The cold Cape Town wind blew fiercely. People hurried on their way, covering their faces. The wind was blowing so hard that people could barely hear each other.
I placed myself right next to the path of one of the people on the sidewalk and stood so that he could not ignore me. I greeted him courteously and then asked him for directions to Sea Point. He did not even look at me and continued on his way.
Then another did the same. And then another.
I was furious. Then I got hold of myself and said this is just the way Allah wants things to be and reminded myself that it is very important to keep control over our feelings towards others.
It then dawned on me that people get upset the most when they are being ignored because they take it as a personal insult and a sign of disrespect.
A prison is not constructed of wall, bars, iron grills, and shackles. The real prison is where a person feels insulted and despised. It is to feel that you are superfluous, and that it makes no difference to the world whether you live or die.
You need to respect yourself. This is the way to get others to respect you. Uphold your identity, dignity and liberty, and continue to be productive. Do not give up on your goals.
Showing respect to a small child is not merely a way of flattering the child’s parents. It is a way to show respect for the child’s family and the future promise the child holds. The strengths that are exhibited in childhood will grow, and that child will grow up to be a leader, scholar, inventor, minister, or successful entrepreneur. That child will in turn have a household, manage a family, and raise another generation of people who achieve great things.
Teenagers and adolescents make up most of the population in the Arab world. Like everyone else in society, they crave recognition and independence. They need to feel they share in the respect of their parents, teachers, religious figures, and other authorities so they do not become alienated.
The street sweeper and the car washer are people, worthy of the same respect afforded to those who have more prestigious occupations. Allah says: “We have honoured the children of Adam.” [Sūrah al-Isrā’: 70]
They share your most integral attribute, that of being human, and they may excel you in other ways, through their temperance, patience, humility, or faith. There are many servants who stand in prayer at night while their rich bosses sleep through the obligatory prayers.
Prophet Muhammad said: “Seek me out among those who are week among you, for you are only given your sustenance and supported on their account.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhī and Sunan Abī Dāwūd]
Never disparage people on account of their social status. That is just flagrant arrogance, a sinful trait which the Prophet described as: “rejecting the truth and looking down on people.” [Sahīh Muslim]
People seeking assistance, travellers at airports, petitioners at government agencies, customers waiting in line, and others in similar situations deserve respect whether or not they get what they are seeking. Even if they are denied what they want, if they are treated with respect and kindness, it is easier for them to come to terms with the situation.
Respecting others is part of self-respect.
Prophet Muhammad said: “It is a major sin to for a man to insult his parents.”
His Companions were shocked by the very idea. They asked: “Messenger of Allah, does a man insult his own parents?”
He explained: “Yes he does. He insults someone else’s father, and they retaliate by insulting his father, or he insults their mother and they retaliate by insulting his mother.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī and Sahīh Muslim]
Prophet Muhammad declared insulting someone else’s parents the same as insulting your own, because of the sin involved in both cases and because of the consequences of doing so.
Allah says: “And do not insult what they worship besides Allah lest they insult Allah in their ignorance out of spite.” [Sūrah al-An`ām: 108]
Nothing is more sacrosanct than people’s faith, their beliefs about their Lord, the prophets, and religious teachings. These things should never be transgressed against for any reason.
Respecting yourself entails respecting humanity as a whole.
The Prophet said: “If one of you gets into a fight with someone, avoid hitting his face, because Allah created Adam in his image.” [Sahīh Muslim]
The Prophet emphasised the dignity of the human face and showed that it deserves respect. It is the place where our senses of sight, hearing, taste and smell are brought together. It is where our unique personal features and emotional expressions are found. Our nobility and generosity are expressed therein, and through it we show our happiness, anger, grief and contentment and all our other feelings. Our face expresses meanings that no poet can ever express.
This is part of the special favour that human beings enjoy. You share in this special distinction and dignity of being human, and so does every other person. Therefore, any transgression against the face of another person is ultimately a transgression against yourself.
All human beings, whether they are citizens of your country, permanent residents, or foreigners, are equal, like the teeth of a comb.
Those who kill other people or transgress against different nationalities, have lost their own humanity, self-respect and human dignity in the process. They are among the worst criminals in Allah’s eyes.
