Manners of Visiting
1. KEEPING APPOINTMENTS, DELAYS AND CANCELLATION
In the first verse of Surat Al-Mai’da, Allah called upon the believers ‘O’ you the Believers, fulfill your promises.’ In Surat Maryam Allah also praised Prophet Ismail may peace be upon him ‘He was true to his promise. He was a Messenger and a Prophet.’
To keep an appointment is vital to our lives, since time is the most precious commodity, once wasted it could not be replaced. If you made an appointment, whether to a friend, colleague or for business you should do your utmost to keep this appointment. This is the right of the other person who gave you part of their time and may have declined other appointments. Not only have you disrupted their schedule but you have marred your image and personality. If your punctuality becomes lousy you will lose people’s respect. You should keep all your appointments whether it was with an important person,a close friend or someone else. You will be responding to the call of Allah in Surat Al-Issra’ ‘and keep your promises. The promise is a responsibility.’
It is enough to know that our kind Prophet gave an appointment to one of his companions. The companion came three days later. The Prophet gently reprimanded him ‘You have caused me some trouble. I have been waiting expecting you since three days.’ The companion probably had an excuse for this delay. Then, he had no means to inform the Prophet about his inability to meet the appointment.
Today, fast and reliable communication means are available everywhere. As soon as you realize you will not be able to keep an appointment, you should inform the other parties to enable them to utilize their time. Do not be careless or irresponsible. Do not think that the appointment is so unimportant that it does not merit a notice or an apology. This is totally irrelevant. Regardless of its importance an appointment is a commitment. It must be kept or canceled properly in advance.
Never make a promise while you do not intend to keep it or fulfill it. This is forbidden as it falls within lying and hypocrisy. Al-Bukhari and Muslim narrated that the Prophet said: ‘Three traits single out hypocrites, even if he prayed and/or fast and claimed to be Muslim: If he talks, he lies. If he promises, he does not keep it. If he is entrusted, he betrays the trust.’
Imam Ghazali in Al-Ihya said that this Hadith fits those who promise while intending not to fulfill it, or those who, without excuse, decide later not to fulfill a promise. Those who promise but could not fulfill, their promise due to a proper excuse are not hypocrites. But we should be careful not to create excuses that are not valid. Allah knows our inner thoughts and intentions.
2. DECLINING A VISIT
If you visit friends with or without an appointment and they apologize for not being able to receive you, accept their apology without ill-feeling. You should understand that something may have come up compelling them to decline your visit. Their own affairs, or the state of their house, may have made your visit inconvenient. It is perfectly all right for them to ask to be excused.
The follower (Tabi’ee) Qatada bin Di‘ama Al-Sadüsy said: ‘Do not hang around at the door of those who declined your visit. Accept their reason, leave to attend your business, and let them attend their own business.’ Do not ask for reason or explanations. Imam Malik used to say: ‘Not all people can disclose their reasons.’ Accordingly, when it comes to visiting, our righteous ancestors used to say to their hosts: ‘Perhaps you just became busy and cannot receive us,’ making them feel at ease in case they wanted to be excused. Imam Al-Tabari in his Tafseer (18:113) reported that a man of Muhajirin said: ‘All my life, I wanted to practice this Sura ‘If you are told to turn back then do so, it is much better for you’ but I could not. I was hoping I will seek permission to visit a brother and he will tell me: Go back! I gladly will go back fulfilling this directive to Allah.
This particular etiquette is very important in order to remove any ill-feelings that could linger because of declining of a visit. Allah SWT said, ‘If you are asked to go back, go back: that makes for greater purity.’
Many people do not know what to do, and become disturbed by the visit of someone whom they do not want to receive under the circumstances, and may resort to lying. Not only their children learn these bad manners, but such behaviour may lead to antipathy.
The Quranic etiquette provides a better alternative to such unpleasantness and guards us against lying. It provides for the host to kindly present a reason to visitors and asks that they accept it in good faith and without hesitation: ‘If you are asked to go back, go back: that makes for greater purity.’
3. CONTROL YOUR EYES
When asking permission to enter a home, avoid glancing unnecessarily at its interior or beyond the guests’ quarters. This is shameful and harmful. Abu Dawood and Tabarani explained that Sa’d bin ‘Ubada (RA) said: ‘A man came and stood at the door of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) asking permission while facing the door. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, ‘Turn this way,’ turning him away and ordering him to move farther from the door, saying, ‘Asking permission is prescribed to prevent intrusion.’ ‘
Bukhari also explained in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad that Thawban (RA) recounted that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: ‘A person should not look inside a house before getting permission, if you do [look inside before asking permission] , you have already entered [or trespassed].’ Al-Bukhari also stated in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad and Abu Dawood and Al-Tirmidhi narrated by Abu Huraira who said that the Messengerof Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: ‘If the sight leaps, permission should be denied.’ Also, Al-Bukhari narrated that ‘Ammar bin Sa’id Al-Tujiby stated that Omar bin Al-Khatab said: ‘Whoever fills his eyes with the sight of the interior of a house before being permitted is a wrong doer.’
Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others narrated that Sahl bin Sa’d (RA) said that a man peeked through a hole into the room of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) while he was scratching his head with a small pitch fork. When The Prophet saw the intruder, he told him: ‘Had I known you were looking I would have poked your eye! Asking permission is prescribed to prevent intrusion.’
