Respect is a very important principle and quality that is highly emphasized by the religion of Islam, but it seems that it has started to fade away these days. The million-dollar question is why is it fading away? And if does exist, why does it exist with restrictions and double standards? This piece attempts at addressing the importance of respect in Islam, some types of respect, the consequences of disrespect, some of the strange phenomena invading the Islamic society clashing with this beautiful principle and rules for respect to have it as a way of life.
Definition of respect
Respect is defined in many ways. For example, English Oxford dictionary website defines respect as, “ feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements” while in Cambridge dictionary website respect is also explained as, “the polite attitude shown toward someone or something that you consider important”. Thus, respect basically is a principle of showing politeness to people or things because they deserve that.
Respect in the Holy Quran
Islam places a very high importance for respect in Muslims’ lives. In fact, Islam commands people to show respect to all creations and treat them with a lot of dignity and honor. There are many verses in the Quran where respect is highly stressed and commanded to be practiced by every Muslim. Allah in His Glorious Book -The Quran- commands human beings to show respect to parents in many verses. In chapter 29 verse 8, Allah says, “We have enjoined on humankind kindness to parents.” The same respect to parents was emphasized in another verse where Allah reminds human beings to respect parents by saying “And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) Kindness unto parents” (Quran 4:36). In these two verses, Allah has put the respect for parents after People’s worship to Him to highlight the importance of respect for parents in the Quran.
Types of Respect
There are many forms or types of respect in Islam. Islam commands Muslim to respect Allah, His Prophets, His creations including human beings (Muslim and non-Muslim), environment and so on. Basically, respect is for all is an Islamic principle that must be observed by Muslims with everyone and everything in this life. The next section discusses some examples of respect.
Respect for Allah
Respect for Allah is the most important type of respect because Allah is the most deserving of respect. If someone examines the definition of respect, s/he will know respect Allah is represented in obeying Allah’s rules and commandments. However, are Muslim fully following Allah’s instructions and rules nowadays? I do not want to sound pessimistic but there is a huge number of wrong practices that are against the teaching of Allah that a lot of Muslim have adopted. Respect for Allah requires a complete follow up for Allah’s principles including respect. How many Muslim people are drinking? How many people are fornicating? How many people are not praying? And list goes on. Respect for Allah requires a lot of commitment to please Allah by following whatever Allah has asked to do. In the Quran, “And whosoever obeys God and His Messenger, fears God, and keeps his duty (to Him), such are the successful ones.” (Quran 24:52). So respect for Allah is the best type of respect and when people observe it the other types are automatically practiced because this respect controls all other aspects of respect.
Respect for the Prophet
Islam requests Muslim to show respect to all the prophets and messengers of Allah. What does it mean to respect the prophets who do not live with us anymore? As we know that prophets and messengers of Allah shared the same message which is guiding humanity to worship Allah. Maintaining and following their manners and the principles they lived with are the best way to show respect to the prophets and messengers and respect was one of these manners practiced by all the prophets and messengers of Allah. The verse, “And whosoever obeys God and His Messenger, fears God, and keeps his duty (to Him), such are the successful ones” is a clear reminder of showing respecting to the Prophet by obeying Allah and His Messengers because the messengers are the best human beings in following Allah’s instructions. There might be some people from other religions who might attack the prophet Muhammad peace be upon him but as Muslims we are not allowed to attack the prophets who are associated with other religions because all the prophets are equally respected. So, respect for the prophets is accomplished by modeling their prophetic lives and manners in our lives as Muslims and respect is one of these manners that Muslims have to maintain in their lives.
Respect for the religion
Respecting religion can be represented in knowing the religion very well. The Muslim world suffers from ignorance problem these days when it comes to their Islamic teaching and principles. In fact, some Muslim ominously value social norms more than Islamic principles. In some cases, these people are willing to defend the social principles or norms over the Islamic principles. My question is to them: if we are real Muslims, why do we prioritize social norms over Islamic teachings like respecting people? As a Muslim nation, why are we afflicted with diseases like discrimination, double standards, tribalism over Islamic siblinghood? This requires a critical look and accountability for what we do and practice because these diseases are against the Islamic principles.
Respect for parents
Respect for parents is a big concept in Islam and parents are given a higher status of respect. As mentioned earlier, Allah has asked human beings to recognize their parents after recognition of Allah Himself to show the level of respect parents must receive by their kids even if they are not Muslim. In a prophetic tradition as Narrated by Abi Abder Rahman Abdullah bin Massoud (May Allah be pleased with him) saying: I asked the Prophet peace be upon him, “which deed is more liked by Allah?” He replied, “Prayers on time.” Then I asked, “Which one is next?” He said, “Goodness to parents.” Then I asked, “Then which one is next?” He said, “Jihad in the way of Allah.” This type will be discussed in detail in another piece since it is a very important type and the Muslim world seems to struggle with these days.
Respect for the self
This type is also important because Muslims are required to respect themselves, so they avoid being taken advantage of. This respect comes by educating yourself about who you are and your rights and duties towards others. This type along with respect for parents will be also discussed in detail in another piece.
Respect for other
This type comes in many forms, but two types will be elaborated here.
