A Return to Chivalry

chivalry.gifChivalry:
n. pl. chiv·al·ries
a. The qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women.

b. A manifestation of any of these qualities.

These days, it’s all too common to read or hear Muslim women being rebuked for not being religious enough, for not wearing their hijaab properly, and oh so much more – so today I’m going to turn the tables and pick on the guys! :P

I’m sure others besides myself have noticed the increasing lack of chivalry amongst males, particularly the younger ones. Now, this isn’t something specific to Muslims – because non-Muslim women are saying the same thing about their counterparts – but for (hopefully) obvious reasons (such as the fact that this site is called MuslimMatters…), I’m going to be picking on our dear Muslim brothers! :D

I’d like to bring attention to the perhaps little-known fact that Islam very much teaches and encourages chivalry.

Though interaction between the genders is limited – at least, amongst those who aren’t mahram to each other- when interaction is necessary, it is to be conducted in a very respectful and dignified manner.

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Before I go into examples of chivalry as displayed by the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and his Saahabah, I’d like to first indulge in a small history lesson about chivalry and its origins.
The concept of chivalry (see dictionary definition above) was something present amongst the Arabs even in the Days of Jaahiliyyah (pre-Islamic ignorance), but Islam refined and emphasized it. In fact, it was from contact with Muslims during the Crusades and in Moorish Spain that the concept permeated European culture.

“Gustav Leabeon writes that Islam, in its early days, gave women exactly the position that European women would take centuries to achieve. Leabeon concludes that after the chivalry of Andalusia (Spain) filtered into Europe, courteous behavior towards women became the main theme of European chivalry.”
(Source)

However, the Muslim men of today seem to have forgotten this noble quality… Okay, maybe I’m being a bit unfair here. I’m not saying that all Muslim men – perhaps not even most of them – act like total boors, or are rude and inconsiderate. Just the younger ones. Mostly. Sometimes. Aaaahhh, you know what I mean!
Anyway, what I’m basically trying to say is that I – and no doubt numerous other Muslim women – would like very much for more Muslim men to return to the sunnah of chivalry.
Yes, dear readers, you read aright: The SUNNAH of chivalry! As I mentioned above, chivalry is something that’s definitely taught in Islam: honour, respect, and courtesy being shown to women is all part of the manners expected of Muslim men.

The following story, narrated by Asma bint Abi Bakr (radhiAllahu anha), has always been for me the perfect example of chivalry.
“I used to provide fodder for the horse, give it water and groom it. I would grind grain and make dough but I could not bake well. The women of the Ansar used to bake for me. They were truly good women. I used to carry the grain on my head from az-Zubayr’s plot which the Prophet had allocated to him to cultivate. It was about three farsakh (about eight kilo meters) from the town’s center. One day I was on the road carrying the grain on my head when I met the Prophet and a group of Sahabah. He called out to me and stopped his camel so that I could ride behind him. I felt embarrassed to travel with the Prophet and also remembered az-Zubayr’s jealousy, he was the most jealous of men. The Prophet realized that I was embarrassed and rode on.”
Later, Asmaa related to az-Zubayr exactly what had happened and he said, “By God, that you should have to carry grain is far more distressing to me than your riding with (the Prophet)”.

(Source)

There are many things to take note of from this Hadith, which we can learn from.

1. That the Prophet (SAW) bothered to offer Asma (ra) a ride in the first place.
2. When she refused, he respected her decision and did not insist otherwise.
3. Though her burden was heavy and she was weary, she remembered and respected her husband’s jealousy (gheerah) and acted upon that rather than give in. Muslim women should pause and take note: this is the way that we should act, with hayaa’ (modesty, a sense of shame) and taking into consideration what is the best course of action, rather than just what’s easiest.
4. Az-Zubayr’s reaction is equally admirable: he trusted his wife, and loved her such that though he was such a jealous man, he would rather have had her accept the ride than go through the hardship she did.

While Muslim mothers are busy educating their daughters about the hijaab and other related aspects of being a Muslimah, what are Muslim fathers doing? Are they teaching their sons the sunnah of chivalry?
As with pretty much everything, it all starts within the home. Are boys being taught to obey and respect their mothers? Are they being taught to treat their sisters with similar respect and courtesy? And are they taught how to deal with other females – strangers or familiars, Muslim and non-Muslim – and are they actually acting on that?

Amongst the numerous things that need to be learned and reinforced, I feel that parents and Imams need to remind Muslim boys and men of this concept. After all, Islam is not only about ‘Aqeedah and Fiqh, it’s also about Adaab (manners/etiquettes).
One of the complaints I’ve heard about Muslim men is that they’ll be unfailingly polite to non-Muslim women, while treating their sisters in Islam in an appalling manner, or vice versa… and I do think that it’s wrong. Chivalry ought to be something shown to all women – for Muslim women, it is our right over you as your sisters in Islam; and towards non-Muslim women it is a form of Da’wah.

Subhan’Allah, I have heard many stories of women who accepted Islam because their first introduction to it was through a Muslim man who observed the Islamic adab of interaction with someone of the opposite gender: a man who lowered his gaze yet treated her in a respectful, dignified manner that did nothing to compromise their honour but rather elevated it. (My favourite stories are the ones in which the new sister ends up marrying that same brother! ;) :P)

To the above point, I’d just like to add a little sidenote: by chivalry being a form of Da’wah, I DO NOT mean that you should be chatting up these women! Rather, that you deal with them in the correct Islamic manner, maintaining a decent and respectful distance (both physically and in your conversation/ tone of voice, etc.). Men have to observe hijaab too!

In conclusion, I urge parents of boys to start teaching them about the sunnah of chivalry and encourage them to put it into practice; and for men (both young and old) to also practice this noble behaviour.

