Adab is a central practice in Islam. This capacious term takes within its embrace a comprehensive code of conduct: the concepts of decency, propriety, politeness, reverence, and good manners. According to Musa Kazim Gulcur, a lecturer at Academy Foundation in Istanbul and author of publications on character education, it is a path and a set of principles by which to live.
Adab is rooted in a deep devotion and surrender to God; it is learned from the acts of the Prophet Muhammad and the revelation of the Qur'an. The theme of this erudite and measured paperback is adab in practice. This subject falls under the umbrella of akhlaq which is the character and temperament of a person. Muslims are shaped by an obligatory group of duties such as performing prayer, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, and offering purifying alms. Other worthwhile duties are operational within the individual, the family, and the social context.
Adab entails acting with good manners, ethics, and morals in all our days and doings. Gulcur begins with the importance of knowledge and education. There are suggestions for both teacher and student etiquette. Modeling good character and civility is the responsibility of parents in the home. Here the basics include treating the elderly with respect, kissing the hands of esteemed people, treating parents well, and caring for relatives. Other dimensions of a good upbringing cover respecting privacy at home, the importance of regular sleep and cleanliness, and modesty of clothing and outward appearance. Gulcur notes:
"It is also good adab to say a prayer the first time a new garment is worn, for the protection of God on the wearer. Abu Umama remembers, 'Ibn Umar put on a new garment and prayed thus, "Praise be to God Who has given me clothing to cover my body and bring beauty to my life." ' "
In a section dealing with "What Good Character Requires," the author begins with Hilm or gentleness which includes overlooking faults, forgiving others, and being open to everyone. The Prophet Muhammad demonstrated this character quality again and again when he responded to hostility and enmity with maturity, compassion, and kindness. Other topics covered here are defusing hatred and animosity, returning evil with good, truthfulness, the harmfulness of teasing and mocking, avoiding the evils of the tongue, verifying what one hears, and keeping secrets.
The last section of Good Character revolves around doing the right thing in a social context with material on greeting, shaking hands, breaking off relations, prayers for blessings upon sneezing, the rights of neighbors, visiting friends, asking for permission, visiting the sick, mosque etiquette, and helping others. Hats off to Musa Kazim Gulcur for his solid and substantive assessment of adab and the ethical concepts, guidelines for morality, and religious teachings which undergird it!