Quranic Reflection No. 383 Āyat 58:11 – Etiquette of Majālis

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا قِيلَ لَكُمْ تَفَسَّحُوا فِي الْمَجَالِسِ فَافْسَحُوا يَفْسَحِ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ
Yā ayyuhal-ladhīna āmanū idhā qīla lakum tafassahū fil-majālisi fafsahū yafsahil-lāhu lakum
O you who have faith! When you are told, ‘Make room,’ in sittings, then do make room; Allah will make room for you.
(Sūrat al-Mujadilah, No.58, Āyat 11)

The verses of Quran talk about many aspects of the life of a believer, including society and social relationships. Many of the rules it sets and the recommendations it gives are to cement relationships within the community. This helps strengthen faith and enhance well-being of the individuals through the connectedness it promotes.

The above verse mentions one of the etiquette of a majlis – a sitting or gathering of believers for a specific purpose. The word ‘fasaha’ means widening, or making space. It is also translated as amplifying. It signifies expanding the sitting area by moving appropriately. To move further up, or in line with others who are already sitting. This helps structure the gathering such that those who enter can easily find a spot to it. It makes the gathering more welcoming for those who join later. Amazingly, this small gesture of consideration for others can have a positive effect on the unity and affection within that gathering.

A gathering of believers has etiquette that must be upheld. Note that gatherings here are not only the traditional majālis as we know them, but also any place where two or more believers gather. The etiquette include:
1. Welcome others with Islamic greetings. Imam Ali (a) says: Offering greetings is one of the virtuous morals and traits (Ghurar al-Hikam, Eng. Translation, p. 488)
2. Sit next to the last person who is sitting. The Holy Prophet (s) says: Whenever one of you enters a gathering, sit next to the last person who is sitting (Mīzānul Hikmah, H. 2363)
3. Don’t sit in the pathway where others need to walk on. We often notice people sitting at the entrances and need to be reminded to move as it blocks the pathway.
4. Move to make place for one who sits beside you. Once when the Holy Prophet (s) was sitting in a masjid, someone came to sit beside him. The Prophet moved to make room for him. ‘There is place in this room, O Prophet of God’ the man said. ‘Why did you move for me’? The Prophet told him: It is the right of a Muslim over another Muslim that he make place for him when he sees he wants to sit next to him  (Ibid, H. 2368).
5. Respect what is said and keep it confidential. When a believer discusses something in a gathering it becomes a trust which needs to be kept. The Holy Prophet (s) says: When a person talks about something and then goes away, it becomes a trust. (Nahj al-Fasāha, p.374).
6. Refrain from whispering or private conversations. The Holy Prophet (s) says: When someone is sitting next to you refrain from whispering with someone else. (Mīzānul Hikmah, H. 2370)
7. Avoid anything that would be unseemly and may annoy others beside you. The Holy Prophet (s) says: Do not put off people by unpleasant behavior where you are sitting. (Ibid)

The reward for adhering to such etiquette is immense. In the verse above ‘Allah will make room for you’ could refer amplification of many things; increase in sustenance, broadening of thought and spirit, expansion of good things of the world, lengthening of life, larger place in Heaven. A small action such as making room in a gathering can result in tremendous rewards, for the reward is according to the generosity of the Giver not according to the action of the doer.

Remember this verse as you attend gatherings to mourn Imam al-Husayn (a) in the upcoming months. Loving the Ahlul Bayt (a) is to follow their teachings and mold one’s character and behavior accordingly. The majālis of Muharram and Safar are training grounds in many ways – if we are open to the idea of changing ourselves.

Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Muhammadi Rayshahrī, Mīzānul Hikmah; https://hawzah.net/fa/LifeStyle/View/51728/