The Status of Good Manners in Islam
The issue of good manners is very important In Islam, since it is the basis of one's success in the Islamic community. For instance, a husband cannot lead a happy marital life, nor can a brother succeed in dealing with his brothers, unless they both possess sound moral character. The success of the scholars and the Da'iyah (caller to the way of Allah The Almighty) also depends on how well-mannered they are. Thus, it is by noble manners that every success can be achieved in this life. The issue of morality is so important that some scholars say that religion consists simply of good morals.
However, nowadays we suffer from the lack of noble manners in our daily interactions, between husband and wife, teacher and student, employee and manager, between neighbors -- in fact, even during prayers in the Masjid, and between the seekers of knowledge and scholars. This is why we should discuss this important topic.
The topic of good manners is more important than some people might think. In some cases, manners are related to jurisprudence and some rules in the Sharee'ah (Islamic law). If we talk about justice, for example, we shall mention some rules concerning justice between (one’s) children and justice between (one’s) wives, and so on.
What is meant by manners?
Linguistically, scholars say that he word ‘Khalq’ which means creation, and ‘Khuluq’ which means manners are inter-related. The first word refers to the physical appearance of a person that can be seen, while the second stands for the deep inner self that can be realized by insight, and both have good and bad characteristics. Al-Imaam Al-Qurtubi defined manners by saying, "It is a person's way of dealing with others, and it is either to be praised or dispraised. Praised manners are generally achieved by being [good] with others [even] against yourself, and following justice even it is against yourself. In particular, it includes forgiveness, patience, tolerance, generosity, compassion, leniency and so on. On the contrary, dispraised manners include lying, deception, lack of mercy and so on." Now we are only concerned with the good manners.
The importance of manners in the methodology of the Salaf (righteous predecessors):
Some people think that ethics have nothing to do with the methodology of Ahlus-Sunnah Wal-Jamaa'ah. However, it is a focal point in their methodology, and has been included within the writings that explain the principles of this methodology like Al-Aqeedah at-Tahawiyah, Al-Aqeedah Al-Waasitiyah and other writings. The great scholars have made it clear that abidance by the good manners is an inseparable part from the commitment to the way of As-Salaf .
For instance, Al-Imaam As-Saboony in his explanation to Aqeedat as-Salaf (the doctrine of the righteous predecessors), said, "They advise each other to pray at night, maintain family ties, spread Salaam (greeting of peace) among themselves, and feed those who are hungry. They advise each other to treat the poor people and the orphans with compassion, to care for the Muslims affairs, and to be chaste in their eating and drinking and dressing, and marrying and spending.
Generally, they advise each other to hasten to good deeds, to enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, and to avoid greed and its consequences, and they also advise each other to patience and truth."
In this regard, Ibn Taymiyyah in Al-Aqeedah al-Waasatiyah, after mentioning the doctrine of Ahlus Sunnah, said,
They, along with believing in these principles, enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong according to the commandments of Sharee'ah. They believe in following their Emirs in performing Hajj, Jihad, the Jum'ah prayer and `Eed (the feast), regardless of whether these Emirs are pious or wicked. They also keep performing Salaatul Jamaa'ah (the congregational prayer). They believe in the importance of advice between the members of the Muslim nation (Ummah), on the ground of their understanding of the Hadeeth of the Prophet which says: “A believer to another believer is like a wall of bricks supporting each othe”, And the Hadeeth which says: “The similitude of the believers in their mutual affection, compassion and empathy is like a single body. When any organ of the body hurts, all of its parts are involved and affected with sleeplessness and fever.”
Moreover, they call for patience in times of distress, for gratitude in times of welfare, and for contentment with the bitterness of fate. They call for high moral standards, believing in the meaning of the Prophetic saying: “The most perfect of the believers in faith are the best of them in morals.” They call you to maintain ties with your relatives even if your relatives do not, to give those who refuse to give you, and to forgive those who ill-treat you. They also call for honoring parents and being kind to neighbors, poor people, wayfarers and slaves. They forbid conceit, arrogance, and being insolent to people -- whatever the cause. In one word, they call for all noble manners and forbid all bad ones.
Thus, this is the methodology of the righteous predecessors, with both sides, the doctrinal and moral, and as long as there is a lack in one side, there will be a deficiency in adherence to this great methodology. For instance, a seeker of knowledge might be good in studying Al-'Aqeedah (Islamic doctrine), the fundamentals of jurisprudence, Tafseer (Quran exegesis), Hadeeth (Prophetic traditions), the Arabic language and so on, but he is not well-mannered. As long as there is lack of good manners in someone, his faith is also lacking. The issue of manners is so serious that an erroneous or bad doctrine may be presented with good manners, while the owners of sound belief may put off people from the faith by being bad tempered.