The Islamic Manners of Gatherings
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
(Friday speech was delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC on April 17, 1998)
One of the most amazing aspects of the Islamic ethical system is that it did not leave out a single aspect of human life without laying down the laws for it. Why is it so complete? It is complete because this system was created by the One who is our Creator, The Most Glorious, the one who knows us better than anyone else. He knows all about us and he knows what is best for us. Allah (S.W.T.) tells us exactly how we should behave as individuals in our interactions with others. He also tells us how we should conduct our gatherings with two sources: the Noble Qur'an and with the traditions of the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). Today we will learn how to conduct gatherings with the best Islamic etiquette.
The two types of gatherings that people usually conduct are usually public or private. Public gatherings are typically held in mosques or public halls, and usually an invitation is not necessary. Private gatherings are those that are held at homes and in private places, and usually certain people are invited to these gatherings. There are rules of etiquette that cover both types of gatherings. It is very important for Muslims to know and use proper etiquette, so that they can strengthen the relations with others. If Muslims follow the proper Islamic etiquette, the gathering will be beneficial and no one will transgress other's rights.
The following are do's and don't for gatherings:
1. It is proper to ask for permission before entering any gathering if it is held in a private place like a home. However, if it is held in a public place, then permission is not needed. Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat An-Noor, what can be translated as, “O you who believe! Do not enter houses other than your own, until you have asked permission…” (Verse 27) So , Allah (S.W.T.), in this verse, prohibits us from entering the houses of other people and their private places until we get permission from them. So, Allah continues this important address by also saying, what can be translated as, “And if you do not find one therein, still, do not enter until permission has been given to you. And if you are asked to go back, go back, for it is purer for you…”
The prophet (S.A.W.) also tells us the number of time that we should ask before entering. He limits the number of times that we ask for permission to three times, and no more. If we are not given permission, we should not enter and we should leave. Imam Bukhari and Muslim reported that prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said, “Permission should be asked no more than three times; if you were given permission (enter). Otherwise, go back.”
Peeking into other peoples' houses and privacy without their permission is also prohibited. The prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said what Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported, "Seeking permission to enter someone's house has been legislated in order to restrain the eyes from looking at something we are not supposed to look at.”
If someone is seeking permission and is asked who he is, he should introduce himself with his known name or his nickname. It is not enough to say: "It's me!" Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that Jabir (R.A.) came to the prophet (S.A.W.) and knocked on his door. The prophet replied, "Who is it?” Jabir replied, "It's me!” the prophet (S.A.W.) hated that and said, "It's me, it's me!” meaning that he hated this useless response.
2- Another proper etiquette is to give Salam when you enter and exit a meeting. Nowadays, many of us remember to say salam when we enter a room, but we don't do it when we leave. The prophet (S.A.W.) said in a fair hadith reported by Imams Abu-Dawud and At-Tirmithi, "If one of you went to a gathering, let him say salam, and if he wanted to leave, let him say salam. The first salam is not more important than the last one.”
3- It is proper Islamic etiquette to make room in the gathering for newcomers. This is especially important when the gathering is crowded. Why is it important to make room for others? If we do not make enough room for a person, then we may give him the message that we do not care for his presence or that he is not welcomed. Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Mujaadalah, what can be translated as, “O you who believe! When you are told to make room in the assemblies, (spread out and) make room. Allah will give you (ample) room (from His Mercy) .” (Verse 11)
4- It is improper to ask someone to give up his space for you or for someone else. The solution for this is for people to make room for newcomers. Imam Bukhari reports that the prophet (S.A.W.), “ Forbade that someone is asked to leave his spot for another to sit, but instead he commanded us to make room for others.” If someone attends a gathering and occupies a spot, and leaves that spot to tend to his needs, then it is his spot and it should be reserved for him if he returns. T he prophet (S.A.W.) said what Imam Muslim reported, “If someone leaves his spot, then he returned to it, he is better entitled to it.”
