Fiqh Post – Standing up for people out of respect for them

Standing up for people
Answered by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed

What is the proof of those who say that it is permissible to stand out of respect for others, especially since the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) disliked this?

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful & Compassionate,

Standing for others is of two types. The first is standing for a corrupt or oppressive person (or someone similar) to honour him; the scholars are in agreement that this is blameworthy unless there is a need to do so, such as when one fears for one’s life or property. The second is standing for those of merit and Islamic distinction, such as scholars, students of sacred knowledge, the righteous, one’s parents, and the elderly, in order to honour them and magnify the religiously venerable state that they are upon (such as religiousness and the like); this is recommended.

The great scholar, Shaykh al-Islam Nawawi has authored a book on this topic, explaining the praiseworthiness of standing for those I mentioned last (above). He gathered therein the rigorously authenticated hadiths and actions of the Companions, Followers, and imams that prove this. He called his book, “The Permission to Stand for those of Merit and Distinction in Islam.” He said in the introduction of this book:

“Allah Most High has commanded us to be gentle with Muslims and honour those of knowledge, scrupulousness, and religion, saying, “And lower your wing for the believers.” Part of being gentle to them and honouring them is that they be respected by speaking to them tenderly and standing for them–not to show off or magnify them, but to show them the above mentioned honour and respect. Countless numbers of scholars, righteous Muslims, scrupulous Muslims, and other exemplars and notables have continually practiced this. [The position that is] chosen [by us], then, is that one should stand for those of merit and distinction, such as scholars, students of knowledge, parents, the righteous, and every excellent person, for numerous hadiths, statements of the noble and righteous early Muslims, and actions of the distinguished (such as scholars, the righteous, those of scrupulousness, and the abstinent) indicate this.”

Among the proofs for this is the hadith related by Abu Sa`id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him), who said that a group of people submitted to the decision of Sa`d b. Mu`adh (Allah be pleased with him), who was therefore summoned. He then arrived on a donkey, and when he neared the mosque, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Stand for the best of you” (or “your leader”). Nawawi said, “This is a hadith that is rigorously authenticated by scholarly agreement. It was narrated by these imams (i.e., Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, and Nasa’i) … Scholars, such as the scholars of hadith and sacred law, have used this hadith as a proof for standing.” He then quotes Imam Muslim as saying, “I don’t know of a more authentic hadith regarding one man’s standing for another. This standing is out of politeness (birr), not magnification (ta`dhim).”

Nawawi then mentions other proofs and then goes on to say, “The upshot is that this is has been established by the honourable practice of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) by doing it himself, by commanding the Helpers to do it, and by not condemning it when it was done in his presence; through the practice of whole groups of Companions and early Muslims (Allah be pleased with them) in a variety of places and circumstances; and by those who were the imams of their times in hadith, sacred law, and abstinence.”

Ibn Hajar says in the Tuhfa, “It is recommended to stand for someone of obvious merit through righteousness, knowledge, parental merit, lineage, or authority when conjoined with avoidance [of sins]. Ibn `Abd al-Salam said, “and also for someone from whom one expects benefit or fears harm, even if he is a disbeliever from whom one fears great harm”–it seems that this refers to harm that is normally unbearable–“and it should occur by way of politeness and honour, not showing off or magnification.”” (9/229)

Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyya al-Ansari says in Asna al-Matalib, “Adhru`i said, “Rather, it seems that it (i.e., standing) is obligatory in our times in order to prevent enmity and the severance of ties, as indicated by Ibn `Abd al-Salam. This would be in order to repel harms.”

Regarding the questioner’s statement that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) disliked standing for others, it seems that he is referring to the hadith of Abu Umamah, who said, “Leaning on his staff, the Messenger of Allah left, and we stood for him. Thereupon he said, “Do not stand for me as the non-Arabs do, magnifying one another.”” (Abu Dawud). There are two responses to this, as explained by Nawawi. The first is that the hadith is weak and unfit to be used as proof because its narrators are unidentified and the hadith has been narrated in contradictory ways. The second is that the hadith itself explains itself and other hadiths by saying that what is blameworthy is to stand out of magnification (ta`dhim). This is why he said, “Do not stand as the non-Arabs do, magnifying one another.” There is no doubt that this is blameworthy.

Of course, as mentioned in the Tuhfa (9/229), it is forbidden for the one who enters to like that others should stand for him because of the well-authenticated hadith, “Whoever loves that people should present themselves before him by standing, let him prepare a place for himself in the Fire.” Ibn Hajar says, “Some interpreted this hadith to refer to the situation when one wants them to stand for him and them remain standing while he sits, or when [he wants others to stand for him] in order to seek to be above others (this is less forbidden than the former), for this is what the hadith means as indicated by Bayhaqi. As for someone who enjoys [that others should stand for him] voluntarily because it has become a sign of love, he is not committing something unlawful.”
 – Amjad

(Translated by Hamza Karamali)

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