist and preacher from Pakistan, Junaid Jamshed.


I was a really embarrassed that I was the father of the child who created such a disturbance, particularly when a global personality like Jamshed was in attendance. To my surprise, Jamshed came to us a few moments after we finished and said something to the effect of ‘Alhamdulillah…inshah’Allah the crying of this child has facilitated the acceptance of everyone’s prayer in this congregation’, patting my son on his head.
I was taken aback. Many people I know, including myself, would potentially be annoyed at a child disturbing everyone’s prayer like that, or at the very least be annoyed with the parents who allowed it. Instead Jamshed totally put me at ease. It was beautiful to see someone dealing with a child with such love and prophetic mercy.

A Man Who Changed

Jamshed’s life journey makes me reflect on how someone can turn his life around and how we musn’t ever assume that people cannot change for the better. Jamshed left his pop singing career at its peak and turned towards Islam in the last 15 years. He inspired millions in Pakistan, and beyond, as he was not only singing devotional songs but was also regularly preached on television, while running a successful modest clothing brand.
Hear him speak about about his change here (in English). His good character and concern for the global Muslim community was witnessed by many and it’s no wonder that since his sudden death, tributes have poured in from leading religious figures in Pakistan, including Mawlana Tariq Jameel and Mufti Taqi Usmani.
In the last Friday Prayer he led on December 2, 2016, the verses he recited in both cycles of the prayer were related to death and included the following verse from Surah Baqarah:

Who say, when afflicted with calamity: “To Allah We belong, and to Him is our return” (2: 156)

As random as it may have been, Allah blessed me to see his character first hand and I will carry this small incident in my heart for the rest of my life. May Allah grant him the highest of stations in Paradise. Ameen.
In closing, his death has made me reflect and ponder on the following line which he sings in a naat:

Duniya ke aay musafir manzil teri qabar hai, Tai kar raha hai jo tu do din ka yeh safar hai

Oh Traveller of this world, (know that) your grave is your final destination, This journey of yours (of this life) lasts a mere two days.

Mention the Prophet ﷺ With Respect, by Shaykh Arsalan Haque

The way we talk about the Prophet ﷺ reflects how much love we feel and how good our manners are with him, says Shaykh Arsalan Haque. This is so critical that on one occasion, even the Quran came down with commands on how the companions should use to talk to the Prophet ﷺ.

[cwa id=’cta’]

Resources for Seekers

Cover Photo by Chris Campbell. Our thanks to Al-Madina Institute for this video.

The Masjid and Its Etiquettes

Shaykh Husain Abdul Sattar offers a detailed explanation of the etiquettes of attending the masjid, entering and interacting in the masjid, common mistakes and an in-depth discussion on masjid life.


“…But The Prophet ﷺ Never Did it”, Bid’ah Hasanah and Living In Times Of Fitna – Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

Shaykh Yahya RhodusThe Virtues Tour has over the years become a highlight in the calendar of British Islamic events. It’s led by Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa, who is joined by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus, Shaykh Abdul Karim Yahya, Sidi Amir Sulaiman and Sidi Nader Khan.

In 2015, the tour was focused on the ethics and moral practice of prophecy. Particular focus was placed on the spheres of intellect; anger and desire, in order to promote the manners in which the modern condition of man can be healed.

In the above recording, Shaykh Yahya Rhodus of Al-Maqasid spoke in London, on living in an age of fitna (strife) but first, he dispelled some misunderstandings around the concept of bid’ah (innovations in religious matters) and using “the Prophet never did it” as a standard for deriving legal rulings.

Do You Want to Learn More?

Consider taking an online course with SeekersHub. It’s free to anyone, anywhere in the world. There are over 30 titles to choose from, including Meccan Dawn: The Life of the Beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Part I), Medinan Nights: The Life of the Beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Part II) and Understanding the Prophetic Way: Imam Nawawi’s 40 Hadith Explained. Shaykh Yahya Rhodus himself teaches Principles of Islamic Spirituality, The Marvels of the Heart and Essentials of Spirituality: Ghazali’s Beginning of Guidance Explained.

