The etiquettes of visitation form an important aspect of the Islamic way of life and demonstrates how Islam emphasizes human rights and social justice in daily life. Any carelessness or departure from these etiquettes invades others’ privacy and somewhat terrifies them. Islam means ‘peace’ in all phases and forms of life. It is, therefore, very important to understand the guidance of Allah (SWT) in order to promote peace in a society. Allah (SWT) says in An-Nur # 27-29.
O you who believe! Enter not houses other than your own, until you have asked permission and greeted those in them; that is better for you, in order that you may remember. And if you find no one therein, still, enter not until permission has been given. And if you are asked to go back, go back, for it is purer for you. And Allah is All-Knower of what you do. There is no sin on you that you enter (without taking permission) houses not used for living, (when) you have any interest in them. And Allah has knowledge of what you reveal and what you conceal.
Hence we are not allowed to enter a house without the permission of the owner. It is also prohibited to peep inside the house when the door is opened for you. This instruction is described in detail in the above verses. Houses are divided into four categories. Islamic manners and prohibitions are then described for each category.
In the first category is your own house in which you live alone. Obviously there is no need to get anybody’s permission to enter it. Hence it is not mentioned specifically in the above verses.
In the second category are the houses in which other people live. You are not allowed to enter these houses without saying ‘Salaam’ to the residents and then seeking their permission to enter it. There is a great deal of wisdom in it, which will be described in later part of this article. You should enter the house only if permission is granted by the resident.
In the third category are the houses, which are vacant, or nobody seems to be present in the house at that time. You are again not allowed to enter such houses. Nobody is allowed to transgress others’ property without their permission even if it is vacant. Islam advocates such high standards and, indeed, high respect for others and their properties.
The fourth category of the houses are those which are made for the use and benefit of the general public. Examples of these are railway stations, schools, restaurants and rest houses. You are permitted to enter these houses without formal permission.
The wisdom in these regulations is very fascinating. Allah says in the Quran: An-Nahl # 80
And Allah has made for you in your homes an abode.
Allah (SWT) has made your house for your total peace and tranquility.
This peace can only be enjoyed if a person can operate in his house with complete privacy and freedom. Any form of intrusion from outside would destroy this peace. It is not allowed in Islam to interfere in other’s freedom. It would amount to intentionally harming the other, which is ‘haram’.
Besides, if we visit a person with his permission, we are well received. He will not only respect us but also will try to help us as much as he can. On the contrary, if we impose ourselves on him, we will be actually terrifying him with this uncalled for intrusion. Obviously he will try to get rid of us as fast as he can without rendering any help in any form.
When we say ‘salaam’ to a person even before seeking his permission to enter the house, we are cultivating a love bond between us. ‘Salaam’ means that you are totally safe from my hand and tongue. ‘Salaam’ is a supplication for him expressing that he may be saved from all grief. ‘Salaam’ is also a declaration and promise of mutual respect, honor and dignity. How wonderful would it be to start an interaction in this manner. On the contrary, if a person does not say ‘Salaam’ and then seek permission for entry into another’s house, he is definitely harassing and terrifying the other. Islam intends to cut roots of such terrorism by advocating social manners and etiquettes.
These regulations are also to prevent moral corruption. For example, if a person enters other’s house without permission, he may come across the wife or daughters of the resident. Satan may put wrong ideas in the visitor’s mind. Many such moral corruptions can be prevented if Allah’s (SWT) guidance is followed.
Last but not least, it is to preserve the privacy of the residents. For example, a resident may be engaged in some private activity in his home which he does not want others to know. In Islam, it is not allowed to look for others’ secrets. Allah (SWT) says in Al-Hujurat # 12
Do not spy on others.
It is narrated by Qurtabi The Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said, “Do not backbite. Don’t look for others’ secrets, since anybody who looks for the secrets of Muslims, Allah (SWT) will reveal his secrets. Furthermore, if Allah (SWT) chooses to look for a person’s secrets, that person is disgraced even in his own home.”
Hence these regulations of visitation are a fair and balanced solution of many social evils. These regulations are not on paper only. Prophet Muhammad (SAS) and his companions practiced them and created a very enviable Muslim society. Some of those situations are mentioned here by way of illustration.
Imam Malik has mentioned in his book Mwatta, as narrated by Atta bin Yasar that one person came to Prophet Mohammad (SAS) and asked, “Should I ask permission to enter my mother’s house?” Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said, “Yes”. The person said, “Dear Prophet, I live with my mother in that house”. He was again told not to enter the house without permission. The person added, “Dear Prophet, I am mostly there with my mother to serve her.” Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said, “You must seek permission first. Would you like to see your mother improperly dressed?” He said, “No.” The prophet said, “That is why permission is necessary to avoid any mishap like that.”
