Conduct and manners

I. Conduct

            In general sense conduct is one’s behaviour, character, deeds and actions. It comprises good actions and bad actions, good qualities and bad qualities, virtues and vices, strengths and weaknesses. But we would use the word in good sense here.

Model of conduct

            The Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, sets up the conduct of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the conduct of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) as model of an ideal conduct for the Muslims. The Muslims have been enjoined to follow the pattern of behaviour of these great Prophets of Allah and to emulate their example for building their own conduct and character. The conduct of a great saintly woman, Mary, the mother of Prophet Jesus, and that of another woman, wife of Pharaoh is also to be followed by the believers especially by the believing women. Even the examples of good character set up by the companions of the Prophet of Islam and other great Muslims should inspire the ordinary believers who can derive immense benefit from them.

            Particularly the conduct of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is a model for a Muslim (Al-Qur’an 33:21). Muhammad was the most perfect man endowed with each and every virtue which goes to make up good conduct. The Qur’an (68:4) calls his conduct very sublime and great. Even before the call to prophethood, he had been given the titles of al-Sadiq (the truthful) and al-Ameen (the trustworthy) by his compatriots. The Holy Qur’an and Hadith literature provide numerous instances of excellent conduct of the Prophet of Islam which was a great factor in winning the hearts of the people ot Islam. Please refer to Appendix 2 and see sub-head “His Conduct.”

General Code of Conduct 

            Code of conduct prescribed by Islam for its followers comprises certain dos and don’ts which make one a good human being. Long lists of such actions which are good and recommended can be drawn up from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. However, because of constraints of space, we would refer to only few of the verses of the Holy Qur’an and traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) without comments, which lay down certain rules of good behaviour. If these are acted upon, they would help to earn pleasure of Allah and goodwill of one’s fellow beings. Such verses and traditions are:

1)     Worship Allah and Join none with Him, and be kind to the parents, and to near relatives, and to orphans, and to the needy, and to the neighbour who is your relative, and to the neighbour who is stranger, and to the companion by your side, and to the wayfarer and to the slaves whom your right hands possess. Certainly Allah does not love those who are proud and boastful   (Al-Qur’an 4:36).

2)     Allah commands (you to do) justice and kindness, and to give (your wealth in charity) to your near relatives. And He forbids lewdness and evil and rebellion (against His Law) …… (Al-Qur’an 16:90)

3)     And kill not your children for fear of poverty. It is We who provide sustenance for them as well as for you. Surely, the killing of them is a great sin. And come not near adultery for it is surely a shameful act and an evil way.   (Al-Qur’an 17:31-32).

4)     And slay not anyone which Allah has forbidden except for a just cause. Whoever is killed wrongfully, We have given authority to his heir (to take revenge), but let him not commit excess in killing. Surely, he will be helped.   (Al-Qur’an 17:33).

5)     And come not near the wealth of the orphan except in the way which is better till he reaches the age of maturity, and fulfil the covenant. Surely, about the covenant, you will be asked. And fill the measure when you measure, and weigh with the right balance……… (Al-Qur’an 17:34-35).

6)     Please also refer to the following verses of the Qur’an: - 4(36), 6(151-152), 16(90-91), 17(26-38), 23(1-11), 31(17-19), 33(21), 41(33-35), 42(37-43), 49(11-12), 60(4), 66(11-12),          

7)     Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah asked: Who has today got up fasting at dawn among you? Abu Bakr replied: I. He enquired: Who has followed today the bier of a dead man among you? Abu Bakr replied: I. He enquired: Who has fed today a poor man among you? Abu Bakr replied: I. He asked: Who among you has today visited a sick man? Abu Bakr replied: I. Then the Holy Prophet remarked: These do not combine in a man but to admit him in Paradise.   (Muslim)

8)     Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Who will take from me these sayings and act according to them or teach those who will act accordingly? I said: I, O Messenger of Allah! Then he caught me by my hand and counted five (sayings). He said: Fear the forbidden things, you will then become the holiest of men; be pleased with what Allah apportioned to you, you will then be the most contented of men; be good to your neighbour, you will then be a (true) believer; love for men what you love for yourself, you will then become a (true) Muslim; and laugh not much, for excessive laughter makes the heart dead:   (Ahmad, Tirmizi (Rare))

9)     Amr-b-Shuaib from his father from his grandfather reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Whoso has got two traits of character in him, Allah will enroll him as grateful and patient; whoso looks to one in his religious acts who is superior to him and then follows him, and whoso looks in his worldly affairs towards one who is inferior to him and then gives thanks to Allah for gifts bestowed upon him, Allah enrolls him as patient and grateful; and whoever looks in his religious matters towards one who is inferior to him, and looks in his worldly affairs towards one who is superior to him, and becomes aggrieved for what has escaped from him, Allah will enroll him neither patient, nor grateful.   (Tirmizi)

