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Adab

2014-03-21
March 21, 2014

 

ADAB, ADAB, ADAB

 

Among the most educational works of our scholarly guides are those devoted to etiquette and refinement.
The legacy of the Islamic West, from Spain to Africa, is particularly rich in that regard.
We wanted to share no more than a morsel from a refreshing Mauritanian plate:
The book is Hammād b. Alamīn’s Counsel, commented upon by Abbāh b. Muhammad ‘Ālī b. Ni`mah al-Majlisī from Shinqīt in What suffices the cravers.
Hammād b. Alamīn’s aim was to condense in a small-sized poem all the main courtesies every Muslim should model himself by, from the primary ones down to the rest.
Birr is obedience, maintenance of ties, and extensive goodness which translates into actual deeds.  
We can render it as active goodness.
The first three verses urge the son, to whom the author addresses his poem, to take his share of active goodness, as it is something easy he was going to explain to the son in his Counsel. The son is urged to roll up his sleeves and earnestly seek out good character, infusing his actions with sincerity and thereby freeing them from hypocrisy.

In the next triplet he begins to lay out what refinement (adab) is:

“Cling to adab, cling to adab and then … cling to adab even more.
It is to do active goodness to your mother and to your father, with dutiful respect;
To your paternal uncle and aunt, to your elder brother;
To your tutoring guide (shaykh): Surely, the guide deserves your active goodness.”
The poem continues until the end of the courtesies worth stressing.

It is therefore clear that:

After īmān in Allah, active goodness to one’s parents is the entry point of adab.
Whoever misses that entry point misses adab altogether.
Adab to one’s guide, though laudable and essential, is ranked lower than adab to one’s parents in the hierarchical scale of courtesies.
Muslims are by definition cravers of refinement.



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