بســـم اللــه الرحــمــن الـرحـــيــم
▪️Ettiquettes of eating▪️
Our Shaykh, Muḥammad ibn Ḥizām -may Allāh preserve him- was asked the following question:
The questioner says: “We would like you to remind us of some of the etiquettes that relate to eating”.
1 & 2: The most important etiquette when eating (or drinking) is to start by mentioning the name of Allāh- i.e. saying: “Bismillāh”. This is based on the ḥadīth of ‘Umar ibn Abī Salamah (may Allāh be pleased with him, who said:
“I was a young boy under the care of the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ), and my hand used to wander around in the dish, so he (ﷺ) said to me:
((سَمِّ اَللَّهَ، وَكُلْ بِيَمِينِكَ، وَكُلْ مِمَّا يَلِيكَ))
“Mention Allāh’s Name, eat with your right hand, and eat from what is in front of you.”
[Reported by Bukhāri and Muslim]
This ḥadīth contains important etiquettes, the most important of them being to start with the name of Allāh, as well as eating with the right hand; both of these ettiquettes are obligatory.
In fact, eating with the left hand may even reach the level of being a major sin – if it is done out of arrogance. Salamah ibnul Akwa’ reported that a person ate in the presence of Allāh’s Messenger (ﷺ) with his left hand, so the Prophet (ﷺ) said to him:
“Eat with your right hand.”
He said: I cannot do that, so he (ﷺ) said:
“May you not be able.”
It was pride that prevented him from doing it, so he could not raise his hand up to his mouth; (his hand became paralyzed).
3: Likewise, from the ettiquettes mentioned in the previous ḥadīth is:
((كُلْ مِمَّا يَلِيكَ))
“eat from what is in front of you.”
4: Therefore, one must not eat from the side of his brother, and if the meal is made up of different dishes, it should be distributed all over, so that one does not have to extend his hand to another side to pick and choose.
If there is a type of food on your side which is not present on your brother’s side, you should take some and place it in front of him or somewhere between you and him: “love for your brother what you love for yourself”. This applies whether you are eating at home, at a banquet (walīmah), or anywhere else; place the extras in the middle; place the meat in the middle of the plate (for example), or place some on his side and some in front of you. The Prophet ﷺ used to distribute food accordingly (when eating). Once, he was given three pieces of bread, so he divided it between himself and Jābir ibn Abdullāh; he placed some of the bread in front of Jābir and some in front of himself; as found in Ṣahīh Muslim.
5. Also, from the etiquettes of eating is to refrain from criticising food. “The Prophet (ﷺ) never criticised any food; if he liked it he ate it, and if did not like it he kept silent.”
[Reported by Bukhāri and Muslim on the authority of Abū Hurairah, may Allāh be pleased with him]
6. Likewise, from the etiquettes is that – if someone is eating in a group, he must refrain from anything that may cause distaste to others; such as placing one’s hand in front others and returning left over food that remains in the hand back into the plate; let’s say they are sharing a plate of rice for example; after eating what he scooped up of rice, he returns whatever is left in his hand back into the plate! This is a wrong. You will put your brother off eating.
Likewise, one must be weary of letting off sounds whilst eating, whether that be through the nose or the throat (i.e. clearing mucus). It’s not appropriate to do this over food, whether eating in one’s own home or eating with others. It’s not appropriate to do this whilst eating. He must avoid doing this.
7 & 8: Also, from the etiquettes is washing the hands and making sure the nails are clipped. Washing the hands before eating and clipping the nails short, these are things that are necessary, especially for the student of knowledge who should be setting a good example for others. He must not do anything that may cause distaste for his brothers.
9: From the etiquettes of eating (in a group) is that a person does not conduct himself in a selfish and greedy manner, such that he takes more than the rest of his brothers. For example, if they are eating dates together, he should only take two or three (depending on the situation). Likewise, if he is sharing another type of dish with a group of brothers, he should avoid filling his palm when scooping up food and behaving greedily. At the end of the day, the Barakah is from Allāh- so scrambling for food and behaving greedily is something despicable.
10: One of the etiquettes, is eating together as a group. And It is better for a person to eat with people who he likes rather than eating with people who he dislikes.
11: From the etiquettes, is to praise Allāh after eating. This is one of the greatest recommended acts; the Prophet ﷺ said:
((إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَيَرْضَى عَنِ الْعَبْدِ أَنْ يَأْكُلَ الأَكْلَةَ فَيَحْمَدَهُ عَلَيْهَا أَوْ يَشْرَبَ الشَّرْبَةَ فَيَحْمَدَهُ عَلَيْهَا))
“Allāh is pleased with His servant who praises Him (i.e. by saying Alḥamdu lillāh) upon eating and drinking.”
