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‘Privacy’ (I)

A few years ago, this column discussed a subject matter that relates to our present discourse under the title: “permission and the permitted”. While the…

A few years ago, this column discussed a subject matter that relates to our present discourse under the title: “permission and the permitted”. While the previous piece centered on the ethics of entering houses, this one dwells on matters of privacy and confidence that many of us take for granted today. There are so many things we do that unnecessarily interfere with the privacy of other people, which consequences, if not properly managed, could affect the existing relationship among two or more persons.

There appears to be widespread disregard among contemporary men for the privacy of others. While some of such actions could be seen as an oversight, others are borne out of over-familiarity; because familiarity, they say, breeds contempt. Some people assume that being your relation, friend, colleague or an in-law; they could walk in to your house or room at any time of the day without seeking permission to do so. Others could travel long distances to come and meet you to solve one or two of their problems without giving any prior notices. Such people are not bothered whether or not their presence at that particular time would inconvenience their host(s). If the sunnah of the prophet (SAW) teaches that one should not return to his family from a journey late into the night, why then should even a visitor arrive so late? Granted that Islam teaches brotherhood of mankind, kindness to the wayfarer and the less privileged; a visitor’s host reserves the right to accept or reject (in a beautiful manner of conduct) guests whose presence would inconvenience, molest or jeopardize his well-being or that of his family. The prophet (SAW) in the 32nd hadith of the forty traditions of Annawawi’s collection that: “where there is no injury, there is no requital”. This tradition implies that one should not inconvenience others and should not allow others also to inconvenience him. Apart from courtesy, there are many economic and social reasons that make it necessary for us to seek permission from our hosts by sending a message across to him before we embark on the journey to his place. The advent of GSM technology makes it easy for us to do so today.

Within the house, too, and among family members, there are rules of decorum in Islam that regulate our movements or interactions either as children or as adults within the family circle. Allah (SWT) states thus in Qur’an 24:58 “Let whom those your right hands possess, and the (children) among you who have not come of age ask your permission (before they come to your presence), on three occasions: before morning prayer; the while you doff your clothes for the noonday heat; and after the late-night prayer: These are your three times of undress. Outside those times, it is not wrong for you or for them to move about attending to each other. Thus does Allah makes clear the signs to you: for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom”. Children and maids are asked to seek permission during these three periods of the day probably because they must not unnecessarily disturb people asleep and also because most people then are either undressed or in light dresses.

There is more often than not, a psychological ill-effect on the tender minds of our children when they are allowed free access in to our rooms especially at such times that we may be relaxing or in our personal night dresses. Children who are inappropriately exposed to the private and secret lives of their parents are prone to becoming deviants in their behaviours. Case studies of sexually maladjusted behaviours in children show that most of them were brought up in homes where ethical rules and restrictions enjoined by the Qur’an were violated. Parents are therefore advised to ensure (where practicable) that they do not sleep as couples in the same room with their children. And where it is affordable, children should have their own rooms to forestall any possibility of children developing nefarious manners. When the children are grown-up, they must be made like other adult members of the family to ask permission to come in at all times. Allah (SWT) asserts in Qur’an 24:59 “But when the children among you come of age, let them (also) ask for permission, as do those senior to them (in age): Thus does Allah make clear His signs to you: for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom”. The second and concluding part of this discourse continues next week insha Allah. May Allah (SWT) continue to keep us on the path of guidance, amin.

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