There are important points that we can draw from such a small Hadith. Good manners are essential in this world and the hereafter. We need to work hard to change ourselves and personify the good manners of Islam.
But why are good manners of such prominence in Islam?
The Prophet could have said that he was sent to teach us to worship Allah. He could have said he was sent to teach us to work for progress and humanity. He could have said he was sent to start a revival and enlightenment. He could have said that he was sent to teach us that our mission is to work for the development and the progress of this world.
He said that he was sent to complete good manners, because good manners are a prerequisite for success, revival, enlightenment, progress, social cohesion, tolerance, peace, justice, development, successful nation building etc. Good manners are even necessary for worship, as we will discuss later. This is because you cannot achieve progress, justice, enlightenment and all the aforementioned values without a foundation of good manners, ethics and morality.
Muslims should use the best of manners in their everyday activities with Muslims and non Muslims, at work, at school, in public places, in fact everywhere.
If our morals are right, everything else will follow. If we want to reform the world we cannot start without ethics and morality. The first step in implementing reform is strengthening our own values of morality, solidarity and humanity.
Quran (3:159) “It is by Allah’s mercy that you are gentle to them, had you been harsh and hardhearted, surely they would have dispersed from around you. Therefore, excuse them; Plead for forgiveness for them and consult them in the affairs.”
The Quran confirms that the Prophet PBUH was gentle and considerate. His good manners, high standards of ethics and morality are what drew people towards him and Islam.
Did Islam spread by the sword?
There were no Muslim armies that marched from Arabia to Indonesia, which is now the largest Muslim country in the world population wise, it was only the good manners of the Muslim merchants which impressed Indonesians and drove them to appreciating Islam. It was all because of the honesty, integrity and professionalism of these Muslim traders.
If you are unscrupulous, you really need to reconsider your position. You need to be a role model for others through your behaviour, your credibility, your excellence and your professionalism. It was the good manners of those Muslim merchants that opened the hearts and minds of Indonesians to Islam.
You can do dawah all day long, but people are not going to believe you unless your manners, attitude and morality are up to scratch. You have to be actively contributing to society in every possible way in order to gain the respect of Muslims and non Muslims.
The Prophet encouraged entrepreneurship, hard work and innovation. At home the Prophet used to do chores and help his family. Helping your mother or your wife at home will make you more of a man. These are the manners of Islam.
If Muslims fully embrace the values of Islam, e.g. excellence in science and knowledge, excellence in all fields of work, excellence in voluntary and charity work, excellence in personal and family relations, non Muslims will be able to appreciate Islam more and consequently Islamophobia will recede.
Muslims have to contribute more and excel in every field
You cannot expect people to respect you unless you earn this respect. If you are willingly unemployed or mediocre in your work (or in any field of your life), you have to know that you are not a doing what you should do as a good Muslim. The Prophet said: A believer is like rain, wherever he goes he brings goodness and benefits (to Muslims and non Muslims).
On the authority of Anas, may God be pleased with him, who narrated that the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, said: “None of you (truly) has faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”
Do you apply this hadith in your relationships with others? Do you care about your Muslim and non Muslim brothers and sisters in humanity who suffer from hunger and war in other parts of the world?
Do you apply this hadith when dealing with family members, friends and all those around you?
Good manners lead to justice and justice leads to progress and prosperity
I think that ethics and good manners lead to justice. Justice is essential for progress, prosperity and the development of any society. Thus good manners are part of the infrastructure that leads to a strong economy and an advanced society. No progress can be made without justice, ethics and good manners.
There are Muslims who do their prayers, go to do Hajj and Umrah every year (as if there aren’t millions of people suffering from hunger around the world in dire need of food and medical supplies, who this money would be better spent on), but some of those Muslims mistreat others and defy Islamic ethics and good manners in every possible way.
Acts of worship are meaningless unless you apply good manners to every aspect of your behavior. Salah, fasting and hajj are invalid if good manners are not upheld. The acts of worship are like training for us to strengthen our good manners.
Quran Surah 29:45 says: ‘Recite what is sent of the Book by inspiration to thee, and establish regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. And Allah knows the (deeds) that ye do.’
From this verse it can be seen that if your prayers don’t prevent you from shameful, unjust deeds and bad morals, your prayers are invalid.
Narrated Aisha, Allah have mercy on her: The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said: “Indeed, the believer will attain by his good character the rank of one who is steadfast in fasting and praying.”
[Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 41, Number 4780]
The Prophet said, “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)”
Quran 2:197 says: ”For Hajj are the months well known. If any one undertakes that duty therein, Let there be no obscenity, nor wickedness, nor wrangling in the Hajj. And whatever good ye do, (be sure) Allah knoweth it. And take a provision (With you) for the journey, but the best of provisions is right conduct. So fear Me, o ye that are wise.”
Hajj should be like a boot camp, training Muslims to adhere to good manners, especially as Hajj is a stressful experience, where millions of people are cramped in Mecca.
There will be no justice, enlightenment and renaissance without morals. We need to spread good manners if we truly want an Islamic revival. We always like to choose the easy path, we use Islamic language and we fast, pray and go to hajj, but some of us fail miserably in understanding the essence and benefits of these acts of worship. Inner Jihad is our struggle to reach and spread the good manners of Islam. This is a core Islamic value and is essential for the acceptance of our acts of worship.
The Prophet coined it very well when he said: “There is no faith in him who is not trustworthy and there is no religion in him who does not respect his covenant”.
The Messenger of God, may blessings and peace be on him and his family, said, “God is gentle and loves gentleness in all things.” And, “Gentleness never enters into anything without embellishing it, and it is never taken out of anything without disgracing it.”
Please take the time to reflect, perhaps you need to change yourself. Maybe it is time that you decide to inspire and empower others to seek good manners, maybe you can start a project or even a Facebook group to promote good manners in Islam, to think, learn and spread the message.
This article is based on Amr Khaled’s lecture
Amr Khaled is an Egyptian televangelist voted one of the world’s most influential people by Time Magazine in 2007. His work influenced Arab youth and has contributed to the calls for change in the Middle East