The 59th Call: The Obligation of Asking Permission inside Houses
Almighty Allah says (what can be translated as): “O you who have believed, let those whom your right hands possess and those who have not [yet] reached puberty among you ask permission of you [before entering] at three times: before the dawn prayer and when you put aside your clothing [for rest] at noon and after the night prayer. [These are] three times of privacy for you. There is no blame upon you nor upon them beyond these [periods], for they continually circulate among you - some of you, among others. Thus does Allah make clear to you the verses; and Allah is Knowing and Wise. And when the children among you reach puberty, let them ask permission [at all times] as those before them have done. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses; and Allah is Knowing and Wise.” (An-Nur: 58-59)
These verses include the manners of asking permission by servants and young children before entering inside houses. Almighty Allah commands His Messenger, Peace Be upon Him and the believers to direct their servants, who were slaves, and their children who did not reach puberty to ask permission before entering at three times:
- Before the daybreak prayer, i.e. Fajr, when people are still sleeping in their beds.
- About midday when people take a nap after changing into more comfortable garments and relaxing with their spouses.
- After nightfall prayer, i.e. after praying Isha.
The servants and children should not rush into the houses or rooms of their masters and families during those times, they should ask permission first. Almighty Allah says that those times are times of privacy for people, so asking permission is a proper thing to do. As for anytime else, there is no blame on them if they enter without seeking permission because they are serving in the house and they have to move freely. Then, Almighty Allah says that He clarifies His verses and rulings to the people and He is Knowing of the best for them and Wise in what He obligates them to do.
If the children who ask permission during the three times of privacy reach the age of puberty, then they have to ask permission before they enter all the time, not only the three times mentioned above, whether they are the children of the person they enter his house or they are his relatives. Just like the way Allah Almighty has clarified to us his verses, He has clarified to us what would achieve happiness to us in this world and the Hereafter. Almighty Allah is The Most-Knowing of His creation and Wise in His rulings, planning and Divine Will.
Servants, who were slaves, and children who are not so young but have not yet attained puberty enter rooms without knocking to seek permission, except during three times of the day. These are periods of relaxation when adults may be undressed. These three occasions are: 1) shortly before the daybreak prayer, i.e. Fajr, when people normally still wear their night garments, or they may be putting on their day clothes in readiness to go out; 2) about midday when people take a nap after changing into more comfortable garments for relaxation; and 3) after they have offered their nightfall prayer, i.e. Isha. At this time, people put on their night clothes for more comfort.
During these three periods, servants and children below the age of puberty must knock before entering rooms in the house so that they do not see their relatives undressed. Many people do not observe such manners at home, thinking little of the psychological and moral effects of their laxity. Or they may think that servants do not stare at their masters’ nakedness, or that children below the age of puberty do not take notice. With the progress achieved today in the field of human psychology, experts emphasize that people are often influenced for life by what they see or experience in childhood, and that such experience may cause them psychological problems that are not easy to cure. Allah, who knows everything, including the finest and most subtle feelings, outlines these manners which He wants the Muslim community to observe, so that it remains a community with sound hearts and minds, free from psychological problems.
These three occasions are specified because it is more likely that people will be undressed. Children and servants are not required to knock before entry all the time, because this would be difficult to observe, considering that these two groups frequently enter their elders’ rooms: either because servants are going about their tasks or because children cannot stay away from their parents for long. Hence the description: “There is no blame upon you nor upon them beyond these [periods], for they continually circulate among you - some of you, among others.” We see how the divine instruction strikes a balance between the need to ensure that people do not show their nakedness in front of others, even though they may be young or servants, and the practical need for easy access. Hence, the instruction does not order seeking permission to enter on all occasions.
When children attain to puberty, the same rules of entry apply to them as to those who are not related to the family. This means that they must seek permission before entering a room at any time, in accordance with the general rules outlined earlier in the surah: “And when the children among you reach puberty, let them ask permission [at all times] as those before them have done. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses; and Allah is Knowing and Wise.” (Verse 59)
We note that the final comment in these verses stresses Allah’s knowledge and wisdom, because the instructions given are based on His knowledge of our inner feelings and the manners that are most likely to refine such feelings. In His wisdom, Allah lays down the teachings that set minds and hearts on the right course.