(19) Be kind at the first meeting
It was the habit in some rural areas of old Egypt that a groom before his wedding night would hide a cat in his room. On the wedding night, when alone with his wife, he would move a chair slightly to so as to free the cat. He would then demonstrate his might to his wife by getting hold of the poor cat and strangling it to death! Why? So that the first impression of him imprinted in the mind of his wife would be one of awe!
When I graduated from university and took up a position as an instructor at a college, a senior instructor advised me, saying, “Be stern with the students during your first lesson and stare at them with furious eyes so they will be in awe of you from the very beginning.” I remembered this as I was writing this chapter and realised that one thing everyone would agree upon is that the first meeting imprints 70% of an impression on one’s mind.
This is referred to as the “first impressions.”
A group of officers once travelled to the USA to attend a training program on interpersonal skills in the work environment.
On the first day, they arrived early to the classroom and began chatting in order to get to know one other. Suddenly, the instructor walked in and they fell silent. The instructor’s eyes fell upon a student who was still smiling.
“Why are you laughing?” He screamed.
The student replied: “I’m sorry, I wasn’t laughing.”
“You were!” screamed the instructor, and chastised him further, saying, “You are not a serious student! You should return to your family on the next available flight! I cannot teach your likes!”
The poor student felt embarrassed and gazed at the instructor and then at his colleagues in confusion. The instructor then frowned at him, pointed to the exit and said, “Get out!”
The student got up frightened and left the room. The instructor looked at the rest of the students and said, “I am Dr. So-andso.
I will be teaching you such-and-such a subject. But before I begin, I would like you to fill in a questionnaire without writing your names on them.” He then distributed the questionnaires to the students. The questionnaire was about the instructor’s
performance and had five questions:
1. How do you find your teacher?
2. How do you find his teaching?
3. Does your teacher allow opposing views to be aired?
4. Would you like to be taught by him again?
5. Would you like to meet him outside the institution?
Every question had multiple choices; Excellent, good, fair, poor. The students filled in the questionnaire and returned it to the instructor. The instructor began his lecture on interpersonal skills in an office environment, and in the middle of the lecture he said, “Oh! Why should we deprive your colleague of this lesson?”
He went out of the classroom, shook the hand of the ejected student with a smile, and brought him back in.
He then said, “I think I lashed out at you a little while ago without any particular reason. I am having some personal problems due to which I behave quite erratically at times, so I beg your pardon. You are, after all, a committed student, and the proof of that is the fact that you left behind your wife and children to come all the way here. I would like to thank you, in fact all of you, for your commitment. I am very honoured to be your instructor.”
He was, thereafter, very light-hearted with his students.
He then picked up more copies of the questionnaire and said, “Since your colleague didn’t get the chance to fill in the questionnaire, how about if you all were to fill it in again?” He handed out the questionnaire and they filled them all in and returned them to the instructor. He then took the previous questionnaires and the new ones and began to compare between the two, to discover that the ‘poor’ boxes in first set of questionnaires were all checked, while the second set of questionnaires did not have a single check against ‘poor’, or even ‘fair’.
The instructor laughed and said, “What you just witnessed was a demonstration of the ill effects of the lack of interpersonal skills in the work environment. What I did to your colleague was an example of this which I wished to demonstrate to you all.
Note how your views of me changed as I changed the way I dealt with you!”
This is all part of human nature, and hence, one must take this into consideration, especially with those he meets for the first time.
The Prophet Peace be upon him would also capture people’s hearts the first time he met them. After the conquest of Makkah and when Islam had become dominant, the Prophet Peace be upon him started to receive envoys from various tribes. One of the envoys the Prophet Peace be upon him received was from ‘Abd al-Qays.
When they arrived, before they could even dismount from their rides, the Prophet Peace be upon him said to them, “Welcome, O people! May you never face disgrace or sorrow, so have glad tidings!”
