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Courtesy is gentle politeness and courtly manners.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, the

behaviour expected of the gentry was compiled in courtesy books. The greatest of these
was Il Cortegiano (The Courtier) which not only covered basic etiquette and decorum but
also provided models of sophisticated conversation and intellectual skill.

In medieval India too, nobility and royalty were expected to display courteous behaviour.
The concept was described by the Sanskrit word, daksinya, which meant kindness and
consideration expressed in a sophisticated and elegant way.

COURTESY is a 8 letter word that starts with C.

Synonyms: good manners Antonyms: discourtesy, rudeness

The English word 'courtesy' has a few senses or meanings: 1: a courteous manner; 2: a
courteous or respectful or considerate remark; 3: a courteous or respectful or considerate

The importance of common courtesy

When my daughter was very young she was in a private day care which was
operated by a special woman who made an effort every day to remind these youngsters
that they should always pack their manners. Her common reminder was to tell the
children that they should put their manners in their pocket to take with them everywhere.
While she was also insistent that the children refer to elders as either Sir or Madam, the
basic underlying concept was quite effective. In fact, some fifteen years later I can still
remind my daughter to make sure she packs her manners, and I will always get a yes
It is not out of a desire to hear her call people sir or madam, but rather a desire for her to
continue to be the polite young lady we have taught her to be. Even more so, it is a desire
for her to carry this polite attitude with her into adult hood. In my opinion, there are not
many words which can easily make a person's day; but a smile and set of kind words will
always help. It is hard not to smile in response when you are greeted with a few kind
words. But, it is more than just being polite when face to face with someone else that is
important; rather, it is the consideration and respect that you give others which will make
your day and theirs a little more pleasant.
In today's world we appear to be so busy that we often forget how important it is to just
be polite to those we come in contact with. It appears for some, that they are so involved
in their own world that they easily forget to be considerate of others; and it is often with
just a little bit of consideration that we can make their day better. However, it is my
opinion that by making someone else's day just a little better; we may also make our day
just a little better.
There are so many ways that people can perform common acts of courtesy and yet fail to
act on those opportunities. With today's technology we are constantly connected with
others, whether it is with cell phones or Blackberry's; look around and you will for sure
see at least one person speaking on their cell phone. While just having a conversation
may not be a bad thing for some, when the conversation becomes loud or overly personal
it would seem that common courtesy dictate lowering your voice or even ending the
How often are we driving along when the person in front of us suddenly makes a turn
with no warning; as if the use of the turn signal would actually signal the end of the
world? Other examples of how people often miss out on common courtesy is holding the
door open, or letting some one in front of the check out line when they only have one
item to your cart full.
Common courtesy is a two way street and amazingly it seems that most people when
asked will not recognize that they are being inconsiderate. Almost more important, is that
it can actually be contagious not just being courteous to others, but also the good feelings
it brings with it. After all, don't we all continue to smile after doing something nice for
someone else? And isn't it nice when we can easily get someone else to smile, just by
saying (and meaning) good morning! Or holding the door open for them?
So, let's all try to remember to pack our manners and always put them in our pocket.
After all, is it really that difficult to smile and say thank you or consider how your actions
may impact the day of those around us. Have a great evening!

It is not that long ago that common courtesy was indeed common. It was an accepted
social norm; a fundamental part of our society that oiled the cogs of social interaction.
Children were taught their Ps and Qs and to respect their elders. This ingrained attitude
was reflected in adults that showed courtesy and respect to others, whether they believed
those others worthy of such or not. While this was not true of all, it was true of most.
Unlike today. Now common courtesy is most notable for its rarity, invalidating its
description as "common".

The main benefit common courtesy provided society was not the formulaic courtesy or
social manners it provided, but the consideration for others that it engendered. Being
courteous necessitates considering the person you are being courteous to. The practice of
being courteous therefore instills an attitude of consideration for others.

This is noticeably lacking in modern society. People are no longer considering how their
actions may impact others, instead we are operating on the basis of what is most
convenient for ourselves. We get on an escalator and stand in the middle of our moving
step, blocking the way without any thought that someone behind us might want to walk
up the escalator. We park our cars on footpaths without considering that a parent with a
pram or pushchair will have to go out onto the road to get past.

A few years ago in Australia I saw a large amount of cars parked all over the verge and
footpath outside a gym. Presumably these people were using the gym to improve their
fitness, yet they couldn't park their cars legally and walk a little way to where they were
going to exercise?

People are still considerate to others, even strangers. The offers of aid in many forms that
flood in to help those who are victims of natural disasters demonstrates this. But we only
seem to have this consideration when circumstances thrust the need into our faces. We
have lost the innate ability to consider others in our day to day activities, because we
have lost the education and practice of doing so with the loss of common courtesy.

Common courtesy was inherent in Western society at the same time as racial and sexual
discrimination predominated. A very strange mix it is difficult to comprehend.
Unfortunately, it has proven to be a casualty of the worthy and essential fight for

Some aspects of common courtesy and many of the men who practiced it, presumed
female inferiority. As such, courteous practices were frequently

Courtesy in words of Islam

I seek refuge from Allah, the All Knowing, the All Hearing, from the cursed Satan, in
the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful, we praise Allah,
thank Him, seek His help, guidance and forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from
the evil in our souls and the sinfulness of our deeds. He whom Allah guides, he is the
rightly guided; but he whom He sends astray, for him you will find no guiding

Everybody will find it strange that the manner that we talk about this time is part of
Islam; it is the manner of (courtesy, politeness, nobility and high-ranking behavior
with other people). Many of you may wonder: What is the relation between this
manner and Islam? I intend through this lecture to reach the conclusion that the origin
of this manner is Islam.

First: What is the meaning of courtesy and politeness?

I mean politeness in dealing with people, I mean a sensitive spirit, I mean a pretty
soul, I mean beauty, cleanliness, order, I mean the delicate sensation and perceptive
soul that discerns what is wrong through a glance or a smile.

This is a real Islamic manner; nevertheless I know that you are still hesitant and
wondering, "What is the relationship between this manner and religion?"ン I also know
that the title of this lecture does not attract you, and that what I intend to speak about
should be addressed to diplomats for example, or that it should be taught in foreign
schools where they would value such a speech! So what do we have to do with it?

In our societies, we have four types of people depending on how they view and
interact with this manner:

- First type: Those who think that politeness, courtesy, civilization, progress and high
manners are Western or European values that we have adopted from them. For this
reason we learn them in foreign language schools, and send our children there to learn
courtesy and politeness so they may grow up with these manners. Our speech today is
directed to this type in particular so together we will see the origin of this manner.

- Second type: Those who grew up with this manner at home but imagine that Islam
is contrary to it. When they hear of religious people, this conjures up images of
impoliteness, disorder and uncleanness. Courtesy therefore becomes a barrier between
him/her and religion. Here I should say to them: No, this barrier that you have put up
between courtesy, progress, civilization, politeness and religiousness is but an
illusion, because the origin of courtesy is from our religion, Islam.

- Third type: Those who view Islam as being in the mosque only, that it has no
relation with anything outside of it such as politeness, management and dealings.

