- Ibn `Abbas was quite sure that the original revelation was “ista’dhinu” (seek permission) which the scribe wrote as “ista’nisu” (seek familiarity or friendliness). Some reports say that that is how it was written in Ibn Mas`ud’s copy of the Qur’an (Ibn Jarir). Nonetheless, the usage of the word “ista’nasa” is not any new in Arabic language. We might recall that when ‘Umar entered upon the Prophet in his upper chamber when he had sworn that he would not see his wives for a month, he used the same word “asta’nis” (lit., “should I attempt pleasantry?: Au.) –Qurtubi.
The word has also been used in the Qur’an in Surah al-Ahzab, verse 53, which says, “When you have finished eating, disperse, without seeking conversation.” (Razi)
The attribution therefore, of the opinion above to Ibn `Abbas and others is incorrect (Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi). In fact, writes Shanqiti, all the Uthmani copies of the Qur’an have it written as “ista’nisu.” Alusi, however, does not believe the attribution is incorrect and sets about explaining what Ibn `Abbas could have meant.
However, Mujahid and Ibn Zayd thought it was “ista’nisu” alone, meaning, “make yourselves familiar.” That is, clear your throat, and make some sort of noise to let the occupants know that someone is at the door.
In any case, whether this or that, it is desirable that one seeks the permission of the occupants before entering, even if it happens to be one’s mother inside. The following is in Muwatta’: Someone asked the Prophet (saws) whether he should seek permission even if it is his mother? He answered, “Yes.” He said, “She is living with me in the house.” He told him, “Seek her permission.” The man said, “I am her attendant.” The Prophet answered, “Seek her permission. Do you wish to see her naked?” The man said, “No.” He said, “Then better seek her leave.”
And once someone said at the Prophet’s door, “Shall I come in?” He said to his attendant, “Go out to this man and teach him the manner of entering (a home). Tell him to say, ‘Al-salamualaykum’ and then ask, ‘Shall I enter?’” The man at the door heard and said, ‘Al-salamualaykum, shall I enter?’ The Prophet allowed him and then the man entered.”(The report is in Abu Da’ud, Ahmad and other books and is of considerable strength: S. Ibrahim).
Accordingly, it is reported of Ibn Mas`ud that he would clear his throat or make some noise at the door of his own house for the occupants to know he was coming in (Ibn Jarir, Zamakshari, Qurtubi, IbnKathir).
Permission to enter might be sought three times. A report is preserved in the Sahihayn which says that Abu Musa sought entry into `Umar’s gathering three times and turned back finding no response. In the meantime, `Umar became conscious of the voice and sent someone after him, but he was gone. When he showed up again `Umar asked him why had he returned earlier? Abu Musa told him that he had followed the Prophet’s instruction: thrice you seek to be admitted, but if there is no response you may return. `Umar threatened him with stripes if he did not produce witnesses. So Abu Musa went to a group of Ansar and asked them if anyone had also heard it from the Prophet. They said, “The youngest of us will help you out,” and sent Abu Sa`id al-Khudri with him. He testified before `Umar that the Prophet (saws), indeed, had said such a thing. `Umar remarked, “Nothing but trading led me to miss this one” (Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
A report of Abu Da’ud, quite credible, says that once the Prophet visited Sa`d b. `Ubadah. He said “Al-salamualaykum” at the door, three times. Every time he said that, Sa`d replied in a low-pitched voice which the Prophet did not hear and so he returned. Sa`d ran after him and explained that he wished to hear his Salam several times and hence replied in low tones. Sa`d offered him a bath and the Prophet bathed himself. Then he offered him some food that had food coloring in it. Finished, the Prophet supplicated in words, “O Allah, send Your peace and mercy on the household of Sa`d b. `Ubadah.” When he wished to depart, Sa`d offered him his donkey and asked Qays to accompany him. The Prophet told Qays to also mount. But he refused. So he told him, “Either mount, or go back.” Qays preferred to go back. (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir)
According to another report in Abu Da’ud, though of unknown reliability, “When the Prophet visited someone, he did not stand right in front of the door, but rather, either on the right side or lefts side of it and say, ‘Al-salamualaykum, al-salamualaykum.’” (Ibn Kathir)
Visiting manners also demand that one might not peep into the house one is visiting. The Prophet (saws) said in a Hadith of the Sahihayn: “Permission has been legislated for the sake of the sight.” According to a report in the Sahihayn, the Prophet said that, “If you struck a visitor peeping into your house with a stone and it blinded him, no indemnity will be required of you.” (Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir)
Bukhari, Abu Da’ud and Ahmad have a report from Jabir who said, “I went to the Prophet (for an errand).” I knocked at the door. He asked, ‘Who is it?’ I answered, ‘It’s me.’ He asked, ‘Me, me? Who is me?’ – as if he did not like the visitor’s words (Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir).
One might also knock at the door; but not too noisily. Anas b. Malik reports that they used to knock at the Prophet’s doors with their nails. (Qurtubi)