Disclaimer:
I am not trying to say all men are totally rude and inconsiderate; nor am I implying that women don’t have their own issues as well… (hopefully that’ll stop any turning around and pointing fingers at the ‘other side’ rather than just focusing on this particular issue…)

May Allah help us all learn about and put into practice the great sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), and aid us all in our personal quests to become better Muslims, ameen!

Your little sister in Islam, Mouse

49 / View Comments

49 responses to “A Return to Chivalry”

  1. tahsinthree says:

    Aslaam-alaikam

    A point to make: Open the doors for the non-mahram Muslim sisters, but do not walk behind them or with them : Walk in front of them – a lesson from Prophet Musa (alaihisalaam).

    A question: When does a Muslim brother say salaams to a non-mahram Muslim sister (without looking at her)? As he is approaching, at level or when he has just passed her?

  2. Most sisters (non-Muslim and Muslim) take chivalrous acts as an act of flirting. That’s why most brothers don’t really do that.

  3. sincethestorm says:

    I disagree, there are ways of being chivalrous without being misleading or flirtatious. Unfortunately, many Muslim brothers are raised in an environment where their ill mannered actions go unrebuked. On the other hand, Muslim girls are held to high standards of propriety and etiquette by not only their parents but also the community.

  4. Affad Shaikh says:

    Sisters get upset when you dont say salaam to them, most of the time the brothers say salaam and get no response so they assume that all sisters dont want to say salaam.

    Its sad but it shouldnt be this hard to interact with one another but cricumstances and lack of knowledge leads shaitan to play with our heads, thanks for a great piece.

  5. otowi says:

    I don’t know where some of the people commenting are living. It is a shame someone doesn’t return salaams or mistakes chivalry for flirting.

    I always return salaams if I don’t initiate them first, and I always appreciate being treated with respect and kindness.

  6. Zahra Billoo says:

    I also disagree with one of the previous commenters – nonMuslim women do not see basic acts of chivalry as flirtatious. For example, open the door for her but don’t “check her out” while you do it; she’ll appreciate being treated as a woman and not a piece of meat.

    Saying Salaams to nonMahram Muslim sisters: my personal preference would be either while being approached or “at level.” But brothers, please do say Salaams – most sisters actually appreciate the solidarity.

  7. iMuslim says:

    hopefully that’ll stop any turning around and pointing fingers at the ‘other side’ rather than just focusing on this particular issue

    Brilliant, mashallah! A good point for the brothers to remember (though i noticed that they forgot it pretty quickly).

    I knew this was one of your entries, deary. :)

    Chivalry is more than just offering salaam; it is about how men carry themselves in relation to their female counterparts. It’s an art form – one that is totally being lost by both Muslim and non-Muslim cultures.

    I think the feminism movement has some role to play in the demise of chivalry. Some smaller aspects such as opening the door, and standing up when a lady enters the room (which i don’t understand) now seem patronizing: We women are just as strong as you men; we can open our blinking own doors! etc etc.

    The question is: Does chivalry derive from the idea that women are weak, and thus need special treatment from men? Or could it be that women deserve respect, full stop, but due to the limits of modest male-female interactions, a special form of treatment results, that we deem as chivalry?

  8. Hassan says:

    Hmm, first an article telling elders how to behave (parenting etc) and now telling men how to behave (chivalry).. the points are valid, yet I am concerned if youth (in first case) and women (in second) worried more about themselves, it would have been nice and carried more weight.

    I would take the message, while remaining worried if people are focusing on their role and improving it rather than focusing on others.

  9. Hassan says:

    The article would have been very nice, if instead of saying “I’m going to turn the tables and pick on the guys” and other childish stuff like that, rather just giving definition of chivalry, and then sticking to what Allah says and what Rasool says and virtues of it. Thats just my take, perhaps there would be others who would totally moved by this kind of writing style.

    • Hotaru says:

      Ahhhhhhhh,
      actually I would disagree with that
      rather than making it sound like Mouse was lecturing the men, it sounded more like a book with a lesson learned at the end

  10. Amad says:

    ASA,
    Sr. Anonymouse is a teenager in Canada. Those who frequent this, including you bro, should know that she thinks and writes different from the FOBs.

    Personally, as a fellow-upgraded-FOB ;) , I find her writings very interesting and very relevant. The blog talks to people of all ages, cultures and races, so different people will digg different things.

    By the way, you should also be fair about our past entries. While we talked about adult-youth relationship, we also talked about the right of parents (with that China article). And to be honest, right now, it is really the parents who need to learn to interact with the youth, because the youth have the most to lose. If we keep sitting on our pedestals and expect our youth, raised in an alien culture (i.e. alien to the “motherland” culture) to suddenly learn how to speak ‘uncle-talk’, then we are sadly mistaken.

    People who have kids, esp. kids in their teens, know what I am talking about. And those that don’t should start taking notes and preparing themselves for some tough times ahead.

  11. Hassan says:

    I guess I have to live with being FOB (I am thankful to Allah whatever I am). My point was quite just, the entry on China was posted by you, as a parent talking about parents. If you let me write, I can write on any aspect of mine (being men, FOB, late 20s, whatever) and make a self criticism on it. I think it would be very weird, if I initiate criticism of chemical engineers and how they should do their job, while I am not chemical engineer.

    Also as I pointed out, if she would have written as a student of knowledge, sticking to naql (Allah says, prophet says), I would not have objected (which does not matter I guess anyways, as I do not approve or disapprove of content).

  12. Umm Reem says:

    >”Sisters get upset when you don’t say salam to them…”

    I think this is an all-season-complaint from sisters :) Ten years ago, our MSA sisters had the same issue, I suppose not much has changed since then!

