by Abû Bakr Jâbir al-Jaza’iry
A Muslim considers his food and drink means to something else. They are not a goal and pleasure in themselves. He eats and drinks in order to keep his body healthy so that he may worship Allah the Almighty. This is the worship that will make him qualified for the honor of the life and happiness of the Hereafter. He does not eat and drink for the sake of eating and drinking and its desires. Therefore, if he is not hungry, he does not eat. If he is not thirsty, he does not drink. It is narrated that Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said:
“We are a people who do not eat until we are hungry. And if we eat, we do not eat to our fill.”
Thereby, a Muslim must adhere to the manners of eating and drinking that the Shari’ah has issued. These include:
Etiquette Before Eating
1. A Muslim should try to make his food and drink pure by preparing them from the permissible, pure sources that are free of any taint of the forbidden or doubtful. Allah the Almighty said:
“0 you who believe! Eat of the lawful pure things that We have provided you. (Qur’an 2:172)
The pure things are the lawful things that are free from any filth or being noxious.
2. The intention for eating should be to strengthen oneself for the purpose of worshipping Allah and to be rewarded for one’s eating and drinking. The permissible act then becomes an act of worship that is rewarded by Allah due to the good intention.
3. One should wash his hands before eating if they are not clean or if he is not sure that they are clean.
4. The food should be placed on a spread on the floor and not on a table. This makes the act more modest. Anas said:
“Allahs messenger (SAW) did not eat upon a table or from a platter. ( Al-Bukhari)
5. One should sit to eat in a modest fashion. He should rest on his knees and sit with the top of his feet on the ground (and his body resting on the bottom of his feet). Or he should put his right leg erect and sit upon his left leg, as in the manner that Allah’s Messenger (SAW) would sit. Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said:
“I do not eat while reclining. Instead, I am a servant, so I eat like a servant eats and I sit like a servant sits. (Al-Bukhari)
6. He should be satisfied by the food that is presented in front of him and he should not find fault with it. If he likes it, he should eat it. If he does not like it, he should leave it. This is based on the statement of Abu Hurayrah:
“Allah’s Messenger (SAW)| never found fault with any food. If he desired it, he would eat it. If he disliked it, he would leave it.” (Al-Bukhari)
7. One should eat along with others, either a guest, family member, son or daughter or servant. This is based on this Hadith:
“Eat your food together, for you will thereby be blessed in it.” (Abu Dawud and At-Tirmithi who said it is Sahih)
Etiquette While Eating
1. The person should begin his eating by saying: Bismillaah “In the Name of Allah.” Allah’s Messenger (SAW) stated:
“If any of you is about to eat, he should mention the Name of Allah. If he forgets to mention the Name of Allah at the beginning, he should say, ‘In the Name of Allah over the beginning and the ending.’” (Abu Dawud)
2. He should end his meal with the praises of Allah, Allah’s Messenger (SAW) also said:
“If a person eats any food and then says, ‘Praise is to Allah who fed me this and provided for me without any strength or power on my part,’ all of his previous sins will be forgiven.” (At-Tirmithi)
3. The person should eat with three fingers of his right hand. He should take small portions and chew them well. He should eat the food that is close to him and not take from the middle of the plate. Allah’s Messenger (SAW) told nar bin Salamah:
“O young man, mention the Name of Allah, eat with your right hand and eat from what is close to you. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Allah’s Messenger (SAW) also said:
“The blessings descend from the middle of the food. So eat from the edges and do not eat from the middled “(At-Tirmithi)
4. A Muslim should chew his food well and he should lick plate before he wipes it with a napkin or washes it with water. This is based on the Prophet’s statement:
“When one of you eats, he should not wipe his fingers until he licks them or has them licked.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Jabir stated that Allah’s Messenger (SAW) ordered the fingers and plates be licked clean. He also said:
“You do not know in which part of your food lies its blessing.” (Muslim)
5. If a person drops some food, he should remove the dirt from it and eat it. Allah’s Messenger (SAW) stated:
“If a morsel of food falls from any of you, he should take it and wipe it clean of any dirt and then eat it. He should not leave it for the Shaytan.” (Muslim)
6. A Muslim should not blow over hot food; instead, he should wait until it cools down. He also should not blow into a glass of water while drinking from it. Instead, he should breathe three times outside of the vessel. Anas narrated that Allah’s Messenger (SAW), would breathe three times while drinking. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Abu Sa’id narrated that Allah’s Messenger (SAW) forbade blowing into a drink. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Ibn ‘Abbas narrated that Allah’s Messenger (SAW) forbade breathing into a drinking vessel or blowing into it. (At-Tirmithi)
7. A Muslim should avoid eating to his fill or overeating. Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said:
“A human does not fill any container worse than his stomach. It is enough for a human to have some morsels to strengthen his back (keep his back straight). If he must eat more, then it should be one-third of his stomach for food, one-third for drink and one-third for breathing.” (Ahmad)
8. Food and drink should be served first to the eldest in the gathering. Then it should go to those on the right. Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said:
“(Begin with) the eldest, the eldest.”
