Eating – The Islamic Way

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Part 1 Description:  The Etiquette of Eating. Objectives ·          To appreciate Islam as a holistic way of life and that actions as menial...

Part 1

Description: The Etiquette of Eating.
Objectives
·        To appreciate Islam as a holistic way of life and that actions as menial as eating can become a rewarding act of worship.
·        To learn the Islamic etiquette of eating i.e. the actions to be carried out before and during eating.
Eating01.jpgIslam 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 set things in motion and then 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, may God praise him.  Within these two sources of guidance we will find the rules and regulations, and the rights and responsibilities that allow us to deal with any situation we may find ourselves in.  In this lesson we will discover the Islamic etiquette of eating.
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 mundane 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.

Cleanliness

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 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.

Mentioning the name of Allah

A Muslim should begin every task, even eating, by mentioning the name of God.  One should say:
Bismillah” for this means “I begin with the name of Allah”.
“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
“I begin with the name of Allah at the beginning and at the end of it (i.e.  this meal).”[1]

Eating and drinking with the right hand

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 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.[2]
“When I was a young boy in the care of the Messenger of Allah, my hand used to wander all over the platter (of food).   The Messenger of Allah said to me, ‘O young boy, say Bismillah (I begin with the name of Allah), eat with your right hand, and eat from what is directly in front of you’.”[3]
Eating with one’s hand is a way of emulating Prophet Muhammad and his companions, and as such is a recommended and rewardable act, however, the use of forks, spoons and knives is not prohibited. 

Good manners

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:
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.[4]
It is wrong to criticise food, rather it is better to merely refrain from eating anything you do not like.  Umm Hufaid served Prophet Muhammad  a dish of butter (ghee), cheese and some lizards.  He ate out of the clarified butter and cheese, but left the lizard finding no liking for it.[5]
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.


Footnotes:
[1] At Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood  & Ibn Majah
[2] Saheeh Muslim
[3] Saheeh Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim
[4] Saheeh Muslim
[5] Saheeh Muslim

Part 2

Description: The Etiquette of Eating. Part 2.
Objectives
·                    To appreciate that there are blessings in food.
·                    To learn some more Islamic etiquettes, including actions to be carried out after eating.
·                    To know the importance of oral hygiene in Islam.
·                    To learn the Islamic etiquette of drinking water.

Before we commence Part 2 of Eating – The Islamic Way let us just refresh our memories of Part 1.
·        Islam is a holistic way of life.
·        All acts, large or small can be worship.
·        Cleanliness is important.
·        Begin all actions in the name of God.
·        Eat with the right hand.
·        Display good manners.

Blessings in food

The comprehensiveness of Islam allows us to send and receive blessings while eating and drinking however we must not forget that God provides blessings in the food itself.Prophet Muhammad, may God praise him, 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.”[1]
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.
The food for two people is sufficient for three, and the food of three people is sufficient for four.”[2]
“Eat your food together, for there are further blessings when you eat together.”[3]

Eating in moderation

The etiquette of eating includes eating in moderation and not overindulging no matter how appetizing the food is. Prophet Muhammad 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.”[4]
“And eat and drink, but waste not in extravagance, certainly He (Allah) likes not those who waste in extravagance.” (Quran 7:31)
From the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad 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.”[5]

After Eating

In part 1 we learnt to mention the name of God before eating and now we finish by praising and thanking Him in a manner that suits His majesty. We say Alhamdulillah (all praises and thanks are due to God) to acknowledge that God 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 God.” (Quran 11:6)
Prophet Muhammad said that “God is pleased when one of His slaves eats something and praises Him for it, or drinks something and praises Him for it,”[6]  and that is what a true believer is trying to achieve; the ability to please God in all of our deeds.
Prophet Muhammad 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 rose, rinsed his mouth with water, as did his companions. He then prayed without renewing his wudoo (ritual ablutions).[7]
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.

Oral Hygeine

Although it is not obligatory to clean the teeth after eating, Islam attaches great importance to oral hygiene. Prophet Muhammad recommended using a tooth stick called amiswak 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, may God praise him, said:
Use miswak, for it purifies the mouth and pleases the Lord.  Had it not been for fear of making things too difficult for my Ummah (nation), I would have commanded them to use the miswak before every prayer.[8]
Prophet Muhammad 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.
Finally, as we have mentioned ,Islam is a complete way of life; even mundane acts such as eating or drinking can be considered as great chances to worship God.


Footnotes:
[1] Ibid.
[2] Saheeh Al-Bukhari
[3] Abu DawoodAt Tirmidhi
[4] Ibn Majah
[5] Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim
[6] Saheeh Muslim
[7] Saheeh Al-Bukhari
[8] Ibid

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Eating – The Islamic Way
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