    Here is something to think about, a very pious Muslimah saying salam to a very pious Muslim and then insisting on getting an answer from him:

    “…Abu Qudaamah Ash-Shaamee, moved quickly to the mimbar of the masjid. In a powerful and emotional speech, Abu Qudaamah ignited the desire of the community to defend their land. As he left the masjid, walking down a dark and secluded alley, a woman stopped him and said, “As salamu alaykum wa Rahmatullaah!” Abu Qudaamah stopped and did not answer. She repeated her salam again, adding “this is not how pious people should act…”

  13. Anjum says:

    i think this is a great subject to post on; i hope it’s taken in the best possible way, as it was offered.

  14. abu ameerah says:

    Nice post. Chivalry “as a form of dawah”…

    LOL

    Also, I hate the term “FOB”… not because people aren’t FOBs… it’s just that the term is so blatantly overused these days (or something like that).

  15. Anon. says:

    To be honest, most of the Muslim women I know would (and do) feel insulted by us lowering the gaze- so they’re not worth chivalry…

  16. iMuslim says:

    I don’t see any brothers writing about chivalry – so if they aren’t doing it, don’t give the sister a hard time for filling the gap!

    Mouse was just being tongue-in-cheek (that’s how i knew it was her post before seeing the name at the bottom).

    Anyway, it seems that people are getting distracted from the point of the article – does it matter who wrote it and how? An important matter has been raised – that should be the focal point of discussion. If you have any criticism of the author’s literary style, it is best that you take it up with him/her personally (i.e., the best way to give naseehah is in private).

    In response to Anon – why do you suppose that women would be insulted by respectful behaviour? Does it relate to what i said in my earlier comment, that certain actions that before may have been appreciated by women of the past, may now be deemed as patronizing?

  17. amatulwadood says:

    wow Anon….I have to completely disagree. La ilaha il Allah, if a brother does not lower his gaze I really do lose respect for him. And who cares if some sisters don’t like it, it is a commandment from Allah azza wa jal, do it to please Him and not the sisters.

    And I think chivalry is more than just opening a door or saying salaams. I remember a specific story when Umm Salamah was going to Madinah, she was by herself with her son and then she came across a man–I lost his name right now but he wasn’t muslim yet, radiAllahu anhu. He asked her what she was doing in the middle of the desert and she said, I am going to find my husband. And he offered to take her to Madinah since she was by herself and he knew her and he got off his camel and let her ride on it. And he wasn’t muslim at the time but he became muslim later on. Now that is chivalry, mashaAllah.

    wa Allahu ta’ala ‘alam.

  18. Moiez says:

    Ok, I’m a little confused on the role of how to talk to the females because I remember when Umar(Radh) went and scolded the wives of the prophet for doing what they were doing. Does this allow men to be able to talk to women. Im confused so much so that I literally get scared if I see a muslim women, I dont know how to react. Im embarassed. On the other hand we are supposed to keep our gaze low and not say much at all. :(

  19. Hassan says:

    iMuslim, I guess you did not read my comments clearly or understood them. Anyway, they are there and I stand by what I have said. Thanks for advice though, and also thanks to anonymouse, may Allah keep her steadfast on deen.

  20. iMuslim says:

    Salaams Hassan,

    Sorry for any confusion from my part. I get somewhat overprotective of my little sis in Islam – even though she is not so little. :)

    Ameen to your dua.

    Wa’salam

  21. iMuslim says:

    @AmatalWadood – i love the story you mentioned. It really is quite the shining example of gentlemanly behaviour, mashallah.

  22. Bintmuhammed says:

    Assalamualaykum
    In my opinion men should stay as far away as women unless it is required for them to be near them. I dont understand why its soo necessary for a man to say salaam to a woman, yes were all muslims alhamdulilah and we should greet eachother with the best of greetings, but if this greeting might create fitnah then its best to leave it. I understand that not all people would consider a man saying salam to a woman as flirting, but hey every man and every woman is different. And cant you women open the doors for yourselves, unless your carrying 30lb grocery, or youre physically disabled, thats a different case. The example for me of chivalry is a man who conducts himself the way the Prophet(salalahu alayhi wasalam) conducted himself. He realized when a women was in need of help (in the case of Asma) and displayed he’s geneoristy to the rest of the women. Sorry if I offended anyone, I didnt mean to be harsh in any way, just brutally speaking my mind.

    wasalamualaykum

  23. khawla hurayrah says:

    All praise be to Allah
    Good article sister Anonymouse and keep it up.
    All I can say is that good mannerisms can be learned and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was sent to perfect good manners. Good manners can also be taught and nurtured from childhood and who is the best to do this? The one who is spending the most time with the child……….the MOTHER. Again, sisters, the cradle is in your hand and you are the one who nurse and rock the baby. If a boy growing up ignorant on how to treat a lady and we cannot aspect him to change over night. I have known mothers who have been using the cartoon from the TV to baby sit and their children growing up with cartoon mannerisms. I have also known mothers who meticulously trained their small boys to open doors for the ladies; to help them carry bags or offer their seats. Therefore, the ball is going back to parenting skills, just like what brother Amad implied.

    Allah knows best of what our hands have earned

  24. AnonyMouse says:

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatu,

    JazakAllahu khair to everyone for their comments! I really do love to hear/ read what people have to say about a certain topic… particularly on subjects like this!

    On the saying of salaam to women (by men)

    Here is the relevant ruling (on non-Mahram men and women greeting each other with salaam). Basically, it can be summarized as saying that yes, greet each other but (and this should be a given, really, but sadly these days we need these constant reminders) do whatever you can to stay away from fitnah – don’t stand around chatting unncessarily, and so on.

