Etiquette of Salutation, Shaking Hands, Embracing, Kissing, Sneezing and of Sitting in a Company and Dispersing the Company

1. Etiquette and sanctity of salutations and answering the salutations:

According to reliable traditions, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had asked his companions to possess or cultivate seven qualities:

a) Visiting the ill

b) To accompany the coffin of the dead

c) To believe and agree to a word which a person gives with an oath or promise

d) To pray for anyone who sneezes

e) To encourage and give help and moral support to the innocent

f) To salute everyone

g) To accept an invitation of hospitality

According to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), if a person starts talking before saluting then one should not answer him and until he salutes, one should not invite him for food.

In another tradition the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has stated that a person who salutes ten people during his busy schedule will get the reward of liberating a slave.

According to Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.), when a person is saluting he should do so in a loud tone that he may not have to complain that though he had saluted no one had replied. In the same manner, one should answer the salutations in a loud tone, that the one who is saluting may not have a chance to complain that though he had saluted no one had answered the salutations.

It is stated from Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.) that three types of persons, even if alone, should be addressed in plural form. The person who sneezes should say:

‘May Allah show his pity towards you.’

even though no one may be with him. Secondly, whomsoever you salute, you should say:

‘Let the salam (greetings) of Allah descend upon you.’Or ‘Allah's Salam on you.’

though he may be alone. And when you are praying for someone, you should say:‘May Allah grant you peace.’

even though he may be all alone. Always, one should use plural form because there are angels accompanying momins. Therefore, one can include even the momins who are not present, in salam and Doa (salutations and prayers).

It is stated from Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.) that one should not salute three types of persons:

a) A person who is walking alongwith the janaza

b) A person who is going for Namaz-e-Jumma (Friday prayers)

c) A person who is in the bathroom and perhaps has no cloth wrapped around him

According to Imam Mohammed Baqir (a.s.), if a person reaches the mosque when everybody is busy with prayers then he should not salute (say salam) to those who are busy in prayers, instead he should take the name of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and join the prayers concentrating on them. But if you reach a gathering where people are talking among themselves, then you should surely perform the salutations.

According to Hazrat Ali (a.s.), when one enters one's house, one should say salams to all those present in the house but wheen the house is empty, one should say:

‘May peace be on us from our Creator.’

According to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), when you meet each other, you should say salams and shake hands and when you part with each other then you should pray for each other's salvation.

According to another tradition, a person who, on reaching his home, performs salams to the members of his family (wife and children), God will bless his house and the angels will cultivate an association and affection with it.

2. Etiquette of shaking hands, touching necks (embracing) and kissing:

According to Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.), the salutation is complete when people shake hands after saluting each other provided they are living in the same city; but if a person has returned from a journey then his salutation is only complete after embracing.

A reliable tradition from Hazrat Abu Obeida states that he was sitting in the same kajawa with Imam Mohammed Baqir (a.s.) while once travelling together. While boarding the kajawa Abu Obeida used to sit inside first and then the Imam (a.s.) used to follow and when both had seated themselves comfortable in the kajawa, then the Imam (a.s.) used to salute him and ask about his welfare as though he had met him after a long time. And when it was time for alighting, then the Imam (a.s.) used to step down first and Abu Obeida used to follow. And when both reached the ground safely, then the Imam (a.s.) used to salute Abu Obeida and ask of his welfare in the same manner. Then Abu Obeida said, "O son of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) none of the people around us say and do what you say and do." Then the Imam (a.s.) replied that perhaps Abu Obeida was unaware of the rewards of salutation and hand-shaking; as long as two momins are busy in saluting each other and shaking hands, their sins are falling away from them as leaves from trees and as long as these two are in each other's company, God is blessing them with his kindness and mercy.

According to Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.), whenever the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) used to shake hands, he never used to withdraw his hand unless the other person returned it first.

In another tradition he has stated that one should shake hands as shaking hands lessens rift.

3. Gathering and etiquette of sitting in the gatherings:

It is stated that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) had willed unto Hazrat Ali (a.s.) that if eight types of persons are insulted, then they should curse themselves:

a) A person who is an un-invited guest at a party

b) A person who dominates over the Lord of the house

c) A person who expects kindness from his enemies

d) A person who expects to be obliged by the stingy and mean people

e) A person who interferes when two persons are talking without permission

f) A person who is scared of the king

g) A person who sits at a place in the gathering which is below his dignity

h) A person who is talking to another person who is not hearing his talk

According to Hazrat Ali (a.s.), a person who sits at the head of gathering without possessing these qualities is a fool:

a) Whatever question is put to him, he should be able to answer

b) When other people are fed up of talking about justice, he should be able to clarify the complete picture

c) He should advise in such a manner that people are benefitted by following that advice

According to Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.), when a group is sitting in a gathering then a momin should sit behind it as jumping over the heads of the squatters to reach the celebrity of the gathering is lack of manners.

