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A Few Lessons on Adab (Respect)


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A Few Lessons on Adab (Respect)


It is a famous statement of the ‘Ulama:


Those who succeeded did so through their adab (respect) and those who failed did so because of the lack of respect”

(Adabul ikhtilaf fi masailil ‘lmi wad din, pg.192)


قال الإمام الزرنوجي رحمه الله

ما وصل من وصل إلا بالحرمة، وما سقط من سقط إلا بترك الحرمة


(Ta’limul Muta’allim of Imam Zarnuji (rahimahullah), pg.46, ibid)


Here are a few examples of those who succeeded:

  1. Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) said:

ما مددت رجلي نحو دار أستاذي حماد بن أبي سليمان إجلالاً له، وكان بين داره وداري سبع سكك


“I never stretched my leg in the direction of the house of my teacher, Hammad ibn Abi Sulaiman, although I was seven blocks away from his house


(‘Uqudul Jumman; Adabul Ikhtilaf fi masailil ‘ilmi wad din, pg. 172 and Ma’alim irshadiyyah, pg.172)


  1. Imam Shafi’i (rahimahullah) says: “When I arrived in Madinah, I saw the reverence and awe that Imam Malik (rahimahullah) commanded. This increased my respect for him to an extent that at times while in his presence I would turn the page as gently as possible out of fear that I may disturb him” (ibid)


  1. The student of Imam Shafi’i; Imam Rabi’ ibn Sulaiman (rahimahumallah) says: “By Allah! I had such respect for Imam Shafi’i that I never had the courage to even drink water in his presence.” (ibid)


This reminds me of a narration in Sahih Muslim (Hadith:317) in which Sayyiduna ‘Amr ibn ‘As (radiyallahu ‘anhu) states:

“I never stared at the face of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) out of awe for him, and therefore cannot describe him fully”


The Ripple effect

My Esteemed Teacher, Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwamah (may Allah protect him) writes: “Those who sit in the company of the ‘Ulama will definitely learn to respect them”


“One who never acquired knowledge from the ‘Ulama, and didn’t spend abundant time with them, and hasn’t learnt how to respect them, how could he understand the value of the ‘Ulama?!


For such a person to speak or write against the ‘Ulama in a disrespectful manner is not surprising..”

(Adabul ikhtilaf, pg.172 and Ma’alim irshadiyyah, pg.172)


It is therefore imperative for us stick to the company of dignified people, or else we risk losing our own respect.


Respect for their associates

Imam Zarnuji (rahimahullah) writes: “Part of respect for one’s teacher is to show respect to the teacher’s children and other associates. The author of Al-Hidayah (A higher book of Hanafi fiqh) mentioned that one of the ‘Ulama of Bukhara was seated in the masjid while delivering a lesson. During the lesson he kept standing for short intervals. When he was asked about this he replied:


“My Teachers’ son is playing with other kids on the road and he sometimes runs past the door of the Masjid, so I stand for him out of respect for my teacher!”


(Ta’limul Muta’allim; see Ma’alim Irshadiyyah of Shaykh ‘Awwamah, pg. 232 and Husn Adab of Moulana Habibur Rahman Al-A’zami)


A Recent Lesson

The following incident is among the first lessons of adab that I learnt from my Respected Teacher, Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwamah (may Allah allow me to continue benefiting from him):


“I (Shaykh ‘Awwamah) once visited the late Mufti Mahmudul Hasan Al Gangohi (rahimahullah) when he was visiting Madinah Munawwarah. As the time of Magrib salah got closer, someone asked Mufti Mahmud (rahimahullah) if he needed to perform wudu before the salah. Mufti sahib (rahimahullah) replied:


كيف أجالس هذا العالم وأنا على غير وضوء؟

How could I sit in the company of this ‘Alim without already being in the state of wudu?!


After relating this, Shaykh (may Allah protect him) expressed his humility saying: “I don’t deserve this but look at the respect of this senior ‘Alim.”