Resources for seekers:

The Best for Mankind, by Shaykh Faid Mohammed Said

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

Allah wanted us to be the best of mankind FOR mankind! The nature of this dunya encourages us to cooperate and live together, as Allah (Most High) said in Surah Al-Maidah (2):  “And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression.”  Allah (Most High) created us to be together on earth; we need to support each other and to hold each other’s hand in this path.

The-name-of-Allah-1Allah (Most High) has said that He has made us the best Ummah (Surah Al-Imran, 110), but being the best is actually not in it of itself, but rather it is being the best for mankind.  It is to be the best in guiding, helping, serving and being there as a support for mankind.

That being said, help may only be sought from those who are able to support others, and only people with the purest and kindest of hearts can be in a position of supporting and helping others.  That is why the best Ummah is that with the best of characters.

Allah (Most High) praised Rasulullah (peace be upon him) for his great and exalted character in Surah Al-Qalam (4): “Indeed , you are of great and exalted character.”  Rasulullah (peace be upon him) also told us that the most beloved to him are those with the greatest of akhlaq (characters or manners).  [at-Tabarani, Al-Awsat, 7697]

Having the best of akhlaq is one of the purposes of this deen!

In correcting, maintaining and improving ourselves, we often mistakenly look at the symptoms of our illness, rather than treating the cause of our sins.  In looking at the causes of all sin and evil, our Ulama say the source of all sin and evil are three things:


Arrogance was the first sin to be committed, and was done so by iblis. Because of his arrogance, he refused the command of Allah (Most High) to make sujud for Adam (May Allah be pleased with him). Arrogance is not a visible attribute, but rather an internal attribute that manifests itself in actions and words.  When someone feels that he or she is better than everyone else, or when someone feels so happy and content with themselves to the extent that they think that there is no one like them; these are aspects of arrogance.  These forms of arrogance can lead someone to be like firoun (the pharaoh), who thought he was a god.  It can even lead people to be like the Quraysh, who saw Rasulullah (peace be upon him) only as an orphan, and thought it was not possible for him to be chosen as a Prophet, especially because they felt they held greater status.

The heart of an arrogant person is always filled with hatred.  That is why Allah (Most High) said in Surah Al-Araf (146):

“I will turn away from My signs those who are arrogant upon the earth without right; and if they should see every sign, they will not believe in it. And if they see the way of consciousness, they will not adopt it as a way; but if they see the way of error, they will adopt it as a way. That is because they have denied Our signs and they were heedless of them.”

Allah (Most High) also says in Surah An-Nahl (23):  “Assuredly, Allah knows what they conceal and what they declare. Indeed, He does not like the arrogant.”

Rasulullah (peace be upon him) also mentioned, as narrated in Sahih Muslim, that no one shall enter Jannah even with a half an atom’s weight of arrogance in their heart!



Adam (May Allah be pleased with him) left Jannah due to greed, as Allah (Most High) says in Surah Taha (120):  “Then Satan whispered to him; he said, “O Adam, shall I direct you to the tree of eternity and possession that will not deteriorate?” Even though Adam was told not to eat from the tree, he ate because he was promised a eternity, and because of this desire, he was removed from Jannah.

Rasulullah (peace be upon him) mentioned, as narrated in Sahih Bukhari and Muslim, that mankind becomes old, but two things do not age with him, greed for wealth and greed for a longer life.

