Hadith 12: The Concept of Good Manners And Behaviour
By Imam Nawawi
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger
On the authority of Abu Hurayrah, (radiyallahu 'anhu), who said : The Messenger of Allah, (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), said :
"Part of the perfection of someone's Islam is his leaving alone that which does not concern him."
[Recorded by Tirmidzi: Hadith hasan-]
Ibn Rajab (rahimahullah), one of the commentators of Imam Nawawi's Forty Hadith, mentioned that this hadith is a foundation of manners, behaviour and etiquette in Islam.
Ibn Rajab (rahimahullah) also quotes Imam Ibn Abi Zayd Al-Qairawani, (rahimahullah), one of the Maliki Imams, as saying that the following four hadiths set the main concept for good manners and behaviour:
1. The hadith mentioned above: leaving alone that which does not concern him
2. "Let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day either speak good or keep silent, .." [Bukhari and Muslim. Refer to Hadith 15 of this collection]
3. A man said to the Prophet, (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam): "Counsel me". He said : " Do not become angry". The man repeated [his request] several times, and he said: "Do not become angry." [Al-Bukhari. Refer to Hadith 16 of this collection]
4. "None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." [Al-Bukhari. Refer to Hadith 13 of this collection]
This hadith states that a believer should avoid things that are of no concern to him. They are of no benefit to this life nor to the hereafter, in terms of belief, speech or actions. In justifying this point, the Maliki jurist Imam Ibn Al-Arabi (rahimahullah) said that a person is not able to take care of all the necessary matters, why would he then get involved in the unnecessary matters that are of no real concern.
Jamaluddin Zarabozo, one of the contemporary commentators of Imam Nawawi's Forty Hadith, emphasises that Islam protects society as a whole from any kind of harm. Much of the harm inflicted on the society are due to people indulging in the unnecessary matters like meddling into the affairs of others when one has no right or responsibility over the particular issue. These types of practices normally lead to great evil in the society. The Prophet, (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), recommended a way to avoid societal problems.
He also commented that a believer should train him or herself to concentrate to be involved in the beneficial matters so that this in itself will be the person's attitude. Do not waste time, money and effort in things that are of no benefit in this life and the hereafter.
Putting the hadith in a different way, part of the perfection of faith (iman) of a believer is to be concerned with matters that are beneficial in this life and the hereafter. This is emphasised by another hadith: "Be keen with what is beneficial to you, and seek help from Allah - do not be reckless." [Tirmidzi]
Muslims have enough matters of concern to the extent one may not have enough time to deal with all of them. This is related to the issue of time management, whereby we need to be involved with matters that are of concern to us.
An important question related to this hadith is what are the things to be of concern to a true believer? Answering this question will enable us to practice this hadith in the right manner:
1. One of the things that are of concern is to fulfill the obligations (wajib), to perform as much as we can of the recommended or preferable acts (mandub), to avoid the forbidden (haram) and to avoid as much as we can of the makruh (those that are disliked).
2. Fard-a'yn, an individual obligation, are matters of concern to every one of us. Examples are matters like worship and supplication.
3. Fard-kifayah, community-wide collective obligations, must not be neglected and should also be matters of concern to us. An example is to work for the betterment of the community. Everyone with their own profession and expertise has a role to contribute towards the community.
4. Other matters of concern to Muslims are enjoining good and discouraging evil, self accountability and to practice Ihsan in all that we do.
Allah says in the Quran: (Allah) Who created death and life that He may try you, which of you is best in deeds; and He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving. [Surah Al-Mulk (67): ayat 2]
As related in Hadith 17 in this collection: "Verily, Allah has prescribed excellence (Ihsan) in all things. Thus, if you kill, kill well; and if you slaughter, slaughter well. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters." [Recorded by Imam Muslim]
5. Another matter of concern to all Muslims, but is currently lacking among us, is to think about the affairs of oneself, the community and the whole Muslim community (ummah).
We need to think of how to further improve our (the Muslims) situation and not just be content with the current situation. This applies in whatever we do, whether we are worshippers, teachers, professionals or preachers. We should only be slaves of Allah and not others. Hence, we should not be enslaved by current methods or routines of doing things. We need to think creatively to improve the situation, in ways not contradicting the syaria'h. In this context, modern tools like 'idea generation' and 'problem solving' can be of great benefit.
We also need to be concerned about the greater challenges facing our community. In this era of technology and communication revolution, many of us are being enslaved intellectually. We need to think about our future generation because we will be responsible before Allah. We need to apply and disseminate our knowledge and not just building 'reservoirs' of knowledge. We need to design our future and not just stand passively and let others design and impose upon us their preconceived scenarios.
Matters of concern to the Muslims cover the affairs of oneself, the community and the whole Muslim community (ummah). We need to create awareness among each other in facing the issues and challenges of the ummah. For example, this can be done through dialogues and talks. Those in authority have a greater responsibility in carrying out this task.
We should be aware not to waste our time and effort in matters that are of no concern to us. We should keep ourselves busy only with matters of benefit to us and to the ummah.
And Allāh Almighty Knows best.
[Excerpted from commentary on Hadith 12: “Behaviour and Etiquette in Islam”, 40 Hadiths Of Imam Nawawi, By Dr. Jamal Ahmed Badi, via IC Truth]