    Tahsinthree: Jazakillaahi khair for the reminder about walking *in front of* the women… I hadn’t even remembered it at all!
    Personally, I think the brothers should make salaam either when at level with the sister, or when they’ve just passed by – anytime when they’re most likely to be heard, because as someone else pointed out, sometimes the sister won’t hear him and won’t respond.

    iMuslim: Haha, I just *had* to add that little disclaimer because I knew what some of the responses would immediately be… however, it does seem that some people didn’t read/ didn’t notice it! :S

    Masha’Allah, I agree with all your points: chivalry does indeed seem to be an art form! I also think that there are very few men these days who can treat women courteously without giving rise to suspicions or gossip (i.e. ooh, did you see what he said to her? Did you see how he acted around her? Etc.) which I think is really sad…
    As for the feminist movement having had an effect on it, yep, I think you’re right. Although, I remember reading an article in a magazine (by a non-Muslim woman) who was also lamenting the demise of chivalry and admitting that though she too thought that ‘women can do anything men can,’ she still wished that men would continue to act chivalrous.
    That’s an interesting question you pose… I’d choose the latter answer! :P

    And hugs for ‘defending’ me! :)

    Hassan: Perhaps it does seem a bit presumptuous of me to be writing on these subjects, but I write them for a reason – well, several reasons, actually. One of them is that I see a great deal written by adults about how children/ teens need to act, and while I definitely agree with them and take it to heart, I also think that sometimes teen like me need to tell adults how we feel about certain things. Adults and teens are often out of touch with each other, and I think that we need to reopen communication with each other – and I feel that articles such as the one I wrote are a way of doing that, insha’Allah.
    Similarly, as I mentioned at the beginning of the article, we see a lot of lectures and articles by men and women alike admonishing women; yet in comparison there are very few lectures and articles admonishing the *men*.
    One of the things I try to do is bring up issues from a different perspective than from what we normally see; or bring up things that aren’t commonly discussed (or at least not from this perspective).
    I mean no disrespect to those whom I address (i.e. parents, men, etc.), nor am I trying to imply that their problems/ shortcomings/ issues are more important to me than dealing with my own problems/ shortcomings/ issues, etc. I simply hope to raise more awareness of these things so that we can all come to a better understanding and strive to better ourselves as individuals and as a community/ society, insha’Allah.

    “Also as I pointed out, if she would have written as a student of knowledge, sticking to naql (Allah says, prophet says), I would not have objected…”
    I’d just like to mention that in all/most of my posts, I try my very best to turn to the Qur’an and Sunnah for the evidence to support my posts (e.g. I used the Hadith of Asma bint Abi Bakr (ra) in this particular post and drew my points and conclusion based on the actions of the Prophet (saw)…) . As we all know, those are our sources of all correct knowledge and guidance, and I try my best to stick to them.

    May Allah forgive myself and the rest of us for our errors, and guide us to the correct knowledge and understanding, ameen.

    Anon@7:16: Subhan’Allah, that’s sad and really quite disappointing, and points to something we women are increasingly found lacking in: love of the sunnah and practices found within Islam (such as lowering the gaze). My advice would be, just because *they* don’t like it, don’t stop! Allah commands all of us, both men and women, to lower our gaze… so we better do it!

    Amatulwadood: Ooh, I remember that story! Masha’Allah… while I was writing up this post, I was going to include another story to reinforce the point – ironically, it was the hadith of A’ishah (ra) talking about the incident of al-Ifk! I’ve always found Safwan ibn Muattil’s behaviour very chivalrous indeed: he said not a word to A’ishah (ra) except for “Inna lillaahi wa inna ilayhi raaji’oon,” and he gave her his camel to ride, which he then led all the way back to the main army.

    Bintmuhammad: Wa ‘alaikumus-salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatu. I agree, men and women definitely shouldn’t be mixing/ interacting freely. However, when by neccessity they’re brought together and need to interact, I feel that it needs to be done in a manner closest to the sunnah: with a great deal of hayaa’ (shyness, modesty, etc.) on BOTH sides (not just the woman’s!) and, of course, with chivalry. We should always strive to conduct ourselves in the manner most pleasing to Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala).
    Perhaps opening doors isn’t something ‘neccessary’ for a man to do as an act of chivalry, but other things – such as helping out when a woman is clearly in need of some aid, like if she’s got a ton of groceries and looks like she’s going to fall over or something – are definitely appreciated and insha’Allah will be a source of ajr. No good deed is too small to overlook!

    As well, we should all keep in mind that whenever we’re around someone of the other gender, we have to act in a manner that’s farthest away from inciting fitnah.

    Khawla Hurayrah: Jazakillaahi khairan! :) Thanks very much for reiterating the point I made towards the end of the article: parents, both mothers and fathers, play such an important role when it comes to training their children to practicing these etiquettes and manners…

    Once again, jazakAllahu khairan to everyone for the responses! May Allah increase us all in knowledge, wisdom, and understanding; and make us better Muslims, ameen!

    Your little sister in Islam,
    Mouse

  25. Abdu says:

    salaam,
    I have a story about opening the door for women: One time a Muslim friend of mine was leaving a convenience store, and there was a kaafir woman behind him. He didn’t know that she was behind him so he didn’t hold the door for her. Needless to say this 30-40 something year old lady wasn’t too happy about it and said really loud,” Real nice, way to hold the door, you can tell you’re not from around here, probably a part of some cell!”
    I think a few lessons can be learned from this story, but kafir women can be so rude sometimes.

  26. Hassan says:

    Sister Anonymouse:

    1. Surprisingly my experience on internet is very different. Most of muslim public forums are full of women and youth, and very rarely I see anyone putting men or elders point of view there.

    2. Your topic was good and unique, can not argue.

    3. If your purpose was to “admonish” as in scolding then your post reflected that.

    4. If your purpose was to “admonish” as in advice, then I did not find it that way.

    5. You did quote quran and sunnah, I did not say that, I meant for a general public forum advice, it would be more appropiate to just stick to that or at most commentary on it, then stories and harsh criticism of muslim men. Allah’s speech and prophets advice are enough for people of fear to reflect and ponder and correct themselves.

    Ofcourse in the end, you are free to write as you please, I have no say on that.

  27. Umm Reem says:

    A few years ago, something happened to my car and I had to pull over. I was alone with my daughter. By the time my husband came, many Muslim brothers stopped and offered help. I was amazed to see how many Muslims pass by in such a short period.
    (I guess it could be similar to offering their camel to ride!)

