بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Bring to mind the hustling bustling home you grew up in. Someone or the other was always coming or going. Domestic servants would arrive early or mid morn, probably without even knocking, or after knocking repeatedly and very loudly.
Relatives, near and distant, would drop in unannounced at any time of the day. The home probably had a central living room/lounge with an adjoining drawing room, in either of which, the visitors and hosts would all sit together and enjoy cheerful repartee over cups of tea.
Indeed, honoring guests is endorsed by Islam, especially those visiting from another city or country:
Abu Shurayh al-‘Adawi said: “I heard with my own two ears and I saw with my own two eyes when the Prophet [صلى الله عليه و سلم] spoke and said: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him honor his neighbor; whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him honor his guest as he is entitled.”
It was said, “What is his entitlement, O Messenger of Allah?”
He said, “[The best treatment] for one day and one night; and hospitality is for three days, and anything after that is charity bestowed upon him. And whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him speak good words, or else remain silent.”
[Narrated by Al-Bukhari, 5560 and Muslim, 69]
As a child, I’d remember the flurry that started in the house when unexpected guests came. In those days (the eighties), the only means of long-distance communication was either the telephone land-line, or handwritten letters. Consequently, people “dropped in” a lot, especially if they lived far off in another locality and were visiting our part of the city for some errand or other purpose. They’d want to take the opportunity to visit and pay their respects.
As soon as a peek into the front-door’s peep-hole revealed unexpected guests standing at the threshold, I would hastily be told to go change into something more “presentable”. Clutter and other objects casually strewn around every where – evidence of a comfy, lived-in “home” – would be hastily swished out of sight – into bedrooms, cupboards, and drawers.
The kitchen cupboards, pantry and fridge would be rummaged to extract refreshments for the guests. Crockery and cutlery would then be discreetly taken out and washed. I might add here, that worn clothes hanging on hooks in the bathroom were also hastily removed because, without exception, one or more of the guests always needed to use “the can” during their visit, even if just to wash their hands.
The home would thus turn into an “open house”: there were no demarcations of private areas or “off-limit” rooms where the guests could not enter without permission. Their children would freely saunter into the “TV lounge” from the drawing room where all the adults sat, pick up the remote and turn on the television to flick channels.
The mother would saunter into the kitchen and courteously offer to help lay the table or trolley. Some of the children would come into our bedroom and start to play with our toys.
All of this was alright until I was a child, but as a tween, I remember starting to resent it when girls from the visiting family sauntered into my bedroom and “ransacked” my dolls and other doll-house stuff to play with without my permission. It was all I could do to keep their hands out of my cupboard!
“Guests are the mercy of Allah” is a common adage in local Pakistani Muslim culture.
Now, as an adult living in my own home, my focus in searching for life-as-a-Muslim’s “do’s and don’ts” has totally and permanently shifted to Islamic sources – specifically, the Quran and ahadith.
Culture has paled into insignificance, if not into non-existence, especially since it is so rapidly evolving and changing. Not that I was a big fan of cultural values anyway, particularly those that involve wasteful extravagance, unnecessary hassle, or other tiresome formalities in the name of tradition.
In the current era, as I said, “values” of other “cultures” are being quickly and willingly adopted; therefore, I am no big fan of our past or present cultural norms, especially those adopted from our Hindu neighbors, or from the British who ruled over our forefathers, and which have no endorsement from our perfect religion Islam in the first place.
One such “value” is entertaining and welcoming everyone as “guests” so openly and willingly that it turns one’s home into an “open house” in a way that promotes free-mixing, intrusion of privacy, and interference in personal family matters.
First, I would like you to take a look at your circle of relatives and friends, whether you are single or married. Now tell me how many families among them observe social reservation in front of people who are not their mahrums when they go social-calling/visiting others as guests, or when they entertain guests at their own home.
I am not talking about covering the head loosely with a dupatta or avoiding handshakes with the opposite gender.
I am talking about lowering the gaze, not talking too much or very directly to non-mahrums in a very frank and free manner, and sitting at a distance from them, preferably in another room. I am also specifically talking about women not serving food to non-mahrum men themselves.
I find it odd that we openly use Islam to encourage impromptu social calls at others’ homes as part of our culture – social calls that, unfortunately, sometimes even border on the invasive/intrusive – yet, we fail to adhere to the rules of social etiquette that Islam has ordained for these meetings.
