It has been narrated by many scholars of Islam that if parents have any inheritance, there is no greater inheritance than Adab. Al-Walid ibn Numayr said that he heard his father say ‘righteousness is (a gift) from Allah, but Adab (right conduct) is from parents". Adab plays an important role in society. The actions of members in society are considered immoral or bad if they lack manners. Indeed, having good manners and doing few good deeds are better by far than doing many good deeds and having no or little manners.
Adab is central to the teachings of Islam. Due to the great importance of Adab in everyday life, Imam Bukhari separated the discussion on Adab in a special book entitled al-Adab al-Mufrad. If one were to survey the books of Hadith, one would discover that each have chapters on Adab. The narrators of Hadith have reserved special elaboration for Adab in their books. For instance;
1. The Muwatta' of Imam Malik: The book of good behaviour
2. The Sahih of al-Bukhari: The book of manners
3. The Sahih of Muslim: The book of duties, ties of kinship and manners
4. The Sunan of Abu Dawud: The book of manners
5. The Sunan of al-Tirmidhi: The book of manners, and the book of duties and ties of kinship
6. The Sunan of Ibn Majah: A Chapter on manners
Adab can be taught. We learn by example. Therefore, it is crucial that we encourage good habits and deeds, although bad habits are perhaps the easier to acquire. Knowledge alone is insufficient to build a sound and balanced personality. What use is knowledge to us without exemplifying those mannerisms and etiquette that really define us as Muslims? A Muslim scholar mentioned that "knowledge without Adab is like fire without wood, and Adab without knowledge is like a spirit without a body". Suffice it to say that Adab is acquired naturally, it is not really taught or learnt, but is naturally developed. Children learn Adab from their parents, students from their teachers, the less experienced from the experienced. One may have knowledge but lacks ‘Adab'; and one may have Adab but lacks knowledge; however without Adab, one cannot know which knowledge is more prior. Today it is painfully obvious that material gain regardless of how it is acquired, has taken priority over virtue. The spiritual development of humanity has fallen far behind its intellectual growth. It would seem that looking back through history, our greatest search for knowledge has been for the knowledge of destruction, and our greatest discoveries are the result of an all-encompassing drive for power.
The destruction and violence of war is obvious. At the touch of a button millions of people die, whole cities are destroyed, and poisons remain to defile our earth for all generations to come. I wonder, if we were to or must struggle and fight among ourselves, could we return to a less sophisticated time when the battlefield was filled only with the screams of soldiers killing soldiers? War is only a word to much of a modern society. Removed by technology, many have never seen the pain in the eyes of a starving child chewing at his or her dead mother's breast. All these are the result of a loss of Adab.
Article courtesy of : Suzalie Bin Mohamad, IKIM Fellow.