Adab: Etiquettes of Dialogue
آداب الحوار والمناظرة
Dialogue and conversation are means by which the true character of a person can be understood. This is because dialogue contains all that is necessary to showcase the true picture of the inner and outer qualities of the individual(s) involved. These qualities include: (1) sincerity of intention and purpose (2) ability to control the tongue (3) tolerance to different opinions (4) the power to sort and apply evidences appropriately (5) internal stability to control temperament (6) tender heart to tolerate insults in exchange for establishing the truth (7) high quality intelligence to think ahead of speech and presentations (8) Gentleness and calmness to listen, understand, grasp, appreciate and utilize information (9) Sufficient knowledge on the topic.
Purpose of dialogue
Participants in a dialogue should understand the purpose, aims and objectives of a dialogue in order to maintain the required Islamic etiquettes. These aims and objectives include:
- To establish facts and clear misconceptions: This is the highest point among the aims and objectives. Additionally, to eliminate doubts, unnecessary conjectures and corruption in speech and opinion.
وَمَا لَهُمْ بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِنْ يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا الظَّنَّ وَإِنَّ الظَّنَّ لَا يُغْنِي مِنَ الْحَقِّ شَيْئًا
And they have no knowledge thereof. They only follow an assumption, and Verily, assumption is not a substitute for the truth.
وَمَا يَتَّبِعُ أَكْثَرُهُمْ إِلَّا ظَنًّا إِنَّ الظَّنَّ لَا يُغْنِي مِنَ الْحَقِّ شَيْئًا إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ بِمَا يَفْعَلُونَ
And Most of them follow nothing but conjecture. Certainly, conjecture can be of no avail against the truth. Surely, Allâh is All-Aware of what they do.
- To call to the path of Allah (i.e to do Dawah): Dialogue and conversations guided with proper etiquettes is an effective way of reaching to the heart of the participant/conversant. It is a means with which Allah may open up locked hearts and soften the hard ones.
ادْعُ إِلَى سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ وَجَادِلْهُمْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ
Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who have strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided.
- To close the gap of differences: This is necessary to foster brotherhood and keep fine relationship. It is better to dialogue with people of different opinion and methodology until they appreciate the truth and accept it or we appreciate our mistakes and make correction. In either case, we will both be returning to the truth and secure the protection of Allah’s guidance.
- To clear doubt and highlight the dangers in falsehood: Some people from among the leaders of groups are deliberate and determined to continue on falsehood even after they know the truth with precision. This is clear arrogance. Leaving them unchallenged is tantamount to leaving the community of Muslims vulnerable to misguidance. Open dialogue for presentation of facts and refutation of falsehood will leave their ignorant followers with better choices.
وَكَذَلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ وَلِتَسْتَبِينَ سَبِيلُ الْمُجْرِمِينَ
And thus do We detail the verses, and [thus] the way of the criminals will become evident.
آداب الحوار وقواعد الاختلاف لعمر بن عبد الله كامل pg 4: Ref
Etiquettes of dialogue
In order to achieve the aims and objectives of an Islamic dialogue the following etiquettes become obligatory:
- Sincerity: Dialogue is an act of worship; therefore sincerity which is required for other kinds of worship must apply to it. If sincerity is lost from the dialogue, its aim and purpose will be destroyed. Either party in a dialogue must maintain the required sincerity and continue till the end. If one party losses his sincerity, it will be to the advantage of the other; therefore, the one with the truth should be especially careful to fulfill his obligations with optimum sincerity through the dialogue. Equally, if one party losses his sincerity it will be difficult to reach a conclusion which may leave the audience in greater confusion.
عَنْ عُمَرَ بْنِ الْخَطَّابِ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «إِنَّمَا الْأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ، وَإِنَّمَا لِامْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى، …»
Umar ibn Kattaab narrated:
The prophet ﷺ said: “Every deeds are based on intention; each person will be rewarded according to what he intended;…”
- Good speech: Proper etiquettes should be maintained throughout the conversation. This is because good speech characterized with softness and gentleness is necessary to open up brains and hearts. It is also an indication to the sincerity and purity of the person’s intention. Shouting and raising voices, abuses and curses, mockery and any other form of molestation should be avoided. We must avoid these lowly, cowardly and unintelligent weaknesses to safeguard the truth and sacred values from attack. The admonition of Allah is very clear:
وَلَا تَسُبُّوا الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ فَيَسُبُّوا اللَّهَ عَدْوًا بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ كَذَلِكَ زَيَّنَّا لِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ عَمَلَهُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَى رَبِّهِمْ مَرْجِعُهُمْ فَيُنَبِّئُهُمْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
And do not insult those they invoke other than God, lest they insult God in enmity without knowledge. Thus We have made pleasing to every community their deeds. Then to their Lord is their return and He will inform them about what they used to do.
You should not lose your internal stability and express shock to the foolishness of those who reject the manifest truth; this may lead to over-reaction, abuses and mockery.
- Justice and balance: Participants in a dialogue must be open-minded and avoid double standard. The hatred that may have been nurtured against the other party should not prevent us from accepting the truth from them. This following verse of the Qur’an is crystal clear:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ لِلَّهِ شُهَدَاءَ بِالْقِسْطِ وَلَا يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَآنُ قَوْمٍ عَلَى أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا اعْدِلُوا هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَى وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ
O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for God, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear God; indeed, God is acquainted with what you do.
- Clemency and compassion
- Good listening culture
الَّذِينَ يَسْتَمِعُونَ الْقَوْلَ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ أَحْسَنَهُ أُولَئِكَ الَّذِينَ هَدَاهُمُ اللَّهُ وَأُولَئِكَ هُمْ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
Those who listen to speech and follow the best of it; they are the ones God has guided, and those are people of understanding.
- Forbearance and patience
 The aim of dialogue is neither to claim superiority nor to embarrass the other participant.
 Surat-ul-Najm 28. Truth is the fact; assumption is a conjecture. The people of assumption should not be left to have authority over the people of truth. Dialogue is an effective means to engage the people of assumption and convince them to accept the truth as fact.
 Surat-ul-Yunus 36
 Sural Nahl 125
 Arrogance: to reject the truth and to prevent it from spreading.
 Surat-ul-An’am 55
 Sahih Bukhari
 Suratul An’am 108
 Surat-ul-Maidah 8
 Surat-ul-Zumar 18