When 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?