5- It is proper Islamic etiquette for the gathering's newcomers to sit at the first place available. They should not push themselves between others so that they would empty a spot for him. You should sit in the first available space or you should sit somewhere at the end or behind. The prophet and the companions used to apply these manners in their meetings. In a fair hadith , Imams Abu Dawud and At-Tirmithi reported that Jabir Bin-Samarah (R.A.) said , “Whenever we came to the gathering of the prophet (S.A.W.), we would sit down at the end of the assembly.”
6- It is improper for a person to push himself to sit between two others who are sitting side by side without their permission. This is because of the fair hadith reported by Imams Abu-Dawud and At-Tirmithi that the prophet Muhammad said, “ It is not permissible for a person to sit between two people without their permission.”
7- It is improper for a person to come sit in the middle of a circle, while others are sitting around in a circle. This is improper because this will bother the other people sitting around in a circle and it will disrupt the flow of conversation. Imam At-Tirmithi narrated in an authentic hadith , that Huthaifah (R.A.) said, “(From the tongue of the prophet Muhammad) Allah cursed whosoever sits in the middle of an assembly forcibly.”
8- It is improper for two people to talk secretively in the presence of a third person. This behavior might cause the third person to feel bad or excluded. Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said, “If you were three, then do not whisper between the two of you ignoring the third till the number increases. This is because whispering will sadden him.”
9- It is proper for Muslims to follow the etiquettes of conversation in gatherings. In order to be proper, one should listen to others who speak, and give them ample time to complete his statements without interrupting his speech. You should also refrain from raising your voice more than what is necessary for others to be able to hear. Sometimes it is good for the speaker to repeat some of the ideas that he is conveying to make sure that the listeners understand properly. He can make sure that people understand him properly by using direct language, and by limiting his words to the necessary. We should also choose the best words to convey our ideas, and avoid using hurtful or bad words. And we should be conscious of the type of language that we use so that we will not disrespect or hurt others with our words or actions. We should remember the importance of respecting the elderly and the scholars, and to be merciful with the young and weak.
10- It is proper Islamic etiquette to mention the name of Allah in all gatherings. Imam Abu-Dawud reported in an authentic hadith that the prophet (S.A.W.) said, "No people who leave a gathering without having mentioned Allah (S.W.T.) in it, but they leave it like leaving a dead donkey, and it will cause deep grief to them.”
11- It is proper Islamic etiquette to say a supplication when the gathering is over. The supplication is what the prophet (S.A.W.) said in an authentic hadith reported by Imam At-Tirmithi, "Glory be to You, O Allah; praise be to You. I testify that none has the right to be worshipped but You; I ask Your pardon and to You in repentance.” If they say that, Allah will forgive them for all the wrongdoings that may have happened during the gathering.
12- It is proper Islamic etiquette to attend gatherings as clean as possible and to remove any bad odors from the yourself and to make sure that the location is also clean and odor free. Bad odors and filth will hurt the people and make them turn away and leave. One may leave a gathering just because of a bad odor like the odor of sweat, unclean bodies, feet, clothes, the odor of cigarette smoke, and the odor of uncooked garlic and onions. The prophet (S.A.W.) forbade the one that eats uncooked garlic or onions from coming to the Masjid gatherings until his bad odor goes away. When the prophet (S.A.W.) used to smell a bad odor from someone, he used to order him to leave the Masjid and go far away to the cemetery of (Al-Baqi'). Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that the prophet (S.A.W.) said, "Whosoever eats garlic or onions, let him leave us or leave our Masjid gathering.” In another narration by Imam Muslim he said, "Whoever eats the onions, or garlic, then let him not get close to our Masjid, because the angels get hurt from what the children of Adam get hurt from.” And in another narration reported by Imam Muslim that Omar Bin Al-Khattab said in his Friday Khutbah , “....You people eat from two plants that I find bad: Onions and garlic. I saw the prophet (S.A.W.), when he found a bad odor from a man in the Masjid , he ordered him to leave for the cemetery. So whoever likes to eat them, let him cook them well.”
After hearing these good Islamic etiquettes of gathering, we should implement them in our gatherings, and remind others to implement them as well, so that our meetings could be fruitful Islamic gatherings.