[Reported by Muslim on the authority of Anas, may Allāh be pleased with him]
12: Another etiquette when eating, is to pick up any drops/morsels of food. There are many evidences in this regard; such as the saying of the Prophet ﷺ:
((إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ يَحْضُرُ أَحَدَكُمْ عِنْدَ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ مِنْ شَأْنِهِ حَتَّى يَحْضُرَهُ عِنْدَ طَعَامِهِ فَإِذَا سَقَطَتْ مِنْ أَحَدِكُمُ اللُّقْمَةُ فَلْيُمِطْ مَا كَانَ بِهَا مِنْ أَذًى ثُمَّ لْيَأْكُلْهَا وَلاَ يَدَعْهَا لِلشَّيْطَانِ))
“Shayṭān is present with you in everything that you do; he is present even when you eat food; so if any one of you drops a mouthful he should remove away anything filthy on it and eat it and not leave for the Shayṭān.”
[Reported by Muslim on the authority of Jābir, may Allāh be pleased with him]
13: From the etiquettes, is to lick the fingers and to wipe the plate clean, as there are many ḥadīths wherein the Prophet ﷺ instructed with this.
(For example) he ﷺ said:
((لاَ تَدْرُونَ فِي أَيِّ طَعَامِكُمُ الْبَرَكَة))
“You do not know in what portion of your food the blessing lies.”
[Reported by Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurairah, may Allāh be pleased with him]
Likewise, if some of the food falls onto the ground, it must be picked up & cleaned – even if it’s not possible to remove the filth from it (and eat it), because this is a blessing which must not be disrespected by being left to be trampled on.
However, licking the fingers should be at the end – not after every bite. It is reported in Ṣahīh Muslim on the authority of Ka’b ibn Mālik that he said, “The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ used to eat with three fingers, and he would lick them at the end.” So, licking the fingers and wiping the plate clean are both to be left till the end.
14: Another etiquette is to refrain from blowing on food. “The Messenger of Allāh ﷺ prohibited blowing on food and drink.” [Reported by Aḥmad on the ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Abbās, may Allāh be pleased with him].
And “he ﷺ prohibited from blowing into drink.” [Reported by Muslim on the authority of Abū Qatādah]
15: From the etiquettes related to drinking, is to drink in three gulps. Anas ibn Mālik, may Allāh be pleased with him, said: “The Prophet ﷺ used to drink water in three breaths (i.e. three gulps/sips)”.
[Bukhāri & Muslim]
16: Likewise, from the etiquettes of eating and drinking is that a person sits down whilst eating and drinking. Anas, may Allāh be pleased with him, reported that Allāh’s Messenger (ﷺ) forbade that a person should drink while standing. Qatādah (the sub-narrator) asked: “What about eating?” So Anas said: “That is even worse and more detestable”. [Muslim]
17: Another etiquette is to avoid eating while reclining. On the authority of Abū Juḥaifah Wahb ibn ‘Abdillāh As-suwā’ī, may Allāh be pleased with him, that the Prophet (ﷺ) said:
((لاَ آكُلُ مُتَّكِئًا))
“I do not eat while reclining.”
18: Also, from the etiquettes is to eat after the food has cooled down. Otherwise, there is not much Barakah in very hot, smoky food. On the authority of Asmā’, the daughter of Abū Bakr, that the Prophet ﷺ said:
((إنه أعظم للبركة))
“That (i.e. waiting for the food to cool down and the smoke to clear) is a greater reason for Barakah.”
19&20: One of the most important affairs is to maintain calm and tranquility and to use this time to speak about things that are of benefit – such as discussing matters of knowledge, or something constructive and beneficial. Likewise, one should refrain from making distasteful comments.
21: It’s recommended to praise the food -if it’s worthy of praise- and to also praise and encourage the person who prepared it.
22: The one who serves and cooks the meal should be allowed to eat some of the food. The Prophet ﷺ said:
((إِذَا أَتَى أَحَدَكُمْ خَادِمُهُ بِطَعَامِهِ، فَإِنْ لَمْ يُجْلِسْهُ مَعَهُ، فَلْيُنَاوِلْهُ لُقْمَةً أَوْ لُقْمَتَيْنِ أَوْ أُكْلَةً أَوْ أُكْلَتَيْنِ، فَإِنَّهُ وَلِيَ عِلاَجَهُ))
“When your servant brings your meal to you, if you do not let him join you, then you should at least give him a mouthful or two, or let him take one or two handfuls, as he was the one who prepared it.”
