Every religion and culture, besides a number of other things, have their own distinct set of customs, traditions and etiquettes. In fact, one of the important distinguishing features between one nation and one tribe and another has generally been its distinct set of customs, traditions and etiquettes. The nation or tribe formed by the followers of the prophets and messengers of Allah is no exception. In the formation of this group, the prophets of Allah, may Allah exalt their mention, directed their followers to conform to a particular set of etiquettes, which would distinguish them as a nation of the followers of Allah’s prophets.
However, because the basic objective of all prophetic teachings is to cleanse the human mind, body and soul from all that has the potential of defiling it, the customs and etiquettes for this group of people have also been fixed and promoted with the same target in perspective.
In this article we will focus on the etiquette in Islam that is related to gatherings.
Etiquettes related to gatherings:
Ibn `Umar reported: “The Messenger of Allah said:
“Do not ask someone to give up his seat in order to take it, but make accommodation wide and sit at ease.””
It was Ibn ‘Umar’s habit that if a person left his seat for him, he would not take it.
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
Herein, we are told that the space of meeting should be wide enough to accommodate every participant. None should feel the space problem. Good manners disallow a newcomer to get a seat vacated for himself by force, no matter if the occupant is an inferior. Yet, there is nothing undesirable if the latter willingly vacates the seat for a superior. Ibn `Umar would never agree to availing even a willing offer in this respect. Obviously fear of Allah and moral scruples lay behind his reluctance to take the place of somebody else. Yet, there are a few exceptions in this regard. For example, if somebody sits in the chair of his teacher, he may be asked to leave it. Also if a man has fixed place in the market to sell his goods, another person will not be justified in occupying it forcibly.
Abu Hurayrah reported that the Messenger of Allah said:
“If someone leaves his seat (for one reason or another) and returns to it, he is better entitled to it.”[Muslim]
Jabir Ibn Samurah reported: “Whenever we came to the gathering of the Prophet we would sit down at the end (of the assembly).” (Abu Dawood).
This narration throws light on social etiquette. Suppose, if somebody comes to participate in a meeting or was invited to a gathering, he should not behave in a rustic manner by crossing over the heads of the sitting people. Nor should he attempt to forcibly put himself in the place of another person, rather he should sit in any open spot even if it was at the end rows or the back of the room.
Salman Al-Farisi reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “If a man takes a bath on Friday, purifies himself thoroughly wears any perfume which is available in the house, sets forth for the mosque, does not (forcibly) sit between two persons, offers the prayer that is prescribed for him and listens to the Imam silently, his sins between this Friday and the previous Friday will be forgiven.”
This hadeeth highlights the following important points:
1. To take a bath on Friday is a matter of commendation. Some scholars (rightfully) adopt that it is a mandatory act.
2. One is recommended to take it in the morning or before going to the mosque to offer prayer.
3. On this occasion the use of perfume is preferable.
4. There is a mention of good manners. Instead of crossing over the heads of worshippers, one should try to locate an open space and sit there. To thrust oneself between two sitting persons looks awkward.
5. Entry into the mosque should be followed by the performance of a two Rak`ah prayer, even if the Imam is delivering Khutbah (speech).
6. An attempt should be made to offer voluntary prayer before the Khutbah, if time permits.
7. Complete silence should be observed during the Khutbah to the point that one is not allowed to say to request another person to be silent, if one does not want to loose reward.
8. If a man offers his Friday prayer by observing the said conditions and prerequisites, his week-long sins will be forgiven by Allah. But these are exclusively minor sins. As regards major grave sins, the sinner will not be forgiven by Allah unless he sincerely repents from the sins. Similarly, a man’s failure to do his duties towards his fellow-Muslim brothers or sisters, in case he has wronged them in anyway, will not be pardoned unless he is forgiven by them.
Some will ask: ‘What should I do if I want to sit between two people?’ `Amr Ibn Shu`ayb on the authority of his father and grandfather reported: ”The messenger of Allah said: “It is not permissible for a person to sit between two people without their permission.” (At-Tirmithi).
This Hadeeth tells us that a man is forbidden to push himself between two sitting persons unless they themselves allow him to do that.
Huthayfah Ibn Al-Yamaan reported:
“Whosoever takes seat in the midst of an assembly has been cursed by the messenger of Allah . The Messenger of Allah curses the one who sits in the middle of people’s circle.”[Abu Dawood].
Herein, we are also told that a man must not push himself into the circles of some sitting people as this shows no consideration for their feelings. A Muslim should not intrude on other people’s personal affairs.
Abu Sa`eed Al-Khudri reported: “I heard Messenger of Allah saying:
“The best assemblies are those in which people make room for one another.”
This Hadeeth urges us to spread out in assemblies and make room for one another to the comfort of everyone.