As they dismounted from their camels, they raced to the Prophet Peace be upon him to greet him. They said, “O Messenger of Allah, between our cities there lies a dwelling of a group of pagans from Mudhar, due to which we cannot come to you except in the sacred months, since this is when Arabs do not fight, so guide us to the best thing we can do, which if we were to do it, would cause us to enter paradise, and which we would instruct others to do also.
The Prophet Peace be upon him said, “I shall order you to do four things and forbid you from four. I order you to have faith in Allah. Do you know what it means to have faith in Allah?”
They replied, “Allah and His Messenger know best.”
The Prophet Peace be upon him said, “It means to testify that there is no one worthy of worship except Allah, to establish the prayers, to give in charity, and to give a fifth of the war booty in charity.”
I also forbid you from four; from drinking from ad-Dubba, an-Naqir, (pitched water skins), az-Zuruf, al-Muzaffat and al-Hantam (names of utensils used for the preparation of alcoholic drinks).’ (al-Bukhari)
On another occasion, the Prophet Peace be upon him was travelling with a group of his Companions at night. They travelled for a long time until the last part of the night fell upon them, and they decided to stop over and sleep. They were overcome by deep sleep until sunrise. The first one to awaken was Abu Bakr, and then ‘Umar.
Abu Bakr sat next to the Prophet Peace be upon him and began to say “Allahu Akbar” aloud until the Prophet Peace be upon him also woke up and prayed Fajr with his Companions. When he had not finished the prayer, he realised that one of the Companions had not joined them.
The Prophet Peace be upon him said, ‘What prevented you from praying with us?’
He replied, “I had a wet-dream and didn’t find water to bathe with.” The Prophet Peace be upon him ordered him to perform Tayammum with dust. The Companion then prayed and thereafter they continued on their journey, and none of them had any water. On the way they became extremely thirsty and were unable to find any well or water.
‘Imran bin Husayn  said, “As we were travelling, we found a woman on a camel with two leather sacks (filled with water).
We said to her: ‘Where can we find water?’ She said: ‘There is no water here.’ We said: ‘How far away is the water from your house?’ She said: ‘One whole day.’ We said: ‘Go to the Messenger of Allah Peace be upon him.’ She said: ‘What is a Messenger of Allah?!’
“We took her with us to Allah’s Messenger in the hope that she would tell us the location of the water. The Prophet Peace be upon him asked her about the water and she responded with what she had responded to us earlier, and further complained that she had orphans to look after.
The Prophet Peace be upon him took hold of her water con-tainer, mentioned Allah’s name on it, and then wiped over it and began to pour the water from her container into our utensils. All forty of us drank from it until our thirst was quenched. We filled our utensils with water and left hers, which now carried more water than they did before.
“The Prophet Peace be upon him then said, ‘Bring what you have (i.e., of food).’
We collected pieces of bread and dates for her. The Prophet Peace be upon him said: ‘Take this to your family, and know that we have not decreased your water at all; it is only that Allah has quenched our thirst.’
“The woman then mounted her camel happily after receiving food and went home. When she returned, she said: ‘I met a magician, or perhaps a prophet as they claim...’
“Her family were amazed at her story with the Prophet Peace be upon him, and it wasn’t long before they all accepted Islam.’” (al-Bukhari and Muslim)
This woman was amazed by the Prophet’s treatment and generosity in her very first meeting with him.
One day, a man came to the Prophet Peace be upon him asking him for material aid. The Prophet Peace be upon him gave him a portion of his cattle. The man returned to his people and said, “Accept Islam, for Muhammad gives like a man who doesn’t fear poverty!”
Anas  said, “The man would come to the Prophet Peace be upon him solely for worldly reasons, but afterwards his religion became more precious to him than the whole world and all that exists therein.” (Muslim)
A suggestion...
The first meeting imprints 70% of the impression that one has of a person on his mind. Thus, one should treat a person as if it is the first and last time he will ever meet him.