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Adab of Islam

Nuh Ha Mim Keller

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "When two vituperate
each other, [the sin of] what they say is borne by the one who first began, as long
as the one wronged does not transgress [the bounds of merely defending himself,
by answering back with worse]" (Muslim, 4.2000: 2587. S). And when a group of
Jews covertly cursed the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) by using a
play on the words "as-Salamu 'alaykum," 'A'isha noticed it and gave them a
rounding, and he said, "Enough, 'A'isha; for Allah does not like vulgarity or
making a display of it" (ibid., 1707: 2165(4). S). And in another version, "O
'A'isha, always have gentleness, and always shun harsh words and vulgarity"
(Bukhari, 8.15: 6030. S). This is the adab of Islam with hardened enemies, so
how should it not apply to our fellow Muslims, let alone family and loved ones?

It is of the adab of the high path of Islam to be honest when one speaks. The
Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "Honesty certainly leads to
goodness, and goodness leads to paradise. Truly, a man keeps speaking the truth
until he is inscribed as being true through and through. And lying leads to going
wrong, and going wrong leads to hell. Truly, a man lies and lies until he is
inscribed as being a liar through and through" (Muslim, 4.2012-13: 2607. S).

It is of the adab of the high path of Islam to completely abandon and shun guile,
deceit, scornfulness, or sarcasm because these are unlawful. Allah Most High
says, "O you who believe, let no men scorn other men, for they might well be
better than they are. And let no women scorn other women, for they might well
be better than they. And do not find fault with one another, or give each other
insulting nicknames" (Qur'an 49:11). And Allah Most High says, "Woe to whoever
demeans others behind their back or to their face" (Qur'an 104:1). And the
Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "Let there be no harming
another, or harming him back. Whoever harms another Allah shall harm, and
whoever gives trouble to another Allah shall give trouble to" (Hakim, 2.58. Hg).

It is of the adab of the high path of Islam to abandon lying, for it is unlawful.
Allah Most High curses liars by saying, "May liars be slain" (Qur'an 51:10), in
which slain means "cursed" according to the Arabic idiom likening the accursed,
who loses every good and happiness, to the slain, who loses life and every
blessing. The Qur'anic exegete al-Khazin notes that "May liars be cursed"
originally referred to those who sat on the various roads outside Mecca warning
people against the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) to
keep them from becoming Muslim. The verse, however, like other Qur'anic
verses, is not limited to the original circumstances in which it was revealed, but
applies universally, to the end of time. Those who lie, except in circumstances in
which Sacred Law permits it, are cursed by Allah.
It is unlawful to lie, except when making up between two people, or lying to an
enemy in war, or to one's wife. It is also unlawful to praise or blame another with
an untruth. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "Lying is
wrong, except in three things: the lie of a man to his wife to make her content
with him; a lie in war, for war is deception; or a lie to settle trouble between
people" (Ahmad, 6.459. H). Ibn Jawzi has said, "The criterion for it is that every
praiseworthy objective in Sacred Law that cannot be brought about without lying
is permissible to lie for if the objective is permissible, and obligatory to lie for if
the objective is obligatory." When lying is the only way to attain one's right, one
may lie about oneself or another, provided it does not harm the other. And it is
obligatory to lie to if necessary to protect a Muslim from being murdered. But
whenever one can accomplish the objective by words that merely give a
misleading impression with actually being false, it is unlawful to tell an outright
lie, because it is unnecessary.

If one needs to swear a false oath in order to save a person whose life is unlawful
to take from being killed, then one must swear it, for saving such a person's life is
obligatory, and if doing so depends on an oath, it is obligatory. Suwayd ibn
Handhala (Allah be well pleased with him) said: "We set out to the Messenger of
Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) and Wa'il ibn Hajar was with us, and
he was captured by an enemy. The group was forced to swear an oath [that all
were of the same clan, which was under a protection agreement], so I swore that
he was my brother, and they released him. We reached the Messenger of Allah
(Allah bless him and give him peace) and I told him that the group had been
forced to swear, and that I had sworn he was my brother, and he said, "You told
the truth: the Muslim is the bother of the Muslim" (Abu Dawud, 3.224:3256. S).

The "Farewell Sermon" of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) at
hajj:

All praise is Allah's. We praise Him, seek His help, ask His forgiveness, and we
repent unto Him. We seek refuge in Allah from the evils of our selves and our bad
actions. Whomever Allah guides none can lead astray, and whomever He leads
astray has no one to guide him. I testify that there is no god but Allah alone,
without any partner, and I testify that Muhammad is his slave and messenger. I
enjoin you, O servants of Allah, to be godfearing towards Allah, I urge you to obey
Him, and I begin with that which is best.

To commence: O people, hear me well: I explain to you. For I do not know; I may
well not meet you again in this place where I now stand, after this year of mine.

O people: your lives and your property, until the very day you meet your Lord, are
as inviolable to each other as the inviolability of this day you are now in, and the
month you are now in. Have I given the message?-O Allah, be my witness. So let
whoever has been given something for safekeeping give it back to him who gave
him it.