In another tradition he has stated that in a large gathering someone has taken your place and other people are making place for you, then you should accept their hospitality and sit, as it is a sign of respect shown to you by a brother momin. If there is no place left and no one is making place for you, then you should sit where ever it is possible.

According to another tradition, if a person visits a house, he should sit where the master of the house asks him to, as he is aware of the virtues and faults of his own house.

Hazrat Ali (a.s.) has stated that one should never sit on a public highway.'

In another tradition he (a.s.) has stated that when one is sitting among people, one should never sit with open legs.

According to Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.), if a person feels happy to sit at a place which is below his honour, then God and His angels will send durood on him as long as he is thus seated.

A tradition from Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.) states that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) always used to sit facing Qibla.

In another tradition he (a.s.) has stated that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) used to sit in three ways - at times his knees used to be above the ground and his hands around his knees with the palm of one interlocked in the palm of the other. At other times he used to sit as one sits during prayers with knees bent on the ground and hands kept on the knees. He also used to sit by placing one foot over other; but he never used to sit all spread out on both the knees.

A tradition from Abu Hamza states that he saw Imam Zainul Aabedin (a.s.) seated with his one foot kept on the thigh of the other. He told the

Imam (a.s.) that people do not think it proper to sit in this manner as this posture is supposed to be that of God. The Imam (a.s.) replied that he sat in this way on account of fatigue; but the Almighty God never gets tired neither He feels sleepy. He has no body (form) for which sitting, standing or sleeping is necessary. The Almighty is above all these things.

A reliable tradition from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) quotes that when people sit together during summer season, they should have a distance of at least a palm-stretch between each other.

According to Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.), if a person sits all spread out in a tight place, then one should never consider him as a human being.

4. Those gatherings where one is allowed to go and those people with whom one is allowed to move:

According to Imam Mohammed Baqir (a.s.), one should follow that man who makes you cry, but he is your well-wisher; but one should never accept the lead of that man who makes you laugh, but is playing fraud with you.

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has advised everyone to know well those with whom one moves, for when he will die, he will be counted as their companion. If one moves about with one well-behaved and pious then He is happy and if he is ill-behaved and sinister, then He is hurt and therefore sad.

Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.) has stated that he considered that fellow his best friend who speaks about his faults on his face. He also advised us to consider our love compulsory to old friends and to be afraid of the company of new friends; for the new ones generally never fulfill their promise and never depend on anyone, however near they may be to us.

At the time of his (a.s.) departure from the material and temporary world, Hazrat Ali (a.s.) has willed that a muslim should never visit places which can make one notorious and to refrain from keeping company with those about whom people hold no good opinion, for the bad always leaves his friend in a lurch.

Imam Moosa Kazim (a.s.) has stated that one should save oneself from doubtful situation and circumstances which can lead to gossip and notriety. A man should not even stand with his mother on a wayside, for all the way-farers may not know that she is his mother.

Imam Zainul Aabedin (a.s.) had asked us not to keep company of five persons on any account:

a) A liar, who is like a mirage and will make you see far-off things as near-at-hand and near-at-hand things as beyond one's reach

b) A wicked and vicious person, for he will sell you (your weakness) to another for a single meal or less than it

c) The stingy, for he will never help you with his possession even when you are in deep trouble

d) The fool, for even if you are to be benefitted, it will turn into a loss

e) A heartless person, who disconnects himself from his relatives, as God has cursed him in three places in the Holy Quran

According to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), the company of lower grade of people, women and the very rich, makes a coward of one.

Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.) has stated that one should keep away from the company of dissenters as people may think the same about them.

According to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), the most wise among men is he who runs away from the company of the ignorant.

Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.) has stated that a person who does not stop a brother momin from a wrong act when it is within his means, then he is not fulfilling the demands of true friendship. A person who does not refrain himself from the company of a fool will very soon be deprived of his own manners.

In another tradition he has stated that there are four acts which do not reap any harvest:

a) Loving him who does not return your love

b) Obliging a person who does not accept your obligation

c) Imparting knowledge to a person who does not pay heed

d) Confiding your secret in someone who cannot keep it

A tradition states that the companions asked the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) as to whose company they should keep. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) answered that they should keep company with those, the sight of whom will remind them of God, whose talk will increase your knowledge and whose acts will take you nearer to the ultimate reality.

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has said that four things make a coward of one:

a) Sinning continuously

b) Talking a lot with women

c) Quarrelling with fools who think something entirely different when you are talking about one thing

d) Sitting a lot with men. When people asked for an explanation of the term ‘mean’, the Holy Prohet (s.a.w.a.) said that mean are those people who have forgotten God.

