Adapted from Adabul-Haatif of Ash-Shaykh Bakr bn Abdillaah Abu Zayd, Rahimahu-Llaah
Said the Shaykh, ‘The etiquette of exchanging phone calls under the Sharî'ah is derived from the jurisprudence learnt from the etiquette of visits, taking permission before entering another person’s dwelling, speaking and talking with others. This in terms of quantity, time, place and type of speech. The rulings guiding these are well known in the Pure Sharî'ah. They also come in the area of good habits which Islam invites to, to build a Muslim life on what is honorable and lofty. All these go down to mutual mercy and gentleness, and emulating the Prophet of this Benevolent Sharî'ah – Sallallâhu alayhi wa sallam. It came authentically from him – Sallallâhu alayhi wa sallam, that he said, ‘Indeed meekness will not be present in a thing except that it beautifies it, and will not be removed from it except that it dirties it.’’ He – Sallallâhu alayhi wa sallam – also said: ‘Whoever is deprived of the good character of meekness is deprived of all good.’ The two hadiths are recorded by Al-Imaam Muslim.
‘The etiquette of exchanging phone calls is expected of the two people involved; the caller is expected to show more decorum because he is the one in need of the other person’s attention. The caller is like a person who comes to ask for something, he is in a position of weakness therefore he must be very courteous.’
The etiquettes are summarized as follows:
Correctness of the Number to be Dialed
Being sure of the number one wants to dial before going ahead such that an error does not occur whereby a sleeping person would be woken by the wrong call or cause some difficulty to a sick person or make the other person to do what they otherwise do not like to do. So be sure of the number you want to dial, either you read it from the phone directory or you remember it well. And when you press the numbers, follow them with your eyes lest you press a wrong number. If an error thereafter occurs, feel free to tell the other person, ‘I am sorry.’
You the receiver of the call, do not become emotional when you receive a wrong call. Bear it and do not be stern. If you tell the caller, ‘Sorry, the number is wrong.’ If it is so in reality, you are not at fault for you have shown courtesy to him and there is nothing against you in the Sharî'ah. If the other person intentionally wants to hurt you, you have reciprocated his act with kindness, and you will be rewarded for that whereas he will have sins upon him.
Time of Calling
When you need to call another person, know that other people might be busy; they might be eating, sleeping or resting, so should try to give their time more excuse than your need. So you should try and select the best time to call the other person considering their work and other engagements which include the condition of their family members. The Sharî'ah says the young ones should take permissions from the parents before they enter upon them in three periods of time – before Fajr, at Dhuhr and after the Ishaa Prayer. The older kids must seek permission at all times as mentioned in Soorah Noor, V.58-59, 'O You who believe! Let your legal slaves and slave-girls, and those among you who have not come to the age of puberty ask your permission (before they come to your presence) on three occasions; before Fajr (morning) prayer, and while you put off your clothes for the noonday (rest), and after the 'Ishâ' (late-night) Prayer. (These) three times are of privacy for you, other than these times there is no sin on you or on them to move about, attending (helping) you each other. Thus Allâh makes clear the Ayât (the Verses of this Qur'ân, showing proofs for the legal aspects of permission for visits, etc.) to you. And Allâh is All-Knowing, All-Wise. And when the children among you come to puberty, then let them (also) ask for permission, as those senior to them (in age). Thus Allâh makes clear his Ayât (Commandments and legal obligations) for you. And Allâh is All-Knowing, All-Wise.'
That is the guidance of the Sharî'ah, ponder over it. You should know too that the Messenger of Allaah – SalaLaahu alahy wa sallam – forbade night arrival upon one’s wife so as to prevent the man from meeting his wife in the worst of state due to lack of proper cleanliness, among other reasons.
In short, be good in you relationship with others. Always watch which time to call. If the other person says you should call at another time please take it with all pleasure. If he tells you, you should hold on, try to hold on.
Taking proper consideration of time does not apply to public places – places that are open night and day such as hotels, travel offices and other similar places. That is derived from the ruling on verse 29 of Soorah an-Noor, 'There is no sin on you that you enter (without taking permission) houses uninhabited (i.e. not possessed by anybody), (when) you have any interest in them. And Allâh has knowledge of what you reveal and what you conceal.' The Verse is referring to houses open to whoever has a business to do there.
