When you make room for others, Allah makes room for you
Abdullah bin Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
‘A man must not make another get up from his place and then occupy it himself, but you should spread out and make room’ (Bukhari and Muslim)
How to occupy public spaces
Abdullah bin Umar is narrating that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that you cannot tell someone to move so you can take their place.
In a public place, such as a mosque, or gathering or stadium, it is an open space, without any numbering, if somebody arrived early and sat in the front, you cannot tell them to go somewhere else because you want to sit there. It does not matter if you are a celebrity or leader. If someone was already there, that place is occupied. It’s theirs.
In a private space, the one who owns the space is the one who decides.
Might is not right. If you are sitting in the park, no one is permitted to come and move you, no matter how big their muscles are. It is yours, unless you choose voluntarily to give it up out of respect for someone or their need.
How to serve – the right side rule
The Prophet (peace be upon him) is showing us how to navigate social situations, for instance in another hadith he taught us how to serve guests. Who should you offer food or drink to first? Start with the eldest, or most respected person present and then continue offering to their right. That is the rule, regardless who is on their right. Go full circle till you have served everyone. This is the simple rule. You do not zig zag around the room.
When you are at a door way, the person on the right side should enter first, regardless who it is. This is the right side policy.
This was the practice of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and it was followed by his companions. It may be that when you offer the drink, the person says, ‘No please give my juice to X first’, that is fine.
These tiny details are part of greater system with the aim of building up a smooth running community. It irons out glitches that may arise by minimising hard feelings which can ensure when people take offence at not being treated with respect. We cannot get rid of all hard feelings in any community, but the more we do, the more minimise sins and arguments. We can try to control and minimise them, but we cannot abolish them altogether.
Exceptions to the public space rule
The exception to this is when someone has sat down in the teacher or the imam or the muedhin’s space. Practically, in the mosque, the muedhin rises to call the adhan for prayer and the imam stands in the front of him in front of the mihrab. Some people have no consideration and sit behind the imam leaving the muedhin no space. When the muedhin comes he finds he has no place to stand. He does not want to push people, or be rude. He has to say, ‘Please give me a space. This is my space. I was here earlier.’ You have to have consideration and realise that this is the space dedicated for the muedhin.
In some mosques they put a small table, or Quran stand, to reserve the space for the muedhin.
Who has the right to public property
Apart from this the concept man sabaqa ila mubah, fa huwadhalik
Asmar bin Mudarris said that when he came and swore allegiance to the Prophet he said:
وَعَنْ أَسْمَرَ بْنِ مُضَرِّسٍ قَالَ: أَتَيْتُ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَبَايَعْتُهُ فَقَالَ: «مَنْ سَبَقَ إِلَى مَاءٍ لَمْ يَسْبِقْهُ إِلَيْهِ مُسْلِمٌ فَهُوَ لَهُ» . رَوَاهُ أَبُو دَاوُد
“If anyone comes to water, no Muslim having come to it before him, it belongs to him.” (Abu Dawud)
A’isha reported the Prophet (peace be on him) as saying:
عَنْ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ: «مَنْ عَمَرَ أَرْضًا لَيْسَتْ لِأَحَدٍ فَهُوَ أَحَقُّ» . قَالَ عُرْوَةُ: قَضَى بِهِ عُمَرُ فِي خِلَافَتِهِ. رَوَاهُ الْبُخَارِيُّ
“He who develops a land which has no owner has the best right to it.” ‘Urwa said that ‘Umar gave decision accordingly during his caliphate. (Bukhari)
This means if you are in the forest and you come across some fruit on a tree and you want to pick it and eat it. No one can come and say they wanted to pick the fruit before you, as it is a public space. You cannot make a business out it, unless you fulfil certain requirements for that.
Solution to the problem
The Prophet (peace be upon him) is providing a solution in this hadith for the scenario. If someone is coming to move someone from their seat, it means that the space is crowded. What should you do? Make room for each other – tafassahu.
Make room for each other
Allah Almighty, already mentioned the concept of tafassahou (making space) in a beautiful ayah which is talking about a knowledge circle. In Surah Mujadila He says ‘Ya-ayyuhallazeena ‘a-manou iza qeela lakum tafassahou fil majalisi fafsa-hou yafsahi:
O you who believe when you are told to make room in your gathering, make room [58:11]
Do not prevent others from joining you
So often we see one person taking up the space of two people. He might stretch his legs, or spread out his things which prevents others from using that space. Therefore the Quran and Sunnah are saying tafassahou.
I cannot forget the scene which I saw in Madinah, during one of my trips to Hajj. People always race to get a space in the rawdah. The rawdah is the the very special space between the Prophet’s mimbar, where he used to deliver his khutbah and his house (peace be on him). He called this rawdah, garden from Jannah and to pray one rakah there is equivalent to one thousand rakats; one farida is equivalent to a thousand farida.
While we were waiting for the adhan, a person was searching for a space to pray and going through the line when he saw a person sitting two rows in front of me, sitting in a very bad manner, with his legs stretched, taking up the room of two people. The man tapped him on his shoulder politely, so that he would straighten up and make room for him, but instead, the man, who was barely a few metres from the grave of the Prophet (peace be on him) was so rude. He started shouting, ‘Go away! Go away! Find somewhere else’ in Arabic and that person was so embarrassed. I was very cross and disgusted by his behaviour.
Had he made room, the man would have made dua for him. Instead, he might have made dua against him. How could he behave so badly in the rawdah! Some people are harsh in their nature.