A reliable tradition states that Imam Zainul Aabedin (a.s.) used to advise his children to keep company with thsoe who have love of God and if such people are not available, then loneliness is better than the company of others, as it is a source of welfare; and in case one is compelled to keep company, then one should sit in the company of those who are kind as they do not abuse.

Imam Moosa Kazim (a.s.) has stated that one should respect and guard the companions or associates of one's father, as rendering a kindness unto them is equal to being kind to one's own father.

In another tradition he (a.s.) has stated that Hazrat Luqman (a.s.) used to tell his son that he should observe the people before he moves with them. If there is a group who remembers God, then he should sit among them; for if he is a scholar, then they will be benefitted by his knowledge and their knowledge will increase. In case he is ignorat, then he will be benefitted by their knowledge and it is probable that God is blessing them and including him among His blessing. If there is a group which has forgotten God then he should not sit among them, for if he is ignorant, then his ignorance will be increased and it is possible that God is sending punishment or curses on them and he will be included in them.

In another tradition it has been stated that one should visit a place from one's own place only when one has the following reasons:

a) Visiting the House of God (Ka'aba)

b) Visiting the houses of religious scholars as one is benefitted by it and has to face losses by opposing them

c) Visiting the scholars for gaining religious or worldly knowledge

d) Visiting the houses of generous people who give away their possession for the reward of the Day of Judgement

e) Visiting the home of a fool as circumstances at times make you take their obligation

f) Visiting the house of rich people for gaining honour or meeting your needs

g) Visiting those people whom people think as responsible for taking their advice and suggestion; and whose sober attitude and stability makes one expect a lot from them

h) Visiting a fellow-momin as one is morally bound to look after another momin

i) Visiting the house of one's enemies as constant visits can soften enmity and clear misunderstandings (when there is no risk)

j) Visiting those gatherings which elevate one's manners, love and generosity

5. Ways of sneezing, spitting and belching:

According to Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.), when one momin meets another momin, he is obliged to salute him and when a momin gets ill, he is obliged to visit him and when one momin sneezes, he is obliged to pray in his interest.

A momin who sneezes should compulsority say:

‘All praise is to Allah Who nourishes all creatures and Who has no partner.’

In another tradition it is stated that a man is healthy and fit because God has blessed him with certain conditions; but man forgets to thank God for his blessings; therefore God orders the air to pass through his body and escape from the nose. This is the cause why one is supposed to praise God when sneezing, as this praise is a way of thanksgiving; and in case one has neglected thanks, then the praise is a way of appeasment for the aforementioned carelessness.

Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.) states that once a young boy (a minor) was sitting near the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). When he sneezed and said ‘Alhamdolillah’, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) replied:"May Allah bless you in this."

According to Hazrat Ali (a.s.), one should not spit towards the Qibla and in case one does it by forgetfulness, then one should send istagfar.

6. Etiquette of joking, laughing, whispering, sitting in a company and of keeping the sanctity of a gathering:

According to a tradition coming from Imam Mohammed Baqir (a.s.), one should not whisper when there are only three people gathered, as it is bound to hurt the third person present.

According to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), when a person ignores and cuts short the talk of a fellow-momin, it is like scratching the face of the fellow-momin.

Many traditions have stated that when one sits with someone, or in some gathering, then one should not disclose the talk which had taken place in their company before others, unless one has taken their prior permission.

According to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), one should keep the sanctity of all meetings and gatherings except when murder, rape or loot were committed.

Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.) states that there is no momin who is not used to humour and is also well-behaved.

According to Imam Mohammed Baqir (a.s.), a person who enlivens the mood of a company, is considered a friend by the Almighty God, provided he is not using bad language for the purpose.

According to Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.), a momin only laughs with a smile, not with a loud sound.

In another tradition he (a.s.) has stated that laughing loudly makes a coward of a man and wastes faith in the same manner as salt melts in water; and that laughing without any purpose is ignorance.

Yet in another tradition, laughing a lot has been prohibited as it spoils the youthfulness of one's looks.

He (a.s.) has also stated that you can only joke with those you are intimate with, but you should never use your hands and feet (i.e. no practical jokes should be done).

A reliable tradition states that when one roars with laughter, one is submitting oneself to shaitan and a lot of laughing robs one of one's look of freshness.

Hazrat Ali (a.s.) has stated that one should not make fun of others as it is understood to be a low type of abuse and it creates more improper feelings in the other's heart.

A reliable tradition from Imam Moosa Kazim (a.s.) states that joking a lot makes one lose the light of faith and lessens generosity and manliness.

