These skills give us physical pleasure, and I do not mean by this the pleasure of the Hereafter only. Rather, it is that pleasure one actually feels in this world. So enjoy these skills and practise them with the old, young, rich, poor, near or far. Use these skills with them in order to guard yourself from their harm, to earn their love, or to rectify them. ‘Ali bin al-Jahm was a very eloquent poet, but he was a Bedouin. The only life he knew was the desert life. The Caliph, al-Mutawakkil, was very powerful. People would go to visit him and return with whatever they wished. One day, ‘Ali bin al-Jahm entered Baghdad and it was said to him, “Whoever praises the Caliph is bestowed with honour and gifts.” ‘Ali became excited and went to the Caliph’s palace. There he saw the poets reciting their poems in praise of the Caliph and returning with gifts. Al-Mutawakkil was known for his authority, awe and power. ‘Ali began to praise the Caliph with a poem in which he likened him to a dog, a goat and a bucket, whilst other poets likened him to the sun, the moon and the mountains! The Caliph became angry, and his guards unsheathed their swords and prepared to strike off his neck. But then, the Caliph
realised that ‘Ali bin al-Jahm was from the desert and that his personality and poetic taste was shaped accordingly. He decided to change his personality, so he ordered his men to house him in a section of the palace, be treated with kindness and be given all the available pleasures. Al-Jahm tasted some of these bounties and sat on couches side by side with eloquent poets and authors for seven months. One day, as the Caliph was sitting in his nightly gathering, he remembered ‘Ali bin al-Jahm, so he sent for him. When al-Jahm finally came to him, he said,“Sing some verses to me, O ‘Ali bin al-Jahm!” Al-Jahm began to move emotions using soft and kind words, and likened the king to the sun, the stars and the sword. Notice how the Caliph was able to change Ibn al-Jahm’s personality. How often have we been upset by the bad behaviour of our children and friends? Did we ever try to change their nature successfully? Even more, you should be able to change your own personality by replacing a frowning face with a smiling one, replacing anger with forbearance, and miserliness with generosity. None of this is difficult, but it does require determination and persistence, so be brave!
Whoever reads the life of the Prophet realises that he would deal with people with these skills and capture their hearts. The Prophet would not simply pretend to have these skills in front of people and replace his forbearance with anger when being alone with his family. He was never one to be cheerful with some but sulky with his own family. He was never one to be generous with everyone except his own children and wives. Rather, he always acted naturally. He would worship Allah by his fine manners just as he would worship Him by offering the Duha or night prayers. He would consider his smile to be a virtue, his gentleness an act of worship, and his forgiveness and leniency a good deed. The one who considers good manners to be acts of worship will always remain well-mannered, in war and peace, when he is hungry and when he is full, when healthy or ill, and even when happy or sad. How many women only hear about the refined manners of their husbands, such as their patience, cheerfulness and generosity, but never witness any of these qualities at home? Such husbands, often when at home, are ill-mannered, impatient, sulky and constantly cursing. As for the Prophet , he said, “The best of you is the one who is best to his family. And I am the best of you to my family.” (al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah, Sahih)
Now read how he would deal with his family: Al-Aswad bin Yazid said, “I asked ‘A’ishah – may Allah be pleased with her – how Allah’s Messenger would behave in his house. She said: ‘He would be serving his family, and when the time for prayer would come he would perform ablution and leave to pray.’’ The same can be said about parents. How often is it that we hear of the good manners that some display, such as generosity, cheerfulness and kind behaviour towards others, and yet with the closest people to them who have the greatest rights over them, such as their parents, wives and children, they are distant and cold. Yes, the best of you is the best to his family, to his parents, to his wife, to his servants, and even to his children. One night, as Abu Layla – may Allah be pleased with him – sat next to the Prophet , there came to him, either al-Hasan or al-Husayn, so the Prophet lifted him up and placed him on his stomach. The toddler then urinated on the Prophet’s stomach. Abu Layla said, “I saw the urine trickling down from the Prophet’s stomach. So we leapt up to the Prophet , but he said: ‘Leave my son alone. Do not scare him.’” When the toddler had finished urinating, he called for some water and poured it over his stomach.’ (Ahmad and al-Tabarani, with trustworthy narrators) How amazing was the Messenger of Allah to train and adorn himself with such manners! No wonder he was able to win the hearts of the young and old.