There is not honour in killing your fellow human being. The one who is killed has a distinction over the killer. This is why Abel said to Cain: “Even if you should raise your hand against me to kill me, I shall not raise my hand against you to kill you. Indeed, I fear Allah, Lord of the worlds. For me, I intend to let you draw on yourself my sin as well as yours, for you will be among the companions of the Fire, and that is the reward of those who do wrong.” [Sūrah al-Mā’idah: 28-29]
Live is a gift and an honour. This is why Allah has prescribed the punishments for murder to prevent murder and safeguard human life.
Whenever a woman dies in childbirth, she becomes a martyr, because she died while the soul of a new life was emerging from within her. The martyrs are alive with their Lord, being graciously provided for.
High-minded people throughout the course of history have always been aware of this. No one of true noble acumen ever boasts of slaying an enemy. They instead take pride in the sacrifices and hardships they have had to endure in the struggle against their foes.
A soldier who is totally overwhelmed by a fierce enemy raises his weapon, and with that last bold gesture silently declares: “Do what you must. You will not rob me of my of my freedom, dignity, and honour, any more than you could confer those things upon me.”
As long as the solider keeps in mind the meaning of human dignity and respect, he preserves his humanity under all conditions. He will not be a mere tool for the perpetration of violence.
We need to recreate our soldiers anew so that their purpose will not be destruction, but instead the preservation and promotion of human life. This would be the realisation of the noble moral values enshrined by Islam.
A military that is associated with fear, awe, and belligerence safeguards nothing and does not deserve to be maintained. An army should be made up of resolute souls who do not need to be coerced into obedience, and whose bonds towards one another are built on love, camaraderie, respect and the desire to preserve that which is good.
Respecting Others, What it Entails
The English say: “April showers bring May flowers.” This shows the logic of cause and effect. This same logic shows that kindness, recognition, mercy, and good manners all centre on a single meaning, that of respect.
We must respect people’s minds. We do so by refraining from lies and deception, and from the repeated false claims of the media which operate under the unscrupulous principle that: “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.”
We must respect people’s work and qualifications. It is wrong to ask a job seeker: “Who do you know?” We must rather ask: “What do you know?” People’s qualifications, skills, and useful knowledge are worthy of respect, not their connections.
We must respect our time and appreciate its importance. It is the basic constituent of our lives and we should not let it be squandered without purpose. Recreation is a purpose. Every small effort is a purpose. How beautiful is the advice: “Keep your tongue moist with the remembrance of Allah” while you are engaged in whatever work you are doing.
We must likewise respect other people’s time. When someone promises to meet with you at ten o’clock, you should not have to wait around for them until eleven or twelve.
Bad management practices rob the people of their time after they appointed you to carry out public duties on their behalf.
We must respect society and our social relationships buy maintaining ties, attending functions, observing special occasions, congratulating people on their successes, sympathising with them in their sorrows, and doing charity work.
We must respect people’s privacy and their secrets that should not be spread. We must not pry into people’s private affairs, read their letters and e-mail. Woe to the hackers, whoever they are working for, from the punishment that Prophet Muhammad warned against, of being stripped of sight and being made unable to comprehend.
Prophet Muhammad said to a person who had been spying: “If I had known that you were peeking through the door, I would have poked you in the eye. The reason we must seek permission before entering is to prevent people from seeing what they shouldn’t see.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī]
You cannot ridicule someone for a sin of theirs that you learned about by spying on them. Your sin is greater than theirs. They were keeping their sin private, while you are making that sin public as well as publicising your own sin of spying on them. Whoever seeks out the shame of other Muslims will have their own shame made public by Allah.
The secrets that exists even when it comes to the closest of friends and even between a husband and wife, help the people stay close while retaining their individual identities.
We must respect our responsibilities, which entails being able to realise our mistakes and correct them, as well as being able to apologise for our wrongs. Apologising does no harm to your reputation. Persisting in your mistakes and ignoring them causes others to lose respect for you. You need to be willing to resign from a position when the time is right. You do not derive your human worth from your work, but from your abilities and personal traits. These remain. This is how the presidents can leave office and still remain influential and significant people in their nations and throughout the world through initiatives and advisory work.
When people commit crimes, they are not stripped of their respect and human dignity. Criminals should receive their lawful punishments, but they retain their rights.
You should never seek excuses to disrespect others, even those who have disrespected you. Show them leniency and forbearance.
By Sheikh Salman al-Oadah