Allah (Most High) tells us in Surah Az-Zumar (30):  “Indeed, you are to die, and indeed, they are to die.”  We forget this reality, and instead we want to have more of everything.  Allah (Most High) also reminds us of this in the following ayahs:

“Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire – of women and sons, heaped-up sums of gold and silver, fine branded horses, and cattle and tilled land. That is the enjoyment of worldly life, but Allah has with Him the best return.” (Surah Al-Imran, 114)

“Indeed, Allah [alone] has knowledge of the Hour and sends down the rain and knows what is in the wombs. And no soul perceives what it will earn tomorrow, and no soul perceives in what land it will die. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”  (Surah Luqman, 34)

“And for every nation is a [specified] term. So when their time has come, they will not remain behind an hour, nor will they precede [it].”(Surah Al-Araf, 34)

We should also remember the Hadith that was narrated by Abdullah ibn Omar (May Allah be pleased with him) when Rasulullah (peace be upon him) told him to be like a wayfarer in this dunya.

Also, we should remember the words of Imam Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) when he said dunya is travelling away from us, and, as such, dunya has given us its back, but al akhira is travelling towards us; both dunya and al akhira have children, so be from the children of al akhira, because no action is taken without accountability, for tomorrow there is only accountability!


Hasad (jealousy and envy)

Hasad is the very trait that Allah (Most High) asked us to seek refuge from in the verse of Surah Al-Falaq.  Hasad is also the first sin to be committed by the children of Adam, when Cain killed Abel out of jealousy, and it is the worst of attributes.  Hasad is when you see all that is good as being deserved by you and no one else!  Allah (Most High), by relating to us the story of the children of Adam, is telling us the extent that people can go to via hasad, and the level of crime that hasad may cause them to commit.

In speaking about hasad, Allah (Most High) mentions in Surah An-Nisa (54-55):

“Or do they envy people for what Allah has given them of His bounty? But we had already given the family of Abraham the Scripture and wisdom and conferred upon them a great kingdom.”

Rasulullah (peace be upon him) also mentioned in a Hadith narrated in Bukhari and Muslim, that we should not hate each other, have jealousy or envy, turn our back on others, and should not cut our relations; rather, we should be in the slavehood of Allah (Most High) as brothers.

fire-burn-woodIn a Hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him), in Sunan Abu Dawood, Rasulullah (peace be upon him) mentioned that we should be away and warn from hasad, as hasad can do to hasanat (good deeds) what fire does to wood.

Also, Syedina Hasan (May Allah be pleased with him) said: I have never seen an oppressor who looks like he is being oppressed!  This is the reality of hasad; you see the people of hasad always upset and crying upon seeing the khair in others.

Abdullah ibn Masud (May Allah be pleased with him) also mentioned that we should not be the enemy of the blessing of Allah (Most High), as those who have hasad towards what Allah (Most High) has given others.  The problem of hasad is not the fact that one is jealous or envious of a particular person, but rather it is having issue with Allah’s (Most High) decree!

All three attributes mentioned rotate and serve one another.

May Allah (Most High) remove from us all these blameworthy attributes, and may Allah (Most High) fill our hearts with His love and the love of Rasulullah (peace be upon him). May Rabbi guide us, and may He make us the Ummah that spreads khair and helps everyone, and in doing so, is the best FOR mankind!

Raising a Muslim with Manners by Hina Khan-Mukhtar

Photograph by Audrée Marsolais.

I once asked a scholar for advice on what we should be teaching our children and he immediately responded, “Adab and akhlaq (manners and etiquettes). Parents don’t emphasize these enough anymore.” He went on to define “adab” as “the appropriate action, attitude, and response in any given situation”.

Another scholar once said, “Adab beautifies everything it touches. We have Muslims who know rules and rituals; we don’t have nearly enough Muslims who know how to have adab. Sell your misbaha (prayer beads) and go buy some adab instead.”

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stated, “I have only been sent to perfect good manners.”

It was at a friend’s house that I saw copies of the books “Islamic Manners” by Shaykh Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah and “How to Raise a Gentleman” by Kay West lying side by side on a coffee table.

“What are these all about?” I asked, picking up one of the books and flipping through its pages.

“That? Oh, nothing,” the mother of four boys shrugged nonchalantly. “Just making sure nothing falls through the cracks is all.”

The concept fascinated me. A systematic way of making sure that our sons are learning the proper etiquettes and manners? Sign me up!

