Once I was picking up a scholar from a trip, he was dragging his carry on behind him and as I reached to take it from him he nudged me aside and said, “ A man has more right to his luggage.” I let it pass as he seemed quite intent on pulling his carry on, but I appreciated the statement and the sentiment that came with it.

At another time and place, I was the one arriving as a guest and as the host brother, whom I had never met before, reached to grab my carry on, I simply nudged him aside and told him “A man has more right to his luggage.” The brother responded by grabbing more aggressively at my luggage insisting that I was his guest and he must drag my luggage! I pushed him back again only for him to attempt again and we wrestled over my carry on for a few moments both sets of hands latched onto the bag with me yelling, “Dude, let go of my bag!” before I let him have it. He beamed at me, victorious over the first of many challenges that we would duel over during that stay; he saw them as part of hospitality and manners, I thought many were unnecessary creations of conflict and I became uncomfortable.


There is a story of Abu Ishaq Al-Huwayni, the Egyptian Muhaddith who visited his teacher Shaykh NasirulDin Al-Albani in his home. Abu Ishaq was much younger than the Shaykh, and found it difficult to sit still and be served by the much more senior, (in knowledge and age) scholar. As Al-Albani would bustle about preparing the meal they would both share, Abu Ishaq would continuously jump up to try to assist, and each time Shaykh Al-Albani would bark at him to sit down. Finally, he told him, “Listening is manners.”

Yes, in theory, it is better for the student to serve his teacher and not vice versa, and yes in theory it is better for the host to serve, grab the carry on, and pay for the meals of his guest. But in practice, there is a give and take. It is not a text book study, it’s real life, and you must know when to pull and when to relax…and always listen.


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