*This article is written by an SFC Guest Contributor *
Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem
Salah, fasting, paying zakat, dressing modestly and observing proper gender relations—these are all things that come into our minds when we think of our Islamic duties and obligations. We tend to think primarily of the “rules” or the more ritual aspects of our worship, but today I want to begin my writing for the Ideal Muslimah section here at Striving for Clarity with a series on a characteristic that is just as important for our faith as those mentioned above : sound Islamic manners.
The above hadith is just one of many that emphasizes the importance of manners and etiquette in the deen of Islam. One of the things that attracted to me to Islam in the very beginning of my journey was the fact that Islam is such a “social” religion, in that in the Muslim community, how we treat one another is of the utmost importance. Another hadith even equates being a perfect believer with having good manners:
The aim of this new mini series is to go through some of the important aspects of proper manners and etiquette that an ideal Muslimah should strive to cultivate. For this first post, I will provide a general overview and in shaa Allah, delve more in-depth in future posts. I will get into detail on some of the various traits and aspects of good manners that are mentioned in the Qur'an and sunnah.
Today I would like to touch on the underlying theme of respect. In my opinion, respect is the origin of all good manners. When we see the word respect, it is probably very easy to call to mind a couple of people that we feel respect for in our lives. For me, when I hear respect, my mother's face immediately appears, as well as my husband's and my grandfather's. If I widen that scope a little bit I can think of various scholars and speakers whose work I respect, and of course when I think of respect I would be remiss if I left out our beloved Prophet (ﷺ) and the whole generation of righteous Muslims at that time.
While this is a good start, as a community and as individuals, we need to dig deeper. It is easy to respect the people that we love or public figures whose private lives we may never see. But what about the rest of the world? If we look within our hearts, how much can we truly say we respect those who differ in opinions from us? Those we see in less fortunate circumstances than us? How much do we respect Allah's عز وجل weaker creations?
Allah عز وجل says in the Qur'an
As much as we should have a level of respect for all of Allah's عز وجل creation simply because of the immeasurable respect owed to Him who created it, this verse points to something even more profound. In this verse, Allah عز وجل speaks to all of mankind, not merely those who believe, or the Muslims. He reminds us that every single human was created by Him, and that we all share a lineage back to the mother and father of all humanity: Adam and Hawa رضي الله عنهم. And because of this, we all share in a certain dignity that comes from being part of the human race, and as such owe each other a certain basic level of respect.
However, looking into our communities today it can be difficult to see this in action. The respect we give one another has become very, very selective. The older generations do not respect the ideas and struggles of the younger generations, the younger generations do not respect the life experience of the older generations, we don't respect those of a different school of thought from us or those who practice just a little bit differently. We only respect those who are close to us and those who are like us, those who are “right” in our eyes and those who think like we do.
We also don't show respect to non-Muslims, who we have deemed are all headed straight for hell-fire. This can be fixed by a simple vocabulary shift, from calling them the “kuffar” to “potential Muslims,” but I think that is a different post for a different day.
What I am really getting at though, is the fact that to even begin to practice true Islamic manners within our communities and extend those manners even outside of our own communities, we first need to learn to respect others, regardless of differences and issues. In no way do we need to express agreement with something incorrect, nor should we ever embrace or encourage sin. There is however, a certain level of respect for someone’s humanity, which is due to them just based on the fact that they are a creation of Allah swt. This applies even more so if it is your Muslim brother or sister because they have defined rights over us.
With that mindset shift, and by beginning to foster respect for all of Allah’s عز وجل creation, in shaa Allah, cultivating the good manners that are enjoined upon us as striving Muslimahs will become easy and natural. I can't wait to begin sharing with you more specific traits that I myself would like to work on, and I pray that this series will be beneficial to those who read it and the community at large, in shaa Allah!
The "Ideal Muslimah" section of Striving For Clarity provides an array of articles, micro-series and short tidbits geared towards highlighting the important characteristics of a Muslim woman.