1. KEEPING APPOINTMENTS, DELAYS AND CANCELLATION
In the first verse of Surah Al-Mai’da, Allah called upon the believers ‘O you the Believers, fulfill your promises.’ In Surah Maryam Allah also praised Prophet Ismail (علیہ السلام) ‘He was true to his promise. He was a Messenger and a Prophet.’
To keep an appointment is vital to our lives, since time is the most precious commodity which, once wasted cannot be replaced. If you have made an appointment, whether to a friend, colleague or for business you should do your utmost to keep this appointment. This is the right of the other person who has given you his time and may have refused other appointments. Not only have you disrupted his schedule but you have marred your image and personality in his eyes too. If you are not punctual you will lose people’s respect. You should keep all your appointments whether with an important person, a close friend or someone else. You will thus be responding to the call of Allah in Surat Al-Issra’ ‘and keep your promises. The promise is a responsibility.’
It is enough to know that our beloved Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم once gave an appointment to one of his companions. The companion came three days later. The Prophet gently reprimanded him, ‘You have caused me some trouble. I have been waiting for you since three days.’
The companion probably had an excuse for this delay and had no means to inform Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم about his inability to meet the appointment. Today, fast and reliable communication means are available everywhere. As soon as you realize you will not be able to keep an appointment, you should inform the other parties to enable them to utilize their time. Do not be careless or irresponsible. Do not think that the appointment is so unimportant that it does not merit a notice or an apology. This is totally irrelevant. Regardless of its importance an appointment is a commitment. It must be kept or canceled properly in advance.
Never make a promise if you do not intend to keep it or fulfill it. This is forbidden as it falls under lying and hypocrisy. Al-Bukhari and Muslim narrated that Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم said: “Three traits single out hypocrites, even if he prayed and/or fasted and claimed to be a Muslim: If he talks, he lies. If he promises, he does not keep it. If he is entrusted, he betrays the trust.”
Imam Ghazali in Al-Ihya said that this Hadith fits those who promise while intending not to fulfill it, or those who, without excuse, decide later not to fulfill a promise. Those who promise but could not fulfill, their promise due to a proper excuse are not hypocrites. But we should be careful not to create excuses that are not valid. Allah knows our inner thoughts and intentions.
2. DECLINING A VISIT
If you visit friends with or without an appointment and they apologize for not being able to receive you, accept their apology without any ill-feeling. You should understand that something may have come up compelling them to decline your visit. Their affairs or the state of their house may have made your visit inconvenient. It is perfectly all right for them to ask to be excused.
The follower (Tabi’ee) Qatada bin Di‘ama Al-Sadusy said: ‘Do not hang around at the door of those who declined your visit. Accept their reason, leave to attend your business and let them attend their own business.’ Do not ask for a reason or explanations. Imam Malik used to say: ‘Not all people can disclose their reasons.’ Accordingly, when it comes to visiting, our righteous ancestors used to say to their hosts: ‘Perhaps you just became busy and cannot receive us,’ making them feel at ease in case they wanted to be excused. Imam Al-Tabari in his Tafseer (18:113) reported that a man of Muhajirin said: ‘All my life, I wanted to practice this Sura ‘If you are told to turn back then do so, it is much better for you’ but I could not. I was hoping I will seek permission to visit a brother and he will tell me: Go back! I gladly will go back fulfilling this directive to Allah.’
This particular etiquette is very important in order to remove any ill-feelings that could linger because of declining of a visit. Allah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم said, ‘If you are asked to go back, go back: that makes for greater purity.’
Many people do not know what to do and become disturbed by the visit of someone whom they do not want to receive under the circumstances and may resort to lying. Not only their children learn these bad manners, but such behaviour may lead to antipathy.
The Quranic etiquette provides a better alternative to such unpleasantness and guards us against lying. It provides for the host to kindly present a reason to visitors and ask that they accept it in good faith and without hesitation: ‘If you are asked to go back, go back: that makes for greater purity.’