ETIQUETTES OF EATING
Islam is not merely a religion, it is a way of life; a holistic approach designed by our Creator to benefit all of humankind. The comprehensiveness of Islam allows every aspect of life to be an act of worship, from praying to sleeping, from washing to working. Every chore from the menial to the profound can earn countless rewards simply by a person wanting to please Allah with their every thought and action.
When Allah created the world He did not leave us to our own designs; quite the contrary He sent us guidance. This guidance comes in the form of Quran and the Sunnah (Prophetic Traditions) of Prophet Muhammad(S). Within these two sources of guidance one can find the rules and regulations, and the rights and responsibilities that allow us Muslims to deal with any situation.
All actions performed in the daily course of life can be raised to the status of worship simply by remembering to praise Allah and seek His pleasure. Yes, even eating; it has an etiquette that raises its status from a ordinary act to a rewarding act of worship. Think about it. Food plays a significant part in our daily lives. Shopping, storing, preparation, eating, and cleaning - all take up a large amount of time, effort and money. The rewards accumulated from the act of eating can be innumerable and of more substance than a full belly or bulging waist line.
The etiquette of eating involves actions before, during, and after eating.
There is an old western saying - cleanliness is next to Godliness and Islam places great emphasis on cleanliness. Just as a Muslim purifies his body before turning to Allah in prayer he must also pay attention to the cleanliness of his surroundings. Allah loves those who turn to Him in repentance and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.” Quran Surah Baqrah 2:222
Therefore it is important that the food preparation area and the hands that will touch the food are kept clean. Filthy conditions cause disease and ill health. If you have not been involved with the preparation of the food it is still important to thoroughly wash your hands before eating.
A Muslim should begin every task, even eating, by mentioning the name of Allah. One should say: “Bismillah” for this means “I begin with the name of Allah”. Sahi Al Bukhari 5376 (Vol 7:288), Sahi Muslim 5012 and Ibn Majah Vol 1:557
“When one of you eats, he should mention Allah’s name; if he forgets to mention Allah’s name at the beginning, he should say: “Bismillaahi fee awwalihi wa aakhirihi” meaning “I begin with the name of Allah at the beginning and at the end of it (i.e. this meal).” Sahi Al Bukhari Vol 7:288, Sahih Muslim 5012 and Ibn Majah Vol 1:557 and at-Tirmidhee Vol3: 1858 and Claseed as Sahih in Abi Daawud 3767 by sheikh Albani
Eating with the right hand is obligatory for Muslims unless there is an excuse such as illness or injury. The left hand is usually used to clean the body of filth and impurities while the right hand is used for eating, passing objects from one person to another and for shaking hands. Prophet Muhammad also advised us in his Sunnah that Satan eats with his left hand therefore the believers should refrain from anything that causes them to resemble Satan.
Prophet Muhammad(S) said, When any one of you intends to eat, he should eat with his right hand, and when he (intends) to drink he should drink with his right hand, for Satan eats with his left hand and drinks with his left hand. Sahih Muslim 2020 and Sunan Abi Dawud 3776
Narrated `Umar bin Abu Salama: I was a boy under the care of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) and my hand used to go around the dish while I was eating. So Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said to me, 'O boy! (Say Bismillah) Mention the Name of Allah and eat with your right hand, and eat of the dish what is nearer to you." Since then I have applied those instructions when eating. Sahih al-Bukhari 5376(vol. 7:288), Sahih Muslim 2022 andSunan Ibn Majah Hadith 3267
In situations where everyone eats from a common platter or serving dish, taking the food that is directly in front of you is considered good manners. Reaching over others or searching for the most delicious pieces of food can make your dining companions uncomfortable and cause you to appear ungrateful or greedy.
