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Allow Me!!

Yousef sat waiting, prepared at his laptop ahead of the meeting that was scheduled by the trio. Michael and Rajiv arrived shortly one after the other, and after an exchange of greetings, Yousef said:

Yousef: Rajiv, you mentioned in our previous dialogue that you had some other things you wanted to mention in relation to the behavior of some Muslims, other than the subject of punctuality.

Rajiv: Yes, it is well known that your disregard for rules of conduct when dealing with others isn't limited to appointments only, but extends to having appropriate behavior with others as well.

Yousef: How so? Did you notice that I behaved badly, or that I exceeded acceptable limits in the way I dealt with you?!

Rajiv: No, no…Sorry, I didn't mean you personally; I meant that it appears, generally speaking, that this is the case. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Once, during my visit to a restaurant, I saw a sign posted on the entrance door that said: "Dogs and Arabs not allowed!" I went and spoke with the restaurant owner about it, because I didn’t like what I saw, and asked him what his reason was for putting up that sign...it is true that he seemed proud and arrogant in his appearance and behavior, but he gave me quite good reasons to justify his action. He said that his restaurant was upper class and was often frequented by princes, ministers and people of prominence, and it so happened that his restaurant had been frequented by a group of young Arabs that displayed crude behavior that was detrimental to the restaurant as well as its patrons. He explained further and gave me the following as justifications for his action:

- They moved the tables as they desired, regardless of the staff's objections, which caused chaos and discomfort in the restaurant.

- Brawling erupted among them and they started arguing in a loud tone.

- Some of them dipped their hands into their dishes in an offensive way, raising the abhorrence of others.

- Some of them even had the audacity to scratch their backs with a fork or a knife.

He said that he lost many of his prominent customers because of their shameful behavior, so he decided to put an end to this by preventing all Arabs from being entertained at his restaurant in the future.

Yousef: I could imagine that much of what you've said is true, but as I've mentioned before, we have done a great disservice to ourselves with our bad behavior, and have painted the wrong picture about ourselves...I must however stress the error in relating these bad mannerisms with Islam.

Michael: Will you then also attribute this behavior to the influence of the environment?!

Yousef: Indeed, I can't ignore the impact of the environment, but I will add to it the wrong upbringing of such youth.

Michael: I understand the impact of the wrong upbringing part, but I do not understand how the impact of the environment affects it!

Yousef: I'll provide you with an example in order to help you understand this effect better. You, for instance, live in a country known to be located in the chilly and severely cold zone of the globe, where the winter is long and its cold is biting, with a lot of rain, snow and icy winds. Man can't live in such weather without preparing for these conditions and taking the necessary precautions to face them. It is therefore necessary, for example, to plan houses and facilities in a manner that takes these conditions into consideration. When the plans are implemented, work must be perfected and completed with absolute accuracy. Roofs and windows, for example, must be installed very carefully so as not to let in cold water or air, and these circumstances must also be taken into account when installing adequate heating systems and one has to prepare for such conditions by making heating fuels available. All of this produces a type of conduct which exhibts precision, discipline and planning.

On the contrary in our countries, where such harsh climatic conditions do not occur, one doesn't feel there is any need to behave in such a way in order to survive. If one is left to the influence of this environment, chaos will become the characteristic of the lives of many. Do not forget that our environment, which is mostly desert, is a hard and dry environment, characteristics which may also be transmitted to the people’s feelings, making them hard and dry too.

Rajiv: Do we then leave such a man to wander here and there, being only subject to his natural environment, without any discipline or organization of his life, and allow him to live in that chaotic state without showing him the correct way to deal with other people?

Yousef: No, not at all, but I explained to you the reason for this way of thinking to enable you to recognize the real cause of this phenomena that we see.

Rajiv: If we find a difference between western, and eastern or Islamic nations, where the environment or climate is concerned, we also find a difference in the religion which is dominant in these nations; so why wouldn't it then be that Islam is also part of the cause of these phenomena that we are talking about?

Yousef: Islam organizes the life of a Muslim and his time in order to make his existence busy with the worship of God Almighty, according to the broad meaning of worship that I've already made clear to you. And many may not know that most theories of how to behavior appropriately with others, and by that I mean etiquettes, prove that this art goes back to the religion of Islam, which the Muslims brought to Andalusia. After the fall of Andalusia, this science was taken from the Muslims and many countries paid much attention it, including France, Spain and Britain. They developed it, added other details to it, and organized it until it reached us in its current form.