- Fourth type: A devout young man, who understands Islam as worship, prayer,
invocation of Allah, night prayer, but has no courtesy. As a result, he has made other
people hate the idea of religiousness, and this could include his parents. They may
say, "Look, since he has become religious, he has neglected his appearance!"ン He is
religious, sticking to his worshipping, sticking to satisfying Allah but he cannot
comprehend that courtesy is one of the Islamic values that our Prophet (PBUH) came

Today I want to address this type saying: Please comprehend Islam as an integrated
religion, for this reason I consider this type of manner as one of the most important
Islamic manners which we should adhere to, and it is of no less importance than
honesty or faithfulness.

At the end, my aim is to implant one very important concept: we are proud because
we belong to Islam.

I know that everyone has grown up and learned courtesy at home. However, he views
it as a matter of etiquette, especially those who are from high social standings, and not
because it is part of Islamic teaching. I am here to say that your dealings with courtesy
and politeness originally stem from Islam.
Let us start our speech after this long introduction with the types of politeness and

Types of Politeness and Courtesy:

1) Politeness with Allah (SWT)

2) Politeness with Allah's Prophet (PBUH)
3) Politeness with people.

Politeness with people

Let us begin with people and conclude with Allah the Great and Almighty:

Actually, when I tried to enclose everything that Islam said concerning politeness and
courtesy, I was lost and I knew that I had put the different aspects in order. For this
reason, I will start with politeness and courtesy in your home, then in street, then with
those to whom you pay visits, and so on.

For example, one comes home carrying with him a kind of food that he likes and has a
large appetite for. He is afraid that his parents may see it and take it, so what does he
do? He hides it, eats it on his way home, or eats it with his friends. I repeat, I am not
talking here about being dutiful to one's parents; I am talking about the courtesy of a
Muslim man with his parents and Islam's evaluation of this courtesy. I will tell you a

One of our Prophet's companions was dying, his brothers asked him to utter the two
declarations of faith but he could not. So they went to the Prophet (PBUH) as this is a
very serious matter. The companion was a disciplined man, close to the Prophet
(PBUH), and obedient to Allah (SWT) and His Prophet (PBUH). "Has he a mother?"ン
the Prophet (PBUH) asked, "Yes, Prophet of Allah"ン, they answered. The Prophet
(PBUH) went to his mother asking her about her son's piety. "He was dutiful to me"ン,
she said, "but he used to bring fruits and food and hide them away from me, feed his
kids without feeding me."ン So he could not utter the two declarations of faith because
he did not deal with his mother courteously! The Prophet (PBUH) then lit a fire and
told the mother that her son would burn if she does not forgive him, so she said, "I
have forgiven him."ン When her heart moved, her son's tongue said, "I declare that
there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah's Prophet."ン

Look at this incident and to Islam's evaluation of dealing courteously with one's
mother in a simple situation. This man used to give fruits to his children and not to his
mother, compare this with your deeds.

Other manners: Your mother calls out to you and you do not answer her.

Islam sets an example for this point. There is a very long Hadith narrated by the
Prophet (PBUH) saying, "A time ago, there was a man called Gureige the worshiper,
who used to pray a lot. Once when he was praying his mother came, called for him, he
said, "Oh Allah, my mother and my prayer"ン, he was confused, and went on with his
prayer so his mother went out. The day after, she came again calling, "O Gureige."ン
and he said, "Oh Allah, my mother and my prayer"ン, also he went on with his prayer.
Then on the third day, she came, called for him,"ン Oh Gureige."ン He said,"ン Oh Allah
my mother and my prayer."ン He went on with his prayer. By then his mother was
angry and said, "Oh Allah, don't make him die until he looks into the faces of...."ン and
said a word that means prostitutes. So a prostitute who was pregnant kept bugging
him pretending that the son was his, so the Israelites(1) began beating and hurting him
until Allah saved him at the end."ン (Authentic Hadith, narrated by Muslim, Al-
Masnad As-Sahih, 2550).

Notice how he was a worshiper and dutiful towards his mother, but she was hurt
because he had not answered her when she called for him three times. I present this
story to a young man who goes to Jumua'a prayer and is late for two hours while his
parents are waiting for him at lunch and not to the young man busy with worshipping
away from his parents. I also present it to a girl who sits with her friends for hours and
hours while she refuses to sit with her mother for half an hour.

Even in asking permission to enter one's parents' room

Can we find a verse addressing politeness in entering the parents' bedroom in this
Qur'an, which will be read to all on the Day of Judgment? Yes.

Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as "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"ン (TMQ
24:58). (1)

This verse sets one of the rules of courtesy, children who have not reached the age of
puberty should ask permission three times: before Fajr (morning) prayer, and while
you take your clothes off for the noon siesta and after the "˜Isha' (late-night) prayer.
This religion does not only organize life in the mosque or at home, it has come to
organize life inside the bedroom! Truly there is no God except Allah (SWT).

A man came to the Prophet (PBUH), "O Prophet, should I ask permission to enter my
mother's room?"ン asked the man, "Yes"ン, said the Prophet (PBUH), " O Prophet,
should I ask permission to enter my mother's room?"ン, asked the man, "Yes"ン, said
the Prophet (PBUH), " O Prophet, should I ask permission to enter my mother's
room?"ン, asked the man, the Prophet (PBUH) then asked, "Would you like to see her
naked?"ン, "No Prophet"ン, answered the man, "Then ask her permission to enter her
room"ン. (Authentic, Al-Albani, Sahih al-Adab, 809).

Hence, generations grew up with this rule of asking permission before entering their
parent's room through the instructions, courtesy and manners of Islam. So it is Islam
that moved humanity to civilization and culture, for this reason, such a situation was
strange to this man.

We will now speak about courtesy with the wife since we are still tackling the issue of
courtesy in the home.

For example, we have all seen how in foreign films and serials, if the husband is
having dinner with his wife, he cuts a piece of the meat and puts it in his wife's mouth
using his fork. The youth in particular, like this and say, "How romantic!"ン. We grow
up imitating theses dealings pretending modernity through imitating Europeans, and
we forget that what our Prophet taught us. To whom will you now refer?

There is another problem. Many homes are broken and the couples split up right
before marriage because of problems that arise while setting the basics for a married
life. We find that either the bride's family is excessive and extravagant in their
requirements, or that the groom does not want to provide his wife with the same
standard of living she is used to so the marriage fails. Look at the Prophet's (PBUH)
courtesy in such cases.

The Prophet (PBUH) married his wives and all of them lived beside Prophet's
(PBUH) mosque in Madinah in the desert, which his wives were all used to. When the
Prophet (PBUH) married Maria the Egyptian, from the land of greenery and the Nile
(this is the Prophet (PBUH) the leader who is responsible for this message and for
teaching the Qur'an, and to guide the companions and to undertake night prayers, yet
he still notices these small elements of courtesy). So he does not house Maria with his
other wives, instead he provides a home for her in an area named the Awaly as it is a
green area. Can you see this detailed attention and courtesy in his dealings with his
wife? He could have easily made her live with his other wives but he didn't.

