Teaching Good Manners
September 10, 2007 § 13 Comments
God said to the Believers,
“Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity.” (003: 104)
And as we grow into adulthood, we accumulate various responsibilities. These responsibilities cause pressure, that pressure tends to increase our speed. The speed of our thoughts, our actions and responses. Before you know it we are running, whether running is related to our appetites or our tongues, we end up running. Living in New York City has made me painfully aware of this condition. There are very few places in the world where the collective speed of peoples minds, actions and responses are moving as fast as New York City. This is why the common hyperbole, a New York minute, is used to describe time, in New York City, moving faster than normal.
The pace of each of our lives increases generally as a result of our families, studies, professions and social relationships. But there is a problem here. A problem that tends to go unnoticed in this country because of our disconnectedness to tradition and our hankering for anything modern. The reason seems to be because we assume that a modern convention will ultimately be the solution for a modern problem. And while we grow into complex lives, social orders and family structures our manners stay the same, the same as when they were adopted. This I think is a problem, our manners should evolve but for that to happen mankind needs training.
Indeed, the human condition is frail and fraught with delight and disappointment but despite our upsets we are endowed with the ability to conduct ourselves differently. The God is telling Believers to have faith and be honorable people and avoid bad manners to obtain true happiness. The best of mankind, Sayyidina Muhammad Mustafa (may Peace and Blessings be upon him) was the living example of this ‘Abdullah b. ‘Amr narrated a hadith saying,
“The Prophet never used bad language neither a “Fahish nor a Mutafahish. He used to say “The best amongst you are those who have the best manners and character.” (Sahih Bukhari)
The truth in this hadith did not cease after the Prophet left the Earth, it continues on especially now in a time where we are running so fast. Speeding toward our desires and quick with our tongues, we don’t know how to hold our tongues anymore. Today we say whatever comes to our minds with out ever asking if it is worth asking. We simply ask, and deal with the consequences be they good or bad! Our Grand Shaykh ‘Abdullah Al-Daghistani (may Allah keep his Secret) once said,
“Man is in need of training; therefore, Allah is giving him parents to teach him as a baby and a child. But the training of Prophets is most important. Others teach to save us from ego’s desires, because they are endless, asking more and more and still more, without limit. Following the ego’s desires, we tire and die tired. Prophets teach to stop within a limit, keeping one’s self from endless work and tiring. They teach us the purpose of life, show us our destinations. Whoever follows this way has good personality because the Prophet’s training is good manners for everyone. Now the Prophets are gone but their deputies can be found if one is searching for them. They teach people to save themselves from the assaults of their egos.”
Our Grand Shaykh, Shaykh ‘Abdullah Al-Daghestani, a saint whose makam (shrine) is located at the Osmanli Dergah in New York, is saying that the Prophet’s training, their manners, are available for everyone, but where? He is saying that this training can be found with the deputies of their Holy Tradition. And its pretty safe to say that this tradition, the manners of the Prophets, isn’t with those who do not even attempt to preserve the birth place of the Seal of the Prophets (may Peace and Blessings be upon him), let alone the things that he loves.
Shaykh ‘Abdullah’s successor the Maulana Shaykh Nazim Al-Hakkani is explaining exactly what those who seek to enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong are doing. Shaykh Nazim is saying,
“We are trying to imitate good people and their meetings because every prophet coming, has been sent and they are sitting and people coming around them sitting as a circle and looking to them and asking to hear asking to hear what they’re saying. And those foolish Muslims ignorant Muslims they are saying now that prophets also they’re as ordinary people, no. If they are ordinary people they are on our level that means they are on our level. What taking any benefit from our level? If you are going to university and saying that professor they’re like ourselves, why you are going there, for what? If he’s on your level why you are going to hear and to listen for what? But foolish Muslims that they are bringing so many bad things to Islam that never happened.”