    And it made me happy that so many Muslim brothers are ready to help a Muslim sister (may Allah azzawjal reward all of them).

    A couple of non-Muslim women stopped, maybe because I had a small baby.

  28. Asalaamu alaikum.

    Sr. Anonymouse, you are doing a great job and I applaud you!

  29. Affad Shaikh says:

    Brother Hasan, i think the issue that you are experiancing is part and parcel the relevent issue of the internet. The fact that you are finding a certain voice versus another is really more to do with how the internet as a medium is seen and utilized by various people (genders, generation or even profession)

    So the fact that you see more of a certain perspective is probably because those are the people who were or are even marginalized from presenting that perspective elsewhere and have resorted to this, or that they feel comfortable expressing their opinion online, or that they participate online because of the comfrot that it presents.

    In the end either way, I think you will not only empower yourself but also add to the overall conversation that is occuring by taking a proactive step and maybe blogging yourself on the perspective that you bring to the table. This medium is really about participation and you have taken the first step by leaving your thoughts in the public sphere, i would encourage you to run with it and make a space that truly will add to the overall conversation.

  30. Umm Layth says:

    as-Salaamu `alaykum

    Interesting.

    iMuslim said: //In response to Anon – why do you suppose that women would be insulted by respectful behaviour? Does it relate to what i said in my earlier comment, that certain actions that before may have been appreciated by women of the past, may now be deemed as patronizing?//

    I’ve actually seen this behavior myself. I don’t know why women suddenly feel insulted by a brother walking past her, lowering his gaze or if he speaks to her, he just doesn’t look at her. I feel honored.

    To share a story though… it may make us look into other issues that lead to this respect we are talking about.

    I remember once… I was with a sister (may Allaah protect her and all, aameen) and she was just wearing a khimaar and an abaya. She stepped out of the sister’s section before I did and two brothers rushed to speak to her as she came out (she was married and all) to tell her where her husband was. They didn’t bother to lower their gaze, they smiled and were so comfortably speaking to her. I come out and masha’Allaah these same brothers lowered their gazes immediately and made room for me to walk so that I wouldn’t touch them at all.

    There are a few things that makes me think about. Firstly, the manner in which we women hold ourselves has a huge effect on how a man will treat us. Secondly, the way one dresses will also have some type of effect. However, that dress part is very influenced by the behavior behind the clothing. I’ve met niqaabi sisters who don’t get brothers who lower their gaze for them and chat away as if they are husband and wife.

    So it really works both ways. If you want respect, you need to give it to yourself first and give yourself that image that will affect how others treat you.

  31. tahsinthree says:

    Jazak Allah khair, Anonymouse for the Islam QA link. It covers all circumstances. And Jazak Allah khair for your articles. They allow me to understand my kids a little more.

    Mujahideen Ryder: Allaah has commanded us to spread the greeting of salaam. So any person who takes this as an act of flirting is lacking in knowledge. Further, from the link above, as Anonymouse pointed out: Say the salaam to a non-Mahram sister if there is no danger of fitnah.

    In Muslim countries, do strangers go out of their way to convey salaams to each other? Maybe when greeting the shopkeeper, or when initiating a conversation, or in the case of brothers when making eye contact, etc

    In the old country, Pakistan, the etiquette is not only to say salaams to an older non-Mahram sister but also to ask after her health and offer help. One avoids approaching the younger sisters.

    In the West, where solidarity is desired (Zahra Billoo), the brothers change direction when they see any sister. My teenage sons are guilty of this.
    It is probably easier for a brother to say salaams to a niqaabi. He then cannot be accused of anything other than conveying salaams to a fellow Muslim

    There is also an etiquette for this greeting:
    “The Sunnah is for one who is walking to greet one who is sitting, and for one who is riding to great one who is walking, and for the younger to greet the older, and for one who is coming in to greet the people who are in a place.”
    “If the salaam is not forthcoming, do not hasten to offer it. Give the other person time to greet you and then if he does not do that, then you should say the salaam.”

    http://islam-qa.com/index.php?ref=72231&ln=eng&txt=etiquette%20of%20salaam

    sincethestorm: I do sincerely hope that there are other parents like us who are teaching their sons the respect due to their Muslim sisters, and to extend this courtesy to non-Muslims when encountered. At present, my sons tend to walk in another direction when they see a sister approaching. They could be, scared like Moiez, or embarrased, tongue-tied, don’t want to be tested, lack confidence, are aware of possible fitnah on their side — take your choice.
    They are, however, protective of the womenfolk in their household.

    Affad Shaikh: From the link above; “Imam Ahmad said that with regard to young women, they should not be prompted to speak by being made to return the salaam”
    This is because of the sisters’ hayaa’. You have obeyed Allah by extending the salaams; you will not be answerable for the response. Allah knows best.

    Br Hassan: We await your website and your POV. I am interested in what AnonyMouse has to say; it relates to my teenagers. It seems to me that many, not all, are angry young people, wanting to be cool, and to fit in with the crowd. We adults need to have sabr and reason with our youth, as they absorb Islam. And both the adults and the youth need to not only to continuously fortify ourselves with knowledge of our deen but put it in practice. We can learn from each other – age is not a barrier.
    Also the general trend is for the adults to admonish the youth, and for the man to correct the woman. Br Hassan, has your mother or your wife (if married) ever corrected you? Not necessarily in matters of Islam but something you may be doing that adds a burden to her. For example, leaving the unwashed clothes on the floor instead of in the laundry basket?

    Abdu: I guess the lesson I would learn from this is to always check behind me when I am leaving/entering a store, in case anyone needs to leave/enter as well ? It would earn ajr – Allah knows best.

  32. Hassan says:

    tahsinthree, (sister?), I would not be making website for many reasons, one being not enough time to maintain it, two not good at blogging skills, but I may someday.