I am afraid here that my speech may be understood that all parents want their
daughters to live beside the Nile. On the contrary, when the Prophet (PBUH) came to
give in marriage to his daughter, Fatima and was approached by the best groom one
could find, a believer, and responsible man who would bring happiness to whomever
he married, despite being poor, he approved the marriage with what the groom owned;
a rug and blanket!

I am not saying that we will do this today; however we need to understand the
groom's ability and stop arguing about materialistic things. At the same time, I again
stress that out of Islamic courtesy we must take into consideration the social and
material standards of the wife.

We now turn to another aspect in the courtesies of dealing with the wife:

The wife during the time of her menstrual cycle: Her mood is changed and many
husbands refuse to deal with their wives in any way during this time. This shows a
complete lack of courtesy. Look at how the Prophet (PBUH) acted in such a case.

Aisha, the Prophet's wife said, "During my menstrual cycle, I was drinking from a cup
and then the Prophet would pick up the cup and look for the trace of my lips on it, and
then place his mouth on that same place!"ン (Authentic Hadith, narrated by al-Albany,
Sahih al-Nassaie, 270). The Prophet (PBUH) intended such actions to take care of her
psychologically, at the time she needs such an act. Can we still refer to the West and
their traditions after this?

I am not stating anything new, for all of these are Ahadith with which we are all
familiar, yet we do not realize that they lay the foundations of courtesy and politeness
in our interactions. We must therefore take great pride and a sense of belonging to this
religion Islam.

Other aspects of politeness when dealing with the wife include taking care of her
when she feels weak or angry:

One time Aisha was sitting with the Prophet (PBUH) and she raised her voice just as
Abu Bakr As-Sedeek (her father) was entering the room, he was just about to hit her
but the Prophet (PBUH) stepped in between them and calmed Abu Bakr, then Abu
Bakr left. The Prophet (PBUH) returned to Aisha, and found her defeated since she
was about to be humiliated and beaten, so he said to her trying to make her feel better,
"Did you see how I stepped in between you and him?"ン It is the Prophet's (PBUH)
courtesy and presence of mind in making her feel better at her moment of weakness.

Many husbands do not deal with their wives with courtesy or tenderness, always
threatening that they will marry someone else, or that they will divorce them. This
kind of talk even in a joking manner is hurtful to the woman.

Aisha was once sitting with the Prophet (PBUH) telling him the story of ten men with
their wives. A very long story and at its end she mentioned the story of a man named
Abu Zar'e, who was a gentle man and loved his wife and they lived happily together,
however he divorced her. The Prophet (PBUH) then looked at Aisha and told her, "I
was to you as Abu Zar'e was to Um Zar'e, however I will not divorce you."ン
(Authentic Hadith, narrated by al-Albany, Ash-Shmael Al-Muhammadiah, 215). The
Prophet (PBUH) realized Aisha's worry and wanted to quickly remove any doubts in
her mind that a similar thing could happen to her, all this through his quick
understanding and extreme courtesy.

From the aspects that again show a lack of courtesy: The husband returns home after a
long workday with a frown on his face and he sits to read newspapers till he goes to
sleep. This really hurts the wife. Yes, you may be very tired and exhausted from
working all day however, you are not busier than the Prophet (PBUH) was. Look at
how he (PBUH) was in his house: All of the Prophet's wives mention that he was
bright-faced in his home and that he would always bring a smile to their faces. He
used to sit and talk with them, and not close the door behind him and say I am tired
and busy with many problems. However, when the call to prayer came, it was as if he
did not know them and they did not know him.

In the question of appearance and looking good: The husband always wants his wife
to adorn herself before him however, he does not pay any attention to his appearance
and how he should look before her.

Abdullah Ibn Abbas, one of the most knowledgeable companions said, "I like to adorn
myself before my wife, just as I like her to adorn herself before me."ン Honestly, the
meanings of courtesy in Islam are extremely high and sophisticated.

The last example that we will speak about concerns the sexual relationship
between the husband and his wife:

The Qur'an has referred to the courteous manner of their interaction in bed, for Islam
left neither small nor large matters without discussing them. Listen to this ayah that
can be translated as, "Your women are a tillage for you; so come up to your tillage
however you decide, and place forward (good deeds) for yourselves; and be pious
to Allah, and know that you will be meeting Him. And give good tidings to the
believers."ン (TMQ 2: 223). Therefore, doing some good act for your yourselves
beforehand refers to the tender and affectionate acts undertaken before the intimate
relation, as this is from the courtesies of the relationship between a man and his wife.

The Qur'an has referred to this in a word that is full of courtesy: "Place forward good
deeds for yourselves"ン.

"¢ Courtesy and Politeness in the home: A nice example from the Prophet's life

If you want to enter your home, then it is from the Sunnah to ring the bell first and
wait seconds before opening the door.

This is for two reasons:

First: Because Islam likes you to see your wife in the most beautiful image, and her
hair or her dress may be disheveled and so it is not nice for you to see her in that way.
Therefore, you should give her chance to neaten her self up as it is also from courtesy
for her to look beautiful for you, as the Prophet (PBUH) said, "if you look at her, she
pleases you"ン.

Second: Because some men are by nature suspicious about their wives, and the
Prophet (PBUH) wants to remove this attribute from their hearts and minds, as they
should not treat their wives in this way. You should always give her security and
knock the door first so that she is aware of your presence and then enter the house.

What kind of sophisticated courtesy is this? It may be simple but it makes a big
difference when dealing with people.

Courtesy and politeness in the street

In fact, the etiquettes of courtesy and politeness are hard to find in the Egyptian street.
We will, however, go through them one by one.

The way of walking: We were taught at home that we should not walk idly or kick the
stones on the ground, right?

Listen to what they used to say about the Prophet (PBUH), "If he walked, he did so
quickly but did not run."ン His walk was serious and full of courtesy and politeness. It
was neither slack nor quick.

Even the Holy Qur'an mentioned the issue of walking, such as in the ayah that can be
translated as, "And the (faithful) slaves of the Most Gracious (Allah) are those
who walk on the earth in humility and sedateness."ン (TMQ 25:63). It is therefore
a sedate walk that is courteous and not arrogant.

Another lost etiquette in the Egyptian street is about honking your car's horn:

A youth might want to call over his friend while waiting outside. He would do so by
honking the horn without any courtesy, simply because he is too lazy to go up the
stairs to his friend's home.

Even this point is mentioned in the Qur'an, as in the following ayah that can be
translated as, "Verily those who call you from behind the dwellings, most of them
have no sense. And if they had patience till you could come out to them, it would
have been better for them. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."ン (TMQ
49: 4-5).

Even though the ayah is about the Prophet (PBUH), it still serves as a lesson in human

Another wrong behavior is when you do not want the car behind you to pass you so
you decide to block the road for it.

Listen to this ayah that can be translated as, "O you who believe! When you are told
to make room in the assemblies, (spread out and) make room."ン (TMQ 58: 11).

Omar Ibnul-Khattab said, "Three things make wins over your brother's friendly
feelings, one of these things is; making room for him"ン.

To move and make room for another is a concept that applies to everything, whether
you make room for others in the mosque, in the street between cars, or during times of
condolences! You might realize that whoever would enter the room would be nervous
because all eyes would be on him. Wouldn't you put an end to his nervousness if you
took his hand and made him sit down?