1. Respect for Non-Muslim
Allah has mentioned in His Holy Book the Quran, “We have indeed honored the Children of Adam, and provided for them means of transportation on land and sea and given them wholesome food and exalted them high above the greater part of Our creation. (THE QURAN 17: 70). This verse clearly states the importance of respecting for human beings showing that respect is man’s natural birthright, regardless of which community he belongs to: Muslim or non-Muslim. The use of the phrase of “Children of Adam” is evident for everyone is respected regardless of his/her faith. For non-Muslim, the famous story of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him with the Jewish person is evident for the expanded meaning of respect to cover the non-Muslim people. Although this story is taught in every school, there are some Muslims who do not practice it in their treatment with non-Muslims living in some Islamic countries. One repeated example illustrating the disrespect of some Muslim for non-Muslims is the way housemaids are treated. There are a lot of non-Muslim housemaids who have been treated badly by Muslim families who practice: verbal and physical abuse, late payment for their salaries on time. These housemaids or workers are treated as trash not like human beings. On the other hands, there are some families who treat these non-Muslim workers with a lot of respect. As a result of this treatment with dignity, these workers decided to revert to Islam. As Muslims we need to change the way we treat these human beings, so we follow Allah’s instructions of respecting people regardless of their religion and to show them that Islam is the religion of mercy and respect. Reverting to Islam is a good goal but the most noble goal is to show and follow the true principles of Islam like respect with everyone regardless of their faith. I have noticed some Muslims show respect to non-Muslim people based on their socioeconomic status. If these are from certain countries (like the West) , they are given more respect but those who come from poor ( So called Third World )countries, they are not respected and instead they are considered as less human. This is hypocrisy and Allah has warned Muslims that hypocritic people are the worst. Allah says in the Quran, “The hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire.” (Quran 4:145). This double standard mentality is not Islamic and has to demolished in the Islamic world by showing respect to all.
2. Respect for Muslim People
It is unfortunate to witness double standards in showing respect to our siblings in religion. There are some Muslim siblings come from poor countries for a better life, but they are treated badly by some Muslims because they are poor so they do not deserve any respect. I was shocked once to hear a Muslim caller asking a Muslim scholar to specify a place in the mosque for poor Muslim people because they smell bad. The scholar was extremely mad and asked the caller to show respect to their Muslim siblings from these poor countries. He told the caller to fear Allah and he said, “ the peace and prosperity that we live in this country might be because of a supplication of these poor people”. Another form of disrespect among Muslims in relation to the sectarian differences. Although the schools of thoughts nowadays are based on ijtihad or a thorough exertion for what is right. This exertion in finding the truth is man-made knowledge which could wrong due the limitation of human capabilities. This is not to lesson the role played by the scholars but to acknowledge and the fact human beings are limited based and could result in mistakes because human beings’ knowledge is limited regardless how smart they are or can be. Some scholars take these differences to another level of disrespect. There are some channels whose job is to attack those who have different views neglecting the many common grounds these schools have. As scholars, there is a need to have role of models for respecting other views because these opinions are humanly produced knowledge. As we know that Allah will reward sincere scholars for their thorough exertion to interpret the word of Allah. Let us remember what the prophet taught us in one of the prophetic narrations, “If a judge makes a ruling, striving to apply his reasoning (ijtihad) and he is correct, then he will have two rewards. If a judge makes a ruling, striving to apply his reasoning and he is mistaken, then he will have one reward.” (Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 6919, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1716). Therefore, respect for each other is the way out for these sectarian wars in the Muslim world.
Consequences of disrespect
Disrespect has become a common phenomenon in our lives. In her book entitled, “The Power of respect, Hughes (2009) found that about 79 percent of people in America think a lack of respect and courtesy is a big problem in the US. Educationally, 73 percent of teachers believe that kids bring disrespectful behaviors to the school. Not only in schools, but at home as well where 68 percent of parents believe disrespect is widespread among their kids or children. Economically speaking, when employees are not respected, their productivity reduces. Most importantly, disrespect harms familial relationships leading to clashes and division. In other words, disrespect can lead to making firm relationship fall apart. A lot of violence might be triggered as a result of disrespect. Many stories have been reported in Oman where housemaids did criminal acts resulted from lack of respect. Consequently, these housemaids attempted to take revenge for the bad treatment of that family.
12 rules of respect
Meshanko shares 12 rules of respect that help in creating a great atmosphere in any place. These rules are not explained in detail because they are self-explanatory.
1. Be aware of our non-verbal and extraverbal cues.
2. Develop curiosity for the perspective of others.
3. Assume that everyone is smart about something.
4. Become a better listener by shaking our “but”.
5. Look for opportunities to connect with and support others.
6. Explain why we disagree, when we do.
7. Admit where we need to personally grow, stretch and change.
8. Learn to be wrong on occasion.
9. Never hesitate to say we’re sorry.
10. Intentionally engage others in ways that build their self-esteem.
11. Be respectful of time when making comments.
To bring this piece to an end, respect is a value or virtue that needs to be emphasized in our lives so good and healthy relationships with people whom love and know can cherish and stay stable. I found this beautiful quote that explains itself, “If they respect you, respect them. If they disrespect you, still respect them. Do not allow the actions of others to decrease your good manners, because you represent yourself, not others.” Remember the old saying that goes, “Do as you would be done by” so initiate and live with it even if others do not practice it. Respect is an art that has to be taught and practiced in our daily lives.