Allah, the Almighty, said:

{… and those who observe the limits [set by] Allah…} [at-Tawbah 9:112]

قَالَ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: "وَالْحَافِظُونَ لِحُدُودِ اللَّهِ"

Proper etiquette372 is about observing the bounds between excessiveness and negligence by recognizing the harm of transgression.373 It is of three levels:374

الْأَدَبُ حِفْظُ الْحَدِّ بَيْنَ الْغُلُوِّ وَالْجَفَاءِ بِمَعْرِفَةِ ضَرَرِ الْعُدْوَانِ. وَهُوَ عَلَى ثَلَاثِ دَرَجَاتٍ

The first level:

  1. preventing fear from turning into despair

  2. restraining hope from transgressing into security (indifference)

  3. controlling joy lest it becomes audaciousness

الدَّرَجَةُ الْأُولَى:

  1. مَنْعُ الْخَوْفِ أَنْ لَا يَتَعَدَّى إِلَى الْيَأْسِ

  2. وَحَبْسُ الرَّجَاءِ أَنْ يَخْرُجَ إِلَى الْأَمْنِ

  3. وَضَبْطُ السُّرُورِ أَنْ يُضَاهِئَ الْجُرْأَةَ

The second level:

  1. departing from fear to the arena of contraction

  2. rising from hope to the arena of expansion

  3. ascending from joy to the arena of mushâhadah (beholding the Divine)375

والدَّرَجَةُ الثَّانِيَةُ:

  1. الْخُرُوجُ عَنِ الْخَوْفِ إِلَى مَيْدَانِ الْقَبْضِ

  2. وَالصُّعُودُ عنَ الرَّجَاءِ إِلَى مَيْدَانِ الْبَسْطِ

  3. والتَّرَقِّي مِنَ السُّرُورِ إِلَى مَيْدَانِ الْمُشَاهَدَةِ

The third level:

  1. recognition of adab376

  2. banishment of adab through the ta’deeb(refinement) by the True One377

  3. ridding oneself from the burdens of adab378

والدَّرَجَةُ الثَّالِثَةُ:

  1. مَعْرِفَةُ الْأَدَبِ

  2. ثُمَّ الْفَنَاءُ عَنِ التَّأَدُّبِ بِتَأْدِيبِ الْحَقِّ

  3. ثُمَّ الْخَلَاصُ مِنْ شُهُودِ أَعْبَاءِ الْأَدَبِ

372 Adab may also be translated as good manners, courtesy, decency, appropriateness, or refinement. The plural is âdâb, which would usually be translated as proper etiquette.
373 Since this is a subtler concept and not always regulated by definitive proofs, it is essential here to strike the right balance in one’s conduct with Allah, His Messenger ﷺ, and His creations.
374 The focus here is on propriety with Allah. The masters of sulook (behavior) also talk about propriety with His Messenger ﷺ and His creations. Observing proper etiquette with Allah starts with the fulfillment of the obligations, then the sunan of the interior and exterior. Some âdâb may not be supported by definitive proof, but rather through inferences and proper intuition. They can sometimes be subjective. Unless required by the Revelation, there should be no enforcement or condemnation concerning them. One may proceed with the acquisition and practice of more âdâb gently, and prioritize those that came from the Prophet ﷺ, then his Companions, then the followers, and so on. One should stop if certain practices become overwhelming, slow their progress, dry out their relationship with Allah, or hold them from nearness to Him.
375 In this level, one ascends from the forms to their realities. The reality of our fear is Allah’s contraction (qabḍ) of us, and that of hope is His expansion (basṭ) of us. The joy of obedience is now eclipsed by the awe and wonder of beholding the Divine.
376 One reaches perfection of adab and recognizes its true essence and conditions and looks at its stations from above to complete them with iḥsân.
377 One now does not attribute anything to themselves and does not see his/her refinement of themselves, but Allah’s refinement of them.
378 This is when the self is dissolved through fanâ’.

Manâzil as-Sâirin


Shaykhul-Islam Abu Isma‘il Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Ansari al-Harawi (396-481H)

Translation and Footnotes


Hatem al-Haj