4. REMOVING YOUR SHOES
When entering the house of your host, or even your home, be gentle as you enter or leave. Lower your eyes and your voice. As a rule, you should take off your shoes unless your host asks you to keep them on. Take off your shoes at an appropriate spot, and set them in an orderly fashion. Do not forget the manner in which you put the shoes on and take them off: you put on the right shoe first and you take off the left shoe first. It was noted by Muslim and others that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: ‘When you put your shoes on, start with the right shoe. When taking your shoes off start with the left one. The right shoe is the first to be put on and the last to be taken off.’
Before entering your house or that of your brethren, inspect your shoes. If they are dirty, remove them or wipe the shoes against the ground. Islam is the religion of cleanliness and courtesy.
5. CHOOSING A SEAT
Sit where asked to by your host. Do not argue with your hosts about the place where they wish you to sit. If you sit where you want, you may overlook a private area of the house, or you may cause inconvenience to the house residents. Ibn Kathir narrated in Al-Bidayah wa Al-Nihayah that the honoured companion ‘Adi bin Hatam Al-Tay converted to Islam and came to Madina to see the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). The Prophet honoured Hatam by seating him on a cushion, while he himself sat on the floor. ‘Adi said: ‘…then the Prophet took me along and upon reaching his house, he took a leather cushion filled with palm fiber and threw it on the floor. ‘Sit on this,’ he said. ‘No, you sit on it,’ I answered. The Prophet insisted, ‘No you.’ So I sat on it while the Prophet sat on the floor.’ ‘
Kharija bin Ziada visited Ibn Sireen. He found Ibn Sireen sitting on a cushion on the floor and wanted to also sit on a cushion, saying, ‘I am content as you are.’ Ibn Sireen replied: ‘In my home, I will not be content until I provide you with what I am usually comfortable with. Sit where you are asked to sit.’ Do not sit in the patron’s seat unless he invites you to it.
In this regard, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: ‘No person shall lead another in prayer while the first is at the latter’s house. No person shall sit, uninvited, at the favourite seat of the patron of the house.’
If it happened that you arrived early and your host, out of kindness, directed you to sit at the most prominent seat, be prepared to stand up and give this seat to the elder, the notable, or the scholar when they arrive after you since they are more deserving of this seat.
Do not be insensitive and tactless. If you refuse to give your seat to those who are considered more deserving of it by those around you, this will only indicate your lack of manners and common sense. You will become one of those referred to by the Prophet, when he said, ‘Those who do not respect our elders do not belong to us.’
To remain entrenched in your seat will not elevate your status, and it will certainly surprise those present. You will be considered a snob since you are insisting upon an undeserved honour. This rule applies equally to men and women. Insensibility does not enhance social standing. On the contrary, it will be a terrible mistake that will only tarnish your reputation. To honour an honourable person can only improve your standing and stir admiration for your manners and humbleness.
If you happened to sit in the second best place and a notable person entered the room, you should give up your seat to that person. To be respectful of our elders is evidence of your good manners and social sense. Imam Muslim reported that the Prophet said, when organizing prayers, ‘The wisest of you and the elders should stand next to me, then those below them, then those below them.’
In the gathering, a prominent person may call upon you to discuss a matter, or to answer a query, or to give you an advice. If you sat beside him or near him, it is desirable that you return to your previous seat once the matter is concluded unless that person or other notables insist that you remain at your new seat. This is provided that by doing so, the space does not become so tight as to cause discomfort to those already sitting there. Manners are based on common sense. They could be developed by socializing with prominent and tactful individuals. By observing how they act and behave, you will be able to enhance your common sense, good manners and graceful behaviour.
You could be called to a gathering where you are the youngest. In such cases, do not sit before you are invited to do so. Do not sit if you will be crowding out others, or forcing others to leave their seats for you. If you are invited to sit, do not proceed to the best place when there are others more deserving of it. Be prepared to give up your seat to such individual. Doing this on your own, before being requested to do so, will enhance admiration and respect for you.
6. A VISITOR IS NOT AN INSPECTOR
When you enter a home, whether as a visitor or an overnight guest, do not closely examine its contents as an inspector would. Limit your
observation to what you need to see. Do not open closed closets, or boxes. Do not inspect a wallet, a package, or a covered object. This is against Islamic manners and an impolite betrayal of the trust your host has accorded to you. Uphold these manners during your visit and seek to cultivate your host’s love and respect, and may Allah bless and protect you.
Imam Muhasibi in Risalat Al-Mustershidin said: ‘The duty of sight is to preclude forbidden sights and not to try to see what has been hidden or covered. Dawood Al-Ta’i said ‘I was told we will be accountable for our minor gazes as we are accountable for minor deeds.’
The Arabic poet Miskin Al-Darimi said:
‘My neighbor should not worry if his door is not closed.’
7. TIMING YOUR VISIT
Choose an appropriate time for your visit. Do not visit at inconvenient times such as mealtime, or when people are sleeping, resting, or relaxing. The length of the visit should be in accord with how well you know the hosts, as well as their circumstances and conditions. Do not overstay your welcome by making your visit too long or burdensome.
Imam Al-Nawawi said in the book of Al-Azkar: ‘It is strongly recommended for Muslims to visit the pious people, the brethren, the neighbours, friends and relatives, and to be generous, kind, and obliging to them. However, the extent of the visit varies according to the host’scircumstances. The visit ought to be conducted in a pleasant manner and at convenient times. There are numerous sayings and traditions in this regard.’
From the book ISLAMIC MANNERS
By Shaykh Abdul-Fattaah Abu Ghuddah (RA)