[Reported by Bukhāri and Muslim on the authority of Abū Hurairah, may Allāh be pleased with him]
Meaning- he has taken pains to cook it nicely and so his heart will naturally be attached to it. Therefore, it’s from good manners to allow him to eat some of this food which he has prepared or served. This is good manners. And it is also a reason to ward off evil eye, because if you don’t allow him to have some, he may afflict you with evil eye.
23: From the ettiquettes is to wash the hands before, as well as after eating; both are established from the Prophet ﷺ. And he (ﷺ) would wipe the fat that remains on his hand over his shin and forearms.
24: It is also recommended to rinse the mouth afterwards. On the authority of Ibn ‘Abbās, may Allāh be pleased with him, that the Prophet ﷺ drank milk and then asked for water to be brought. He then rinsed his mouth and said:
((إِنَّ لَهُ دَسَمًا))
“It contains fat.”
That is because the bits and pieces of food that remain in the mouth lead to decay and cause foul smells, and this will not only cause annoyance to the individual himself, but also to those around him.
25: From the etiquettes is that a person does not continue eating until they become full. The Prophet ﷺ said:
((مَا مَلأَ آدَمِيٌّ وِعَاءً شَرًّا مِنْ بَطْنٍ بِحَسْبِ ابْنِ آدَمَ أُكُلاَتٌ يُقِمْنَ صُلْبَهُ فَإِنْ كَانَ لاَ مَحَالَةَ فَثُلُثٌ لِطَعَامِهِ وَثُلُثٌ لِشَرَابِهِ وَثُلُثٌ لِنَفَسِهِ))
“The human does not fill any container that is worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Ādam to eat a few mouthfuls to keep his spine upright. If this is not possible, then a third for food, a third for drink, and a third for his breath.”
This ḥadīth has been graded ‘Ḥassan’ by some of the scholars, although, others have deemed it to be weak.
Whatever the case, it’s important for a person not to fill his stomach, because a full stomach leads to laziness and lethargy, and it also makes it easier for Shaytān to overpower him. But if he only fills one portion and leaves some space empty for water and air, then this is an important etiquette. If someone is able to do this; i.e. to refrain from eating one’s fill, then that is good, and he can always fill the void by drinking water.
26: If someone forgets to say ‘Bismillāh’ at the beginning and then remembers later on, he should say:
((بِاسْمِ اللهِ أَوَّلَهُ وَآخِرَهُ))
“In the name of Allāh at the beginning and at the end of it.”
The Prophet ﷺ said:
((إِذَا أَكَلَ أَحَدُكُمْ فَلْيَذْكُرِ اسْمَ اللهِ تَعَالَى فَإِنْ نَسِيَ أَنْ يَذْكُرَ اسْمَ اللهِ تَعَالَى فِي أَوَّلِهِ فَلْيَقُلْ بِاسْمِ اللهِ أَوَّلَهُ وَآخِرَهُ))
“When one of you eats, he should mention Allāh’s name; if he forgets to mention Allāh’s name at the beginning, he should say: “In the name of Allah at the beginning and at the end of it.”
[Reported by Aḥmad & others on the authority of ‘Ā’ishah, may Allāh be pleased with her]
27: Another good ettiquettes, is to avoid stepping over the food; walking over food, crossing from one side to another is a detestable act. It might even put people off eating. This is not a good way to behave around food.
28: Similarly, from the etiquettes of eating is to refrain from adding ingredients that others might dislike. For example, some people don’t like hot sauce or an increased amount of chilli, so you shouldn’t make it chilli to satisfy yourself while annoying your brother! This is wrong.
29: Another etiquette is to ask Allāh to bless the one who feeds you or invites you to a meal. When Busr, ‘Abdullāh’s father, may Allāh be pleased with them both, invited the Prophet ﷺ over. He (ﷺ) supplicated for them saying:
((اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَهُمْ فِيمَا رَزَقْتَهُمْ وَاغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَارْحَمْهُمْ))
“O Allāh, bless for them what You have provided them, and forgive them, and have mercy on them.”
[Reported by Muslim on the authority of ‘Abdullāh ibn Busr, may Allāh be pleased with him]
NOTE: Another detestable act of greed is for a person to fill their hand with food while continuing to eat from the plate using the other hand! This is wrong.
30: Also, from the ettiquettes is that – if a person finds something disgusting in the food, he should remove it discreetly so as not to cause any distaste for others.
Abū Isḥāq Muḥammad Ibn Aḥmad Bā ‘Alawī
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