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The Social Etiquette of Islam
Social Issues
Dr. Shehzad Saleem

The Almighty has created man for the eternal life of heaven. Paradise is the real goal for which a Muslim must strive. This world is transitory and shall one day culminate in another world which shall be everlasting. There a person shall reap the fruits of his deeds done in this world: evil deeds will lead him to the ignominy of Hell fire, while good deeds will entitle him to the never-ending reward of paradise.

The Qur’ān stresses that no person shall enter paradise unless he has purified his soul and purged it from evil. Consequently, it has given various directives to help man in achieving this goal of spiritual advancement. Among them is a category which pertains to the social interaction between men and women. In this regard, Islam wants to develop a society which is based on the values of modesty and decency to safeguard men and women from any excesses. It has, therefore, set a certain code of social etiquette and communal conduct which if followed ensures a morally healthy atmosphere.

The starting point of this code is the sanctity Islam bestows on the private life of people. It does not curtail socializing; it only imposes certain restrictions to achieve its aim. It says that whenever people visit one another, they should follow a certain decorum. The visitor should first of all properly introduce himself by asking for permission to enter and paying salutations to the residents of a house. If, after knocking three times at the door, he hears no reply, he should turn back and not start an incessant session of pounding the door. Furthermore, if the residents are not in a position to welcome him and they ask him to return, he should withdraw without feeling any ill-will towards them. However, in case the visited place is non-residential eg, an office or a hotel or a shop, no formal permission is required. Once a person has entered his destination, the men and women who are present, should observe two regulations: they should guard their gazes and take care that the dress they are wearing properly covers them. Women should observe two additional regulations as well: they should cover their heads and chests and should not strike their feet in a manner which draws attention to any ornaments they may be wearing. Men and women while observing these regulations can eat and converse together. Since the leading ladies of a society set an example for others, therefore, they in particular should observe this code of conduct. Hence, the Qur’ān while addressing the wives of the Prophet (sws) specifically bids womenfolk of such stature to refrain from openly exhibiting their charms. It strictly forbids them to adorn themselves with finery and go about displaying themselves.

The social etiquette of Islam delineated above must be kept in consideration if a person wants to attain self-purification and become entitled to the eternal reward of heaven. Unfortunately, today, in our society, there exists a complete disregard for this etiquette. Most Muslim men and women have adopted an absolutely indifferent attitude towards it and it is totally overlooked in every sphere of life. Scenes which make a complete mockery of this etiquette can be readily observed in houses and hotels, streets and avenues, offices and hospitals, colleges and universities, parks and public places---everywhere, without much exception. It is the result of this indifference that the values of modesty, continence and chastity, upon which the whole poise of an Islamic civilization so heavily depends, have gradually disappeared from our society---a society which was meant to be their custodian. It is a result of this disregard that the sanctity of the institution of marriage has been violated as the husband-wife relationship is losing its mutual trust and confidence. It is because of this defiance that our younger generation has lost its way in sensual pleasures.

Nowhere is this indecency more pronounced than in our functions and festive occasions. Our Wedding ceremonies in particular, are the pinnacle of this gross disregard: during the `complete course’ of a wedding, the social customs and traditions upon which Islam intends to evolve a community, are violated, in fact desecrated, to the ultimate extent. The dress worn on these occasions is but sheer ostentation and immodesty and the seating arrangement entices the eye into prying and taking unrestrained liberty. The bride and the bride-groom, like mannequins, are made to sit and display their rich apparel to cameras and to every onlooker. The huge amount of money spent on the dowry as well as on the whole series of functions which precedes the wedding ceremony is the height of prodigality. Such extravagance sets standards which few parents can meet. At the Mehandi ceremony, wanton sessions of dance and music are held and accompanied by many other activities that devastate religious values and etiquette. The general demeanour is totally unbecoming for a Muslim and any attempt at dissuading people from this merry-making is branded downright priggishness. Fashion is worshipped, ostentation is deified and lavishness is eulogized whilst modesty is renounced, decency is desecrated and moderation is forsaken.

The only option left for a Muslim is not to participate in such unseemly ceremonies and record his protest.


Alas! If we could only rise and think beyond such base and material pleasures; if we could only think that life is something beyond these pursuits; if we could only realize that we have been mesmerized by a culture which is taking mankind away and away from the ultimate destiny we were created for: the life of parardise, the everlasting life of bliss---a life free from the regrets of the past and fears of the future.

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