It was a common habit of my Honourable Teacher to personally visit the senior ‘Ulama whenever he learnt of their arrival in Madinah Munawwarah. Despite him being a senior himself…


Even the Animals have respect

Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwamah (may Allah protect him) writes: “You may be surprised to hear that even Animals have respect for seniors.” Shaykh then cited the verse of the Quran which mentions the address of the ant in the era of Nabi Sulayman (‘alaihis salam): “Let not Sulayman and his army trample you unknowingly” (Surah Naml, verse: 18)


He says: “due to the respect of the ant, it sought an excuse for the army by saying that if they do trample you it will be unintentional!” (Adabul ikhtilaf, pg.193)


Contempt to those who were disrespectful

Once Imam Ahmad ibn Hambal (rahimahullah) angrily reprimanded a reliable scholar for his disrespect to Imam ‘Abdur Rahman ibn Mahdi (rahimahullah) with the words:


مالك ويلك ولذكر الأئمة

“What is the matter with you?! Woe on to you for saying (such disrespectful things) about the Imams!”

(Adabul ikhtilaf, pg.155)



Ibn ‘Asakir (rahimahullah) once heard one of his teachers being disrespectful towards the scholars of the past. He said to his teacher:


إنما نحترمك ما احترمت الأئمة

“I will only respect you as long as you maintain respect for the Imams!”

(Adabul ikhtilaf, pg.155)


When Imam Muslim (rahimahullah) heard derogatory statements from his teacher, Muhammad ibn Yahya Zhuhli (rahimahullah) concerning his other teacher; Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah), He (Imam Muslim) immediately got up and left the gathering. He later returned to Imam Zhuhli all the narrations that he had acquired from him. (Hadyus sari, pg.685)


We will follow respect, wherever it takes us….


Are we equal?

Some people use the following slogan to legitamise their disrespect with the earlier scholars:


هم رجال ونحن رجال

“We are men like them”


This is a sign of extreme ignorance. A slight look at history and the biographies of the pious predecessors will easily show that there is no comparison between us and them whatsoever. The great Historian, biographer and Muhaddith; ‘Allamah Dhahabi (rahimahullah) writes: “There is no senior Muhaddith in my era (the 700s A.H.) that can match the knowledge of those in the earlier times” (Tazkiratul Huffaz, pg.628)


He also writes in the biography of Imam Al Ismai’ily (rahimahullah): “I was astounded at the memory of this imam, and I have concluded that the latter day scholars have no hope of catching up with the earlier ones (the Mutaqaddimun) (Tazkiratul Huffaz, pg.948)


Al-Muhaddith Al-‘Alai (rahimahullah) has also said: “none after them could match them or even come close!” (Fathul Mugheeth, vol.2 pg.102)



The above are a few drops from an ocean full of lessons on this topic. Respect seems so distant in our era; an era full of unpleasant surprises!

Moreover, it is somehow much easier for people to be disrespectful online, since they find themselves in an uncontrolled environment. Do not fall into this hole, it’s bottomless!!


Let’s all take lesson from what has been discussed above .

May Allah Ta’ala guide us too. Amin.


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  • 1 year later...

Is Adab (respect) really so important?

Passing on etiquette as insignificant generally leads to the abandoning of deeds that are sunnah, which leads to the discarding of a wajib (compulsory) act and so on.

Imam ‘Abdullah Ibn Mubarak (rahimahullah) said:

“If I leave out a single etiquette of Islam, I fear that Allah I will deprive me of all that He has bestowed me with.”

(Kitabu-Tahajjud of Al-Ishbili (rahimahullah) pg. 132.)

The society we live in is so foreign to the concept of adab that many a reader of today may consider the above statement as exaggerate.

The following two incidents serve as an eye-opener to all in this regard:

  1. My Esteemed Teacher, Al-Muhaddith Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwamah (may Allah protect him) cited the following personal experience in his most recent book entitled: ‘Ma’alim Irshadiyyah”

Before quoting it he writes:

 “I feel difficult to quote this episode because of its last portion, but I will do so anyway so that I may draw attention to something important”

“I was once, while studying in Halab (Aleppo) carrying my kitab in my left hand when my teacher, a great scholar and one with rare capabilities, Shaykh Ahmad Qallash (rahimahullah) came to me and took the kitab from my left hand and placed it in my right hand saying: “O Allah grant me my book (i.e, book of deeds in the Akhirah) in my right hand”

Several years passed and I had become a student in the Damascus University. It was the last day of the term and we were waiting to have our oral examination taken for the kitab “Tuhfatul Fuqaha” (a book of Hanafi Fiqh)

One of the students became tired of standing for such a long time and wanted to take a seat on the stairway, but it was dusty. He was wearing a black pants and the dust would easily show on it. So he placed the kitab on the step and sat on top of it!!!