This also applies in a college lecture hall where you should make room for you
classmates. All of this comes from an ayah in the Qur'an that teaches manners and to
make room for others!

Another wrong manner is throwing trash in the street:

While driving, you check around to see if there is anybody watching you, and then
you throw your trash. Yet the Prophet (PBUH) taught us that, "Removing what is
injurious from the street is charity."ン Imagine then how horrible it would be to throw
something injurious in the street? What will his sin be? The Prophet (PBUH) said,
"Faith has over seventy branches or over sixty branches, the highest of which is the
declaration that there is no god but Allah, and the humblest of which is the, removal
of what is injurious from the path. Thus, removing harm from the street is part of
faith"ン. (Authentic, narrated by Muslim, 35).

This makes courtesy a part of our faith. Making sure our streets are clean is a charity,
as in the previous Hadith. We should therefore get to know our Islam correctly. Why
are people afraid of Islam and commitment? It is all courtesy and politeness.

Think with me: the Prophet (PBUH) said the following, "Removing harm from the
street is charity,"ン when the Arabian Peninsula was mainly a vast desert. On the
contrary, we usually do not feel regret throwing our trash in the desert while traveling.
However, the Prophet (PBUH) taught us about civilization 1400 years ago as if he is
saying this Hadith today.

What is worse than throwing the trash is spitting in the street? Listen to this Hadith:
the Prophet (PBUH) said, "Whatever harms mankind will harm the angels"ン.
(Authentic, narrated by Muslim, 564). That will be sufficient for you to apply
courtesy in everything. Think about anything that harms mankind and remember that
it also harms the angels.

Yes that applies to all: spitting, cigarettes and the bad smelly socks. Politeness and
courtesy are the basis of faith.

The Prophet (PBUH) said, "Beware! Avoid sitting on the roads."ン They (the people)
said, "O Allah's Apostle! We can't help sitting (on the roads) as these are (our places)
where we have our talks."ン The Prophet said, "If you refuse but to sit, then pay the
road its right"ン they said, "What is the right of the road, O Allah's Apostle?"ン He said,
"Lowering your gaze, refraining from harming others, answering the greeting,
enjoining what is good, and forbidding what is evil"ン (Authentic Hadith, narrated by
Bukhari, 2465). They were thus asking about street manners.

Courtesy and Politeness during visits:

I will tell you about the Prophet's (PBUH) Sunnah or teachings. I don't know whether
to call them teachings, civilization, or precious values?

First: visiting someone without an appointment. "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."ン (TMQ

Nowadays, seeking permission is by making a phone call. Examine the Qur'anic

expression, "until you have asked permission"ン. This means that you are assured
that it is possible to pay a visit, which can also be inferred from the person's tone on
the phone. Look also into courtesy in this Qur'anic phrase "and greeted those in
them"ン Hence, greetings come after being permitted to visit and after going to that

If the person is not ready to welcome you then do not be angry, "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."ン (TMQ Surat 24: 28). The Qur'an thus teaches you that it is out of courtesy to
go back and not to be angry.

If you had an appointment and went on time, you will then be standing in front of the
door. Remember that when you were a child your mother taught you not to ring the
bell and stand facing the door directly, because that is not of courtesy. The Prophet
(PBUH) also gives the same advice. He taught us not to stand in front of the door, but
instead to turn right or left. In other words, you must stand to the right or the left of
the door. We were also taught not to ring the bell continuously or more than once in
order not to disturb the households. The Prophet (PBUH) also teaches us that. He
taught us to ask permission three times. It is from the Sunnah to wait for a while
between each of these three times to give the one you're visiting a chance if he was
praying or in the bathroom.

"If anyone of you asks the permission to enter thrice, and the permission is not given,
then he should return."ン (Authentic, Sahih Muslim, 2153). Do not insist then on
knocking the door or ringing the bell because you assume that someone is in there.
"...And if you were asked to return; then do so."ン

When you knock the door and you are asked, "Who is it?"ン Then do not say, "It's
me"ン Islam teaches us that we must directly say our names. Jaber Ibn Abdullah said
that he went to the Prophet (PBUH) and knocked the door. "I was asked who I was
and I said that it was me. I then heard him say "me, me?"ン as if he disliked it."ン The
companions then learned that if the Prophet (PBUH) asked who it is, one should say
I'm Aba-Dhar while another might say I'm Um-Hani. Thus, the companions learned
this over 1400 years ago. This is Islam, which did not neglect either large or small

The door was opened for you and you closed it loudly/harshly behind you. This is not
of courtesy. The Prophet (PBUH) says, "Every act will be completed with kindness
yet without it this act will be disgraced"ン. (Authentic, Sahih Muslim, 2594).

Another thing: You were invited to a banquet and you went there with a friend. Or if
you informed your mother that a friend of yours would come and have lunch with
you, but then you surprised her with six, this will not be courteous.

The Prophet (PBUH) went with five other companions to one of the Ansar
(supporters) who invited them to eat. While walking, someone followed them. As
soon as they reached the door of the Ansari, the Prophet (PBUH) told him, "The sixth
one followed us, if you want you can give him the permission to enter. If not, then he
must return."ン The supporter replied by accepting to take the sixth man in.

However, we might say that having six people rather than five is not a big difference
and will not be noticeable. Yet, the Prophet (PBUH) said, "No"ン, and taught us
something else.

You have now entered your guest's home and found a phone. You ask to use the
phone to make a phone call but you made an international call and spoke for about
half an hour. That is neither right nor courteous. The Prophet (PBUH) said, "What is
taken out of shyness will be ill-gotten."ン Whatever you take from another by taking
advantage of his modesty is forbidden. Imagine the greatness of this religion.

Assume that you went on a visit and you stayed for a long time. Allah says what can
be translated as, "and when you have taken your meal, disperse"ン (TMQ 33:53).
After you eat, disperse by not burdening the host.

Al-Imam Al-Shafi'ee had a story; Once someone came to visit him. The Imam
brought him food, he ate it and waited. Once again he brought him food, he ate it and
he waited for a very long. The man then said: O Imam, I'm afraid I have been a heavy
guest. He said: You have been heavy, and you're at your home!"ン Consider how his
admonition was courteous for the sentence carries a double meaning.

You decided to visit a relative and stay in his house for two days or one week. His
wife welcomed you. In return, you were so careless and chaotic to the point that you
invited others and stayed up late at night. The Prophet (PBUH) tells us about the time
when he immigrated from Makkah to Madinah and stayed over at Abu Ayyub Al-
Ansari's place for a while till he built his mosque and his own home. Abu Ayyub's
home was two stories; out of courtesy he told the Prophet (PBUH) to stay in the
second floor and he would stay in the first in order not to step over the Prophet
(PBUH). The Prophet (PBUH) was also courteous and told him that because many of
the companions would visit him then Abu Ayyub's wife would be disturbed by the
number of visitors; but by staying in the second floor neither he nor his wife would be

When we visit someone, it is not right to enter and sit anywhere. You should sit where
the household chooses for you to sit so as not to sit in a place whereby you could be
facing the whole house.

Imagine a personality that behaves through these manners. Wouldn't it be loved?