Consequently, the ayaat (verses) of the Quran that I wish to highlight in this post have to do with social etiquette regarding visiting other people’s homes.
What I want to discuss, in particular, is a part of one of these ayaat, which I found somewhat perplexing when I first studied the Quran many years ago, as a young girl.
It was perplexing to me simply because the social trends prevalent in our local culture so openly contradicted it!
The two ayaat are from Surah Al-Nur, which was revealed in Madinah and detailed several Islamic commands regarding privacy and modesty for Muslims:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتًا غَيْرَ بُيُوتِكُمْ حَتَّى تَسْتَأْنِسُوا وَتُسَلِّمُوا عَلَى أَهْلِهَا ذَلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ
“O you who believe! Enter not houses other than your own without first announcing your presence and invoking peace upon the folk thereof. That is better for you, that you may take heed.” [24:27]
فَإِن لَّمْ تَجِدُوا فِيهَا أَحَدًا فَلَا تَدْخُلُوهَا حَتَّى يُؤْذَنَ لَكُمْ وَإِن قِيلَ لَكُمُ ارْجِعُوا فَارْجِعُوا هُوَ أَزْكَى لَكُمْ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ عَلِيمٌ
“And if you find no one therein, still enter not until permission has been given. And if it is said to you: “Go away”, then go away, for it is purer for you. Allah knows what you all do.” [24:28]
Tafsir Ibn Kathir states about the above verse:
Qatadah said that one of the emigrants (مهاجرين) said: “All my life I tried to follow this ayah, but if I asked for permission to enter upon one of my brothers and he asked me to go back, I could not do so happily, although Allah says, “وَإِن قِيلَ لَكُمْ ارْجِعُواْ فَارْجِعُواْ هُوَ أَزْكَى لَكُمْ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ عَلِيمٌ” – “And if you are asked to go back, go back, for it is purer for you. And Allah is All-Knower of what you do.”
Sa`id bin Jubayr said about this part of the ayah: وَإِن قِيلَ لَكُمْ ارْجِعُواْ فَارْجِعُواْ – “And if you are asked to go back, then go back“ –> “This means, do not stand at people’s doors.”
End quote Tafsir Ibn Kathir.
I can not imagine what kind of offense I’d cause in today’s day and age by asking someone who knocks on my door to “go away/back”. Can you?
Can you imagine what kind of hell would break loose if you turned a visitor away with these words, no matter how nicely? Especially if this person was older than you, and/or a close relative?
First of all, thanks to the local “open house” culture, everyone assumes that they are always welcome in the home of a relative or close friend, just because of their biological or other relation/connection with them.
How many times have I heard people say this statement in a tone of endearment and love, “We will definitely come to your house soon. Apna hee ghar hai! (“It is our own home”)?
Er, actually, its not. [Just stating a fact]
We are quite ignorant, as Muslims, of the commands of the Quran and sunnah regarding respecting others’ privacy when visiting them in their homes, even if they are our parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, aunts/uncles, or married offspring – let alone distant relatives or mere acquaintances!
Tafsir Ibn Kathir further expounds the above two verses (the parts in italics are directly copied from the tafsir; those not in italics are my own words):
“This is the Islamic etiquette. Allah taught these manners (of seeking permission) to His believing servants and commanded them not to enter houses other than their own until they had asked permission, i.e., to ask for permission before entering and to give the greeting of Salam after asking. One should seek permission three times, and if permission is given, (he may enter), otherwise he should go away.
It was reported in the Sahih that when Abu Musa asked `Umar three times for permission to enter and he did not give him permission, he went away.
Then `Umar said, “Did I not hear the voice of `Abdullah bin Qays asking for permission to enter? Let him come in.” So they looked for him, but found that he had gone.
When he came later on, `Umar said, “Why did you go away?”
He said, “I asked for permission to enter three times, but permission was not given to me, and I heard the Prophet say,
إِذَا اسْتَأْذَنَ أَحَدُكُمْ ثَلَاثًا فَلَمْ يُؤْذَنْ لَهُ فَلْيَنْصَرِفْ
“If any one of you asks for permission three times and it is not given, then let him go away.”
Imam Ahmad recorded a narration stating that Anas, or someone else, said, that the Messenger of Allah [صلى الله عليه و سلم] asked for permission to enter upon Sa`d bin `Ubadah.
