A few days ago, a Muslim lady from Texas allegedly killed her two children because they were autistic and she could not handle the pressure of raising them. (Ref)
Last year, a very successful Muslim entrepreneur killed his wife because of domestic issues and now awaits trial. The entrepreneur had known to have been involved in a number of domestic violence cases earlier. (Ref)
Other similar issues in Muslim households that involve spousal beatings, domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, lack of respect of parents and elders, spousal lack of respect, intergenerational conflict, teenage pregnancies, to name a few come into Islamic centers in the west almost on a regular basis.
These painful stories beg many questions – Where is the real Islam in these Muslim households allegedly perpetrated of such acts and social evils? Does the Muslim upbringing today lack adequate focus on Islamic mannerisms, morals, and etiquettes and instead focuses merely on spiritual and ritualistic aspects (praying, fasting, etc.)? What can be done to train families and individuals on Islamic etiquettes, morals, and mannerisms?
Based on general observation of increase in social evils within Muslim communities, it is safe to attribute the root cause to not investing enough in inculcating adequate Islamic etiquettes and morals. Education and knowledge in Muslim households, like others, instead focuses mostly on career building. This realm of education in today’s Muslim mind can be observed in Tony Blair’s (UK’s ex prime minister) statement where he said in an interview (reported in the Times Educational Supplement of July 5, 2002): “Education is and remains the absolute number one priority for the country because without a quality education system and an educated workforce, we cannot succeed economically.” (Ref)
No one denies the need for education that is required to advance oneself economically and for the betterment of life in general. However, knowledge and education required to instill moral values must also not be ignored. The focus today may be more towards the building of human beings into entrepreneurs, doctors, engineers and so on instead of making humans beings human. As a result, a number of us are succeeding economically but the question remains whether we are truly happy within our families, communities and societies at large?
Within the context of Islamic education, the Muslim upbringing today may be solely focused on spiritual and ritualistic aspects (praying, fasting, etc.), while ignoring the morals and values that these rituals are meant to instill in the individual in first place. We all know people who may pray five times a day and fast yet fail to epitomize good Islamic morals and etiquettes. On a smaller scale, most of us in one form or another may be guilty of maintaining double standards ourselves. We stand to pray in front of our Creator with humility yet fail to demonstrate humility to our families and other people. We may read the Quran but our character is not that of the Quran. We exercise patience in refraining from eating and drinking when fasting, yet fail to show any patience when it comes to worldly matters.
This sad state of affairs calls for the urgent learning of Islamic manners, morals and etiquette by Muslims of all ages. Besides building the spiritual core within the young Muslims, parents must also focus on instilling Islamic values that can help guide the new Muslim’s life in these turbulent times. For those of us who didn’t get the opportunity to teach or learn those Islamic manners, we can start by reflecting the Quran and Hadith, taking the teachings, and more importantly to start applying those to our lives. A book by Imam Bukhari (Link – al Adab al Mufrad – Muslim Morals and Manners) lists more than 600 Islamic manners and morals and is an excellent source for learning Islamic morals and etiquette.
Finally, let’s review some of the Islamic mannerisms from the life of the prophet (SAW) and sahaba. Abu Haamid al-Ghazaali in Ihya’ ‘Uloom al-Deen highlighted the prophet’s qualities, some of which are stated as follows –
- He was the most forbearing of people, the most courageous of people, the most just of people, the most chaste of people.
- He was the most modest of people and would not look anyone straight in the eye.
- He would respond to the invitations of slave and free alike, and accept a gift even if it was a cup of milk, and he would reward a person for it.
- He got angry for the sake of his Lord but he did not get angry for his own sake.
- He would adhere to the truth even if that resulted in harm for himself or his companions. He found one of the best of his companions slain in an area where Jews lived, but he did not treat them harshly or do more than hat which is prescribed by sharee’ah.
- He would accept invitations to meals, visit the sick, and attend funerals.
- He was the most humble and quiet of people without being arrogant, the most eloquent without being long-winded, the most cheerful of countenance.
- He would sit with the poor and offer food to and eat with the needy, honoring the virtuous and softening the hearts of people of status by treating them kindly.
- He upheld ties of kinship without favoring his relatives over those who were better than them, and he did not treat anyone harshly.
- He accepted the excuses of those who apologized to him; he would joke but he only spoke the truth, and he would smile without laughing out loud.
- He did not waste time without striving for the sake of Allah or doing that which was essential to better himself. He did not look down on any poor person because of his poverty or chronic sickness, and he did not fear any king because of his power.
To conclude, lets remind ourselves of what Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said when describing the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). It is mentioned in the lengthy story about Sa’d ibn Hishaam ibn ‘Aamir, when he came to Madeenah and went to ‘Aa’ishah and asked her about some matters. He said:
I said: O Mother of the believers (Ayesha), tell me about the character of the Messenger of Allah (S). She said: Do you not read the Quran? I said: Of course. She said: The character of the Prophet of Allah (S) was the Quran. I wanted to get up and not ask about anything else until I died… Narrated by Muslim (746).
What is your opinion about the state of affairs of Muslims in learning Islamic etiquette, morals, and values? Share your thoughts and stories below.