Etiquettes of Visiting Relatives and Friends
If you are traveling to visit someone or if you are about to receive guests, whether those in question are your parents, relatives, peers, or friends of a different age, make sure that your hands, feet, and socks are clean, and your appearance and clothing is neat. Never neglect or underestimate the importance of your look, for that would certainly mar the pleasure of the meeting, while dulling the enjoyment of those you meet. In this regard, the Prophet(peace be upon him) directed his companions upon returning from a journey: ‘You are returning to your brethren, dress nicely, and sort out your rides so that you may become a beauty mark among people, for Allah does not like sloppiness or acting in a sloppy way.’
Try to bring some gifts to those receiving you, and likewise present your guests with a present. Always be prepared to reciprocate with a suitable gift. The subtle joy of seeing your beloved ones will be vividly remembered for many years. A gift, however symbolic, will greatly enhance the pleasure of such a meeting. The Prophet(peace be upon him) , as reported by Bukhari, said: “Exchange gifts , and you’ll grow to love one another.” Our Muslim predecessors used to leave their host with a present which could be as symbolic as an Arak stick.
TIMING YOUR VISIT
Choose an appropriate time for your visit. Do not visit at inconvenient times such as mealtime, or when people are sleeping, resting, or relaxing. The length of the visit should be in accord with how well you know the hosts, as well as their circumstances and conditions. Do not overstay your welcome by making your visit too long or burdensome.
Imam Al-Nawawi said in the book of Al-Azkar: ‘It is strongly recommended for Muslims to visit the pious people, the brethren, the neighbours, friends and relatives, and to be generous, kind, and obliging to them. However, the extent of the visit varies according to the host’s circumstances. The visit ought to be conducted in a pleasant manner and at convenient times. There are numerous sayings and traditions in this regard.’
ENTERING OR LEAVING A HOUSE
Enter or leave your house with your right foot first, as it was the tradition of the Prophet(peace be upon him). Imaam Abul Ala Hasan ibn Ahmad al-Hamazani, a great scholar of Hadith of his time, was so keen on applying this Sunnah to the extent that if someone entered his house with their left foot first, he would ask them to go out and re-enter with their right foot first. He was so much respected that the Sultan of the day would visit him at school and sit in front of him as a student. At one occasion, he told the Sultan to exit with his right foot first and walk on the right side of the road.
When entering or leaving a house, do not push the door violently, or slam it shut, or leave it to close by itself wildly. Such actions stand in contrast to the gracefulness of Islam to which you are honored to belong. Close the door quietly with your hand. You may have heard a Hadith reported by Imam Muslim whereby ‘Aisha (Radiyallahu Anha) quotes the Prophet(peace be upon him): ‘Gentleness adorns every act. Its absence will tarnish it.’
If you enter a room, greet everyone inside. If you want to shake hands with those present, start with the most eminent, the most knowledgeable, the most pious, the oldest or those who have similar Islamic distinctions. Do not overlook the most distinguished or most eminent and start with the first person on your right. If you cannot decide who is the most reputable, or if those present happen to be of comparable status, then start with the elderly, for they are easier to recognize.
Al-Bukhari explained that the Prophet(peace be upon him) said, ‘The elder! The elder!’ In another version he said, ‘The elderly come first.’ ‘Abu Yalla and Al-Tabarani in Al-Awsat reported that the Prophet(peace be upon him) said: ‘Start with the elderly, or , he said, ‘with the notables.’ ‘
VISITOR IS NOT AN INSPECTOR
When you enter a home, whether as a visitor or an overnight guest, do not closely examine its contents as an inspector would. Limit your observation to what you need to see. Do not open closed closets, or boxes. Do not inspect a wallet, a package, or a covered object. This is against Islamic manners and an impolite betrayal of the trust your host has accorded to you. Uphold these manners during your visit and seek to cultivate your host’s love and respect, and may Allah bless and protect you.
Imam Muhasibi in Risalat Al-Mustershidin said: ‘The duty of sight is to preclude forbidden sights and not to try to see what has been hidden or covered.’
Dawood Al-Ta’i said ‘I was told we will be accountable for our minor gazes as we are accountable for minor deeds.’
The Arabic poet Miskin Al-Darimi said: ‘My neighbor should not worry if his door is not closed.’