Pooling elders and friends, I asked around to find out what they thought are some basic adab and akhlaq concepts that all children should be learning while under our tutelage and here are just some pointers we came up with…

1) Personal Grooming and Hygiene

Like me, how many moms have cringed when hugged by sons drenched in that particular stench of sweat, sunshine, and sports which seems to be specific only to growing boys? I try not to grimace when I see the state of their “holey” socks and their long fingernails, but it’s hard not to be repulsed when you’re a fastidious girly-girl like I am. Instead of nagging, I have tried to set them up for success by providing them with their own “grooming kits”. We trekked out to the local drugstore and bought nail clippers; deodorant; floss; and travel-size containers of toothpaste, soap, shampoo, cologne, and bandages. Packed in a zipped-up case, all of the boys’ grooming essentials are easily accessible whenever they are heading out the door for a sleepover at a friend’s or a weekend visit to the grandparents’ or even a two week trip overseas. We have tried to inculcate in our sons the Friday routine of showering, perfuming, and dressing neatly in their best clothes (no ripped jeans!) for Jumah (Friday) prayers, and one of the sunnahs (traditions of the Prophet Muhammad) that they follow is to clip their fingernails before leaving the house for their weekly act of worship. Having their own set of nail clippers readily available in their grooming kits ensures that I don’t ever have to hear the excuse: “Sorry, Mama! I couldn’t find the nail cutter anywhere! What was I supposed to do?”

When my older two hit the age of puberty, my husband Zeeshan sat them down and talked to each of them about the fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) behind ritual cleaning and purification. He provided them with clippers and razors and instructed them in their use, explaining how they were supposed to groom themselves as young men from now on. Mothers of girls have told me that they have demonstrated for their daughters how to dispose of sanitary pads in as discreet a manner as possible, wrapping them up in layers of toilet paper before tucking them deep into trash cans so that they are not visible to the next person who comes to throw something away.

Back when our sons were first becoming independent, I taught them how to do istinja (the ritual washing of private parts after using the restroom), showing them how they needed to use their left hands to clean themselves and then firmly cautioning them against touching the toilet flush or sink faucet with anything but the dry right hand afterwards. One girlfriend recently shared that her mother taught her and her sister that part of good manners entailed leaving the istinja can full of water for the next person. Just one more etiquette I’m going to add to my checklist from now on!

2) Being a Good Guest

When my older two were younger, I would do a quick review with them before they left us to spend the night at anyone else’s house. (I still follow this routine with my 11-year-old by the way.) I tried to keep my instructions short and simple so that they weren’t overwhelmed, but there were quite a few basic instructions that I made sure to drill into them over the years:

  • Make your bed (or fold up your bedding if you were camping out on the carpet) to the best of your ability first thing in the morning.
  • Close the toilet lid and dry the counter after you’re done using the restroom.
  • Either wash your dishes, put them in the dishwasher, or place them in the sink (depending on what your host prefers) after having your meals.
  • Compliment the chef!
  • Clean up the games and toys after you’re done playing.
  • Don’t open closed doors, cabinets, closets, drawers. Ask for whatever you need; don’t go searching on your own.
  • Notice what chores your friends help with and offer your assistance as soon as possible.
  • Thank Auntie and Uncle and your friends for hosting you before you leave.

Years ago, my boys had a friend over with whom they were playing Hide-and-Seek all over the house, running upstairs and downstairs. At some point during the game, Shaan came running into my bedroom with his friend Yusuf following closely behind — except that Yusuf came to a screeching halt at my bedroom door as if he had just slammed into an invisible force field. “You have to come out and play in the loft, Shaan!” he called to my son while holding onto the door frame with both hands. “I’m not allowed to go into parents’ bedrooms!” I remember taking note of the fact that this little boy clearly knew what was and wasn’t off-limits in other people’s homes; since then, I began talking to my kids about boundaries and respect for privacy as well.