He said: السَّلَامُ عَلَيْكَ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ
Sa`d said, “Wa `Alaykas-Salam Wa Rahmatullah,” but the Prophet [صلى الله عليه و سلم] did not hear the returned greeting until he had given the greeting three times and Sa`d had returned the greeting three times, but Sa`d responded in a low voice.
So the Prophet went back, and Sa`d followed him and said,”O Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be ransomed for you! You did not give any greeting but I responded to you, but I did not let you hear me. I wanted to get more of your Salam and blessings.”
Then he admitted him to his house and offered him some raisins.
The Prophet ate, and when he finished, he said,
أَكَلَ طَعَامَكُمُ الْأَبْرَارُ، وَصَلَّتْ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ، وَأَفْطَرَ عِنْدَكُمُ الصَّائِمُونَ
“May the righteous eat your food, may the angels send blessings upon you and may those who are fasting, break their fast with you.”
It should also be known that the one who is seeking permission to enter should not stand directly in front of the door; he should have the door on his right or left, because of the Hadith recorded by Abu Dawud from `Abdullah bin Busr, who said,
“When the Messenger of Allah came to someone’s door, he would never stand directly in front of it, but to the right or left, and he would say,
السَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ، السَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ
That was because at that time the houses had no covers or curtains over their doorways.”
This report was recorded by Abu Dawud.
In the two sahih’s (Bukhari and Muslim), it is recorded that the Messenger of Allah [صلى الله عليه و سلم] said:
لَوْ أَنَّ امْرَءًا اطَّلَعَ عَلَيْكَ بِغَيْرِ إِذْنٍ فَخَذَفْتَهُ بِحَصَاةٍ فَفَقَأْتَ عَيْنَهُ، مَا كَانَ عَلَيْكَ مِنْ جُنَاحٍ
“If a person looks into your house without your permission, and you throw a stone at him and it puts his eye out, there will be no blame on you.”
Imam Ahmad recorded from Kaladah bin Al-Hanbal that at the time of the Conquest (of Makkah), Safwan bin Umayyah sent him with milk, a small gazelle, and small cucumbers when the Prophet was at the top of the valley.
He said, “I entered upon the Prophet and I did not give the greeting of Salam, nor ask for permission to enter.
The Prophet [صلى الله عليه و سلم] said,
ارْجِعْ فَقُلْ: السَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ أَأَدْخُلُ؟
“Go back and say: “As-Salamu `Alaykum, may I enter?””
This was after Safwan had become Muslim.“
[Also recorded by Abu Dawud, Al-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i. Al-Tirmidhi said, “Hasan Gharib.”]
Ibn Jurayj said that he heard `Ata’ bin Abi Rabah narrating that Ibn `Abbas (رَضِىَ اللهُ عَنه) said, “There are three ayaat whose rulings people neglect:
i) Allah says, إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عَندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَـكُمْ – “Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is the one who has the most Taqwa” [49:13], but (now) they say that the most honorable of them with Allah is the one who has the biggest house.
ii) As for seeking permission, the people have forgotten all about it.”
I said, “Should I seek permission to enter upon my orphan sisters who are living with me in one house”
He said, “Yes.”
I asked him to make allowances for me, but he refused and said, “Do you want to see them naked?”
I said, “No.”
He said, “Then ask for permission to enter.”
I asked him again and he said, “Do you want to obey Allah?”
I said, “Yes.”
He said, “Then ask for permission.”
Ibn Jurayj said, “Ibn Tawus told me that his father said, “There are no women whom I hate to see naked more than those who are my Mahrams.” He was very strict on this point.”
Ibn Jurayj narrated that Az-Zuhri said, “I heard Huzayl bin Shurahbil Al-Awdi Al-A`ma (say that) he heard Ibn Mas`ud say, “You have to seek permission to enter upon your mothers.”’
Ibn Jurayj said, “I said to `Ata’: “Does a man have to seek permission to enter upon his wife?“
He said, “No, it can be understood that this is not obligatory, but it is better for him to let her know that he is coming in so as not to startle her, because she may be in a state where she does not want him to see her.””