10)  Abu Hruairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: There are seven whom Allah will give shade under His shade on the day on which there will be no shade except His shade; a just leader; a young man who strives hard in the worship of Allah; a man whose heart is attached to the mosque when he comes out of it till he returns to it; two men who love each other for Allah, they get together for Him and separate for Him; a man who remembers Allah sincerely and whose two eyes are filled up with tears; a man whom a young girl of accomplishment and beauty calls (for sexual intercourse) and who says: “Certainly I fear Allah”, and a man who gives away alms and then keeps it concealed till his left hand knows not what his right hand spends.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

11)  Bara’a-b-As’aeb reported: The Messenger of Allah enjoined us seven things and forbade us seven. He bade us to visit the sick, to follow the biers, to respond to the sneezer, to return greeting, to respond to the inviter, to prove true to one’s given oath and to help the oppressed; and he forbade us rings of gold, thick brocade, embroidered silk, red saddle, Qasi silk and utensils of silver; and in a narration-drink in cups, for he who drinks therein in this world will not drink therein in the hereafter.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

12)  Abu Dharr said: I went in to visit God’s Messenger. He then mentioned the tradition at length till he came to the following: I asked God’s Messenger to give me some instruction and then he replied: “I enjoin you to fear God, for that will be the best adornment for everything that concerns you”. I asked him to tell me more, and he said: “Engage in recitation of the Qur’an and remembrance of God Who is Great and Glorious, for it will be a means of your being mentioned in heaven and will be a light for you in the earth”. I asked him to tell me more, and he said: “Observe long silence, for it is a means of driving away the devil and is a help to you in your religion”. I asked him to tell me more, and he said: “Avoid much laughter, for it slays the heart and removes the light of the face”. I asked him to tell me more, and he said: “Speak the truth, even if it is bitter”. I asked him to tell me more, and he said: “do not fear anyone’s blame when you are serving God”. I asked him to tell me more and he said: “Let what you know of yourself keep you from blaming other people”.   (Mishkat)

13)  ‘Ubada b. as-Samit reported the Prophet as saying: “If you guarantee me six things on your part I shall guarantee you Paradise: Speak the truth when you talk, keep a promise when you make it, when you are trusted with something fulfill your trust, avoid sexual immorality, lower your eyes, and restrain your hands from injustice”.   (Mishkat)

14) Abu Dharr reported that the Messenger of Allah said: O Abu Zarr! There is no wisdom like efforts, no piety like self-denial and no goodness like good   conduct.   (Baihaqi) 


            Manner, according to dictionary meaning, is the way or mode in which a thing is done or a thing occurs or happens. It is a mode of life, outward bearing, style of utterance, behaviour in social intercourse. It is also one’s way of performing or behaving, personal style of acting or bearing, style of writing or thought, social conduct or behaviour currently considered as polite or impolite, pleasing or displeasing.

            Manners can be good or bad, decent or indecent. Good and decent manners please others while bad and indecent manners make one unpopular. Islam likes good manners for its followers. The Qur’an says that none is better than a Muslim in speech, while the Prophet of Islam said that he was sent to complete good manners. In this section we shall discuss manners relating to various activities of life such as manners of entering houses, sitting in assemblies, eating and drinking, dress, etc. in the light of Islamic teachings.

Manners of Drinking and Eating

            The Qur’an prohibited excess or wastage in eating and drinking (7:31). It permits eating from your houses and the houses of your relatives and friends. You may eat together or apart. When you are invited, you must not stay longer in the house of your host as it may annoy him but he may be shy in telling you to go. Therefore, you may disperse and linger not for conversation after taking your meal.

            The Prophet of Islam has given exhaustive instructions about the manners of eating and drinking. Eat with right hand, mention Allah’s name when you start eating, praise Allah when you have finished, and eat from what is next to you. Eat simple food and exercise moderation. Do not eat from the vessels and dishes of silver and gold. Preferably eat together. Some other instructions of the Prophet are reflected in the following traditions:

1)     Ibn ‘Abbas said: God’s Messenger forbade breathing or blowing into a vessel.   (Abu Daud, Ibn Majah)

2)     Ibn ‘Abbas reported God’s Messenger as saying: “Do not drink without stopping as camel does, but divide your drink into two or three sections; mention God’s name when you drink and praise Him when you finish”.   (Tirmizi)

3)     Jabir told that when Abu Humaid, one of the Ansar, brought a vessel of milk to the Prophet from an-Naqi the Prophet said: “Why did you not cover it up, even by putting a piece of wood on it?”   (Bukhari, Muslim)

4)     Salman reported: I read in the Torah that the blessing of food is in wash after it. When I mentioned it to the Prophet, he said: The blessing of food is in wash before it and wash after it.   (Tirmizi, Abu Daud)