3) Being a Gracious Host

Every now and then we have friends and relatives come to visit with whom my children may or may not be familiar. Before their arrival, Zeeshan and I make sure to give the kids some background information about the guests and suggest some topics for conversation. I once overheard someone trying to make friendly conversation with my son where he (my son) would respond with polite but short answers that didn’t carry the conversation any further. I later took him aside and told him that part of being a charming conversationalist and a gracious host is making people feel important, like you’re actually interested in talking to them. “If you can’t think of a topic to discuss, just ask polite questions that show that you’re genuinely interested in getting to know them,” I said. “Don’t be nosey. Be sincere. If nothing else, just ask them what they think of California.”

I was really impressed when I went to visit a girlfriend recently. She and I relaxed in the family room while her son and daughter took over the kitchen, emerging one after the other to serve us water and tea and cookies on a little pedestal stand. My friend didn’t have to get up even once. Her daughter was no more than 10 years old and her son was only 11. I left inspired, rushing home to show my own kids how to balance cups on a tray and to explain the importance of using coasters when serving glasses of water. I want my guests to feel like they’re being taken care of the same way I felt pampered in her home, insha’Allah (God willing).

Being shy isn’t an excuse that any of my friends have allowed their children to use to get out of greeting elders and guests. Modesty and shyness is part of our religion and no one should be forcing kids to be anything they’re not, but saying salaams (greetings of peace) is a non-negotiable for most families who are teaching their kids manners. I have noticed that the children with the most impeccable adab always say “Assalaamu alaikum” (peace be upon you) and “Walaikum as salaam” (and upon you be peace) instead of the generic “Hi!” and “Hello” when greeting fellow Muslims. They are also quick to jump up and offer their seats to elders.

Other signs of budding ladies and gentlemen are kids who insist on carrying adults’ bags and packages for them (and refuse to take “no” for an answer), teenagers who walk guests to the door and beyond when it is time for them to leave, little ones who offer visitors water before they even have a chance to ask, and children who put away the smart phones and laptops when elders engage them in conversation.

4) Being a Kind and Considerate Friend

As parents, it is our job to teach our kids how to be a good friend and how to fulfill the rights their friends actually have over them. Part of learning manners and etiquettes is knowing that you are never allowed to backbite your buddies (i.e. saying that in their absence which they wouldn’t like to hear in their presence), that you must always return any items you’ve borrowed in exactly the condition you received them in (and replace/compensate for anything that is broken or lost), and that you must be willing to pick up the phone and call with your congratulations when someone dear to you receives good news and with your condolences when someone is dealing with bad news. A cousin recently told me how touched she was when her eldest son’s good friend called to give the whole family his heartiest congratulations upon hearing that his friend had been accepted into a prestigious university. A few years ago, we had a health scare and were worried about the upcoming test results for one of our sons; tears sprang to my eyes when my son’s friend telephoned to wish him the best and to reassure him that all would be well, insha’Allah. (It was, alhamdulillah.)

We teach our kids that adab entails having a healthy, sensitive understanding of how people around you are feeling and then responding appropriately to those feelings. One of our favorite quotes is from the author Jonathan Swift: “Good manners is the art of making people comfortable. Whoever makes the fewest people uncomfortable has the best manners.”

5) Being a Model Student

When my son began attending public high school, he was startled by how different the rules of engagement between teachers and students seemed to be when compared to the adab he was expected to have with his mentors in all the years of homeschooling prior. Giving up your seat for seniors, helping them carry heavy items, greeting elders first, and not interrupting or talking back are all givens. In an Islamic learning environment, however, our adab goes to another level. Many of my friends have taught their kids the subtleties of sitting in front of scholars and teachers. They are cautioned against ever pointing their feet towards their instructors and are instructed to always have a pen and notebook ready for note-taking. No one should be sitting around with a glazed look in their eyes while a speaker drones on; that is considered to be the height of disrespect. Muslim students also do not make jokes at the expense of their teachers and wait until the end of a lecture to ask their questions.