Michael (Laughing): You Muslims, your excessive fanaticism towards your religion make you attribute anything good to it. I won't ask you to prove this claim to me, because I know that it would need a lengthy search to do that, but I only ask you to prove to me that these rules are found in Islam.

Yousef: Islam rectified the conduct of the individual and his behavior in all walks of life. There are many laws in the Qur’an and Sunnah that can be classified in the field of etiquettes in dealing with others.

Michael: This is in general, my friend. But please provide examples to give credibility to what you've just said.

Yousef: Indeed, I shall provide you with some examples in order to clarify my point. Let's consider, for example, how the Prophet of Islam dealt with his wife and children:

If we see a man opening the car door for his wife, we describe him as a complete gentleman, but when mounting a camel, the Messenger of Allah, may the mercy and blessings of Allah be upon him, would sit on the ground, extend his hand, and then ask his wife to stand on his leg in order to reach the saddle.

The Prophet used to deal with his wives, children and servants mercifully and with patience, and was forgiving to his transgressors. Once the Prophet was prostrating on the ground while leading the Muslims in prayers, and one of his young grandchildren playfully jumped on his back. The Prophet didn't move until the little one got off his back, to make sure the child would not fall.

Islam calls for gentleness and humility. The Messenger of Islam had these characteristics, and although he, may the mercy and blessings of Allah be upon him, was a highly respected Prophet among his companions and was the head of the state, he was very humble. The Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of Allah be upon him, was so modest with his servants that he used to wash his own clothes. He never overburdened his servants with what they couldn't do. In fact he used to help them if they needed it. He was compassionate in his gestures, even with non-Muslims. Once a funeral procession of a Jew passed by him, so he stood up for it. When those around him showed that his actions surprised them, he explained to them that the sanctity of death is the same for all people.

Indeed, Islam links how a human walks with his behavior and morals. The Qur'an determines the morals for walking, which is to neither raise the head up so much that one appears haughty, nor to lower and bend it so one appears servile. God says {And do not turn your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Indeed, Allah likes not each arrogant boaster¯And be moderate (or show no insolence) in your walking, and lower your voice…}

Rajiv: Then, if I meet the owner of this restaurant, can I convey to him a different picture to what he saw from the actions of these young people?

Yousef: I shall mention to you some Islamic manners that relate to what you've just mentioned about the bad practices of these young people and others in such a place, or any other place:

Of these manners is that Islam orders us to greet others, and urges us to spread the greeting of peace in the society. Islam stresses that this greeting causes love, and it makes replying to that greeting a religious obligation; not just a social behavior. Islam also forbids us to greet others while eating if the mouth is full of food, or to greet those who are falling asleep. And Islam also emphasizes that voices should be lowered if there are people who are asleep.

The Qur'an calls on Muslims to avoid raising their voices unnecessarily: {…and lower your voice; indeed, the most disagreeable of sounds is the voice of donkeys.) In fact, the Qur'an describes the one in the street who yells to his friend inside his home as being unreasonable {Verily! Those who call you from behind the dwellings, most of them have no sense.} Moreover, the Prophet, mercy and blessings be upon him, never yelled at anyone and he never raised his voice.

Islam calls for cleanliness constantly and everywhere: while sitting with friends or family, while eating, at home or outside of the home. Islam set rules of etiquette for eating and drinking; and when spoons, forks and dishes hadn’t been invented yet, the Prophet, mercy and blessings be upon him, forbade Muslims from eating with more than three fingers, and from letting the hand wander freely over the plate. Instead he taught us to eat from that which is closest to us. One also shouldn't drink a glass of water all at once, in one gulp, but he should begin by taking three sips, breathing outside of the glass between each sip. Another etiquette is that a Muslim shouldn't eat until his stomach is full of food and drink, but rather he should leave one third for food, one third for drink, and one third for air. Moreover, Islam takes into account the social and emotional dimensions that can grow during meal-times, and makes eating in company a doorway for harmony and affection between the members of the society. It even urges Muslims to converse with the guest during meals, so that he doesn’t feel ashamed or estranged while eating. The Prophet of Islam, mercy and blessings be upon him, used to feed his wife with his own hand, and he said, "The best charity is a bite that a man puts into the mouth of his wife." He, mercy and blessings be upon him, used to drink from the same spot on the cup as his wife Aisha, may God be pleased with her, where her lips had been. Islam also links eating and worship to God Almighty, by ordering us to mention God's name before eating, and praise Him after finishing.

Michael: Allow me to tell you, Yousef, that there is a big difference between your religion and your manners, and that we are closer to the teachings of your religion in this area than you are.

Yousef: Unfortunately, that might be quite true.