    Sister/brother, I am 28 years old, and its been just 9 years out of teenage. Its not that I am 50 year old uncle who is condemning youths. I find it wierd if a youth who lacks the experiences and hardships of life to tell parents, who been all through this, that they know nothing about realities of world.

    Yes my mother corrected me, why should not she, and so did wife. But no body started their sentences that they are correcting me just because they want to “turn the tables” or they are correcting me just for the sake of correction, or correcting me because I correct them. Plus its more informal, which is because of mutual respect and credibility. Plus it is instantneous in nature and would be result of what I say and do at that moment (or within reasonable amount of timeframe). Its not that whenever I see my mother she starts lecturing me about parents rights, and not my wife give me lectures about rights of wife, nor do I go home and start lecturing about husband rights.

    Like I said, I have no problem with the topic, its good one, and would be a good reminder, regardless who writes it, but reminder of islamic nature needs to be done in a way that moves people, motivates people who do not have it to have it, and makes others who already do it steadfast. The way it was written was a turn off for me. And as I said, if intention was to scold, it has served its purpose. And that led me to say that if intention is harsh criticism and scolding then one should focus on one’s own role and self. It would have more credibility (no conflict of interest).

  33. amatulwadood says:

    subhanAllah Umm Layth, that has happened to me on numerous occasions and I’m not a niqaabi (yet, bi’ithnillah). I just had to step back and analyze the situation because I was really shocked.And the funny thing is, they would add “sister” before my name.

    I got really dismayed, subhanAllah, don’t be afraid of me, be afraid of Allah azza wa jal…

  34. As salaam alaikum,

    While I’m a very independant woman I do appreciate chivalrous acts by men; holding the door, lifting heavy packages, helping me with the car, killing bugs, taking on hard to open containers etc. I don’t see myself as weak or less of a strong woman for receiving the help. I don’t take it as flirting either. Really, it makes me feel like they have some “broughtupsy” as we say in the Caribbean. (Broughtupsy= a person with manners).

    As for bros salaaming sisters; let me tell you, I work downtown in a corporate environment with few Muslims and very few hijabis. Some days I feel so alone and then- subhanallah- a brother (sometimes a sister) will give me a salaam and I feel inspired. I know I’m not alone. I personally don’t see anything wrong with it. If I can say hello to non-muslim male co-workers, staff of mine or acquaintances, I don’t see what’s so wrong with saying salaam to a brother.

  35. iMuslim says:

    This is quite a late addition, but i read this entry and immediately thought of this discussion! A wonderful example of modern day Muslim chivalry, mashallah. :)

  36. AnonyMouse says:

    Jazaakillaahi khair for pointing that out, iMuslim!
    Masha’Allah, what a great example of a Muslim man following the sunnah of chivalry… may Allah reward all such brothers of ours, ameen!

  37. […] revealing not only the level of sexual perversity but also a complete disappearance of a sense of chivalry amongst some Muslims. Thus, not only is there a need for early marriage, but also a need for […]

  38. Ummabdullah says:

    Brother Hassan, perhaps your comments are not being understood properly perhaps because you are more used to a different style of religious talks and articles. I think there is a cultural difference here. This article is quite suited to the mindset of Muslims in the western culture.

    There is a certain way of talking back home and a different way of talking here that is natural to people.

  39. […] the first point, I think parents need to spend more time teaching boys about the second. Part of chivalry is to have respect for women and treat them decently no matter how they’re dressed – to truly […]

  40. mubin says:

    salam,
    whoever wrote this piece…please do not be defensive/apologetic. YOu are telling hte truth. Don’t stress about hurting people coz truth does hurt. Further, if 99% of men have forgotten chivalry, (indeed that is true) when writing an article you can safely say what you were saying without having to waste time saying, maybe not all…this that. Call a spade a spade. We need to hear it. Period.

  41. As salam alaikum

    Dear all. Beautiful comments by everyone.
    The light of Islam breeds chivalry, this is ‘futuwah’ in Arabic or ‘jawan mardi’ in Persian.
    I think that because our societies have become more Western, we have forgotten
    our own traditions. The Chinese people have gone back to their roots and so
    their culture (like the recent film ‘Hero’ suggests) is protraying aspects of their inner lives.
    Unfortunately we are too busy looking at the Qur’an and Hadith from a Modernistic
    point of view. We are all following an atomistic reductionalism that is ‘academic’.
    For example, in the olden days, people would respect people, by not criticizing ‘how
    they pray’. In today’s world, and this happened last week, a Modern Western teenager came to me and told
    me ‘the errors’ in my Salat. he said my hands were in the wrong place, the toes should point
    to Makka-sharif and so on.
    Now, had his parents taught him chivalry, he would have not have talked so abruptly. This
    is a modern unchivalrous ways of talking. It is almost as if we have taught our kids that
    life is like a automobile engine; put the parts in the right order and it will work. But alas
    life is not like that. Behaviour such as Humblesness and Chivalry are the ‘meat’ of our
    spiritual universe.
    Also, people have forgotten how great and pleasurable chivalry is. To do things for others
    makes the heart happy; and its contentment and peacefulness means that it doesn’t need
    drugs, porno, food, lustful glancing, back-biting, money and all those sorts of things. This
    is probably why so many of our brothers are hooked on porno and our sisters are hooked
    on despair. Women can be chivalrous too. If they are young, by not showing off their charms
    and if they are older by being gentle and kind to their families.
    To be chivalrous as the great Suliman al-Sulaymi advised, always look to others and not your nafs.
    It is a quick way of killing your lower self.
    My dear beautiful, resoectable Muslim brothers and sisters in Islam, you are all wonderful and
    so please show your wonderfulness, not through physical appearance or riches, but through
    behaviour!

