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Food !
 
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It may appear a little ironic to be discussing the subject of FOOD in a month which is characterised by the command to abstain from it! Nevertheless, it is true to say that in this month the subject of food tends to receive special attention from us, for after a whole day of keeping our desires and hunger pans at bay, the chance to eat ones fill in the evening is much appreciated. An appropriate time therefore to highlight some of the Islamic etiquettes of eating we think.

SIGNIFICANCE

For every act that a Muslim does, there is a chance for him to earn some reward for it from Allaah. From praying to performing ghusl, in everything Allaah has placed His blessings and these blessings are multiplied in the month of Ramadaan.

These rewards and blessings can be attained only by those keen to imbibe the Guidance and Example (Sunnah) of the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wasallam into every mode of their lives, seeking thereby none but the Face of Allaah. For such people, their whole lives become ibadah, Thus, by acquainting ourselves with the sunnah of eating and drinking we too can turn this mundane exercise into an act of worship and a source of blessing, inshallaah Ta'alaa.

The Etiquettes of Eating


How to begin -There is a common misconception that to wash ones hands before eating is from the sunnah. This is based on the hadeeth that alleges that the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wasallam said:

"Theblessing of food is in washing the hands before it and after it. "(Ahmad , Abu Dawood and others.).

It should be known however that this hadeeth is da'eef (weak) according to Abu Dawood, Imam Ahmad , At tirmidhee and others. Infact some scholars went as far as to say that this practice was disliked since it was a practice of the Jews, and
only if there was a reason to wash them was it not disliked. The point is that washing the hands before the meal contains no added reward since it is not from the sunnah, although there is no harm in doing so if one needs to.

When a Muslim begins to eat, he should begin with the name of Allaah. As the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa sallam said:

"When one of you eats, he should mention Allaahs name (i.e say Bismillah); if he forgets to mention Allaah's name at the beginning, he should say (when he remebers): 'I begin in the name of Allaah at the beginning and at the end of it (Bismillah awwalahu wa aakhirahoo). '" [Saheeh] narrated by Aisha & collected by Abu Dawood.Authenticated by At Tirmidhee and Al-Albaani in his Saheeh Sunan Abu Daawood.

The Prophet sallallahu alaihi wasallam explained that Shaytaan partakes in the food if the name of Allaah is not recited at the start of eating.However, if one forgets in the beginning and then he remebers and says the aforementioned du'aa, shaytaan is made to vomit out what he has eaten.[Saheeh Muslim]

The Manner Of Eating

The best manner in which to eat food is with the fingers. The companion, Ibn Ka'ab ibn Maalik reported that he saw the Messenger of Allaah sallallahu alaihi wa sallam eating with three fingers and when he finished, he would lick them. [Saheeh Muslim] Sadly, nowadays, the muslims are choosing to imitate the disbeleivers rather than the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wassallam and are choosing to eat with knives and forks rather than the fingers. Although it is not at all forbidden (haram) to eat with a knife and fork, to consider this a better and more cultured and civilised way to eat is definitely wrong, since this is to consider someone else's way to be superior tothat of the Prophet's. It should also be mentioned that if one does choose to eat with a knife and fork, then they should make sure that the fork is in the right and not in the left hand as is the convention of the disbeleivers. This is because to eat with the left hand is forbidden. The Prophet sallallahu alaihi wassallam said:

"Do not eat with your left hand for shaytaan eats with his left hand."[Saheeh Muslim The same ruling applies to drinking aswell as taking or giving something (i.e it should all be done with the right hand).]

Another thing which the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wasallam taught us about the manners of eating is that we should always eat from what is nearest to us and not from the middle of the plate.The reason for this is that the blessings come down upon the food in its middle, therefore it should be left to last. [Abu Dawood. This is not superstition or an old wives tale, rather the saying of one inspired by Allaah, who is the knower of all things hidden.]

The Manner Of Sitting Whilst Eating

It would probably come as no surprise to us to learn that unlike the arrogant manner traditionally associated with the Greeks and Romans, the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wasallam would never eat from a reclining position. [Bukharee] N.B Ibn al-Qayyim mentions in his Zaadal Ma'aad that any posture in which the posterior is on the floor is regarded as reclining.] His whole life was a model of modesty and humility and this was no less in his manner of eating. The companion Anas, radiallahu anhu repotrted that he saw Allaahs Messenger squatting and eating dates.[Saheeh Muslim] Other times,the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wasallam would sit on his knees, as reported by Abdullah ibn Busr who said that the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wasallam was sitting on his knees upon which a bedouin said :'What is this sitting?' The Prophet sallallahu alaihi wasallam replied, "Allaah has made me a respectable servant and He did not make me an obstinante tyrant"

[Saheeh Muslim]

Don't Criticise Food

Abu Hurairah, radiallahu anhu reported that the Prophet sallallahu alahi wasallam never found fault with food. If he liked it, he would eat it, but if he disliked it, he just left it.