Wouldn't it be civilized? Civilization is not technology, it is not the price of what I
wear, or the car that I drive. It is courtesy and politeness in how we deal/treat with one
another. What we have learned while growing up in our homes is what has prevailed
1400 years ago because our source is Islam in every large and small issue.

Visiting the ill: Do not stay for a long time when visiting the ill in order not to make
him tired, except if he was comfortable with your stay. Yet, generally we must not
stay for a long time.

Four people went to visit Imam Abu-Hanifa when he was ill and they stayed for a
long time. He said, "Please go, Allah has cured me"ン.

Courtesy and Politeness with Neighbors

The Prophet (PBUH), in his Sunnah, teaches us that if one brings home a special kind
of food or fruits, and the neighbors see it; then he should offer them some. You should
not hide it, but at the same time do not show off. If they see it then you should offer
them some of it. The person should not come home carrying a bag of apples, for
example, and he gives his children some in front of his neighbors in order to show
them that he is well off. This is not courteous.

Courtesy dictates that if you cook food that has a strong aroma, then you should offer
some to your neighbors. Courtesy also dictates that you should not build a wall higher
than your neighbor's unless you take his permission. One of our main problems,
nowadays, in most buildings is that people build more floors and walls higher than
their neighbors depriving them of sun and air without asking their permission.

Courtesy in the Mosque

- You should make room for others.

- You should not surpass other people with your feet while passing.

- You should turn off your mobile phone! (Yes, angels get irritated from the same
things that provoke humans). One might experience a moment of khushu'
(concentration) in prayer; however, a mobile phone rings and takes his concentration
away. So, he hates the mobile owner and he could even curse him during his prayer.
Thus, angels are irritated.

- Sometimes we try to change common customs that are not based on the Sunnah, in a
wrong manner. A memorable story that demonstrates this comes to my mind: There
was an old man, who is not very learned about Sunnah, who was praying in a mosque.
After he finished his prayer, he extended his hand to shake hands with the person
sitting next to him and said, "Haraman"ン (May you pray in the Holy Mosque). These
words; Haraman and Gam'an (May we pray together there), are not attributed to the
Prophet (PBUH) and are hence not Sunnah, but a habit. So, the young man sitting to
his right shook hands with him and said, "Gam'an"ン, while the young man sitting to
his left told him that this is not a Sunnah and refused to shake his hand. The old man
replied, "Is rudeness, then, a Sunnah?"ン It would have been more appropriate for the
young man to shake hands with his elder and then explain to him that this habit is not
based on Sunnah. My brothers, we need to pay attention to these simple rules of
courtesy when dealing with each other.

- Courtesy also dictates that you should not separate two people and sit between them.
The Sunnah advises us to either take their permission or to sit beside them.

"¢ Courtesy in inviting others to Allah

To the youth and the people who love Islam and love talking to others about it, these
rules of courtesy are important:

- If you come across someone who acts in a wrong way, remember Al-Hassan and Al-
Hussein, grandsons of the Prophet (PBUH). They saw an old man performing ablution
in a wrong way. They devised a smart plan; one of them went to the man and said to
him, "My brother claims that he performs the ablution better than me, but I swear that
I perform the ablution in the same way as the Prophet (PBUH) did. Would you be our
judge and tell us who performs the ablution better?"ン The first young man began to
perform the ablution slowly and exactly according to Sunnah. Then the other young
man performed the ablution exactly in the same manner as his brother. The man
looked at them and said, "I swear that you perform the ablution better than I do"ン, and
they replied, "May Allah reward you"ン and they left. Examine how they corrected the
mistake in a courteous manner. It is a far cry from one who tells the man, "O Hajj,
what you do is wrong; look at the right way."ン

Once the Prophet (PBUH) was in the mosque, and a Bedouin started to urinate! Can
you imagine? In the Prophet's (PBUH) mosque! The companions of the Prophet
(PBUH) were about to kill him, but the Prophet (PBUH) said to them, "Let him finish
what he is doing."ン Look at the Prophet's (PBUH) wisdom in dealing with the
situation; what is done cannot be undone. And if they attack him while he is urinating,
imagine how he would feel if had to run in this state.

- It is known that Jibril (AS) (Gabriel) did not convey to the Prophet (PBUH) the call
to prayers. The Muslims had begun to think how to gather people for prayer. One of
them saw a vision in which he heard the words for the call to prayer. Omar Ibn Al-
Khattab had seen this vision as well, so they ran to the Prophet (PBUH) to tell him of
their vision. The Prophet (PBUH) told them "This is a true vision. So tell Belal to say
it. His voice is more pleasing than yours."ン Even if the speaker is closer to Allah
(SWT), the one whose voice is better and more pleasing should call for prayers. It is
an aesthetic value in Islam. Afterwards, thousands of callers for prayers pride
themselves on their beautiful voices, because of a word that the Prophet (PBUH) said
1400 years ago.

- Imam Abu-Hanifa liked to perform Qiyyam (night prayer); and his next door
neighbor was a corrupt young man who used to return home at night completely
drunk, and keeps on singing, which disturbed the Imam during his prayer. The Imam
knew that if he tried to advise him when he is in this state, he is not going to listen.
The young man used to sing, "They let me down, they let me down."ン One night, the
Imam did not hear his voice, so he inquired about him, and he was told that the police
caught him because he was drunk. The Imam decided to call him to Islam in an
indirect way. He went to the police and told them, "Would you let him go for my
sake?"ン They replied that he is always drunk. However, the Imam insisted until they
let him go. The Imam made him ride behind him on his mule, and he stayed quiet all
the way home. When they arrived home, he asked him, "Have we let you down,
chap?"ン He replied, "No, by Allah, I swear by Allah that I will never go back to
drinking (wine) again."ン Do you see the effect of gentleness and courtesy with

Courtesy in debating

One of the known manners that does not demonstrate courtesy is interrupting people
while they are speaking and not allowing them a chance to talk. Look at this incident
that happened to the Prophet (PBUH). A disbeliever called Otba Ibn Rabi'a comes to
him and offers him a number of ridiculous proposals, which reveal disrespect of
religion. He tells him "O Muhammad, I have some offers for you from your folks, so
listen to me."ン The Prophet (PBUH) told the man, "Speak your mind, Abul-Walid."ン
He said, "If the aim of what you are doing is wealth, we can give you money until you
become the richest among us. If your aim is authority, we can make you our king."ン
Silly as these offers were, the Prophet (PBUH) listened to all of them. Look at the
Prophet's (PBUH) courtesy "“ in spite of what he heard he did not interrupt the man.
After he finished, he asked him "Have you finished, Abul-Walid?"ン Notice that he
calls him with his nick name "Abul-Walid"ン. He replied, "Yes, I've finished."ン The
Prophet (PBUH) the replied, "Then, listen to me."ン He read him parts of Surat
Fussilat, until he reached the verse which says what can be translated as, "But if they
turn away, then say (O Muhammad ("I have warned you of a Sâ"˜iqah (a
thunderbolt) like the Sâ"˜iqah which overtook "˜Ã‚d and Thamûd"ン (TMQ
41:13). The man was scared, and he put his hand on the Prophet (PBUH) telling him
"I plead to you, by our kinship, to be quiet."ン So, the Prophet (PBUH) stopped
talking. Do you see the civil manners of discussion?