This always puzzles me, why can we except certain protocols of authority and rank when it comes to dunya, this worldly life, but not concerning akhiret, the afterlife. Why is it that people try to force equal representation on everyone when it comes to the Divine Presence? Can a lawyer spending 70 hours a week in an office, on the phone, in front of the computer stand as an equal in the Divine Presence with someone his has spent his 70 hours saying, “O Allah, forgive me, have Mercy on me and Grant me Guidance”? This is why the manners of the Holy Prophets are most important. Maulana Shaykh Nazim is saying,
“We are imitating, we are coming to our point now, we are a handful people from East from West coming here and we are trying to be imitators for prophets and their inheritors and Allah Almighty’s awliyah saints granted, shaykhs we asking to imitate. Because if you are imitating, that imitation giving to you honour. And that honour enough for us here and hereafter. Nothing else.”
That honor is honor among mankind and most importantly honor in the Divine Presence. This is why it is important to follow. Everyone wants to lead, no one wants to follow. In the last few posts there have been readers who have raised points about adopting “autodictatism” into Islam. But people are forgetting, again running, running to this and that full speed ahead. Running to be modern or at least to fix perceived problems with modern solutions, but forgetting that when we talk Islam, when we talk Qur’an, it is only talk without the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may Peace and Blessings be upon him). And so we must ask ourselves is this the way of the Holy Prophet (may Peace and Blessings be upon him)? If not it is a bidat, and then we must ask ourselves are we qualified to introduce bidat into Islam? Of course not, only the Prophet (may Peace and Blessings be upon him) and his deputies are given that right. It is in this light that we can determine whether we are engrossed in egotism or not. Then we can see if we are a big fat Firaun or not.
This example shows us that there is safety in manners, there is honor in this kind of safety. There is no honor trying to force the Gates of Heaven open, you are guaranteed to lose at that time. Because at that time, you will be trespassing, a stranger rude, disheveled, breathing heavy barging into the Palace of the King to demand room and board. This is the kind of manners we are keeping these days. You can see it in our politics, table manners and even our children. Once we get to the King, sweaty and ugly, making our demands, we will act surprised when His guards are dragging us to Punishment and not the Palace suite, may the King have Mercy on us, Amin.
So we must stop running, we must stop placing such a heavy burden on ourselves trying to reinvent the wheel. The Prophets have been sent to us to show us how to earn our suite in the King’s Palace without force. Shaykh Nazim’s deputy Shaykh Abdul-Kerim Al-Kibrisi is saying,
“All prophets have been sent to the world to teach people how to live. How to live in this world and what to expect and how to prepare themselves for the hereafter. Holy Prophet (saw) has been sent to this world to complete the good teachings, the good living, learning the good lifestyle and to complete the good manners. The reason of Holy Prophet’s (saw) being sent by the Divine Order is complete the good manners. That means up until the Prophet (saw), all other prophets have been sent to teach manners to people, because if there is no manner then there is no religion. If there is no manner then there is no respect, if there is no manner then there is no friendship, if there is no manner then there is no business, if there is no manner then nothing happens. Everyone is taking it lightly these days and that’s why nothing is working today.”
Shaykh Effendi is making the point here to remind us that the King is ordering us to have good manners, conduct that will bring honor to us in our worldly lives and in His Presence. He is telling us to do this, yet we ignore this fact and barge into His Palace making demands! Telling Him what we like, what we think His order should be and complaining that His Messenger’s ways are no long applicable! Shaykh Effendi is saying,
“So everything is with good manners and we should look to prepare ourselves and our children for that because we are believers and because we are not only living for this world. We are living in this world for Akhirat. We need this world to live nicely and comfortably in it to be able to worship and to do things properly for Akhirat. This is not our house. This is only a temporary place that we are staying. This is not my house and not your house. Your house is not your house. You are just there temporarily. You are going to go to your original house. Your original house is not in Dunya. It is in Akhirat. It is in Paradise. Don’t lose the address. Your original house is Paradise. It’s not hell. Their originality is Paradise but the majority (of the people) is running to the hell side. And the hell will say, “Your originality is not for this place. But you have come. Enter.”
But this is not where we would like to enter, so we are making the intention, right now, right here, inshaAllah arRahman, to learn the manners of the Prophets. It is not something you can learn from books. As Shaykh ‘Abdullah said, this responsibility has been given to the Prophet’s deputies. And where will we find such a deputy? Where can we find someone who can show us how to conduct ourselves so that you may stand with honor in the Divine Presence? Well that is based on our intentions applying our Faith, having Patience and remaining Constant.