Shaykh (may Allah protect him) continues: “By Allah! I feel hurt even just relating this incident, but my purpose was to draw a lesson…”

(Ma’alim Irshadiyyah, pg. 244-245)


Look at the difference between the two; one of them felt nothing wrong in committing this act of disrespect and the other excuses himself twice for merely quoting the incident….!

This (acquisition of adab) is a major benefit of studying under a reliable ‘Alim, instead of self (or even online) study.

Respect for Quran

  1. The second incident I quote from a very senior ‘Alim of my country, Shaykh Ebrahim Mia (may Allah protect him). Shaykh Ebrahim is very active in many fields of Din, one of them being the spreading of the Quran and it’s teachings in Africa.

A few years ago, on a visit to him with my beloved Father, He told us the following story:

“We generally go to certain parts of Africa  for the service of Din and we habitually take with us copies of the Holy Quran for distribution. The sad reality is that in many places people haven’t even seen the Quran. They learn from slates etc.

While in a remote part of Africa we handed over a copy of the Quran to a person walking in a jungle. He became ecstatic, kissed it and placed it on his head. In Fact it was like a ceremony in that village, where many people gathered just to see this. We were indeed moved by their respect for the Quran.

That very year, I was blessed with a visit to the Haramain (The blessed lands of Makkah and Madinah). While sitting in the Haram (Holy Masjid) after a particular salah, I noticed the cleaners of the Haram. There were two of them on a ladder cleaning the chandeliers. One of them, despite being on the highest point of the ladder was unable to reach the top of the fitting. So he casually asked the one below him to hand him a few copies of the Quran, which he placed on the last step of the ladder and then stepped on those Qurans so he could reach that part of the chandelier!!!”

May Allah protect us!



The reality is that when one begins to compromise on the minor practices (if they could be referred to as minor) then there is no stopping. It’s like slippery ice, and slippery ice no joke!

The following has been reported from the Salaf (pious predecessors) among them Imams ‘Abdullah ibnul Mubarak (rahimahullah), Ruwaim (rahimahullah) and Abu ‘Ali Ad-Daqqaq (rahimahullah):

من تهاون بالآداب عوقب بحرمان السنة ومن تهاون بالسنة عوقب بحرمان الفرائض، ومن ترك الفرائض عوقب بحرمان المعرفة

“Whoever belittles etiquette  will be punished by being deprived of the sunnah, and who leaves a sunnah will be deprived of the fard (obligatory) deeds and he will eventually be deprived of his recognition of Allah”

(Shu’abul Iman, Hadith: 3017, Kitabut- Tahajjud of Ishbili, pg.132 & Mu’idun Ni’am of Subki, pg. 85)

From where to where

During my stay in Madinah Munawwarah in the year 2000, I would frequently visit an elder Scholar; Shaykh Sayyid, ‘Abbas Saqar (rahimahullah).

He once mentioned that in his childhood, the Qurans would not be left on open stands all over the Haram (as is the existing norm in the Haramain). Instead they were locked in a special cabinet, and the keys would be by a responsible caretaker. He says: “The Quran would not be handed out to children” (because of their lack of respect) After saying this he lamented over the current state of disrespect towards the Holy Book of Allah.

Shaykh ‘Abbas (rahimahullah) passed away a few years later in Salah during Ramadan. May Allah shower his special mercies upon his soul. He was a very warm and passionate Scholar.

All who visit the Haramain, will be witness to the sad sight of disrespect shown to the Quran. People carry the Quran like they carry their shoes; i.e. on their sides instead of holding it by the heart. The Quran is found lying on the floor all over. This is where it all started. Then it led to the sad, depressing state that is quoted above.

In our case, it may start from allowing ourselves or our kids to place other books (in some cases un-Islamic magazines) and other items on top of the Quran. Be careful before someone thinks of standing or sitting on it!

So, Yes! Adab is really that important!

Let’s not underestimate the magnitude of respect and etiquette. If we fail in this regard, one can never imagine what could be the result…

May Allah protect and guide us all. Amin.


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