Islamic manners for children

While visiting the Mauritian capital of Port Louis we popped inside the Jumma Mosque, partly as respite from the midday sun, partly to admire the architecture.

While inside a gentleman approached me (he can be seen in the photo below, taken after we’d left. He’s the one on the left, seated and wearing a helmet for no discernible reason) and started chatting. I was concerned that once he’d started he’d never stop, and he’d end up trying to convince me to come to a prayer meeting or something (I seem to attract those types), but after a brief exchange he left us in peace.

He did, however, offer me a couple of small pamphlets. One was a transcript of a lecture about Islam and science. The other was “Islamic Manners for Children”.

I know little or nothing about Islam, and I don’t mean to mock or criticise in any way, but here are a few of the suggestions which caught my eye flicking through this slim volume:

Table Manners

  • We should eat only those food that is nearest to us so that we do not stretch ourselves to reach the food.

Sitting Manners

  • Try to keep company with persons of good character.
  • We are not allowed to whisper to another person in the presence of other people during a gathering or sitting.

Toilet Manners

  • Never enter the toilet with a companion.
  • We should not talk while relieving ourselves.

Talking Manners

  • Whenever we talk, talk softly and with a smile.
  • Speak only when it is necessary and ensure that what we say is something that is useful.
  • Try to listen more and talk less.

Sleeping Manners

  • We should lie on our right side and put our right hand on our right cheek.
  • We should wake at dawn.

Going-out Manners

  • We should step out with our left, and step in with our right foot.
  • When we are outside, we should keep our eyes downcast.
  • Remove harmful bits and pieces out of the way.
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9 thoughts on “Islamic manners for children

  1. Erik R. April 30, 2009 / 2:48 pm

    Do Muslims really always cross the threshold of their house with the same foot? I had never heard of that tradition.

    That’s the kind of thing that, once ingrained by your anal parents as a child, becomes impossible to stop doing as an adult.

    In Spain there’s a silly superstition about the orientation of a loaf of bread on the table that is slowly creeping into my subconscious to the point where I will absentmindedly correct the position of a misplaced loaf despite the ridiculousness of the superstition.

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  2. simonlitton April 30, 2009 / 2:54 pm

    There’s scope here for a religion/habit/OCD post on this, but I’m too lazy to research it. The “right hand = good, left hand = bad” thing is pretty common, I think, even being enshrined in many languages (the Italian for left is “sinistra”, which obviously shares an etymological link with “sinister”).
    I need to know more about this bread alignment thing, though.

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    • Erik R. April 30, 2009 / 5:14 pm

      Yes, the left=bad/right=good theme is across cultures. Desmond Morris told me so.

      The bread thing is that the bread must be in the same vertical orientation it was baked in, i.e. the bottom of the bread on the table, not upside down. And when anyone in Spain says “bread”, they mean a baguette.

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  3. covert November 25, 2009 / 2:10 pm

    Hey Simon,

    Just came across your blog. Looks interesting, and thought I’d comment.

    I know I’m a few months too late, but just wondering; did those points you put up appear strange to you?

    Though I can’t comment on the authenticity of everything you’ve put up there without seeing the book, quite a few of the recommendations are just common sense pancultural things e.g., listen more, talk less, keeping company with good people etc. Paying attention to the things one says is very important in Islam, and there is a prophetic saying regarding either speaking good or keeping silent.

    Many other recommendations up there are just that – recommendations, such as sleeping on one’s right side or stepping into one’s house with the right foot etc. They are not obligations.

    With regards to left hand/right hand, Muslims use their right hand for eating, and their left hand for other ‘less clean’ activities, such as cleansing oneself after using the bathroom.

    Just my two cents worth.

    I’ll keep browsing..

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    • simon November 26, 2009 / 9:05 am

      Thanks for commenting, covert.
      Yes, a lot of them are common sense, but they’re not always the kind of advice that’s given to children (at least not Western, non-Muslim children). I’m thinking of things like “ensure that what we say is something that is useful”. I don’t object to any of them, although “When we are outside, we should keep our eyes downcast” seems a little strange to me.
      I knew about the right/left hand thing from when I travelled in india and we always ate with our right hand.
      Browse away…

      Like

  4. Hanadi April 12, 2010 / 5:11 pm

    hey simon

    I know im late i just want to say that im a muslim and thank you for putting those stuff well i have to say that some of them people dont do it some of them they do.I just want to ask you that if u believe thats if its true b/c im 11 and i dont know b/c here in palestine theres war and i dont know what to do soo yeah i just wanted to know do u believe in those things and do you think some of them are silly? thanks for putting this topis i just wanted to know well thanks for reading this bye

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    • simonlitton April 15, 2010 / 11:18 am

      Thanks for the comment, Haandi.
      I don’t think any of these rules are “silly” as such, although I don’t really see the point of the distinction between left and right hands. I think the ones I agree with most are the “sitting” and “talking” manners.

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  5. huda January 5, 2013 / 5:21 am

    Hello Simon,

    “We should eat only those food that is nearest to us so that we do not stretch ourselves to reach the food.”
    People gather around One plate to eat, this habit still exists in some places today, in Africa, India, Arabia….etc..
    That is why the above recommendation is a must…if you are sitting with five people on one tray , it is not of good manners to stretch yourself to get the meat on the other side of the tray or dig in the middle looking for the biggest piece!

    Regarding the right foot, hand…it is a recommendation from the prophet (peace be upon him) because the devil does things with his left, the recommendation is to oppose the devil physically and spiritually.

    Like

  6. ayan February 28, 2013 / 5:06 am

    hahahahahhahahhahahah so funny!

    Like

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