What I have found, however, is that all the books and discussions and checklists are pointless unless manners and etiquettes are actually actively being modeled for our young ones. Kids are like sponges, soaking up everything around them. When squeezed, whatever is inside comes gushing out. There’s a reason why people say “His/her parents raised him/her well” when commenting on someone’s refined behavior. It is up to us parents to rise to the occasion and be whatever we want our kids to be, insha’Allah. In the process of trying to prepare the next generation to be more considerate and compassionate than the dominant culture around them, it’s quite possible that we’ll improve our own worlds as well.

May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) grant us all success! Aameen (amen).

The author, Hina Khan-Mukhtar, is a mother of three boys and one of the founders of the homeschooling co-operative known as ILM Tree in Lafayette, California, which now serves over 30 homeschooling families in the East Bay. In addition to teaching Language Arts to elementary, middle school, and high school students, she has written articles on parenting and spiritual traditions for children and is involved in interfaith dialogue.

Resources for Seekers:

Raising Children With A Sound Heart
Why does Allah Bless Some with Children and Others not?

Raising Your Children with Deen & Dunya – Radio Interview with Hina Khan-Mukhtar
Raising Children with Deen and Dunya
Making Ramadan a Time for Young Hearts to Grow
Ibn Khaldun on the instruction of children and its different methods
Islamic Parenting: Ten Keys to Raising Righteous Children
The Prophet Muhammad’s Love, Concern, & Kindness for Children
On Parents Showing Righteousness to Children
Habib ‘Umar bin Hafiz’s advice on duas to read during pregnancy and labour and for infertility

Why is There so much Concern with ‘Manners’ (Adab) in Islam?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Why is there so much concern with ‘manners’ (adab) in Islam?
Answer: Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told us that, “I was only sent to perfect noble character.” [Muwatta’ and Musnad of Ahmad]
He also said (peace and blessings be upon him), “The best of you are those best in character.” [Bukhari]
And, “Among the most perfect of believers are those best in character.” [Tirmidhi and Hakim]
And he also said, “Among the most beloved of you to me and the closest to me in sitting on the Day of Judgment are the best of you in character.” [Tirmidhi]
The Beloved of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) was asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, who are the most beloved of the servants of Allah to Allah?’ He said, “The best of them in character.” [Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad, Ibn Hibban, Hakim, and Tabarani]
And he told us (peace and blessings be upon him) that, “Righteousness (birr) is good character.” [Muslim, and Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad]
And, “There is nothing heavier on the Scales than good character.” [Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, who declared it rigorously authenticated (sahih), and Ibn Hibban]
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked about what things enter people in Paradise. He said (Allah bless him and give him peace), “God-fearing (taqwa) and good character.” [Tirmidhi, Ibn Hibban, both of whom declared it rigorously authenticated, and Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad]
This is why the Beloved of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) explained the general principles and important particulars of dealing with others: social harmony and conduct has great spiritual implications.
The scholars explain that the basis of good character in one’s dealings with others is, above all to avoid harming, annoying or inconveniencing them.
The Light of Guidance, our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) explained that, “The [true] Muslim is one from whose tongue and hand other Muslims are safe.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Thus, any act that harms, annoys, or inconveniences others, without sound justification, is a manifestation of bad character, and contrary to the sunna of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace). When we understand the manners prescribed by the Prophet whom Allah Most High Himself described as being, “Of tremendous character,” and whose example was praised as, “The most beautiful of examples” in the Qur’an, we see that their basis is to promote the social good, and spread love and mercy between humanity.
Allah tells us:
025.063 The (faithful) slaves of the Beneficent are they who walk upon the earth modestly, and when the foolish ones address them answer: Peace;
025.064 And who spend the night before their Lord, prostrate and standing,
025.065 And who say: Our Lord! Avert from us the doom of hell; lo! the doom thereof is anguish;
025.066 Lo! it is wretched as abode and station;
025.067 And those who, when they spend, are neither prodigal nor grudging; and there is ever a firm station between the two;
And Allah alone gives success.
Faraz Rabbani