Number of Times to Dial A Number
The middle-course is the matter here. Just try to have the attention of the receiver. It cannot be said the number of times is three or more than because the hadith of the Prophet – SalaLaahu alahy wa sallam, ‘When any of you takes permission three times to enter a house, and there is no response, let him go away.’ There is another hadith that reduces the effect of that, that is where the Messenger of Allaah– SalaLaahu alahy wa sallam, said, ‘Seeking permission is instituted before one enters a house all because of unlawful prying.’ Al-Bukhaaree recorded the hadith. That fear does not exist when exchanging calls. Meanwhile the caller should not go to the extreme in ringing his phone so as not to hurt the receiver and those beside him. Doing so is an uncivil act. A woman went to Imaam Ahmad and knocked the door very severely, Imam Ahmad came out and said: ‘This manner of knocking is that of the police.’ Imam Ahmad said that to rebuke the woman. See also the manner of the Sahabah as they used to knock the door of the Messenger of Allaah – SalaLaahu alahy wa sallam – with their finger nails as recorded by Al-Imaam Al-Bukhaaree in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad and Imaam Khateeeb al-Baghdaadee in his Jaami'. This also applies to the door alarm of our own time; they should be rung with care and meekness.
How Long the Call Can Last
The principle of necessity of the conversation will apply here but one should be wary of unnecessary discussions.
The Caller Should Say the Tasleem in the Beginning and the End
The caller is the arriver, so he is the one that must start the Islamic greeting of As-Salaam Alaykum when the receiver picks the call. Saying the Tasleem is a symbol of Islam and a key to peace and security. The greeting is indeed a honour for the Ummah of Muhammad – SalaLaahu alahy wa sallam. The receiver must answer the greeting of the caller. That is what the Sunnah has come with. It is forbidden to replace the Islamic greeting with any other form of greetings such as ‘Good Morning’ or hastening to say ‘Hello.’ That is not permissible, do not mind whatever verdict allowing that. ‘Hello’ is a foreign term; it has no place in the Arabic diction.
It is also forbidden for the caller to remain silent when the receiver picks the phone waiting for him to speak first. This shows lack of manners on the part of the caller. It is also not permissible to give a person a call with the intention of finding out if he is available thus when the caller hears the voice of the receiver, he drops the phone because his mission is accomplished.
When the receiver picks the phone and asks ‘who is it?’ tell him who you are in clear terms. Do not say, ‘I am your friend, your neighbour.’ Jaabir – may Allaah be pleased with him - reported from the Messenger of Allaah – SalaLaahu alahy wa sallam – that a man sought his person to enter his presence and the Messenger of Allaah – SalaLaahu alahy wa sallam – enquired whom he was, the man replied, ‘It is me, it is me.’ Muslim and Aboo Daawud recorded the hadith, the latter added, ‘as if the Messenger of Allaah hated what the man did.’
Another strange manner of introducing oneself which was hitherto not known to the Arab and was never part of the manners of the Salaf is saying, ‘I am Aboo so-and-so.’ The people used to know one another originally by their agnomen but the real manner of introducing oneself is by mentioning one’s tribe. Meanwhile, there are some people that became famous with their agnomen such that their real names were not known such as Aboo Bakr, Aboo Dharr, Umm Haanee, may Allaah be pleased with all of them.
Ending the Call with Tasleem
Just as the caller begins the call with Tasleem, he should finish it on that note. Aboo Hurairah, may Allaah be pleased with him, reported from the Messenger of Allaah that he said, ‘When any of you comes to a gathering, let him say the Tasleem to the people there, and whenever he wants to take his leave, let him say the Tasleem again. The first tasleem does not nullify the second one.’ Recorded by Aboo Daawud.
Lowering the Voice
The general manner when speaking with another person is to lower the voice therefore lower your voice when you make calls. That does not however mean that your voice should be inaudible. Apply the character of lowering one's voice when you relate with people such as your parents and those like them in honour and worthiness. The same way when you make calls, avoid the manner of those who introduce themselves via their high-class ringing tones.
Phones and Women
When a woman exchanges a call with another person, let say a man, she should avoid beautifying her voice. Indeed Allaah the Mighty Lord forbade the wives of the Messenger of Allaah, whom none would have evil desire towards, from beautifying their voices when they speak as contained in Verse 32 of Soorah Al-Ahzaab. If the Mothers of the Believers were forbidden from that what about those who are other than them? So fear Allaah, O women of the Muslims, do not beautify your voice when you speak, say what is proper.
The woman should not be loose when speaking with men (except her husband) and she should not raise her voice unnecessarily when speaking on phones.
When a man hears the voice of a woman that beautifies her voice, he should immediately stop the call. He should do that so as to save himself from Fitnah.
In this regards, the man who is the head of the family should arrange the affairs of his home well. The woman should not be the first to pick a call coming to the house when men are present, and she should refrain from picking all calls when men are not in the house. She should pick the calls as the man – the head – would have laid down principles and as may be necessary.
