Listening is Manners

Once I was picking up a scholar from a trip, he was dragging his carry on behind him and as I reached to take it from him he nudged me aside and said, “ A man has more right to his luggage.” I let it pass as he seemed quite intent on pulling his carry on, but I appreciated the statement and the sentiment that came with it.

At another time and place, I was the one arriving as a guest and as the host brother, whom I had never met before, reached to grab my carry on, I simply nudged him aside and told him “A man has more right to his luggage.” The brother responded by grabbing more aggressively at my luggage insisting that I was his guest and he must drag my luggage! I pushed him back again only for him to attempt again and we wrestled over my carry on for a few moments both sets of hands latched onto the bag with me yelling, “Dude, let go of my bag!” before I let him have it. He beamed at me, victorious over the first of many challenges that we would duel over during that stay; he saw them as part of hospitality and manners, I thought many were unnecessary creations of conflict and I became uncomfortable.

Take a chill pill

There is a story of Abu Ishaq Al-Huwayni, the Egyptian Muhaddith who visited his teacher Shaykh NasirulDin Al-Albani in his home. Abu Ishaq was much younger than the Shaykh, and found it difficult to sit still and be served by the much more senior, (in knowledge and age) scholar. As Al-Albani would bustle about preparing the meal they would both share, Abu Ishaq would continuously jump up to try to assist, and each time Shaykh Al-Albani would bark at him to sit down. Finally, he told him, “Listening is manners.”

Yes, in theory, it is better for the student to serve his teacher and not vice versa, and yes in theory it is better for the host to serve, grab the carry on, and pay for the meals of his guest. But in practice, there is a give and take. It is not a text book study, it’s real life, and you must know when to pull and when to relax…and always listen.

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3 responses to “Listening is Manners”

  1. […] Beginning Middle End: 1. Is there a clear beginning, middle, and end? 2. Character: 6. Problem/Conflict: 10. Illustration: 15. Words: 18. Listening is Manners – MuslimMatters.org. […]

  2. Muzzammil says:

    There’s a nice principle we learn from our teachers in the sciences relating to Tarbiyah :

    الأمر فوق الأدب

    That listening to and following the request of your teachers, elders, etc. takes precedence in treating them with what you perceive to be ‘good manners’ in a situation where the two contradict.

    For example, and this was common, if the teacher asked a student to come present something in the front of the class sitting on his (the teacher’s) chair, then many of us would feel uncomfortable – because sitting in someone’s chair who is an authority can be seen as disrespect in many cultures. In this case, our teachers would remind us (sometimes nicely, and other times just telling us to shut up and do as we’re told) that الأمر فوق الأدب.

    Another common example is shoving food on the plate of someone who doesn’t want anymore. It is seen as the hospitable thing to do when, often, it can be quite frustrating for and even taken rudely by someone who doesn’t come from the same culture, or understand the nature of the gesture. Not to mention it can run contrary to Sunnah sometimes if a person is forced to eat more than his fill.

    And I guess this scenario (of the luggage), and others similar to it would also fall under the same category.

    Often times, the most well mannered thing to do is just listen, instead of forcing our cultural baggage on others. In one case, we create real positive relationships, and on the other we end up breaking good ties for the sake of ideals which were originally utilized to promote these good ties.

    والله أعلم

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