  42. Fawaz says:

    I remember about a year ago,I was traveling .At the Airport in an Arab country, there was a long queue of passengers.Among them was this lady with a baby and a toddler.Now the toddler was running around like crazy!!The mother was not able to control him!!

    So an airport official allowed her to go first along with her kids.Now when I saw that I thought for a breif moment”Man!!She’s going first and I have to stand in this long queue.”Now that was just a passing thought.U know the type of thought that enters your brain and leaves it quickly.

    Anyway a few days later I was reading the Quran.I read Surah Qasas,in which Musa(Moses) -alayhissalaaam-helped out those two sisters.It was then I remembered that incident!!

    I think this is another fine example of chivalry from the Muslim perspective.So I hope that we remember this fact that chivalry is not something we learnt from the French or the English,but it is a part of good Islamic character!!!!

  43. Maverick says:

    salams everyone.

    I agree with the OP – chivalry is an Islamic concept yet its just sad that I see so many Muslim guys who have no clue.

    Before I give my thoughts and opinions, there’s something I’d like to point out which has critical impact in how your behavior will be percieved by the opposite gender:

    Communication. It is everything. Its in what you say, how you say it, its in your voice dynamics, its in your body and facial language. You could say one sentence ten different ways and give ten different impressions. So bear this in mind: –

    Only 9% of your intended meaning is conveyed through the actual words you use.
    An additional 35% is conveyed via your voice dynamics – tone, pitch, talking speed, inflections, pauses, etc.
    The remaining +55% is composed of visual cues; your facial and body language – your eyebrows, your smile, frown, puckered lips, sneering eyes, furrowed forehead, clenched jaw, your posture – slouching / leaning backwards or forwards, skewed, standing upright, your hands – are they open or closed, behind your back or front, etc. And so on.

    So here are some common (and not-so-common) situations and the suggested behavior more suited to a generous Muslim gentleman:

    – When greeting a non-mahram Muslim woman: You want to say salaams out of formality and respect but you want to avoid coming off as if you’re flirting or hitting on her. What do you do? Direct your gaze to the bridge of her nose, give a polite nod of the head with a closed moderate smile [no teeth showing], followed by a simple and steady “salamualaikum”. Don’t elongate or linger on any part of the verbal greeting. Just say it with a measured pace, and please don’t lower your voice an octave or two either. The idea is to keep it formal and respectful. Redirect your eyes to whatever you were doing previously after about one second after finishing your salams.

    – Out on the street: If you are walking in the same direction as on a sidewalk, or walking in the other direction, and will be passing a single or group of women [Muslim or not] try to pass by them with yourself closest to the street, and her on the inside of the sidewalk. But don’t deliberately cross her path to do so, if you’re going in the other direction. The idea is that you would rather a passing car or vehicle splash water or snow onto you than the woman. Your comfort comes second to hers. And if you’re walking with your mom, sister, wife, or daughter, you should definitely be on the side facing the street.

    – Going out for dinner: Pull the chair our for your wife and let her sit down first before you do. If you are with your mom and siblings, then pull a chair out for your mom, and let others take their seat and then you do. If there seems to be fewer chairs than people, let the women sit down first. You go find another chair or remain standing.

    – Getting on public transport: Let the women board first. I’ve seen so many times at a bus stop that guys [young and old] are standing waiting and when the bus [or subway car] comes, they rudely barge ahead without any consideration to women or seniors standing in immediate proximity. Let all the women and children board first, as well as the elderly if any, and then you get on. If the bus stops at the bus shelter and the front doors are directly in front of you, step back politely to give room for women and elderly to board first.

    – On the bus or subway: If you see a visibly pregnant woman come on board, or a woman with young kids, then look around quickly but discreetly to see if there are enough empty seats for them available. If not, especially during the crowded rush hours, DO NOT WAIT for others to get up – be a man, stand up and gesture with your hand, palm facing up, to your seat for her or for her little child. If she is within close proximity, you can add a verbal “Please” along with your gesture. If she says thank you, reply with “you’re welcome” or “wa iyyak” if she says “jazakallahu khayrn”. The same applied if a senior / elderly person comes on board.

    – If you are walking anywhere – at school, at the store, in the mall, at work, etc. and you see that your path will intersect with a woman or an elderly person [as in, it may result in a possible collision] then slow your pace as you approach and then stop, and allow her to pass. Be mindful of other traffic around you, obviously you don’t want to stop in the path of someone else walking in the same direction as her, or someone walking fairly close behind you (hence the reason why you slow your pace first before stopping).

    – See her carrying grocery bags or heavy belongings? Offer your assisstance – Standard. Same with seniors.

    – If you are walking with a buddy / friends and you pass a woman or s sis who is walking alone in or near deserted places like empty parking garages, poorly lit walkways, in abandoned areas, particularly at night, then offer escort assisstance. Ask her very clearly if she needs any help walking to her car or apartment building. Some sisters or women will recognize immediately the offer and will say thank you and accept. Keep your distance and wait until she says “thank you” indicating that she is near or at her distination. Some women may understandably be suspicious, and in that case don’t be afraid of saying very clearly that your only intention is to make sure she felt safe while walking to her destination. If she declines, accept politely with a slight nod and something like “No problem. Enjoy your evening.” and then be on your way.

    – If you’re at a masjid or community event where there was lots of food distributed, then make sure you help clean up. If it seems that mostly or all women are doing the clean-up, then identify who’s the “big aunty” in charge on the scene, give your salams to her and ask her if she needs any help. She might have you lift and stack / arrange the chairs or tables, or to bring in heavy silverware / pots back to the kitchen, etc. Unless its prayer time, make sure you’re not the kind of guy who just finishes his food and then walks away without cleaning up. At bare minimum, make sure you clean the area where you were sitting. Grab a napkin and wipe your part of the tablecloth, pushing crumbs with one hand over the edge of teh table and into the other hand, and then dispose of in the garbage. Wipe up any and all spills in your vicinity.