On the day of At-Ta'ef, the tribe of Thaqif threw stones on the Prophet (PBUH). They
harmed him by beating, insults, stones and even spit at his face. The head of his
servant, Zaid Ibn Haritha, was badly hurt. The Prophet's (PBUH) feet bled. So, the
Prophet (PBUH) searched for a shelter to protect him from the stones. He found a
small garden where he could hide. The garden's owners pitied him when they saw him
covered in blood. They sent a twelve-year-old Christian boy to him, called Addas.
They told him to give a bunch of grapes to that man, as they did not know the Prophet
(PBUH). When the boy placed the grapes in front of the Prophet (PBUH), he took one
and said aloud, "In the name of Allah."ン The boy told him "People of this land do not
use these words."ン The conversation began between them thus:
- The Prophet asked him, "What's your name?"ン
- "Addas"ン
-"ン Where are you from, Addas?"ン
- "From Nineveh."ン
- "It is the city of the righteous man, Yunus Ibn Matta (Jonas son of Mathews)!"ン
- "How do you know about Yunus Ibn Matta?"ン
- "He is my brother; he was a Prophet and so am I."ン

So, the boy began to kiss the Prophet's (PBUH) feet. When I heard this story, I used to
wonder why the boy kissed the Prophet's (PBUH) feet. I think I have some
explanations now:
1. The Prophet (PBUH) started with, "In the name of Allah"ン; so do not hide signs of
faith to make people love you.
2. The Prophet (PBUH) asked him, "What's your name?"ン This is a good icebreaker
to start the conversation by asking the person about their name.
3. He used the name immediately when he asked him "Where are you from, Addas?"ン
You might get introduced to a man who tells you his name is Ahmad, and a minute
later you tell him, "I'm so pleased to meet you, Muhammad."ン You did not pay
attention to the name, but the Prophet (PBUH) did, as he used the name immediately
in order not to forget it, and in order to get closer to him.
4. Then, he asked him about his country, and when he answered, he identified the
country as that of the righteous man. When he said "Yunus Ibn Matta"ン, he meant to
mention his father's name as a kind of assurance. And he described him as his brother;
and he said, "He was a Prophet, and so am I"ン, as if he is ascribing himself to him,
which reveals his decency.
So, the boy kissed his feet.

It is courteous also not to whisper, and not to be too talkative. The Prophet (PBUH)
also told us not to be talkative and when he talked he used to be heard. He also taught
us a beautiful rule: when three people are together, it is improper for two of them to
hold a secret council without the third one, unless they are standing among other
people, or there are at least four of them. This protects the feeling of the third person.

I know a British girl who embraced Islam because of this practice. It is a matter of
courtesy that if two people speak a language that is not known to another person, it is
courteous in his presence that they speak in the language he understands. This is to
eliminate the thought that they are talking about him. This British girl worked with
two Egyptians who used to speak Arabic with each other. Whenever she was present,
they carried their conversation in English. The girl noticed and asked them why they
do this. They told her that it is a Sunnah in their religion, and that the Prophet (PBUH)
is the one who ordered them to do so. She remarked, "Your Prophet is very
civilized."ン This girl embraced Islam after six months, and she says that the first thing
that touched her heart were these rules of courtesy in this religion.

It is also courteous not to use foul language. Unfortunately, the youth nowadays are
used to insulting each other. One of Al-Tabi'een (Followers of the Companions of the
Prophet) was walking with his young son, when a dog passed in front of them. The
boy said, "Walk, you dog, son of a dog."ン The man said furiously to his son, "Never
say this again."ン The boy wondered "Why, father? It is a dog and son of a dog."ン The
man replied, "My son, you didn't say it as a statement, but for degradation, and you
shouldn't say such words."ン

Let's examine the behavior of Prophet Yusuf (AS) (Joseph). His brothers got rid of
him by throwing him in a well, he got lost for twenty years and he suffered a lot
because of them. However, after the family was reunited and his vision came true,
"And he raised his parents to the throne...and he said: "O my father! This is the
interpretation of my dream aforetime! My Lord has made it come true! He was
indeed good to me, when He took me out of the prison"ン (he did not say out of the
prison and the well so he would not hurt his brothers' feelings in their presence) "and
brought you (all here) out of the Bedouin-life, after Shaitân (Satan) had sown
enmity between me and my brothers"ン (TMQ 12:100). Although Satan whispered
to them in order to plot against him, he did not like to say that Satan fooled his
brothers, and he ascribed what happened to the intervention of Satan between him and
his brothers; he even started with himself. Do you see how courteous he is? Are you
going to abuse your neighbor any more? Are you going to hurt your husband with
your tongue?

Courtesy with high-rank people

Such as your university professor, a minister, a scholar...etc.

It is a Sunnah to place him in his due rank, except in the case of war. When the
Prophet (PBUH) sent a letter to Chosroes, King of Persia, who worshipped fire, he
addressed him thus: From Muhammad, Messenger of Allah, to Chosroes, the great
King of Persia. When he sent a letter to the King of Rome, he said: From Muhammad,
Messenger of Allah, to Heraclius, the great King of Rome. He could have said: to the
disbeliever Heraclius or the disbeliever Chosroes, but he wanted to give them their
due respect among their people. Do you notice the courtesy?

Never address your professor at university as a peer, but you should give him his due
respect. This is Islamic courtesy.

Courtesy with those who have done you a favor,

Among them is your teacher, do not ever think that mocking your teacher is an aspect
of manhood; he did a favor for you. Did not he teach you as well as, those who taught
you religion, and guided you through the path of Islam and adherence and anyone
who has done you a favor?

Consider Al-Abbas' answer when he was asked, "Who is older, you or the Messenger
of Allah (PBUH)?"ン Al-Abbas was older than the Prophet (PBUH), yet his answer
was "He is greater but I was born before him"ン.

When the Prophet (PBUH) reached Al- Madinah on Al-Hijrah (Immigration) with our
master Abu-Baker, the people of Madinah were still unaware of which one of them
was the Prophet (PBUH), and since Abu-Baker's camel was preceding the Prophet's
(PBUH), they thought that he was the Prophet (PBUH), so they held the halter of his
camel. He didn't want them to feel embarrassed, so he took his gown off and shaded
the Prophet (PBUH) with it, hence the people realized that he was not the Prophet and
ran towards the Prophet's (PBUH) camel.

Sometimes, and out of familiarity with your teacher, you loose your politeness and
decency when you deal with him. For example when he or she tutors you at home,
you start speaking with him informally; be careful, do not disparage him, for he is
doing you a favor

Think deeply of Imam Shafe'y's saying, "I can't turn the pages over in the presence of
my teacher lest I disturb him"ン

He also said, "Highly esteeming my teacher stopped me even from drinking water
before him"ン

Courtesy in Funerals
In funerals in the course of Qur'an recitation, you may see women, and a man,
chatting with each other while the deceased's mother, sister or wife etc... is weeping.
The Prophet (PBUH) said, "Allah likes us to be silent in three cases; while marching
with the army, while listening to Qur'an recitation and during funerals"ン. (Weak
Hadith, Al-Albany, 1703).