Ibn-e-Kathir has mentioned that it is not mandatory to get permission for entry if your wife is living in a house all alone. It is, however, appropriate to do so. For example, wife of Abdulla bin Masood (RU) said, “My husband used to knock on the door before entering the house so that he did not see me in a condition which he did not like.”
The correct way of getting permission is to first offer ‘Salaam’, then knock the door, or ring the bell. If a resident inquires about your identity, you should promptly give your full name. It is wrong to remain quiet or to say “I”. This will create anxiety, apprehension or terror in the mind of the resident.
If there is no answer from inside the house after you say ‘Salaam’ followed by knocking on the door, please repeat this drill another two times. If there is still no answer, you should not enter the house.
There are many other similar situations, which need to be mentioned here for clarity. If a resident of a house requests you to visit him another time, you must fulfill his wish. You should not mind his request since he may have a genuine excuse. You are in any case not allowed to impose yourself on others.
Islam is very fair and a balanced religion. It also recognizes the rights of visitors. Prophet Muhammad (SAS) said,
Your visitors have right to visit you.
Hence it is the duty of the resident to come out and greet his visitor. He should not turn away his visitor without a genuine reason.
It will be helpful to add here that the buildings for public use may have their local conditions for entry. These conditions must also be obeyed. For example, you cannot enter on the platform of a railway station without buying a ticket for it. Similarly there may be a residence for the manager of this property. We are not allowed to enter such houses without permission.
Islamic scholars have drawn many inferences from the above discussions. A few examples are given below:
1. It is not proper to call a person on phone at the time of his sleep except in the case of extreme emergency. Similarly it is not allowed to call him at the time of his obligatory prayer. It is intrusion on the freedom and privacy of a person and harms him just like we harm him by entering his house without permission.
2. If you have to call a person on phone quite often, please ask for an appropriate time for calling him. Make sure that you follow his guidelines.
3. If you have to make a long conversation on phone, it is advisable to ask the other person if he has time to engage in longer conversation.
4. If some one calls you on phone, you should pick the phone since caller has the right to talk to you.
5. If you visit someone, don’t stand in front of the door. You may invade the privacy of a resident on his opening the door. Do not peep inside the house. It is narrated by Sahl bin Saad (RU) that whenever Prophet Mohammad (SAS) visited a house, he never stood in front of the door. He always stationed himself on the right or left side of the door and then used to ask for permission after ‘Salaam’.
(Bukhari and Muslim)
6. In case of emergencies like fire or accident, it is allowed to enter others’ houses without their permission. One should rather hurry to help others.
7. Prophet Mohammad (SAS) said, “If you send for a person with your messenger, the visitor may enter the house with the messenger without seeking formal permission. Company of the messenger is equivalent to permission for entry in the house. . (Abu Dawud)
In fact the modern terrorism is due to the disobedience of these social regulations which the Creator has provided us centuries ago. Al-Mulk # 14
Should not He Who has created know? And He is the Most Kind and Courteous, All-Aware (of everything).
Many people are living a miserable life in spite of all the modern amenities and facilities available to them. This fear and apprehension is because of ignoring the laws of the Creator.
Islam emphasizes to follow these social regulations when visiting Muslims as well as non-Muslims. These regulations are not for the poor and ordinary people only. Islam emphasizes that these regulations should also be observed by the rich and those holding high offices. Islam treats everyone equally. It is another proof that Islam is a true and natural religion.
There are also visiting ettiquetes for the members of a household living under the same roof. These are described in great detail in An-Nur # 58-59
O you who believe! Let your slaves and slave-girls, and those among you who have not come to the age of puberty ask your permission (before they come to your presence) on three occasions: before Fajr (morning) Salat, and while you put off your clothes for the noonday (rest), and after the ‘Isha’ Salat. (These) three times are of privacy for you; other than these times there is no sin on you or on them to move about, attending to each other. Thus Allah makes clear the Ayat to you. And Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. And when the children among you come to puberty, then let them (also) ask for permission, as those senior to them (in age). Thus Allah makes clear His Ayat (Commandments and legal obligations) for you. And Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.
Hence the parents must train their children to learn these manners. Furthermore, those who follow these etiquettes in the household would observe these when visiting other homes.
By following these manners, the life becomes very organized, dignified and respectable at home as well as outside. Such society definitely enjoys peace, tranquility, honor and dignity.
I hope that if we follow these social regulations we can cut down the roots of modern barbarism and terrorism and lead a life of mutual respect, dignity and honor and be proud of each other.