    – If you see a sister trying to address a crowd of unruly kids, teenagers, or even young adults and you can clearly assess that she’s not having much success, perhaps due to her smaller voice, then step right in and use your muezzin’s voice to tell the crowd to pipe down, and when you have their attention, tell them to pay attention to what she’s saying. And if you don’t have a muezzin’s voice? Hey, its never too late to start. Try volunteering to give the adhan at the masjid, or give it at home for Maghrib prayer. Getting used to giving the adhaan helps a lot when you’re in crowd-control situations where there is a need to make the voice of authority heard.

    – If you’re out driving with your wife or sister or mother, and you see a Muslim woman walking alone or with a child, then stop or slow down your car if it safe to do so – i.e. no traffic behind you – and have your female relative ask the other lady if she needs a ride. Understandably if you’re driving alone then such an offer would be awkward, but if you have a female relative with you, to neglect making such an offer then, borders on rude and insulting behavior that is unbecoming of a Muslim gentleman.

    – Never ask a woman her age. Its extremely impolite. (And never ask a man his salary. Its extremely impolite.)

    – If you have to hand something to her, then hand it to her and don’t toss it at her. Let go of the object only when you feel or see that she has a reasonable grip on it herself, but take care not to let your own grip linger before letting go. That’s an awkward situation which may make her feel uncomfortable. If you’re handing a writing utensil to her, then had it to her with the business end towards you – i.e the pencil tip or the ballpoint should be on your side. If handing her a knife or a pair of scissors, make sure the handle end is facing her direction.

    – And yes, hold the door open for her. If the door swings out towards you, then open it and hold it open while you stand out of the way until she has walked through. And if the door opens away from you, then open the door and walk through first, andthen hold it open until she has walked through.

    – You must abide no talk or gossiping of a Muslim sister in her absence. Bear in mind that its is one of the major sins to accuse a Muslimah of unchaste behavior [its not the same to accuse a Muslim man of such] so you don’t want to let the discourse come anywhere near that, and of course, the gravity of backbiting alone should give you pause. If those in your immediate proximity are speaking personal ill about a sister, then request them to stop immediately.

    – When speaking to a man in public, and you find it necessary for whatever reason to refer to his wife, try not to take her name out of respect for his gheerah. instead simply say “your wife”. If the said man is your brother-in-law, then its your choice whether to take your sister’s name in public or not.

    – If you’re arriving at the masjid, or at a store, or for a convention etc. and your car approaches a parking spot at the same time as a car driven by a Muslim woman, then let her have that spot – particularly if its close to the main entrance or concourse.

    – If you are coming from a direction where there is some obstruction or danger on the floor, such as spilled liquids, black ice, etc. and you meet a sister going the other way, tell her briefly and politely about it so that she is aware in advance. Keep it brief and simple, and continue in your way. (Of course if you can remove the obstruction easily or without hassle, then do that.)

    More later.

  44. […] comment on a return to chivalry by panjabimuslim – as salam alaikum. dear all. beautiful comments by everyone. the light of islam breeds chivalry, this is ‘futuwah’ in arabic or ‘jawan mardi’ in persian. i think that because our societies have become more western, we have forgotten … […]

  45. A Brother says:

    Assalaamu alaikum,

    I just needed to say as I came across this, that the sister Anonymouse misrepresented the meaning of the fatwa by islam QA. (http://islam-qa.com/en/ref/39258)

    She said: “Here is the relevant ruling…Basically, it can be summarized as saying that yes, greet each other but…do whatever you can to stay away from fitnah – don’t stand around chatting unncessarily, and so on.”

    However, I think the sister must have misinterpreted this as this not correct, because the the fatwah does not encourage us to greet each other. It says the opposite. It quotes the scholars who say they discourage men and women from greeting each other:

    Imaam Malik: said: “With regard to the elderly woman, I do not regard that as makrooh, but with regard to the young woman, I do not like that. ”

    Imaam Ahmed said: “…with regard[s] to young women, they should not be prompted to speak by being made to return the salaam. ”

    And Imam Nawawi said: “But if the woman is a stranger (non-mahram), if she is beautiful and there is the fear that he may be tempted by her, then the man should not greet her with salaam, and if he does then it is not permissible for her to reply; she should not initiate the greeting of salaam either, and if she does, she does not deserve a response. If he responds then this is makrooh. ”

    IslamQA themselves conclude: “what is meant by its being permitted is when there is no fear of fitnah.” When almost any brother talks to a youthful sister there is a fitnah. Even IslamQA here are not saying it is outrightly permissible, let alone encouraging it like you suggested sister!

    So the basic message is not that it is mustahab, rather it is very makrooh for us to be giving salaam to each other. I think you misunderstood what fitnah is – atleast from a male perspective as: “Do whatever you can to stay away from fitnah” means do not greet her in the first place sister, not to greet her then avoid chatting?! That has already gone WAY off limits?? !

    The fitnah is the women herself, so she must not be responded to as Imam Nawawi has said. Sister’s should not feel offended by this and instead should try and understand from a male perspective, and that the Shuyookh have clearly stated it should not be done. Whether or not chivalry could have been shown, prevention of harm and fitnah comes first.

    I just needed to correct this sister as I think you had mistakenly misrepresented the fatwa.

    Wallahu alim,

    Jazakhallah khair,
    Wa’aalikum salaam.

  46. Hamid Mukhtar says:

    I feel that we as muslims are creating way too much frustration amongst our youth by trying to even make a big deal of whether to say or not to say even a small salam to our opposite gender fellow muslims. By always endorsing conservative opinion and not addressing the frustration thats building up in our youth we are creating social problems. We have the ultra regressive western looking people and at the same time we have the hard core conservatives both amongst us. Neither is right…….Its good that both men and women need to be educated on how to behave with each other but we need to be taught good manners and the fact that the opposite gender isnt a dog out to bite us

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