Of course it gives you a different feeling when you are very close to his house, the Prophet (peace be upon him), but nevertheless if you couldn’t find a space in rawdah, don’t be disappointed, don’t be sad; you can pray anywhere in his mosque of the Prophet (peace be upon him) with the intention that all his whole mosque is the rawdah as this is one of the valid opinions, by the way.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said the area between his mimbar and his house is rawdah minal riyadul Jannah – a garden from Jannah and it has a special reward. At that time this area was mostly his mosque, but since then, as the mosque has been continually extended and its area is greater than Madinah was at that time, scholars say the whole area of the mosque counts as the rawdah. Therefore, if you pray in his mosque it is as if you are praying in the rawdah. I follow this opinion and support it.
Make space for others because Allah makes space for you
Allah Almighty is saying, ‘idha qeela lakum tafassahou fil majalisi
When it’s been said to you give room, give room. [58:11]
The hub of the community was and should be the mosque. People come to the mosque not only to pray, but to learn, to meet one another, and to support the needy etc. If you come and you can’t find a space you feel like the person who’s been left out of the conversation. By contrast if you go to the mosque and there is no space, then someone moves to make room for you, it makes you so happy. You will probably remember them and make dua for them. You feel as if you’ve been given a treasure.
When you make room to others, Allah Almighty will make room for you in the dunya and the akhirah.
This is the beauty of accommodating others. It reflects your good intention and your desire for them share the barakah and the reward. It is out of selflessness that you squeeze yourself to make space for others so they too can sit and listen and enjoy the salah and pray with you. It reflects your purity and ikhlas (sincerity).
Fill the gaps
It is our training in the etiquettes of the masjid to fill gaps between people. We always say to the musalis behind us, ‘Fill the gaps. Don’t leave any gaps.’ If there are any gaps and someone arrives, even if he is at the back of the mosque he can move forward to the front row to fill a gap. It’s very disliked to jump over the rows, unless we have this scenario. The people should not have left a gap in the first place, they should have arranged themselves without gaps. This is the standard etiquette for jummaah prayers, classes, and gatherings, because they physically bring our bodies together and reflect the unity of the Ummah.
Allah Almighty makes room for those who make room for others. If you do this, when you need that room in the dunya, Allah Almighty gives it to you. When you go somewhere, and you can’t find a space, Allah will find you a space. He will ease your way.
Make this your default practice. Try to ease the way for people. You will find spaces opening for you when you need to park, when traffic wardens are everywhere, when you have a hospital appointment… Allah’s rewards are beyond our expectations.
The man who jumped the rows
In another hadith, a man who was in the back crossed the rows and the companions felt that this was rude, and they were about to stop him but the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘Leave him, let him come forward’. When that man came forward the Prophet (peace be on him) said to him ‘Shall I tell you or you tell me?’ He said, ‘No, I’d like to hear from you, what I am here for.’ The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘You are here to ask about al birr.’ And then the Prophet (peace be on him) gave his famous explanation of birr.
I always envy the Companions and wish that we had been there and could see and hear learn from the Prophet (peace be upon him). Be in his presence, or pray behind him, or be in his circle and listen to the hadith which we are reciting now. Imagine if he was reciting this to us!
Share whatever you find beneficial with others
Try your best to invite others to what you are benefitting from. Don’t just keep it to yourself. This is greed. Share it with others so they can share goodness and you will be rewarded for this. This is how we grow our knowledge and this is how we grow our reward and at the same time educate ourselves and families and friends and community etc.
Sometimes, you might sit in a way which blocks others from accessing the circle. Instead of having a small circle, enlarge it so more people can join. Imagine if somebody was coming for the first time and you made it difficult for him to sit down or attend or find a space or see or hear the teacher, it would put them off. You might be the one who triggered shaytan by your behaviour, to prevent somebody from coming back. It could have been subconsciously. Be careful that you ease the way for people to seek knowledge, not just physical space. When people feel welcome they will come again.
The shoe thief
I remember when we were young, alhamdullilah we used to go regularly to the mosque and pray Jummuah in the local mosque. We used to have three local mosques but we went to two of them regularly where our Shaykh (may Allah have mercy on him) used to attend. I remember once we were praying, and we tried our best to invite some friends, and encourage them to join us for Jummuah and then we have the study circle afterwards. One day, one of them responded and came with us.
At that time, he had bought a brand new pair of designer trainers which were worn by a famous basketball player called Abdul Jabbar. They were expensive and he took them and left them in the shoe rack. When he returned, the trainers were gone. He never came back to the mosque.
Fortunately later on, the boys made a trap for the thief because he stole new shoes regularly from all the local mosques. They put a pair of new shoes on the rack and hid and waited for the salah to start. The theif emerged and began to put the shoes in his bag and was caught red-handed. He confessed and brought back all the shoes and trainers in three big bags to the mosque and then they started called the musalis, who had lost any shoes or any trainers to come and reclaim them.
We ask Allah Almighty to enable us to be always keys for goodness and locks for evil. Ameen.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim – Sunday Hadith Class
Transcribed by Rose Roslan
From the collection of hadith in Ibn Hajar al Asaqalani’s Bulugh al Maram. Taken from the last chapter in his book, which is Kitab al Jami (The Comprehensive Book), which is a collection of etiquettes.
Abdullah bin Umar – the narrator of the hadith
Abdullah bin Umar was a young companion during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). A very keen learner and an inquisitive person, who attended many of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) circles and used to memorise almost everything he learned. He was a very clever boy (may Allah be pleased with him) and his biography is inspirational. He was very keen on the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and developed his own school of thought. Such was his knowledge, that he become one of the scholars of the companions.
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