Abu Ja`far bin Jarir narrated from the nephew of Zaynab, the wife of `Abdullah bin Mas`ud (رَضِىَ اللهُ عَنه), that Zaynab (رَضِىَ اللهُ عَنهَا) said,
“When `Abdullah [her husband] came back from some errand and reached the door, he would clear his throat and spit, because he did not want to come suddenly and find us in a state he disliked.”
[Its chain of narration is Sahih]
End quote Tafsir Ibn Kathir.
To sum up the Islamic etiquette of calling on people’s homes:
– Discretion is advised when entering upon people. Permission has to be sought before entering anyone’s home. Locking, opaque front doors, doorbells and knockers are common for this purpose by now, alhamdulillah. The prevalence and use of these objects are in accordance with Islamic injunctions.
– The Prophet [صلى الله عليه و سلم] would seek permission thrice by saying السلام عليكم. If he got no answer, he would go away. Please note: He would not get offended if he received no response. He would not think, “I am the Prophet of Allah and they did not answer my greeting nor let me into their home.”
This is because Allah has given Muslims the right to not answer a visitor; to not respond to someone who knocks on their door. And they are not obliged to provide an explanation as justification for their choice.
Contrast the Prophet’s humility to the prevalent attitude nowadays. When we do not receive a response from inside, we start to bang on the front-door even harder and louder. We persist in ringing the doorbell as if our finger is stuck to it with glue.
Also, since social ‘calls’ are now possible via telephonic mode, if someone doesn’t answer our phone calls on their cell phone immediately, we keep ringing them up in hot pursuit because we consider ourselves too important to be ignored.
-> Are we more important, honorable and worthy of being answered than Allah’s Messenger [صلى الله عليه و سلم]?
Not just that, after we get no response, we turn back in a huff. Only Allah can henceforth protect the one who “ignored” us in such a manner! Because whenever we will meet or talk to them on the phone next, we will demand a reasonable justification for being ignored:
- “I came to your home and knocked for 15 minutes before going back. Where were you? Why didn’t you answer?”
- “I called and called this morning, but you didn’t respond. Why don’t you answer the phone?! You must have seen all the missed calls. Where were you?“
- “We have come to your home thrice this year. Each time, no one was home.” –> followed by a piercing glare, which – if looks could kill – would result in sure death.
First of all, unless the recipient of your visit or phone call is a 12-year-old child (or even younger: such as a thumb-sucking baby), they do not owe you an explanation or excuse for not responding, which you find acceptable enough to let them off with. They have a right to their privacy, because a person’s cell phone is not a tracking device used for their 24-hour surveillance.
In fact, they don’t owe you any justification at all. Because Allah – their Creator – has given them the right as adults, to not respond to phone calls or knocks at their door – for whatever reason – if they do not wish to.
Also, if you feel that others owe you a justification for not responding to your visits or phone calls, or for refusing to have you over as a guest as often as you want, or for not talking to you on the phone when and as often as you want, then it seems that perhaps you have some control issues.
– As is obvious from the ahadith quoted above, it is highly recommended that adult Muslim men seek permission before entering the bedrooms or private chambers of even their mahrum women viz. their mothers and sisters.
No, I am not crazy.
Yes, I did just write the above lines. 🙂
When siblings of the opposite gender pass puberty, they have to start respecting certain boundaries related to mutual privacy e.g. their undergarments become “awrah” (something worthy of being hidden) from each other. Girls start having monthly cycles that might leave embarrassing stains on their mattresses that they don’t want their brother(s) to see. It now becomes inappropriate even for grownup sons/brothers/nephews to enter upon their mother, sister or aunt when she is lying down in a manner that reveals the shape of her lower body etc.
– Prophet Muhammad [صلى الله عليه و سلم] would announce his arrival before entering upon his wives. When he returned from a journey, he went to the masjid first. After news of his arrival in the city reached his wives, he entered upon them after some time, so that they could prepare themselves for him in a manner that they were comfortable with.
As is obvious from a narration quoted above, even his companions announced their arrival before entering upon their wives.
When such decorum and respect for privacy was observed at that time between a husband and wife, who have NO “awrah” from each other, what can be said about our local culture of relatives barging unannounced into each others’ homes, treating the latter like their own home, and asking intrusive questions?
– The obligation of honoring the guest and welcoming them into one’s home is waived in the case of proven gossipmongers, troublemakers, and people lacking religious commitment.
