Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Safar / Rabi-Ul Awwal 1422 H
May 2002
Volume 15-05 No:185

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Hadith


The importance of giving a good impression



The importance of giving
a good impression

Prophet Muhammad said: “There are two qualities which a wise person could readily appreciate:
kind words and generosity. Both demonstrate kindness and care for others.
When people are well received and offered food and hospitality, they are grateful.
Offering these when one is able to do so does not only earn people’s gratitude,
but it earns reward from God. When these become normal characteristics of a person,
they ensure admission to heaven”

By Adil Salahi

Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) was keen to show his companions and his followers in later generations, that it is important to give a good impression, or impart a good feeling to other people. Hence, he instructed his companions to choose good names for their children. It is indeed something that we owe to our children, so that other people welcome them when they state their names. Similarly, the Prophet taught his companions not to say things about themselves that may give a bad or a wrong impression. For example, he is authentically reported to have said: “Let none of you say, ‘I am foul’; rather, he should say, ‘I do not feel well’.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and Al-Nassaie). The same Hadith is also related by Abu Dawood through a different narrator.

What the Prophet points out here is that we should not attribute any foul status or feeling to ourselves, even if this only means that we are complaining of some illness, pain or discomfort. The Arabic word the Prophet uses for “foul” is derived from the same root as “evil”. Hence, he wanted Muslims never to attribute evil to themselves, because evil is Satan’s work. When one wants to express a certain condition, he should make clear that he is only talking about what he feels at that particular moment and he should simply say that he is not in the best of feelings or spirits.

Similarly, our names are like marks attached to us. Hence, we should not give the wrong marking to our children or ourselves. Once a delegation from an Arabian tribe came to the Prophet and he heard them calling one of them Abu Al-Hakam. It should be explained that “Abu - means “father of”. This is a form of address that indicates respect. Normally the Arabs used it in reference to each other, whether the person concerned is present or absent. This is still the case today in many Arab countries. It could be attached to a man’s eldest son, or to a particular quality of his, or to something special to him.

What was special in this case is that this man was called Abu Al-Hakam. As a name “Al-Hakam” was never very common. It means “the arbiter.” It is derived from the same root as “rule” and “government”. Hence, when the Prophet heard these people calling their tribesman Abu Al-Hakam, he asked him to come over to him and said: “It is God who is the arbiter, and to Him all rule belongs. Why have you called yourself Abu Al-Hakam? ”The man said: “It was not so. But when my people are in dispute over something, they come to me and I arbitrate between them. Both parties are happy with my ruling.” The Prophet said: “How beautiful!” He then asked him how many children he had. The man said: “I have Shurayh, Abdullah and Muslim.

The Prophet points out that we should not attribute any foul status or feeling to ourselves, even if this only means that we are complaining of some illness, pain or discomfort.


They are all the sons of Hani.” The Prophet asked him who was the eldest and the man informed him that Shurayh was. The Prophet said: “Then you are Abu Shurayh.” He prayed for him and for his children. The same Hadith mentions that the Prophet heard the same group calling another man Abd Al-Hajar. He called him and asked what was his name and the man repeated that. So the Prophet said: “No. You are Abdullah.” When the delegation was about to leave, Hani came to the Prophet and said: “Tell me what would ensure admission into heaven for me?” The Prophet said: “Make sure to say kind words and offer food.” (Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Al-Nassaie, Abu Dawood, Al-Tirmithi and others)

The first thing to note about this Hadith is that the Prophet took names seriously and wanted his companions to have only what is good and acceptable for their names. Here we see him changing two people’s names or titles. In the first case, the man was given a nickname on the basis of his sound judgement, and his fairness. But since Al-Hakam is an attribute of God, giving such a name to a man is discouraged. There was nothing wrong with the name or the nickname itself. Indeed, it imparted a sense that the person concerned is wise and highly respected. But it is better not to use it on account of the uneasy feeling it may generate because it is associated with God. When the man explained to the Prophet the reason for having been given this nickname, the Prophet commended him. Realising that the man may feel that it was a name indicating his honourable position, the Prophet asked him about his children and the name of his eldest son. He then replaced his title by the more normal one of calling him as the father of his eldest son.

He added a prayer for him and his children. In the second case, the man was called Abd Al-Hajar. “Abd” means “servant or slave”, and it is acceptable only when one of God’s names or attributes is added to it. But in this case, what was added is Al Hajar, which means “the stone”. This perhaps was a reference to an idol made of stone, or to a particular stone his people honoured. Such a name could not be accepted in an Islamic community. Hence, the Prophet changed it immediately, calling the man Abdullah, which is an amalgamation of the two words: Abd and Allah. So there can be no confusion. He would admit to serve God only. We note that in both cases, there was a very good reason for changing the two men’s names. Indeed the Prophet did not change the name of any of his companions, unless there was a valid reason for doing so. When a name is in breach of an Islamic value, or when it has a bad meaning, the Prophet changed it. Otherwise, his companions retained their original names. The last portion of the Hadith indicates that the first man, Hani, who used to be called Abu Al-Hakam, was of strong faith and sound mind. He asked the Prophet a direct question, wanting to know the shortest way to heaven.

The Prophet told him of two qualities, which such a wise person could readily appreciate: kind words and generosity. Both demonstrate kindness and care for others. When people are well received and offered food and hospitality, they are grateful. Offering these when one is able to do so does not only earn people’s gratitude, but it earns reward from God. When these become normal characteristics of a person, they ensure admission to heaven.

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