In another tradition it is stated that Prophet Yahya (a.s.) used to cry only - he never smiled. Whereas Prophet Esa (Jesus) (a.s.) used to cry and laugh as well. In another tradition it is related that Hazrat Dawood (a.s.) asked his son Hazrat Sulaiman (a.s.) that he should not laugh a lot, for a lot of laughing makes a man poor on the Day of Judgement.

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) has stated that for a person aware of hell it is very difficult to laugh.

According to Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.), people who laugh a lot, just to while their time or on account of corruption, will have to cry a lot on the Day of Judgement. There are a few people who cry over their sins and they will laugh a lot.

All these traditions emphasize that a momin should not always make a face and be reserved with everyone; on the contrary, a momin should be broad minded, well-mannered and laugh a little, but he should not laugh a lot and make fun of others and it is a sigh of a low and degraded person.

7. The blessings and rewards of talking about the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and the Ahlul Bait (a.s.) in gatherings and also discussing their knowledge and relating traditions of their qualities:

According to Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.), those people who, in a gathering, do not speak about the Almighty God and ourselves i.e. the Imams (a.s.), will, on the Day of Judgement feel sorry about such a gathering.

Imam Mohammed Baqir (a.s.) has stated that a talk about Imams (a.s.) is a talk about the Almighty God, and a talk about their (the Imams') enemies is talk about the shaitan.

Imam Ja'far-e-Sadiq (a.s.) has stated that God has ordained a certaain number of angels to travel over the earth. Whenever the angels come across a group which is talking about the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Ahlul Bait (a.s.), then they stop and participate in that gathering and say "We have achieved our purpose." When this gathering disperses, then if any participant of the gathering is ill, they visit him; and if any of them dies, they are present near his body, and if any of them disappears, they search him.

In another tradition, the Imam (a.s.) has stated that there are a few angels in the heaven who constantly watch the small group (comprising of two and three)of Shias who are busy in relating about the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Ahlul Bait (a.s.). Then the angels say to each other, "Do you not see the courage of these people who, though few in number and among a large number of enemies, are relating the qualities of Ahlul bait (a.s.)". Another group of angels reply to them, "That is the grace of God. He bestowith it upon whomsoever He willeth; and God is the Lord of Mighty Grace."

A reliable tradition states that Imam Mohammed Baqir (a.s.) enquired of Mubashshir whether his Shias assemble at any time and discuss among themselves about the qualities and knowledge of the Imams (a.s.). At that, Mubashshir replied, "Yes, by God." Then Imam (a.s.) answered that by the Almighty God, he liked that he should participate in such gatherings and smell their good perfume, as they all were on the faith of God and the angels of God. He further beckoned Mubashshir to keep away from the prohibited things and take pains with prayers that he may help the Imam (a.s.) to intercede on his behalf and recommend him.

In another tradition it is stated that whereever there are two or three momineen gathered, the same number of angels come to them. If these momineen are asking something from God, the angels say "Ameen", and if these momineen are requesting to be guarded from some mischief, the angels pray to God to keep away the mischief; and if they are asking for a favour, the angels ask God to grant them the favour.

And if two or three dissenters who do not accept the rights of Ahlul bait (a.s.) are assembled, the same number of devils are present with them. The devils talk in the same manner these disenters are talking; when they laugh, the devils also laugh; and if they are insulting the friends of God, the devils follow their lead. In case a momin is snared among these devils, he should leave the gathering when they start insulting the friends of God, and thus not

become a member and companion of their assembly; for the anger of God cannot be beared by anyone and no one can nullify the curses of God. In case he is forced to be in that company, he should retaliate against the insults being hurled on the friends of God and should leave the company for a little while, every few minutes.

In another tradition it is stated that a person who treads the path of knowledge shall have the path of heaven broadened for him by the Almighty God. The angels lay their plumage (hair) happily for the student and all the creatures of earths and skies (heaven) pray for him; even the fishes of the sea pray. The greatness of a scholar over a person who offers more prayers is like the greatness of the moon of the fourteenth night over the stars.

In another tradition sorrow is expressed over that person who, even on a Friday, cannot forsake his worldly affairs to learn the religious knowledge.

Yet another tradition states that the Almighty God states, "A discussion about knowledge among my men enlivens their deed and hearts."

It is stated from a reliable tradition that whenever the muslims meet, they should discuss about knowledge and relate tradition, for traditions brighten the hearts which had gone to rust; for the hearts rust in the same manner as swords; and as the swords are brightened by polish, so are the hearts by the narration of traditions.

According to Imam Mohammed Baqir (a.s.), the reward of speaking about knowledge is equal to the reward of already heard (accepted) prayers.