This is how our Prophet was. Yet if we look to ourselves today, we find that we are ever ready to criticise whatever we find on our plate. This is extreme ingratitude to Allaah on our part and next time we we think of complaining about food or maybe moan that theres's nothing to eat even though our fridges are full, we should spare a thought for all those people-both Muslim and non- muslim- who don't know where their next meal is coming from. So we should instead be grateful as instructed by Allaah:

O You who believe! Eat of the good things that we have provided for you and be grateful to Allaah, if it is He you worship. [al-Baqarah (2) :17]

Don't Eat Too Much


As Muslims we must be aware that shaytaan is around us wherever we are and whatever we are doing. Even when we are eating shaytaan is in our presence, waiting to grasp any opportunity he can to fill his belly. This is why the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wasallam commanded us never to waste food, because food that we waste is eaten by Shaytaan. He sallallahu alihi wasallam said :

"The Shaytaan is present with everyone of you in everything he does; he is even
present when he eats food, so if any one of you drops a mouthful, he should remove away anything filthy on it and eat it and not leave it for the devil; and when he finishes, he should lick his fingers for he does not know in what portion of his food the blessing
lies."[Saheeh Muslim]

So here, the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wassallam enumerated another reason why we should not waste food i.e we may deprive ourselves of the blessings which are contained in the food, this should be sufficient encouragement for us to appreciate
the value of food and not waste it.

Don't Eat Too Much


One of the worst habits we have adopted as a result of our relatively luxurious lifestyle is the habit of overeating and not showing any restraint in that. How many times can we think of where we have eaten so much that we can barely breathe, or where we can feel the food coming up to our throats?! This eating pattern does not
befit the Muslim, who should do all things in moderation, including his eating. The Prophet sallallahu alaihi wassallam said:

"A believer eats in one intestine, whereas a non-believer eats in seven intestines." [Saheeh Muslim]

Therefore it is not for us to eat till we are completely satiated; rather we should eat such that the hunger goes but there is still room for more.

After Eating

When we have finished eating, we should always remember Allaah and be grateful to Him, for He is ar-Razzaaq, the provider and our sustainer. We should express this gratitude in the manner in which the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wassallam taught us. He said:

Onewho has eaten some food and then says: 'All praise is for Allaah, who has given me this [food to eat] and provided me without any effort or power on my part', he will have his sins forgiven.

(Alhumdulillahil-lazee at amanee haadha wa razaqaneehee min ghairi hawlin minnee
walaquwwah.)

[Hasan-at Tirmidhee & others..and authenticated by atTirmidhee ,Ibn Hajr and others]

SubhaanAllaah! The reward for just saying this short du'aa is so great, too great to neglect. Can we afford to miss out on such opportunities of Allaah's Mercy and Forgiveness?

A Means Of Drawing Closer To Allaah

The ahaadeeth mentioned here only cover some of the Islamic etiquettes of eating which the Messenger Muhamad sallallahu alaihi wassallam taught us. Many more hadeeth on this subject are to be found in the books of hadeeth such as Saheeh al Bukhaari and Saheeh Muslim and others. But just a few narrations cited here give us some indication of the attention that the comapnions paid to even the smallest details of the Prophets sunnah. Many of us today may consider such matters to be 'trivial' or 'insignificant', but we find the companions did not take these matters lightly. They considered such details important enough to preserve through careful
transmission which their successors meticulously recorded in the books of hadeeth so that they could be read by generations to come. It is up to us whether we want to benefit from the knowledge they carried for us or not.

So during this blessed month of Ramadaan, when we take the suhoor and break our fasts, we have an excellent opportunity to transform an everyday practice of eating and drinking into an act of worship and a source of blessing for us. Every mouthful of food we take will serve as a reminder of Allaah's great favour upon us and His Mercy and this in turn will cause us to earn favour with Allaah, for the Prophet
sallallahu alaihi wassaallam said:

"Indeed Allaah is pleased with His servant who, when he eats a morsel, praises Him for it, or drinks a sip and then praises Him for it." [Saheeh Muslim]

May Allaah Subhaanahu wa ta' aala grant us the ability to become of his thankful servants. Aameen.

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