By Mohammed Kazim (@MAKazim)
On a recent rafting excursion in Nepal, my friend and I met two flight attendants who had remembered us from our flight the day before. What surprised me though is that the reason they remembered us is because we were of the few UAE Nationals they had met who actually said “please” and “thank you”.
Although this did not come as a surprise, it did however stir resentment, given that the region was known for its hospitality and good conduct. I could not help but think why is it that we have lost our good manners and esteemed moral conduct. Is it because of a language barrier or is it simply a result of negligence and lack of importance?
Why does it matter? Well, manners are the set of guidelines that determine the methodology of communication. They are usually the first line of interaction and consequently the first base of judgment on individuals as well as societies. Through manners a society’s dynamics are greatly affected. For example, politeness and tolerance can harvest creativity, whereas rudeness and disrespect can bring out negativity. In addition, relationships, whether between companies or people, are also governed by manners. Families are built on relationships and societies are built on families. Therefore, manners, to an extent, could influence a country’s success or failure.
After a lot of observation and understanding the driving forces of the UAE’s society, I came to the conclusion that good manners may have slowly eroded due to a lack of emphasis by members of the society. However, I believe that they can be restored if the following 3 dimensions are properly understood.
First of all, it must be known that good manners and moral conduct are from Islam’s main objectives for mankind.
“And indeed, you are upon a noble conduct, an exemplary manner” -The Holy Quran (68:4)
“I have been sent to perfect righteous and honorable manners (noble virtues)” -The Prophet Muhammad (Al Bukhari, Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, No.273)
Islam has supported good manners as well as pleasant qualities and described those who are characterized by them as being of the highest caliber of believers. Islam has reiterated, in multiple divine commands, the use of ease and politeness in preaching, acts of kindness towards the young, and respect towards elders. It has also promoted uttering the truth, showing appreciation, serving a neighbor, and even simply smiling at a fellow citizen.
“The best among you are those who have the best manners and character” -The Prophet Muhammad (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 56)
Not only has Islam encouraged good character and manners but it has also condemned the opposite (rude and immoral behavior). It has prohibited cursing and foul language, cheating, hypocrisy, backbiting, acting in anger, lying, and causing any form of inconvenience to a fellow citizen.
“ Those who avoid vain talk” (speaking of traits of the believers) -The Holy Quran (23:3)
“… And surely Allah hates one who utters foul or coarse language.” -The Prophet Muhammad [Tirmidhi]
Second, being characterized by good manners and noble virtues should be seen as a social responsibility and duty towards the nation and the religion. The UAE has over 202 nationalities living and working in different sectors that make up above 80% of the nation’s population. This consequently makes every UAE national an ambassador to his/her culture and nation. Given the high level of Emiratis’ patriotism, it is important that the effect of bad manners on people’s perceptions of them and their country is vividly understood. I believe that this will instill a sense of representation that will drive people to better conduct and nobler virtues.
Last but not least, I trust that none of the above can be achieved if it is not supported at a family level. Many good traits and noble virtues are engrossed in one’s character at a personality development stage in one’s life (usually early years and upbringing). At this stage, an individual’s observations can influence his/her values and as a result their manners. Parents should be mindful of how their conduct is portrayed. In other words, parents should lead by example and take a proactive approach in shaping their children’s moral awareness.
Although there are many variables that can affect the manners of an individual from the region, I believe the main reason for the absence of good manners is a lack of importance and interest towards a proactive approach. However, with understanding the Islamic significance of good manners, viewing it as a social responsibility, and making sure it is carefully taught to our children, there may be hope to bring back what once made us the best of nations.
“….Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves…” -The Holy Quran (13:11)
Mohammed’s bi-monthly column aims to openly and honestly target issues around the native culture, society, religion, economy, and policy that have resulted as a consequence of the constantly changing demographics of the region. The column is characterized by a point-like articulate approach that gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of the discussed issues.