Truly, the usury of the Era of Ignorance has been laid aside forever, and the first
usury I begin with is that which is due to my father's brother 'Abbas ibn 'Abd al-
Muttalib. And truly the blood-vengeance of the Era of Ignorance has been laid
aside forever, and the first blood-vengeance we shall start with is that which is
due for the blood of [my kinsman] 'Amir ibn Rabi'a ibn Harith ibn 'Abd al-
Muttalib. Truly, the hereditary distinctions that were pretensions to respect in the
Era of Ignorance have been laid aside forever, except for the custodianship of the
Kaaba [by Bani 'Abd al-Dar] and the giving of drink to pilgrims [by al-'Abbas].

A deliberate murder is subject to retaliation in kind. An accidental death from a


deliberate injury means a death resulting from [something not usually used or
intended as a deadly weapon such as] a stick or a rock, for which the indemnity is
one hundred camels: whoever asks for more is a person of the Era of Ignorance.

O people: the Devil has despaired of ever being worshipped in this land of yours,
though he is content to be obeyed in other works of yours, that you deem to be of
little importance.

O people: postponing the inviolability of a sacred month [claiming to postpone


the prohibition of killing in it to a subsequent month, so as to continue warring
despite the sacred month's having arrived] is a surfeit of unbelief, by which those
who disbelieve are led astray, making it lawful one year and unlawful in another,
in order to match the number [of months] Allah has made inviolable. Time has
verily come full turn, to how it was the day Allah created the heavens and the
earth. Four months there are which are inviolable, three in a row and forth by
itself: Dhul Qa'da, Dhul Hijja, and Muharram; and Rajab, which lies between
Jumada and Sha'ban. Have I given the message?-O Allah, be my witness.

O people: verily you owe your women their rights, and they owe you yours. They
may not lay with another men in your beds, let anyone into your houses you do
not want without your permission, or commit indecency. If they do, Allah has
given you leave to debar them, send them from your beds, or [finally] strike them
in a way that does no harm. But if they desist, and obey you, then you must
provide for them and clothe them fittingly. The women who live with you are like
captives, unable to manage for themselves: you took them as a trust from Allah,
and enjoyed their sex as lawful through a word [legal ruling] from Allah. So fear
Allah in respect to women, and concern yourselves with their welfare. Have I
given the message?-O Allah, be my witness.

O people, believers are but brothers. No one may take his brother's property
without his full consent. Have I given the message?-O Allah, be my witness.
Never go back to being unbelievers, smiting each other's necks, for verily, I have
left among you that which if you take it, you will never stray after me: the Book of
Allah. Have I given the message?-O Allah, be my witness.

O people, your Lord is One, and your father is one: all of you are from Adam, and
Adam was from the ground. The noblest of you in Allah's sight is the most
godfearing: Arab has no merit over non-Arab other than godfearingness. Have I
given the message?-O Allah, be my witness.

-At this, they said yes.


He said, Then let whomever is present tell whomever is absent.

O people:, Allah has apportioned to every deserving heir his share of the estate,
and no deserving heir may accept a special bequest, and no special bequest may
exceed a third of the estate. A child's lineage is that of the [husband who owns
the] bed, and adulterers shall be stoned. Whoever claims to be the son of
someone besides his father or a bondsman who claims to belong to other than his
masters shall bear the curse of Allah and the angels and all men: no deflecting of
it or ransom for it shall be accepted from him.

And peace be upon all of you, and the mercy of Allah.

'Ata' ibn Abi Rabah, Mufti of Mecca (d. 114/732), of the generation that followed
that of the prophetic Companions (Sahaba) said of them, "They used to dislike
talking more than necessary, and considered "more than necessary" to mean
more than your reciting the Qur'an, enjoining the right, forbidding the wrong, or
speaking about making a living, in the amount strictly necessary."

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "Whoever believes in
Allah and the Last Day should say something good or else be quiet" (Bukhari,
8.13: 6019. S). He also said (Allah bless him and give him peace) "Whoever is
silent is saved" (Ahmad, 2.159. S). And the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him
peace) said, "Verily the slave will say a word he thinks nothing of that Allah loves,
for which Allah raises him whole degrees. And verily the slave will say a word he
thinks nothing of that Allah detests, for which he plummets into hell" (Bukhari,
8.125: 6478. S).

It is of the adab of Islam to know the value of one's word, not to give unless one
intends to keep it, and to keep it once it has been given. The Prophet (Allah bless
him and give him peace) said, "The signs of a hypocrite are three: when he speaks
he lies, when he promises he breaks it, and when entrusted with something he
betrays it" (Bukhari, 1.15: 33. S).

When Abu Bakr was dying, he sent for 'Umar ibn al-Khattab (Allah be well
pleased with both of them), and told him, "O 'Umar, if you are given authority
over the people, fear Allah and hold fast to what is right. For the balance of those
whose scale pans are heavy on Resurrection Day [with good deeds] shall only be
heavy for their having followed what is right and its heaviness upon them; and it
befits the balance scale when what is right is placed in it tomorrow to be heavy.
And the balance of those whose scale pans are light on Resurrection Day [because
of few good deeds] shall only be light for their having followed what is wrong and
its ease upon them; and it befits the balance scale when what is wrong is placed in
it tomorrow to be light. And know that there are works for Allah at night that He
does not accept during the day, and that there are works during the day that He
does not accept at night. And that He does not accept a supererogatory work of
worship until the obligatory has been done."