Courtesy with people:

1. Exaggerated courtesy is no courtesy at all:

Example: while visiting a patient, your visit must be short, but this patient may insist
that you stay with him a bit longer and you insist on going saying that you have to
leave, because your courtesy dictates on you to make the patient's visit short. Quite
the contrary, exaggeration in courtesy is no courtesy at all. Imam Shafe'y says, "The
most tiresome brother to me is the one who exaggerates and makes me exaggerate,
while the most beloved one to me is the one who makes me behave freely in his
presence as if I am alone"ン.

2. Exaggerated seriousness is not a matter of courtesy:

For example, refraining from laughing to assume seriousness and courtesy is not
really an act of courtesy.

Courtesy with Allah (SWT)

1. Preserving your thought from attributing any defect to Allah (SWT), like saying "O'
Allah, why did you do that to my children"ン. This is insolence to Allah (SWT).
2. Preserving your heart from turning to someone or something other than Allah
(SWT). Is not it shameful to turn to or think about anything else while you are praying
before Him?
3. Preserving yourself from doing anything that Allah (SWT) detests such as: looking
boldly at women, dating girls, missing prayers or committing a certain sin, all this is
considered as a sort of impudence to Allah (SWT).

Ulama' (Islam scholars) say whoever adapts these three manners i.e. observes Allah
(SWT) in his thoughts, heart and deeds: deserves the love of Allah (SWT). Do you see
how preserving courtesy with Allah (SWT) can elevate you?

Some samples of courtesy with Allah (SWT):

Allah SWT) will ask Prophet Isa (AS) (Jesus) on the Day of Judgment, saying what
can be translated as, "O Isa, son of Maryam (As) "Mary"ン! Did you say unto men,
"Worship me and my mother as two gods besides Allah?"ン He answers, "Had I
said such a thing, you would surely have known it. You know what is in my
inner-self though I do not know what is in Yours"ン (TMQ 5:116). He could've
said, "No, I have not said this, how can I say that"ン but he just glorified Allah (SWT)
and exalted His knowledge above saying such words without previous knowledge,
while He knows everything. Then he went on saying- as mentioned in the surah what
can be translated as: "Truly, You, only You, are the All-Knower of all that is
hidden (and unseen). Never did I say to them but what You (Allâh) did
command me to say: "˜Worship Allâh, my Lord and your Lord.' And I was a
witness over them while I dwelt amongst them, but when You took me up, You
were the Watcher over them; and You are a Witness to all things. If You punish
them, they are Your slaves, and if You forgive them, verily You, only You, are
the All-Mighty, the All-Wise"ン (TMQ 5:116).

What do you think about such politeness?

The story of Prophet Musa (AS) (Moses) with Al-Kidr (AR):
Al-Kidr did three things: 1) scuttled the ship 2) killed the boy 3) set up the wall
for the two orphan boys. Notice how he talked about them:
He ascribed the first two deeds which seem outwardly evil, to himself, he said- as
mentioned in the Surah what can be translated as, "As for the ship, it belonged to
Masakin (poor people) working in the sea. So I wished to make a defective damage in
it"ン he did not attribute this deed to Allah (SWT) (TMQ 18:79).
"And as for the boy, his parents were believers, and we feared lest he should
oppress them by rebellion and disbelief. So we intended that their Lord should
change him for them for one better in righteousness and nearer to mercy"ン.
(TMQ 18:80). He said, "We feared ...we intended"ン and did not say, "Allah
intended"ン in order not to attribute an evil deed to Allah (SWT) even outwardly.
However, when he talked about the wall he said-as mentioned in the surah and can be
translated as: "And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the town;
and there was under it a treasure belonging to them; and their father was a
righteous man, and your Lord intended that they should attain their age of full
strength and take out their treasure"ン (TMQ 18:82). Here he said, "your Lord
intended"ン because it is a good deed, so it is from Allah (SWT).

People vary in Allah's (SWT) judgment according to their decency in dealing with
Him that is why Allah (SWT) cursed the Jews and their impudence towards Him was
one of the reasons of this curse. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, "The
Jews say: "Allah's Hand is tied up (i.e. He does not give and spend of His
Bounty). Be their hands tied up and be they accursed for what they uttered. Nay,
both His Hands are widely outstretched. He spends (of His Bounty) as He wills"ン
(TMQ 5:64). And, "Indeed, Allah has heard the statement of those (Jews) who
say: "Truly, Allah is poor and we are rich"ン (TMQ 3:181).

This ayah also tells about the Jews who were cursed for their impudence to Allah
(SWT): As for us, our status varies as well according to our decency to Allah (SWT).
Some of us give up sins as a sign of politeness to Allah (SWT). Others; pray Qiyyam
(night prayer), wear their best clothes and perfumes in preparation to meet Allah
(SWT) or use Miswak prior to each prayer, to get a nice mouth smell, when they meet
Allah (SWT). Or they stand and listen to the prayer call in glorification for Allah's
(SWT) rituals, and bow their heads in submissiveness to Allah (SWT) when listening
to Qur'an.

There are different levels of showing courtesy towards men, and I'll compare it here to
the meeting of a king with one of his subjects, who will be allowed to meet the king in
your opinion is he a polite man or a rude one?

Likewise Allah (SWT) will let people meet him according to their courtesy to Him
(Blessed and Exalted be He), so the most polite people will be allowed to meet Him.
Therefore the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was the only one who was permitted to
enter to Sidrat-ul-Muntaha(2) at the night of Al-Isra and Al-Mi'raj(3) since he is the
most perfectly mannered person ever. That is why Allah (SWT) described him in this
meeting with, what can be translated as, "The sight (of Prophet Muhammad)
turned not aside (right or left), nor it transgressed beyond the limit (ordained for
it)"ン (TMQ: 53:17), in recognition of his great politeness towards Allah (SWT).

This is the concept of decency fellow brothers, and whoever disdains from showing
courtesy Allah (SWT) will surely be deprived from Sunnah and his sins will increase.

I advise you to be courteous to Allah (SWT), to the Prophet (PBUH) and to everyone.

(1) Bani Israel.

(2) TMQ=Translation of the Meaning of the Qur'an. This translation is for the realized
meaning, so far, of the stated (Surah: Ayah) of the Qur'an. Reading the translated
meaning of the Qur'an can never replace reading it in Arabic, the language in which it
was revealed.
(3) The lote-tree of the utmost boundary over the seventh heaven beyond which none
can pass.
(4) The night journey of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) from Makkah to Jerusalem and
his ascension to the seventh Heaven. © ‫جميع حقوق النشر محفوظة‬

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On Courtesy
Sir Mord Hrutsson the Green (QOC, Baron of the Court)
When I was asked to write an essay on courtesy, I quickly realized that it was a difficult
task. For there are those folks who speak the words of courtesy, but are not courteous,
and there are those folks who can not speak the words, are none the less courteous.
Indeed, my task is to describe with words an action--the practice of courtesy. I do not
doubt that I will be misquoted and misunderstood.