“If they are bad friends or are those who have nothing better to do, and impose themselves on others all the time, then they should be treated in a manner that befits them, because they annoy the people with their actions. ”
[“She is upset by her husband’s many guests who come all the time” | IslamQA, 23362].
– Since this post is all about rights and rules of Islam regarding visitors and guests, I would like to point out here that the husband possesses the right to bar even those of his wife’s, or his own, relatives from visiting his home, who cause trouble in his marriage or home in any manner e.g. in the children’s moral upbringing, or if they instigate his wife or children against him, or if they come to their home and interfere in matters to such an extent that the husband-wife duo end up fighting after each such visit.
It might sound very extreme and downright odd, but this restriction from visiting can also apply to the husband’s or wife’s own parent(s):
“It is not permissible for (the wife) to let her mother, father, sister, brother, paternal uncle, maternal uncle, paternal aunt or maternal aunt into her husband’s house, if he objects to that.
Attention is drawn to this because some women – Allah forbid – are bad even to their daughters. If they see that the daughters are settled and happy with their husbands, they become jealous – Allah forbid – even though they are mothers, and they try to spoil things between the daughter and her husband.
So the husband has the right to stop such a mother from entering his house, and he has the right to say to his wife: “She should not enter my house”. He has the right to prevent her according to sharee’ah, and he has the right to prevent his wife from going to see her, because she is namaamah (one who spreads malicious gossip) and a troublemaker.”
[ — Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Salih Al-‘Uthaymin – IslamQA 110845]
Please note that this is for extreme cases of necessity only, in which the harmony of an otherwise happy Muslim marriage needs to be safeguarded from the visits of such guests.
In even such a scenario, it is advised that contact with gossipy troublemakers only be reduced – to phone calls, or fewer, infrequent visits – and never cut off completely, if they are kith and kin, or close neighbors.
– Finally, the sin of looking inside someone else’s home without their permission or knowledge is so great, that if the house inmate(s) were to injure the “Peeping Tom’s” eye, it would not be a sin in the eyes of Allah!
Just think about it for a moment: the gravity of this sin – of peeping into someone’s home!
Subhan Allah, nowadays we have “reality shows” on television in which many people live together in a single house as “housemates”, with cameras recording all their private proceedings for the world to see – and to judge.
We have made entertainment shows out of peering into others’ lives. What is more sad: that celebrities allow their private lives to be broadcast around the globe for millions of viewers, or that there are millions of people out there who have nothing better to do than to actually watch these reality shows?!
Also, bring to mind the cramped, high-rise apartment buildings that are often built too close together in urban, cosmopolitan cities; so close that if the curtains are not drawn, you can practically see inside your neighbors’ bedroom from your own door or window, if you are not careful about lowering your gaze.
In our society, people are often quite careless about hiding the insides of their homes by drawing their curtains at night time, with the need for “ventilation and fresh air” often given as excuses for immodesty and laxity in preventing others’ eyes – whether an accidental gaze or an inquisitive one – from looking inside.
Lastly, if peeping inside someone’s home from outside is such a grave sin, then – on the same token – peeping inside someone’s bedroom, bathroom, cupboard, purse/handbag/wallet/briefcase, kitchen cabinets, chest of drawers, private files, mail/correspondence, or any other belongings, without their approval or consent, is also a sin.
Such habits are contrary to the social etiquette of upholding decency and decorum in community living taught by the Quran.
A bit more about nosy people:
In this day and age, the ease and multiple modes of instant communication have made joining relations and inquiring about people’s health much easier and faster.
Emails, social media (Facebook and Twitter) and cell phone text messages can be exchanged within seconds – connecting people internationally. This has reduced the necessity of calling on people at their homes, especially if they dwell in the same locality or city.
I would like to point out here, that there are some people who mask their nosiness and their urge to interfere in other people’s lives for personal entertainment to help pass their time (because they basically don’t ‘have a life’), with the false pretense of صِلَةُ الرَحِم (or “silah e rehmi” as it is called in Urdu).
Such people use the “Islamic obligation” of joining relations, showing concern for other people’s health and well-being, and of honoring guests, to consistently barge into other people’s homes, ask nosy questions, and then visit other homes to spread the details of what they have learned during these visits. E.g:
- “We went to stay at the home of so-and-so in such-and-such city. Their home is a spacious XYZ-bedroom apartment, with X number of rooms. They also have a guest room with this-and-that pieces of furniture. They have employed a cook whom they pay only Rs so-and-so. The apartment is on XYZ floor with a view of ABC-public-place. You should use their home to stay overnight when you visit that city, it will save you the cost of staying at a hotel…….”
