Asking for Permission

Musa Kâzım GÜLÇÜR

Asking permission from others is important as a rule to be followed by both older and younger people and is emphasized in Islamic teachings. In fact, such behaviour is commanded in the verses of the Qur’an, which were revealed by God to be read century after century by each generation. Permission has a critical role in the life of both the family and society.

O you who believe! Do not enter dwellings other than your own until you have ascertained the permission of their residents and have greeted them with peace. Your doing so is what is good and appropriate for you, so that you may be mindful (of good manners and proper courtesy). Then if you find no one in them, do not enter them until you have permission to enter. If you are asked to go back, then go back (without feeling offended). It is a purer way for you. God has full knowledge of all that you do.” (Nur 24:27–28)

This Qur’anic verse emphasizes the sanctity and privacy of the home and lays out the rules that apply when visiting another person’s home. Accordingly, if the visitor enters the home without waiting for the inhabitants to invite them in, they have shown a gross disregard for the privacy of the family. This verse, then, indicates that after knocking at the door or ringing the bell, a visitor should wait for permission to enter. Therefore, the best way to behave is first to greet the inhabitants of the house (or whoever comes to the door), saying salaamun ‘alaykum, and then ask for permission to enter. In both the practice and teachings of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, these guidelines can be seen in even greater detail. In fact, Imam Nawawi gave the following explanation: “God’s Messenger said, ‘First (utter) greetings, then anything else that needs to be said.’ So, the correct way is to greet people first and then ask (for permission) to enter.” It is for this reason that great scholars like Abu Said al-Khudri raised their children to follow this rule of adab.

Ubayd ibn Umayr says, “Abu Musa al-Ash’ari came and asked to see Umar ibn Khattab. Umar must have been busy, and Abu Musa was not allowed in, so he left. When Umar finished what he was doing, he said, ‘Did I hear the voice of Abu Musa? Let him in now!’ When they told Umar that Abu Musa had left, he immediately had him called back. Then Umar asked him, ‘Why didn’t you wait?’ Abu Musa replied, ‘This is the way we were commanded to act.’ Umar said, ‘Bring me proof!’ So, Abu Musa went to the assembly of Ansar and asked them. They said, ‘Only our youngest, Abu Said al-Khudri, can tell you firsthand about this matter.’ So, Abu Musa took Abu Said to Umar. When he heard what Abu Said had to say, Umar said, ‘How can something that was taught and practiced by the Prophet have remained outside my knowledge? I must have been busy with trading or buying something at the market (when he taught that).”

Caliph Umar was reminded of the rule that we should leave a place without becoming upset if permission is not granted by Abu Said al-Khudri, the child who had witnessed it in the life of the Prophet. [Bukhari, Al-Adab al-Mufrad, 1065]

The following tradition answers the most common questions about how waiting for permission is to be practiced. ‘Abdullah ibn Busr recounted that the Prophet, when knocking on a door, would not look directly at the door, but turn his head to the side. If he was invited in, he would step in, if not he would turn back. [Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 4/189] Islam forbids peeping into the houses of others, looking into them from the outside, or listening to conversations that take place in another’s house. The Prophet stated that a person should ask for permission no more than three times. If there is no response, the would-be visitor should leave.

The Prophet, sent as a Mercy to the Worlds, would even ask for permission from children. Undoubtedly, he was the most righteous, the most trustworthy person in the whole world. Thus, he made no distinction between younger and older people (but observed their rights equally). Sahl ibn Sa’d says, “(Once I saw) someone bring a drink to the Prophet. He drank from it, then he turned to the child on his right. There were some older people on his left. He asked the child, ‘Do you mind if I give them some of this?’ The child said, ‘No, by God; O Messenger, I do not wish for you to give to anyone else what you give to me!’ And the Prophet gave the child the water.” [Bukhari, Ashriba, 19; Muslim, Ashriba, 127; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 1/284]

Translated by Jessica ÖZALP

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