It is from the manners of Islam to respect guests by offering them the choicest food and delivering it in a timely manner. The guest is then able to respond by hastening to taste and praise the food and by praying for and sending blessings upon the host. A very pleasant supplication to make for your host is the following:
" اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَهُمْ فِي مَا رَزَقْتَهُمْ وَاغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَارْحَمْهُمْ "
“Allaahumma baarik lahum feemaa razaqtahum, waghfir lahum warhamhum” - O Allah, bless them in what You have provided for them, and forgive them and have mercy on them. Sahih Muslim 2042and Jami at Tirmidhi Vol6: 3576
It is wrong to criticise food, rather it is better to merely refrain from eating anything you do not like. “The sister of my mother Umm Hufaid presented to Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) clarified butter (ghee), cheese and some lizards. He ate out of the clarified butter and cheese, but lett the lizard finding no liking for it. But it was eaten on the table of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ). Had it been forbidden (haram), it could not be eaten on the table of Allah's Messenger (ﷺ).” Saheeh Muslim 1947Ibn 'Umar(R) reported: Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) was asked about the eating of (the flesh) of the lizard, whereupon he said: I am neither the eater of it nor its prohibitor. Sahih Muslim 1943 a
The good manners inherent in Islam also indicate that a person should not spit or blow his nose whilst eating, nor should he recline while eating. Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "I do not take my meals while leaning (against something).Sahih al Bukhari 5398(Vol.7:310) and Sunan Ibn Majah 3262
The comprehensiveness of Islam allows us to send and receive blessings while eating and drinking however we must not forget that Allah provides blessings in the food itself. Prophet Muhammad(S), advised us to pick up, dust off and eat any pieces of food that fall on the floor, to be certain not to miss any blessings or to leave the food for Satan. “When any one of you drops a mouthful he should pick it up and remove any of the filth on it, and then eat it, and should not leave it for Satan. One should not wipe his hand with a cloth until he has licked his fingers, for he does not know in what portion of the food the blessing lies.” Sahih Muslim 2033
If possible, in order to receive even more blessings, a Muslim should try to share his meals and not eat alone. Sharing meals with family, friends, loved ones, and neighbors creates bonds between believers. It should never be a problem if the amount of food seems too small, for the blessing extends to the amount of food required.Narrated Abu Huraira(R) that Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "The food for two persons is sufficient for three, and the food of three persons is sufficient for four persons." Sahih al-Bukhari 5392 (Vol7: 304)
“Eat your food together, for there are further blessings when you eat together.” Classed as Hasan by shaik Albani in Abi Dawood 3764
The etiquette of eating includes eating in moderation and not overindulging no matter how appetizing the food is. Prophet Muhammad(S) reminded us that keeping the body light and healthy is better than being overweight, lazy and idle.
“A man does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat what is enough for his body. But if he must do more than that, then one-third for his food, one-third for his drink and one-third for his air.”Jami` at-Tirmidhi Vol4: 2380
“And eat and drink, but waste not in extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not those who waste in extravagance.” Quran surah Ara’f 7:31From the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad(S) we learn to avoid eating or drinking from vessels of silver or gold. “Do not wear silk and do not drink from vessels of gold and silver, or eat from plates thereof. They are for them (disbelievers) in this world and for us in the Hereafter.” Sahih al-Bukhari 5633(Vol.7: 537)and Sahih Muslim 2067
Narrated Abu Huraira(R): Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "A Muslim eats in one intestine (i.e. he is satisfied with a little food) while a Kafir (unbeliever) eats in seven intestines (eats much). Sahih al-Bukhari 5396 (Vol7:308)
After Food praise and thank Him in a manner that suits His majesty. We say Alhamdulillah (all praises and thanks are due to Allah) to acknowledge that Allah is the one who provides all our sustenance. Whether it is a little or a lot, we thank Him and we praise Him. “And no moving (living) creature is there on earth but its provision is due from Allah.” Quran surah Hud 11:6
Prophet Muhammad(S) said that “Allah is pleased when one of His slaves eats something and praises Him(Saying: Al-Hamdu-lillah ) for it, or drinks something and praises Him for it,”Sahih Muslim 2734 and that is what a true believer is trying to achieve; the ability to please Allah in all of our deeds.
Prophet Muhammad(S) advised us all to wash our hands before and after eating regardless of whether we are in the state of ritual purity or not. It is acceptable to rinse with water, but it is preferable to use soap or a cleaning liquid. It is also recommended to rinse the mouth after eating.
Once on an expedition Prophet Muhammad led the afternoon prayer and then asked for food. The food was brought and everybody ate. It was then time for the evening prayer, Prophet Muhammad(S) rose, rinsed his mouth with water, as did his companions. He then prayed without renewing his wudoo (ritual ablutions). Sahih al-Bukhari Vol1:209
From this account we learn two things, that it is preferable to rinse the mouth after eating and that the act of eating (unless under very specific circumstances) does not break a person’s wudoo.
Although it is not obligatory to clean the teeth after eating, Islam attaches great importance to oral hygiene. Prophet Muhammad(S) recommended using a tooth stick called a miswak or siwak. He informed us that it purifies the mouth and pleases God. Miswak is a natural twig fortified with minerals; it cleans the teeth, prevents the gums from bleeding, kills bacteria, and freshens the breath. If miswak is not available one may use a toothbrush, toothpastes and mouth washes for they are acceptable. The Prophet(S) said: Use miswak, for it purifies the mouth and pleases the Lord. Abdur-Rahman bin Abu 'Atiq said: "My father told me: 'I heard 'Aishah(R) say, (narrating) from the Prophet (ﷺ): "Siwak is a means of purification for the mouth and is pleasing to the Lord." Sunan an Nasa’I Vol1:5
Prophet Muhammad(S) also suggested ways for the believers to drink water. He advised that water should be drunk in three breaths rather than gulping water in one mouthful, and cautioned against breathing into the drinking vessel because it contaminates the water with spittle. And it is better for one to drink while sitting. Book of Drinks, Sahih Al Bukhari 5631( Vol.7: 535)
Islam is a complete way of life; even everyday acts such as eating or drinking can be considered as great chances to worship Allah.