Resigning from the Etiquette Police

I give up. I’m surrendering.  I won’t do it any more—it’s an impossible mission.  It is no longer my responsibility if kids get hurt, property is damaged, our image gets tarnished, food gets wasted, or it’s noisy during Taraweeh prayer. Are you listening? I am officially resigning from my twenty-five year stint as a self-appointed member of the Etiquette Police…. I’m worn out. Exasperated.  Defeated.

I have only myself to blame.  I took on the job thirty years ago when I reverted to Islam. No one asked me to do it.  No one even wanted me to do it!  There is just something inside me that cries out for order, rules, politeness, etiquette, consideration and all that stuff that gives dignity to a community. I had to save the Ummah.

I knew I had a mission when I went to my first convention and saw the kids running UP the DOWN escalators—it was that first shout, “STOP, THAT,” that made me think. Yes, I can make a difference.   OK… I should have paid more attention to the fact that the kids ignored me and the mothers were right there, but I was so wrapped up in my new dream, my new image for our Ummah, that it just didn’t register. Yes, I can make a difference. Insha’allah.  I’ll take it on.

“Put your shoes on the rack, don’t waste the food, stand in line, take turns, stop the running, wash your hands, watch your kids, don’t eat in the masjid, pick up the trash, take turns, don’t be late, don’t pick the flowers, shhhhhhhhhhh!!!” Surely over the past twenty years you must have heard me. I was everywhere!!

My delivery did improve over the years from that of a crazed mad woman to a more controlled, calm, delivery with just an occasional maniacal outburst (Alhamdulillah). And through it all, with a certain dignity, I endured the angry, mind-your-own-business, what’s-your-problem, control-freak, lock-her-up, ugly-American, looks.  I ignored the who-cares, laissez-faire attitude of others around me. OK… I have to admit I did not always endure with dignity.  Sometimes it got pretty ugly, but hey, I have my weaknesses, too. I had a mission and it was noble and I wasn’t giving up. Alhamdulillah.

The mission may have been noble but it’s no longer mine. I’m tired. I had the madness, but not the method.  I did it because I cared. I wanted something better for those I love. I wanted us to live our Islam. Alhamdulillah. But now it’s time for someone else to take it on, and I realize now that it has to be you.  Yes, you! You can do it! You have to do it! You can bring dignity back to our nation, insha’allah. And the method is really quite easy and simple. Really! Really it is!!!

All you have to do, dear sisters, is to teach your toddler to put her shoes on the rack.

Sumayah Guilford

Sumayah Guilford lives in Germantown, Md. and is the mother of three now grown, homeschooled children and two grandchildren. She enjoys reading and inspiring others in the areas of self-development, parenting, and creative activities for kids.

About Mahaez
  • Um Lubayah

    Oh, yes! Yes! I’ll take it on. I just made sure our shoe rack has space for when my kids are old enough to have shoes. You can pass the torch on to me, don’t worry!

  • Yasmin

    Dearest sister Sumayah,

    I for one appreciated your efforts. I watched your Jihad and quietly in my heart admired you (instead of adding my voice to yours). I am sure there are many more of us who silently support the Etiquette Police. As you retire I want you to know that you have made a difference; at least two little girls will put their shoes on the rack every time, inshallah.

    May Allah reward you.


  • mountaineermama

    I absolutely love this reflection! One issue to consider….perhaps we all have different interpretations of “order.”

  • Zainab

    May Allah reward you for your efforts. You HAVE made a difference…alhamdulillah.

    It does feel like an impossible mission and you have my total admiration because I’ve only recently started speaking out when kids at our masjid are running wild. Do they listen? Yes….but 2 minutes later they’re back to it.

  • Hagar

    hee, hee, this made me laugh. You’re right, though, it’s up to the parents to teach..impossible for one person, no matter how great the intention. Thank you!

  • Lena

    I felt this piece was speaking directly to me. Who hasn’t been there and felt these exact emotions? And just when you’re ready to give up the author gives a glimmer of hope: change can occur in the smallest of places. I loved the ending to this blog :)

  • Hamdi

    Alhamdullilah, sister Yasmin articulated what I wanted to say to you, Sumayah. In addition, even if you are tired, you taught us good footsteps to follow. May Allah bless you in this life and the hereafter.

  • gehad younis

    One of the scholars (can’t remember who is he now) said: the Ummah starts with one person, then he gets married now it’s two people building our ummah, then when they have kids here you go ,we have one family and that’s where we start to build our ummah. jak, well said sis sumayah.

  • Maha

    Even more scary than the angry, etiquette police is the unknowing resignation of too many people to poor manners, lack of consideration, and disorder. It turns a lot of people away from the Muslim community, sadly enough.

    Yes, moms, we have a big job ahead of us!

  • Etiquette Police in Training

    :) great post !

    Alhamdulillah I’m trying my best to teach my 2 year old etiquette to give the etiquette police one less child to worry about. Alhamdulillah he is very well behaved … so much so that he goes to Juma’ prayers with his baba and really enjoys the father-son time. But some days he sees the other kids run around the masjid screaming throughout khutba & prayers & he watches in awe. I want my kids to have fun too! But I want them to understand the time and place for it. Why do I have to feel so guilty , though, because other parents let their kids go free. Am I wrong for feeling this way?

    The Noble Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Everyone of you is a protector and guardian and responsible for your wards and things under your care…” (Bukhari and Muslim)

  • fatima

    I didn’t tell you this khala, but when i read this i actually went out and bought a shoe rack ( a long over due purchase) and started getting dd1 to put her shoes and her sisters *under* the rack (since i had the misfortune of purchasing a shoe rack that seems to fit size 10 shoes and above, even my shoes hardly fit). :) jak for adding a little order in my life!

  • Mayce

    This was a delight to read! Your writing is so vivid and it’s a good topic to think about. Thanks for the chuckle at the end! JAK for your efforts to instil etiquette in our ummah. I really don’t want you to retire and I hope we can all do our part and join the force!