That is, one should begin with the eldest at the gathering. However, the Prophet (SAW) asked permission of Ibn ‘Abbas to pass a drink to the older people who were on his left. Ibn ‘Abbas was on his right and the older people were on the Prophet’s left. The fact that he asked permission of Ibn ‘Abbas shows that the one on the right should be given first. Indeed, in another Hadith, Allah’s Messenger (SAW) said:
“Begin with) those on the right, and those on the further right. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Allah’s Messenger (SAW) also said:
“The one who gives drink to the people should be the last of them,” (Ahmad) that is, the last of them to drink .
9. One should not begin to take food or drink if there is someone else present who should go before him, such as an older person or a virtuous person. This is considered impolite behavior. The person may then be thought of as greedy. A poet once said,
“If the hands are stretched to the food, I will not be the quickest among them, as the greediest of the people is the quickest among them.”
10. He should not burden his friend or companion by making them tell him, “Eat.” Instead, he should eat what he needs to eat without shyness or trying to be shy. In that case, he troubles his companion or guest and it may also be a type of acting for show, which is forbidden.
11. He should be compassionate with his eating companion. He should not try to eat more than him. This is especially true if there is not much food. In that case, he may be eating the food that someone else has a right to.
12. He should not look at his companions while he is eating. He should not watch them, such that they may become shy because of him. Instead, he should lower his gaze to the food that is around him. He should not look at them as this might harm them and may make them mad, in which case he would be sinful.
13. He should not do anything that the others generally consider gross behavior. He should not shake his hand off over the plate. He also should not put his head close to the food such that if something falls from his mouth, it will land in the people’s food. Similarly, if he bit off a part of his bread, he should not put the rest of that bread back into the food. He also should not discuss disgusting things while eating. In that way, he might harm one of his companions and it is forbidden to harm a Muslim.
14. When he eats with poor people, he should give them preference over himself. When he eats with his brethren and friends, there should be friendliness and happiness. When he eats with people of rank and respect, he should eat with the proper manners and respect.
Etiquette After Eating
1. One should stop eating before he becomes full, thereby following the example of Allah’s Messenger (SAW). This will keep him from suffering debilitating indigestion and gluttony that takes away one’s intelligent thinking.
2. One should lick his hand and then wipe it or wash it. It is best and preferred to wash it.
3. He should pick up whatever has fallen from his food while eating, as he has been exhorted to do. This is a way of expressing gratitude for his bounties
4. He should floss between his teeth and rinse his mouth in order to clean his mouth. This is because he uses his mouth to remember Allah the Almighty and talk to his brothers. Furthermore, cleaning the mouth will keep the teeth healthy.
5. He must praise Allah after eating or drinking. If he drank milk, he should say:
“O Allah, bless us in what You have provided for us and increase it for us. “(Abu Dawud)
If he breaks his fast at a people’s place, he should say:
“May the fasting break their fast with you, may the pious eat your food and may the angels invoke blessings for you.” (Abu Dawud)
Extracted from “Mihaj ul Muslim” Published by Dar us Salam