The school where I used to work, being an Islamic one, had the full Islamic greeting instilled in its students from an early age, so whenever I used to enter any classroom and utter the greetings of peace, the entire class would reply, ‘wa’alaykum as-salaam warahmatul laahi wa barakaatuh’ (and may the peace and blessings [of Allah] be upon you) in unison.
It was so beautiful, so pleasing to the ears and I had taken it for granted! Though I knew I could not have that many duas showered over me now that I was at home, I made a mental note to use every talking/meeting opportunity (provided the kids weren’t crying or in tantrum-mode) to say the full greeting to everybody with the hope of receiving the same beautiful greeting; a small decision with much to yield, In sha Allah.
We meet our brothers and sisters day in and day out. The sunnah of the Prophet has taught us everything including manners and etiquettes of communicating with people in meetings, gatherings and elsewhere. If we were to follow the sunnah when communicating with people, we would be earning ourselves a great deal of reward, In sha Allah.
So, let’s recall some fantastic communication tips from the sunnah. But before proceeding, remember that our intentions must be pure and sincere, and unnecessary communication with non-mahrams of the opposite sex should be avoided as much as possible:
1. Smile: The Prophet said:
“Your smiling in the face of your brother is charity.” [Jami` at-Tirmidhi]
Before you start talking, smile! This is an instant ingredient to start any conversation positively and to remove any past ill feelings that could be present.
Smiling brings joy to the giver and the receiver (imagine being both!).
2. Pay attention to the tone and volume: Beware of your tone and the volume of your voice. Your tone determines whether you will make your relationship or break it. Any undesirable loudness in your voice could put people off and make any further attempts to communicate futile.
“And be moderate in your pace and lower your voice; indeed, the most disagreeable of sounds is the voice of donkeys.” [Qur’an: Chapter 31, Verse 19]
3. Start with the Islamic greeting of peace: Whether you know this Muslim or not, the greeting of peace or saying ‘Assalaamu alaykum’ (peace be upon you) is recommended. It will repel hatred and create love between you.
“A man came to the Prophet and said: Peace be upon you! He responded to his salutation. He then sat down. The Prophet said: Ten [rewards]. Another man came and said: Peace and Allah’s mercy be upon you! He responded to his salutation when he sat down. He said: Twenty. Another man came and said: Peace and Allah’s mercy and blessings be upon you! He responded to him and said when he sat down: and blessings be upon you! He responded to him and said when he sat down: Thirty.” [Sunan Abi Dawud]
Habituate yourself with saying the full and complete greeting and earn 30 rewards every single time you greet someone!
4. Shake hands: Accompany your greeting with shaking hands (if you are greeting your mahram or a person of your gender).
“There are no two Muslims who meet and shake hands, but they will be forgiven before they part.” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
5. Inquire about people: Ask them how they are doing and inquire about their health and well-being and that of their family and friends. They will feel loved and cared for.
6. Remember not all are the same: Consider people’s different characteristics and differences while communicating. Keep in mind their age, status, temperament and other factors.
7. Teach at every opportunity: The Prophet used every chance to enjoin the good and forbid the evil. If there is ever a need for you to say something corrective in nature, do so gently.
8. Refrain from the common evils of the tongue: People getting together and communicating with each other often leads to falling into various sins related to the tongue such as talking about Allah without knowledge, slandering, lying, insulting and cursing. These habits are grievous sins that eat away at our rewards and the barakah in our lives: make it a habit to ensure whether anything you are about to say may constitute any of these sins. And, if you were to indulge in joking, let the jokes be true. The Prophet said:
“A slave (of Allah) may utter a word which pleases Allah without giving it much importance, and because of that Allah will raise him to degrees (of reward): a slave (of Allah) may utter a word (carelessly) which displeases Allah without thinking of its gravity and because of that he will be thrown into the Hell-Fire.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
9. Choose simple, concise words: Avoid complex language and sophisticated terminologies. Instead, try to stick to concise words and phrases that are of eloquence and seek to be understood.The Prophet said:
“I have been given superiority over the other prophets in six respects: I have been given words which are concise but comprehensive in meaning” […] [Sahih Muslim].
He spoke with clarity and made people comprehend easily, sometimes by even repeating his words thrice.
10. Stay away from argumentation: Being nice is easy when you’re dealing with nice people. But, practically speaking, this world has more to it than such people. Despite your best efforts, you are bound to walk into not-so-nice people. Try not to fall into disputes and argumentation.
“And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute (with one another) lest you lose courage and your strength depart, and be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are As-Sabirin (the patient ones, etc.).” [Qur’an: Chapter 8, Verse 46]
If you realize you are already in a dispute, be wise and argue with that which is better. Allah says:
“And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.” [Qur’an: Chapter 41, Verse 34]
If you find the argument going nowhere positive, stop before you get angry, smile and retreat after trying your best to reconcile for when a man said to the Prophet “Advise me,” he said: “Do not get angry.” He repeated his question several times and again the Prophet said: “Do not get angry.” [Bukhari]
11. End with the greeting: Before departing, smile, shake hands and greet people warmly with the salam.
12. In writing, start with Allah’s Name: If you were to communicate in writing, in addition to the points above that are relevant, it is desirable to start your written communication with ‘Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem’ [In the name of Allah, the Continuously Merciful, the Especially Merciful]. This was done by the Prophet numerous times when he dispatched letters to kings and heads of peoples and tribes.
So that was a list of the basic etiquette from the sunnah on communicating effectively with people. Smiling and starting with the salam, speaking kindly and gently, showing warmth by shaking hands or a hug, giving due respect and/or showing love by considering the position of whom you are addressing, saying only that which is good and beneficial, choosing to be patient and kind over being right, and always ending with a warm smile and the salam: what a beautiful way to create love in your brother’s or sister’s heart for you!
Here’s a verse to further motivate you to communicate the sunnah way:
“Whoever comes [on the Day of Judgement] with a good deed will have ten times the like thereof [to his credit], and whoever comes with an evil deed will not be recompensed except the like thereof; and they will not be wronged.” [Qur’an: Chapter 6, Verse 160]
I hope this reminder of communicating effectively by following the sunnah has benefited you, inshaAllah. Do share great ways you’ve discovered or tried in communicating effectively with others.
I leave you with the best greetings: Wassalaamu alaykum warahmatul laahi wabarakaatuh! (May the peace and mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you).