How To Be Chivalrous (3 min read)

noun  /ˈʃɪv.əl.ri/  1) very polite, honest, and kind behaviour, especially by men towards women 2) the system of behaviour followed by knights in the medieval period of history, that put a high value on honour, kindness, and courage

Chivalry sounds so old-fashioned, but if any tradition needs to be revived perhaps it should be this one. What sparked my interest is a 10th-century book I stumbled across called “The Way Of Chivalry”.

It was written by a chap called Ibn al-Husayn al-Sulami, who lived in Khorasan, which today straddles Iran and Turkmenistan. Many of his concepts of chivalry influenced the later development of knighthood and chivalry in France and England from the late 12th-century onwards.

In the book, Sulami draws on various religious figures including Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad as exemplars of chivalry. Despite the religious undertones, perhaps a reflection of the time he lived in, his description of what constitutes chivalry transcends any particular set of  beliefs and would be appropriate for modern times:

  • Be conscious and know yourself
  • Respect others and be impressed only by the best in them
  • Be satisfied with little for yourself, and wish much for others
  • When trouble and suffering come upon you, accept them and do not complain
  • Concern yourself only with your own affairs
  • Avoid hypocrisy, arguing, being pretentious, insincere and the love of status
  • Free yourself from being a miser (penny pincher), over-ambitious, angry, greedy and a glutton
  • Focus on the present, not ruminating on the past and the future
  • Do not consider the rich as enemies, but look upon them as a lesson
  • Do not regard the poor with arrogance, but look upon them with humbleness
  • Do not see women as sexual objects, but look upon them with compassion and kindness
  • The best behaviour is to see the good in everything that happens
  • Respond to cruelty with kindness
  • Do not respond to harm with harm
  • Love must be met with love
  • Maintain good conduct and behaviour
  • Be generous
  • Be truthful; keep your word and what is entrusted to you
  • Do not be idle, and work
  • Do not oppose the one you love in things he likes or dislikes
  • Do not quarrel and gossip
  • Help continuously
  • When you speak, take care to speak only from your own experience and your own state
  • Do not fawn and flatter someone in order to gain favour
  • Do not let others know of your good actions
  • Judge others as you wish to be judged
Friends and neighbours
  • Bring joy into the lives of your friends and meet their needs
  • Do not find fault with your friends
  • Maintain old relationships
  • Keep your friends’ interest at heart and care for your neighbours
  • Care more for your community than you care for your own family
  • Do not listen to bad words about your friends
  • See only good in your friends and, observing evil in yourself, know that your are far from good.
  • Invite guests, offer feasts, and be hospitable
  • Love each other
  • Begin your own meal only after everyone else has started
  • It is most rewarding to love the lonely and poor ones and care for them
  • Understand that what you really owns not what you keep of your property, but that which you spend on your community
  • Accept with grace pains and troubles caused by friends and apologise for them

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