- “They have so-many properties out of which this-many are given on rent. They just bought so-and-so new car through a lease from such-and-such bank. Their older son is on so-and-so position in such-and-such company with this-much salary in addition to free fuel. I don’t know why their younger daughter-in-law didn’t come out to meet us while we were there. Maybe she was feeling sick because she is pregnant? I think it is high time she had her second baby.“
The topic of nosiness and interference deserves a post of its own, because it can not be tackled completely here. However, I am going into some details about it because it has a direct connection with the etiquette of calling on people in their homes.
The dead-giveaway traits of nosy people who call on other people just to enjoy “free” refreshments and light entertainment to pass the time (under the guise of concern and love, of course) that should make your guard go up, and which should make you practice extra caution and discretion in letting them into your home, or in telling them things about your private life, are:
- Notice their eyes: their eyes take in everything the minute they step into your home – the decor, the furniture, the accessories. The pupils dart around in quick movements. They cannot hide their innate curiosity even if they tried to.
- They make up excuses to go into the kitchen or bathroom to examine the variety of things there. “Let me help you with that” (without being asked for help), “Tell me where the waste bin is, and I will throw this wrapper for you” etc. Here, I’d like to point out that, in contrast, sincere people who are not nosy, display through their body language that they are a bit embarrassed that they or their child needs to use your bathroom during the visit. They will make it short and quick, and will not ask any questions about the shampoo that you use, or the price of the tiles.
- They always – always – ask you questions about your money e.g. where you got something from, and for how much. Even if you convey to them that you do not like such questions, they will still do it, because it is their intrinsic nature, and because they don’t care about what you want or feel about this issue! [*Sigh*]
- They want to know the details of the husband-wife relationship AND comment on how they think it should be rectified.
- After gleaning all the above things from you, they are now armed with enough ammunition to: (i) Tell others about it. So, you will probably hear things from others that they heard from these people, and (ii) Continue to interfere in your life even in the future (by using the information they extracted during their previous visits).
- The biggest “alarm” that you should heed regarding nosy troublemakers, is your own gut instinct. Yes, that creepy feeling you get every time these people call or announce that they are coming to visit. If their imminent arrival makes your guard go up, or makes you outright freak out with worry and tension, remember! –> Islam gives you the right to not only turn them away from your homes without giving a reason for it, but also to limit the type and frequency of your contact with such people.
I would go as far as to say that if you have witnessed repeated evidence of the detrimental effects of envy (حسد), the eye (نظر), or marital discord between you and your spouse (نشوز) as a result of their visits, then you should use your Islamic right to safeguard yourself and your family from the evil (شر) of such troublemakers.
Also, it is important to consistently advise such people politely in the hope that perhaps, some day, they will take heed and start to keep themselves busy by getting an occupation besides inquiring about other people’s affairs.
The contemporary correlation of social prestige and “honor” with the size of the home
I find it quite interesting that even during the lifetime of Abdullah Ibn Abbas (رَضِىَ اللهُ عَنه), people had begun to associate honor with the size of the house, as is proven by a narration of his that I have quoted above. How consistent human nature stays despite the passage of centuries, doesn’t it?
Today, the size as well as location of a person’s or family’s home often becomes the prime factor in determining the people who will be part of their social circle. Even close, biological relatives become extra friendly or distant/aloof depending upon one’s ascent or descent on the ladder of this symbol of social prestige.
For example, a family goes through a rough financial time as a test from Allah, and need to relocate to a rather cramped apartment in a “shoddy” part of town. Guess what happens? The relatives who experience an opposite kind of test at the same time, by receiving an increase in provision from Allah and consequently moving to a new, big house in a prestigious neighborhood, promptly drop the former from their list of favorite people, even if the latter are decent and pious people who have done them no harm.
At the same time, old friends and distant relatives who had lost touch with this latter family when they were dwelling in a small apartment, now suddenly start calling them up regularly on the phone, and drop in uninvited for regular visits, taking an (also uninvited) tour of the new palatial home and gushing about how beautiful it is.