5)     Abu Juhaifa reported the Prophet as saying: “I do not eat reclining.”   (Bukhari)

6)     Abu Hurairah said that the Prophet never expressed disapproval of food; if he desired it he ate it and if he disliked it he left it alone.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

7)     Ibn ‘Umar reported God’s Messenger as saying: “When any of you eats he should eat with his right hand, and when he drinks he should drink with his right hand.”   (Muslim)

8)     Anas reported God’s Messenger as saying: “God most high is pleased when a man eats something and praises Him for it, or drinks something and praises Him for it.”   (Muslim)

9)     Jabir told of hearing God’s Messenger say: “One person’s food is enough for two, two persons’ food is enough for four, and four persons’ food is enough for eight.”   (Muslim)

Manners of dress

            According to Holy Qur’an, God has revealed the garment to protect you from the heat, and coats of mail to protect you in your wars. Clothing also covers your nakedness and preserves your physical beauty. You must take your proper dress particularly when you go to your places of worship (7:31). Let not the Satan seduce you as he caused Adam and Eve, your parents, to get out of Paradise, tore off from them their robe and made them see their shame (7:27). In the light of the Qur’anic teachings, we can understand the purpose and importance of dress.

            Islam has not fixed or prescribed any code of dress and has left the matter to be decided by the individuals and the society according to their weather conditions, customs and environments. However, some fundamental rules have been laid down which require that dress should not be too short or too thin to cover the private parts properly from nakedness. It should neither be similar to that of other religious communities nor to that of other sex. The dress should be simple and not very expensive. The men should not wear silk. The Prophet liked the clothes of white and green colour and he discouraged the use of red clothes by the men. Lengthening of trousers beyond ankles was strongly forbidden as it gives an air of vanity and makes the robes dirty. Women have been prescribed veil and they should cover their body fully. The subject of veil would be addressed at proper place. Perfume was liked by the Prophet and its use has been recommended. Use of shoes and socks is desirable.

Manners of greeting

            The Qur’an exhorts the believers to greet others by a better greeting than the one with which they are greeted (4:96); while Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) assured them of immense rewards in the Hereafter and many blessings in this world which are brought by greeting. Greeting removes ill feeling, malice and hatred between the people and promotes brotherhood and fraternity. It also demolishes sense of vanity and superiority complex in the upper class people and promotes equality. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) directed his followers that irrespective of the social status, one riding shall salute one walking, one walking shall salute one sitting; the small party shall salute the big party, and the junior in age shall greet the senior one. These directions of the Prophet cut at the roots of social distinctions and bias which divide the people into classes.

            Thus it is the duty of a believer to greet the other believer whenever he meets him. The best man is he who greets first. Greeting brings great rewards and when it is accompanied with invoking of blessings and mercy of Allah on the other it increases the rewards. The best form of Islam is your giving of food to the needy ones and your greeting all whom you know and whom you know not. When you enter a house you are obliged to greet the inmates of the house. The best form of greeting is saying Assalamu Alaikam (peace be on you) and then handshaking.


Asking permission for entering in houses

            When you go to the house of a person for an interview or to see or meet him, you should first ask him for permission. If you are permitted you will enter the house after greeting the inmates of the house. If you are refused permission you would go back gently (Al-Qur’an 24:27-29). Permission is to be sought thrice. If it is refused or no reply is given, you are obliged to return. The proper way of seeking permission is to say: “Peace be on you. May I come in?” Permission should not be given to a person who does not begin with a greeting. Asking for permission is, however, not necessary in case of a person who has been called for or sent for and he comes with the messenger. Seeking permission is essential even in case of close relations. If you go to the house of your parents or mother with whom you live, you should ask permission. Even your servants and your children are required to ask for your permission when they want to enter your rooms at the time of privacy. (Al-Qur’an 24:58-59). If you are invited for a meal, then you can enter the house of your host, but leave the house as soon as you finish the meal. Do not sit there for long conversation to cause annoyance to your host who has to take rest.   (Al-Qur’an 33:53).

Sitting in assemblies

      For sitting in assemblies, Islam has prescribed certain manners. According to the Qur’an, the persons already sitting should make room for a new-comer when he requests for place to sit in (58:11). This generally happens when the place is already full and the new-comer finds no room. In such a situation it is incumbent on the believers to accommodate their brother. When a person enters he should greet others. The Prophet enjoined his followers not to sit keeping their hands behind back and leaning against the palms of their hands. Before sitting they should draw their clothes closer with their hands. One must not sit in the middle of a circle. The late comer should sit at the end of the assembly. One must not sit between two persons without their permission. One must not expect that the others should stand up in his honour. Nobody should make a man stand up from his seat and then sit therein.


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