Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Lesson of the Chair

Chairs - Click for Photo CreditWhen Imam Malik was a child and went to go learn Islam, his mother dressed him in his finest clothes and took him to sit in the circle of Rabi'a Ar-Ra'y, and she told him to learn the man's adab before learning his knowledge--isn't that interesting? Adab, by the way, means comportment, or putting everything in its proper place. In this context, it means good manners and etiquette. So Imam Malik was told by his mother to learn the scholar's adab first.

I love my imam, I have so much respect for his knowledge and manners, the patience he has when dealing with people even when they are rude, and how gentle he is with children. MaashaaAllah, tabaarakAllah, this community is really blessed to have him here. I try to learn not just his knowledge and what he teaches, but how he teaches it and how he interacts with the people.

Some weeks ago, I was sitting in the sisters' portion of the musallah, which is a segmented section behind the main prayer hall, with half of a wall for sisters to sit behind if they wish. I was sitting against the wall waiting for the adhaan for maghrib, if I remember correctly, so I could see the brothers walking around and such. Now, dressed in a very smart white thowb, the imam had come in to the main prayer hall and was looking for a chair. Once he found one, he moved it to where he wanted to sit (presumably to also wait for the adhaan) and right before he sat down he looked down at the seat, somewhat surprised, and wouldn't sit.

He picked up the chair and carried it back towards me to show it to me. Why me? It wasn't particularly out of the way, and I was the only sister sitting in the section. He just came close enough to show me the seat of the chair--which was pretty filthy. He explained that someone, while eating in the kitchen (we have a kitchen/restaraunt outside the musallah as a part of the masjid), must have spilled something on the chair to make it dirty. Having helped set up numerous da'wah events and classes, I know that many of the masjid's folding chairs are dirty. By the way, they are the metal folding chairs with an upholstered cushion attached at the seat, and back pieces--so they aren't really easy to clean.

Now, back to the lesson, he explained to me that this chair was dirty and that if someone were wearing some light-colored clothes it would likely leave a dirty mark. At that point, I wasn't sure what to do. Was he asking me to help him replace any dirty chairs with clean ones? He didn't really ask me to do anything, just explained more or less what he was doing, and why. I really want to know why he stopped to tell me that, though, and what I should learn from it.

He went ahead after that and took the dirty chair outside the musallah toward the kitchen, and found himself another, clean chair. Now whenever I am setting out chairs for the small classes we have after maghrib (like last night) I make a point to ensure that the chairs I set out are all clean, even if that means removing dirty chairs that have already been set out. And of course I make sure his chair is clean as well. When our older brothers and sisters (aunties and uncles) need to sit in a chair for their salaat, I guess the least we can do is make sure that there are chairs available, and that the ones inside the musallah for sure are clean.

Any other lessons to take away? I'm asking you, my readers, to help me glean even more from this lesson, because I was so touched that he made a point to tell me what he was doing, I want to benefit from it as much as possible. So, any ideas?


Anonymous said...

salaam alaykum. i love your blog and your constant desire to increase your imaan and ibadah is truly an inspiration. something else that you might want to do is to use separate chairs for the musallah and for the kitchen. that way you won't have that issue, unles syou don't have sufficient chairs. in that case you might want to fundraise to buy additional chairs and enforce that policy.
adab is very important and thnaks for the reminder.

Mina said...

Mashallah, its wonderful how your always striving to increase your knowledge and your desire to always please ALLAH makes my heart gleam with joy...

The story is an inspiration to us all, and your community is very lucky mashallah to have Imam Malik.

I would suggest that you regually clean the chairs maybe with a steam cleaner and ask the sisters in the musallah to voulnteer to help clean the chairs and maintain it if possible. Another suggestion is that if you could possibly keep the chairs separate and let everyone know which ones are for the musallah and which ones are for the kitchen so no one mixes them up.

Adab is one of the most important lessons in Islam and everyone should keep it in mind, adab is not always to do with ones self and how you act, but how you treat or take care of things around you.

Jamilah said...

Great story Amy... I enjoyed the comments of the others and I'd just add that sometimes it does some good to remind everyone to clean up after themselves. Sometimes things like that can come across in the wrong way, but if said correctly it should help everyone remember that they are in the Masjid and we all have to work together to keep things clean and nice.

Naeem: said...

AA- Amy,

Its obvious that he was teaching you about the dangers of wearing white clothes to the masjid.

Using my laser-sharp skills of reading between the lines, I'm guessing that he was saying we should all wear red or brown colored clothes. Red, in case the stain is from ketchup or curry and brown, in case its baby poop.

Of course, I could be wrong...but highly unlikely.

Amy said...

Wa alaikum as-salaam to everyone who has commented:

Anonymous (1) -
JAK for your nice comments. Alhamdulillah now that the mosque has fully opended its expanded sections, there are chairs for the kitchen which do not get pulled into the musallah anymore. We have the same set of chairs for classes behind the musallah now--but some of them have gotten dirty in the past. We did get new chairs for some of the new rooms upstairs, alhamdulillah.

Mina (2)
JAK for reading my blog and your nice comments. I'm not sure if it is possible to clean these chairs with a steam cleaner, or do I know where to find one. Now we have enough chairs that they don't get dragged from the kitchen to the musallah, but we have the same old chairs which are used in the musallah and for classes behind the musallah--many of these have been dirtied in the past. But thanks for the suggestions. I'll have to look into the steam cleaner idea.

Jamilah (3)
Ideally people would clean up after themselves--unfortunately it's a recurring problem I've seen that women sometimes tend to treat the masjid worse than their own homes just eating on the carpet and spilling drinks, and not cleaning them up. (Not in the new musallah now, alhamdulillah.) But often the messes are made by children, I think, who don't really tell anyone that they've made a mess.

Naeem: (4)

Nice colon. Nice job at reading between the lines, I guess... I think you must just be expressing some pent-up frustration about all those Saudis wearing white thowbs all the time. Yes?