When other, distant relatives visit from abroad, suddenly they become eager about staying overnight in this new house, whereas in the past, they didn’t even want to drop by for a few hours.They’ll gawk at the air conditioners and the chandeliers; they’ll count the number and brands of the cars in the driveway, and praise the size of the automatic washing machine. It is so, so sad, yet true. I have seen it happen.
It is amazing how many “friends” one “buys” when one moves into a larger house. It almost seems like a part of the deal: “Buy a big house, and get 200+ new ‘friends’/guests absolutely free“!
Only, they are not sincere friends, or even “friends” for that matter. They are only turning up with smiles and hugs because now you have something that they like; something that makes it socially “honorable” for them to be seen mingling with you.
Plus, the size of your house makes them assume that your wallet is loaded too; and who doesn’t like money? Who nowadays doesn’t like keeping good terms with people who might come in good “use” on some rainy day?
Whether its for their money, social connections, corporate influence, political authority or economic power in society, its true that, like bees to honey; like dry leaves riding the wind: most of the upper crust’s social circle comprises of insincere, fickle, characterless and avaricious people, who go where ever their pursuit of “the moolah” takes them.
One last thing about “Open Houses”
There are people in every extended family who are more welcoming, accommodating and servile than the rest. Their nature is such that they love nothing more than to have someone come over and stay at their home. They eagerly look forward to receiving visitors and hosting them. Every family has at least one such home that they can easily identify, in which the whole clan gathers often, e.g. for a huge dinner on Eid and other occasions.
Such people will, insha’Allah, earn huge rewards for their hospitality, as long as none of the laws or commands of Allah are violated in their homes during their hosting and entertaining of guests.
I’d also like to point out here that Allah’s creation is diverse; some people are more private than others (C’est Moi ;)), so we should alter the nature of our visits and socializing habits according to the hosts’ preferences.
For example, if you like to take something edible (such as a dessert or any other snack) whenever you visit someone’s house, first take into account how they might perceive such a gesture. Some will appreciate the thought, and think nothing of it. They will instantly unpack the dish and put it right there for everyone to partake from.
Others, on the other hand, – especially some ladies who are very passionate about cooking/homemaking – might get offended by this gesture. Don’t be surprised, because I have seen it happen myself. What turns them off is that they think that you think that they do not have good-enough food at home to serve to you.
This kind of “offense” might also be accidentally caused at some homes where you, in all honesty, refuse to eat or drink anything, perhaps because you are too full, or because you just want to sit and talk and spare your hostess the trouble of making refreshments for you. This refusal to partake from what they want to serve you might be taken as a snub; as a gesture of hostility. No kidding!
Another example of an action that can garner either positive or negative reactions, is that of the guest taking off their shoes before entering the hosts’ drawing room/parlor. I have taken them off willingly at some homes only to see that the host got hurt by this action, saying, “Why would we want you to take off your shoes in our home?”
On another occasion, at a party at someone else’ home, I kept my shoes on, naively overlooking the stack of shoes next to the front door and the hostess’ own bare feet. I was politely asked by her to take off my shoes.
Best way out? Just observe your host(s). If he or she is barefoot in their home, take off your shoes too, without being asked. But if they are wearing their slippers inside, keep yours on as well. Simple as that!
So bottom line is, keenly observe your hosts where ever you visit, and note their body language – the signs that indicate their approval or disapproval, which could be very subtle and difficult to detect. Act accordingly so that relationships remain cordial and harmonious.
This ayah of the Quran is not so perplexing now..
As an adult living in her own very private home – a safe haven; a sanctuary of solitude – I cannot even begin to describe how much I appreciate the commands of the Quran, and the rules of social etiquette promulgated and personified by Allah’s Messenger [صلى الله عليه و سلم], regarding home privacy, intermingling, calling on others, and community living.
In a world where most idle (فارغ) adults have little else to do besides meddling in others’ affairs in the name of ‘joining relations’ and ‘concern’, the words of Allah: “وَإِن قِيلَ لَكُمُ ارْجِعُوا فَارْجِعُوا هُوَ أَزْكَى لَكُمْ” provide me solace and reassurance that, even if I ask someone who visits me to “go away”, then – in the eyes of my perfectly just, lawmaking lord – I won’t be wrong in the least – even if the whole world collectively antagonizes me for it!
And “going away” will be purer (أَزْكَى) for their own selves.
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