As a word courtesy is related to the word court. This relationship explains of the origins
of the practice: courtesy is the product of the medieval courts. Unlike our modern court
system, the medieval court was overseen by a lord or king and their various functionaries.
Such courts were places of commerce, art, and justice. Life and death decisions, business
deals, and various performing art were all enacted at court. The medieval courts, in short,
were the places of civilization in the Middle Ages. To practice courtesy in the Middle
Ages and Renaissance was to strive towards civilization.

Of course to make sweeping generalizations with anything in history is a dangerous

business. Scholars and Medieval enthusiasts have argued over the definition of courtesy.
Those folks will argue again. To my mind, however, courtesy is made up of four

Honesty at its most basic means telling the truth. In the Medieval Courts you declared
something--such as swearing fealty--openly in front of witness. For anyone to deny that
declaration, that is to say lie they did not swear it, accept it, or witness it is to deny to the
process of justice. In these courts, to lie is to ignore the law. Honesty, by the way, can be
very painful. The truth can hurt. Lying, however, in the long run, can be even more

Loyalty is the fulfillment of honesty. To follow through on a promised declaration

spoken in court is to be loyal. Loyalty is very much a two way street. For a person who
made a promise not to follow through on that promise is disloyalty, but for the person
who is promised something to not acknowledge or reward the fulfillment of that promise
is also disloyalty.

Generosity is not simply sharing what you have with others. Though you should share,
generosity lets you deal with people who have failed to keep their promises. People fail
for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they are sick or injured; sometimes a natural disaster
occurs; sometimes they simply over commit themselves. Generosity lets these people
deal with the people in the court with the hope of forgiveness.

Humility is the hardest of these elements to learn. In many ways, without humility, the
other three elements of courtesy do not have any meaning. Humility is doing a necessary
thing and not expecting any reward for your action. Humility is knowing what you do and
then simply doing it.
Even those who are considered courteous are not always that way. Yet the practice of
courtesy is the action which makes our Society work. Without courtesy our work loses its
meaning in empty actions.

Common Courtesy

I recently discussed the four basic types of personalities; A, B, C and D. In addition to the
different personality types, we as humans have a wide variety of interests and non-
interests ("turnoffs"), as well as highs and lows. As such, it is impossible to know
precisely how to properly relate to everyone in every situation all of the time. The
common leveler is common courtesy. By this I most definitely am not referring to
"political correctness" which is concerned with pseudo-courtesy for political purposes.
Instead, common courtesy represents a genuine respect for the human spirit and how we
should interact. This is much more than just saying "please" and "thank you," it's treating
others as we want others to treat us.

Each day we transmit a series of messages which communicate how we regard others.
This is done either verbally or through other means affecting our senses. These messages
can either be perceived as positive or negative. For example, someone who dresses or
smells badly is sending a message that he has no regard for the others around him, as
does foul habits such as belching or flatulence. Conversely, good grooming means you
care how people perceive you. Other positive messages are conveyed through such things
as greetings and handshakes, punctuality, and simple manners. Common courtesy,
therefore, is concerned with sending positive messages as opposed to negative. It also
means our ability to practice common courtesy is a reflection of our character and how
we want other people to treat us.

Introductions, Handshakes & Greetings

In Japan, an introduction in a business setting is very important. In addition to identifying

yourself, it establishes your professional image, and the superior/subordinate relationship
for the two parties to assume (the "pecking order"). Consequently, the Japanese practice
introductions carefully, particularly how a business card is presented, as they realize its
importance. In contrast, people in the western world have a much more cavalier attitude
towards introductions. Nonetheless, the introduction is every bit as important and sends
signals as to how we perceive each other.

A lot of people underestimate the importance of a handshake. Actually it is the single

most important message we can convey in an introduction. Some people like to give a
strong vice grip handshake in an attempt to intimidate you, but most handshakes today by
young people are weak and flabby. Actually you need to find a good balance, not too
flabby and not too strong. Further, look the other person square in the eyes when you
shake hands, this conveys your sincerity in meeting the person. Do not trust anyone who
simply shakes your hand but doesn't look you in the eyes; they simply do not care about

Shaking hands has historically been a very masculine custom, but this has changed in
recent times. However, men still question the appropriateness of shaking a woman's hand.
Because of this, it is the woman's responsibility to offer her hand. If she does not offer
her hand, do not reach for it as she may feel uncomfortable doing so.

Upon meeting someone for the first time, be careful about using the other person's first
name or nickname as this may be reserved for the person's friends and family. Use
"Mister", "Ms", "Mrs" or "Miss" depending on how you were introduced and allow them
to say, "Please call me Joe." But if by chance you ask, "May I call you Joe?" Don't be
surprised if someone says, "No." In other words, do not risk embarrassment, let the other
person make the offer to use their first name or nickname. And please, whatever you do,
do not call the other person "Dude," this should have gotten out of your vernacular after
graduating from High School.

It is also a good practice to memorize the other person's name, particularly when a
business card is unavailable. Nothing is more embarrassing in a business relationship to
both parties than to forget a name. Write it down if you cannot remember it.

It is a good practice to greet your boss and coworkers on a daily basis when reporting to
work (as well as saying your farewell at the end of the day). Nobody wants to feel
unwelcome or unappreciated. If they do, they will feel like outcasts and less likely to help
you with something. The objective is to make people feel at home. This can be
accomplished with a simple greeting such as "Good morning" or "How are you?" It is
easy to detect when a greeting is sincere or routine. Your goal is to appear genuinely
concerned about the person. This can be achieved by:

* Complimenting on some personal attribute of the person (e.g., clothes, hair, car).

* Inquiring about a person's family (e.g., birthday observed, anniversary, graduation,

pets, health, etc.)

* Asking about an event the person recently experienced (e.g., attendance at an event, a
trip, participation in a volunteer organization/charity, a new job or project assignment,

* Commenting on something newsworthy - community, sports, weather ("What did you

think about...?")

Such greetings are an expression of your interest in the person. Too often greetings
become routine and, as such, less credible. Try to break it up.

A good basic greeting can work wonders in building cooperation and relations between

Attention to Detail

Small details can have a dramatic effect in your relationship with others. For example:

* Be observant - if there is anything constant in life, it is change. Change is always

around us, but it takes a perceptive person to be able to spot the smallest of changes,
whether it be a new hair style, someone losing weight, a small job well done, or
whatever. When a change is observed, ask yourself why it has happened. Be inquisitive
and understand the rationale for the change. This will help you adapt to the change as
well as improve your interpersonal relations. For example, people are easily flattered
when someone compliments them on a change. It means you are perceptive and
interested in the person, both of which puts you in good standing with the other person.

It is these little observations that go a long way. As an example, perhaps the best
secretary I ever met was a lady named Myrna who worked for an I.T. Director in
Chicago. The first time I visited the office, Myrna warmly greeted me and asked if I
wanted a cup of coffee. Saying Yes, she then asked me what I wanted in it. I said cream
and sugar, which she then made for me. Months later when I returned to visit the
Director, Myrna greeted me by name and presented me with a cup of coffee with cream
and sugar. Frankly, I was startled she not only remembered my name but how I also liked
my coffee. Later I discovered Myrna maintained a simple card file; whenever someone
visited the office, Myrna would record their name and the type of coffee they liked.
Sharp. Very sharp.