Placing People Where They Belong
When you speak with another person on phone, be guided by the Islamic manners (as being mentioned from the foregoing). So place people where they belong; respect the elders, be gentle with the young ones, honour the people of honour, be forgiving to the fools, etc. When you speak with a scholar, accord him the necessary respect. When you speak with non-Muslims, relate with them as required by Islam; greet them generally and have the talk with them as normal.
When you talk with another person, and the other person makes distasteful speech to you, try to give him an excuse, do not reciprocate his evil speech with one.
Avoid picking calls where there is crowd or where there are kids. Protect your privacy, show your honour, do not be too lousy.
Watch Your Ringing Tone
Do not make music your ringing tone nor a Qur'ân recording. The evil in the first one is clear; music is prohibited in the Shariah. As for the Qur'ân recording, it is also not proper because most often the Qur'ân being played will not finish at the end of the Verse before the receiver picks the call. Above all, the Qur'ân is not a plaything. Let your ringing tone be a permissible one.
[The trend in using the so-called ‘Islamic Nasheed’ as ringing tones should be carefully reviewed as some of the scholars see ‘Islamic Nasheed’ as being subtle music which should be avoided.]
Using Another Person’s Phone
Strive not to use another person’s phone. If you must use it, then take permission before you do so. Watch the person you want to use his phone; do not use the phone of a person struggling to live or a person you know such thing will hurt him. When a phone is for the office, use it for official purposes alone, do not use it for your personal needs.
Phones in the House
A blissful home is that which is guided by the principles of the Shariah. As mentioned earlier on, a woman should not readily pick the family phone when men are around. Members of a household should be trained against using family phones excessively. A home where when the phone rings many people rush to pick it is not guided by the manners of Islam.
When you phone a scholar to seek a religious verdict from him, then do so with manners. See this format: ‘As-Salaam alaykum wa rahmatuLlaah wa baarakatu-hu, may Allaah be nice to you, o Teacher, I have a question…’ And after the answer say: ‘JazakumuLlaahu khayran, may Allaah make you steadfast, wa salaam alaykum wa rahmatuLlaah wa baarakatu-hu.’ Whoever does that among the learners has good manners.
When you call a scholar, do not waste his time perhaps he is busy. When he answers your question, do not take on him by refuting him with a book in your hand (which the scholar does not know you have) so as to weaken him. Some people who lack good manners do this. Then avoid asking emotional questions so as to know the leaning of the scholar like when you begin to ask him about current Islamic affairs such as the war in such-and-such country, the Jihad in such-and-such country, or that you ask him certain questions to confirm that he is an innovator. Some people also ask several questions over a phenomenon in quest of a more lenient ruling.
When the scholar has an official line where he answers religious questions, ask him through that. It is not proper to record the voice of the scholar in order to spread it among the people. If you must record his voice, let him know.
Speaking in the Islamic Language
If you can speak in Arabic, do so. The Arabic Language is among the symbols of Islam, speaking it is like guarding the Islam. Do not make you conversation the way the sinners do. Avoid slangs and colloquials.
Use Your Phone Positively
Call your family members who are away. Connect with your friends whom you have seen for long. Call your sick friends and enquire after their condition. Call a person in hardship and give him hope. Meanwhile do not make calling alone prevent you from actually visiting these people.
Harmful Phone Calls
Harming other Muslims is prohibited so also is cheating and infringing on their privacy. Do not expose a person’s secret after calling him. Do not spread calumnies with your phones. Do not send threat and false messages to the people. Companions of the Messenger of Allaah reported from him that he said: ‘It is not permissible for a Muslim to threaten another Muslim.’ Ahmad recorded it. So do not send threat messages to people.
Worker in Phone Company
If you are a worker in phone comapny where you have access to people’s conversation when they speak by phones, do not listen to their conversation. It is forbidden for you to do that. Ibn Abbaas reported from the Messenger of Allaah – salaLlaahu alahy wa sallam – that he said: ‘Whoever listens to a people’s discussion while they hate that, hot metal will be poured into his hearing on the Day of Qiyâmah.’ Al-Bukhaaree recorded it in his Saheeh, and what is similar in his Al-Adab Al-Mufrad.
Spending on Calls
Minimize your cost on phone calls. Indeed some people are afflicted with spending much on phone calls. Muslims, do not be like that.
This is what Allaah has made easy for us to summarize from the work of the respected Shaykh. May Allaah be merciful unto him and may He make us be steadfast on the path.
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