Ibn Al-Qayyim’s Madarij Al-Salikin (Steps of the Seekers) | The Station of Adab (Etiquette) – 2

THE BELIEVING JINN are mentioned in the Quran as having said:

We know not whether it is ill that is intended on earth or whether their Lord has intended for them guidance. [Sûrat Al-Jinn, 72:10]

Even more elegant than this is the supplication of Moses, upon him be peace:

My Lord! Of whatever good You may send down to me, most surely, I am most needful. [Sûrat Al-Qaṣaṣ, 28:24]

He did not say: “Feed me!”

Similarly, the supplication of Adam:

Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if you do not forgive us and have mercy on us, we shall surely be among the losers. [Sûrat Al-A¢raf, 7:23]

He did not say: “Lord, you decreed and decided [that I would commit this sin].”

Similarly, the supplication of Ayyûb:

My Lord! Harm has surely touched me, and you are the most merciful of all the merciful. [Sûrat Al-Anbiya’, 21:83]

He did not merely say: “Protect me and heal me.”

Yusuf, in the same vein, said to his father and brothers [when they were brought to him in Egypt]:

This is the meaning of my vision of old. My Lord has made it come true! He was indeed good to me when He set me free from the prison. [Sûrat Al-Raḥmân, 12:100]

He did not mention the well in which his brothers had thrown him out of consideration (adab) toward his brothers so as not to embarrass them.

He further said:

After Satan had sown enmity between me and my brothers,

rather than mentioning the cruelty of his brothers toward him, thus embodying the best of chivalry, generosity, and good manners. We, therefore, see that the trait of adab is not perfect save in the messengers and prophets, God’s peace be upon them all.

Included in the gamut of adab is the command of the Prophet, God grant him peace and blessing, for a man to cover his private parts even when alone as a token of adab toward Allah. (Graded authentic, Tirmidhi and Abû Dâwûd)

Abdullah ibn Al-Mubarak, God have mercy on him, said:

Whoever is neglectful of adab is punished by the missing of sunnas [recommended acts], and whoever is neglectful of sunnas is punished by the missing of obligations, and whoever is neglectful of obligations is punished by the deprivation of knowing God.

It has also been said that adab in a deed is a token of its acceptance.

It is customary with people (of the spiritual path) to mention in this respect the saying of the Almighty concerning His Prophet œ when He showed him what He showed Him:

His sight neither swerved nor strayed. [Sûrat Al-Najm, 53:17]

Abû Al-Qâsim Al-Qushayri opened his chapter on adab with this verse as did others, for they interpret this verse in accordance with the exegetes who hold that it is referring to the adab of the Prophet œ in that state –as he stood in the Seventh Heaven on the Night of Isra’ and Miᶜrâj– as he did not look left or right nor beyond what he was ordained to see. This is the meaning of what I have obtained from Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, may God sanctify his soul.

Etiquette in Worship

Adab comprises all of religion. The covering of private parts, ablution before prayer, bathing after intercourse, and purification from impurities—all are aspects of adab. This is why they used to love to adorn themselves before offering prayers, for it is standing before one’s Lord. I heard Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah say:

Allah has commended more than mere covering of private parts for salah, and that [more] is ‘taking one’s adornment,’ as the Almighty commands (Sûrat Al-Aᶜrâf, 7:31) thus requiring adornment and not merely covering, indicating that one should look one’s best for prayers and wear one’s best robes.

One of the salaf possessed a very expensive robe that was reserved just for offering his daily alawât. It is known that Allah Almighty loves to see the effects of His blessings on His servant, especially when he stands before Him in salah. Part of this adab is that the Prophet œ forbade looking up to the sky while praying. Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said that this is the utmost manifestation of reverence (adab) toward Allah.

Reverence toward Allah cannot be established save by three things:

  • Intimate knowledge of Allah through the divine names and attributes
  • Intimate knowledge of Allah through holding fast to divine religion and Law and loving what Allah loves and disliking what Allah dislikes
  • A soul prepared to receive the Truth in knowledge, deed, and spiritual state.

Allah’s help alone is to be sought.

Etiquette with the Prophet

As for adab toward the Messenger œ, the Quran is teeming with exhortations for it. The core of adab toward the Messenger œ is utmost submission and obedience to his commands, acceptance of the reports he has conveyed without contradicting them with false ideas by calling them rational, nor allowing any doubt or skepticism [about them], nor preferring over his reports opinions of other men and the rubbish of their imaginations.

Adab requires making the Prophet œ the sole arbiter and leader, just as one makes Allah the sole object of one’s worship, submission, humility, repentance, and reliance. The two are inseparable. One must not, as many do, confirm first with their masters or imams whether he has the permission to act in accordance with a command of the Prophet –Allah grant him peace and blessing– so that if his imam or master permits him he acts according to it, or else he turns away from it or deliberately seeks an interpretation so as to neglect it in favor of someone else’s opinion.

What could be a greater sin, after associating equals with Allah Almighty, than to meet Allah in this state of having neglected the words of the Prophet œ?

I once asked a great scholar among those who take such a path and addressed him thus: “Were the Prophet œ alive in our midst and had he issued us a command, would it be incumbent upon us to follow him without first ensuring that other people agreed with his words?” He replied: “Indeed, we must in such case obey him without any regard for anyone else.”

“What, then, is it,” I asked, “that has suspended this obligation now?” He was utterly bewildered and could not say a word.

This is the etiquette of the elect few with the Messenger œ —not to oppose his command, nor equate him with Allah in some way thus committing shirk, nor to raise voices and shake bodies while singing salutations, even as one suspends his teachings and denies their authority.

Written By

Uwaymir Anjum is the Imam Khattab Chair of Islamic Studies at the Department of Philosophy, University of Toledo. He is also professor of Islamic Intellectual History at Qatar University. He studies the connections between theology, ethics, politics, and law in classical and medieval Islam, with a subfocus on its comparisons with western thought. Related fields of study include Islamic philosophy and Sufism. His dissertation, published in 2012 by Cambridge University Press, is entitled Politics, Law, and Community in Islamic Thought: The Taymiyyan Moment. His translation of Ibn al-Qayyim’s Madârij Al-Sâlikîn is forthcoming.

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