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Adab: The Forgotten Knowledge

Join Ummu Abdir-Rahmaan in the first of her series on rediscovering the forgotten pearls of manners.

“Do not behave in that manner towards your guests!”,  “It’s not polite to talk with your mouth full.”,  “You need to learn some manners!”  These phrases, among many others, are commonly heard in our households. One of the main characteristics we, as mothers, try to embed in our children’s behaviour, is good manners. But what, and who, defines manners? Do we truly understand the importance of manners? Most importantly, how can we adorn our own selves with the manners of believing women?




In this heart-softening series, we will traverse through a forgotten world, finding answers to these questions, so that we may draw closer to our Creator, cultivate our characters and taste the fruits of perfecting our own manners.




To begin with, how do we define manners?

In the English language, there are several definitions of the word “manner”, which include:
A way in which a thing is done or happens.
A person’s outward bearing or way of behaving towards others.
(Manners) Polite or well-bred social behaviour.



In Arabic, the word most commonly used for manner is “adab”, the plural of which is “aadaab”. It can be used to mean “beautiful way of dealing”, as well as encompassing all three definitions above.




After delving into the linguistic definitions, it becomes clear that manners can be displayed to other than human beings alone, since the meaning of the term “manner” is wide in scope. It is, therefore, not only humans towards whom we need to display praiseworthy manners.




So, with whom else is adab required?
Islamically, adab can be divided into three main categories: adab with the Creator (SWT), adab with the Prophet (SAW) and adab with others from the creation. But, you might wonder, how do you conduct yourself with the One who is above the heavens, the Lord of the Worlds? How, you might ponder, can you display correct etiquettes with the one who has passed, the leader of the Prophets (SAW)? It is here, where we begin our journey; a journey of contemplation, a journey of discovery of forgotten pearls, a journey of great importance.




Yet, do we really understand how important this journey is?
In the life of a believer, dealing with others in the best of ways is held in high esteem. The famous scholar, Ibn ul-Qayyim (rahimahullaah), summed up the importance of adab in one simple, yet beautiful sentence: نﻴﻟاوﻫ برﻷا ﻪﻟﻛ, which means, “Adab, it is the deen, all of it.”




To call the whole religion “adab”, demonstrates just how integral adab is to the religion. Every aspect of our beautiful way of life revolves around dealings with others – from transactions and social interactions, to acts of worship. There are many virtues of performing good deeds as a community, such as praying in jama’ah or sitting in gatherings of dhikr (remembrance of Allah (SWT)), so even those acts which clearly pertain to our adab with Allah (SWT) also encompass our adab with the creation.




The scholars, in whose paths we aspire to traverse, used to learn and acquire adab before any other Islamic science. It is well-known that Ibn ul-Mubarak (rahimahullah) was reported to have said, “We are more in need of acquiring adab than learning hadith.” In fact, he spent thirty years perfecting his manners and twenty years seeking knowledge, subhanAllah.




These examples alone are more than sufficient to establish the extreme need to acquire good adab. Yet, having sound adab with others cannot be achieved without striving to attain an upright character. The Prophet (SAW) was sent by the Almighty to perfect moral character. Our beloved guide and leader said that righteousness is good character and that the nearest to him on the Day of Judgement will be the one best in character. Do we not want to reach this station of righteousness? Do we not want to be among those close to the beloved Prophet (SAW) on that Day?




Let us reflect upon these questions with sincerity. Once we have reached the deep-rooted conviction that we truly are prepared to strive to reach the heights of exemplary adab, we will be ready to continue our journey.



Adab With Our Children

Ummu Abdir-Rahman explores adab with our precious children.




Ummu Abdir-Rahmaan is a freelance writer based in the UK. She hopes to give inspiration and encouragement to fellow believers through writing about the heart-softeners.