Should a Muslim stand up for others out of respect?
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
It is permissible for a Muslim to stand out of respect for a person if such an act is considered good etiquette in the prevailing social customs, but such an act may become disapproved or forbidden if it unjustly exaggerates a person’s status.
The Prophet would sometimes stand up for others as a sign of mutual respect. On one occasion, the Prophet stood when the funeral of a Jewish leader passed by him.
Ibn Abu Laila reported: A funeral passed by the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and he stood up. It was said to him, “It is a Jew.” The Prophet said:
Was he not a soul?
Source: Sahih Bukhari 1250, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi
On another occasion, the Prophet commanded the companions to stand for Sa’d ibn Mu’adh who at the time was acting as judge, saying:
قُومُوا إِلَى سَيِّدِكُمْ
Stand for your chief.
Source: Sahih Muslim 1768, Grade: Sahih
For this reason, a number of scholars hold that it is recommended to stand for the people of virtue as long as it is not done excessively or in exaggeration.
An-Nawawi comments on this narration, saying:
فِيهِ إِكْرَامُ أَهْلِ الْفَضْلِ وَتَلَقِّيهِمْ بِالْقِيَامِ لَهُمْ إِذَا أَقْبَلُوا هَكَذَا احْتَجَّ بِهِ جَمَاهِيرُ الْعُلَمَاءِ لِاسْتِحْبَابِ الْقِيَامِ قَالَ الْقَاضِي وَلَيْسَ هَذَا مِنَ الْقِيَامِ الْمَنْهِيِّ عَنْهُ وَإِنَّمَا ذَلِكَ فِيمَنْ يَقُومُونَ عَلَيْهِ وَهُوَ جَالِسٌ وَيَمْثُلُونَ قِيَامًا طُولَ جُلُوسِهِ
This implies the desirability of respecting the people of virtue and standing for them when they arrive. This is how the majority of scholars established the desirability of standing. Al-Qadi Iyad said: This standing is not the standing which is forbidden. The prohibition is when one is seated while everyone else remains standing while he is sitting.
Source: Sharh Sahih Muslim
However, the Prophet disliked for people to stand when he arrived due to setting an example of humility for us.
Anas ibn Malik reported:
لَمْ يَكُنْ شَخْصٌ أَحَبَّ إِلَيْهِمْ مِنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ وَكَانُوا إِذَا رَأَوْهُ لَمْ يَقُومُوا لِمَا يَعْلَمُونَ مِنْ كَرَاهِيَتِهِ لِذَلِكَ
There was no person more beloved to the companions than the Messenger of Allah. When they saw him coming, they would not stand up because they knew he disliked that.
Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 2754, Grade: Sahih
Although standing is not entirely forbidden, the Prophet has warned us not to follow the path of the kings of the past who were arrogant in their demand for such signs of respect.
Abu Umamah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
لَا تَقُومُوا كَمَا تَقُومُ الْأَعَاجِمُ يُعَظِّمُ بَعْضُهَا بَعْضًا
Do not stand up as foreigners do to aggrandize one another.
Source: Sunan Abu Dawud 5230, Grade: Hasan
Therefore, it is permissible and perhaps recommended for Muslims to stand as a sign of respect when local customs consider it to be good manners, but such standing becomes disapproved or forbidden when it leads to arrogance and exaggeration.
Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.