Ramadan is ironically a month in which we are more eager to dine with others than usual. The Prophet Muhammad said:
“Whoever provides the food for a fasting person to break his fast with, then for his is the same reward as his (the fasting person’s), without anything being diminished from the reward of the fasting person” [Tirmidhi].
Undoubtedly, many of us will be hosting an iftaar party and sharing food with others. Whether you are the guest or the host, being aware of certain table-manners can help make that iftaar a productive one and avoid offending anyone by upholding the following Islamic values:
• Remember Allah before and after eating.
Prophet Muhammad said:
“When one of you eats, he should mention Allah’s name; if he forgets to mentionAllah’s name at the beginning, he should say: ‘Bismillahi awwalahu wa aakhirahu’ (In the name of Allah at the beginning and at the end of it)’” [Sunan Abi Dawud].
He also said:
• Make du’aa.
Prophet Muhammad used to say when breaking his fast:
It is this time before you break your fast when the opportunity to make dua should be seized as narrated in many ahadith since it is guaranteed the fasting person’s dua will be accepted.
• Eat with the right hand.
• Take whatever is closest to you.
If something you want is far away, do not lean over others to take it. Instead, ask someone to pass it to you. Furthermore, avoid picking up the best (or even the worst) bits of food by digging into the bowl. The Prophet himself said:
“Blessing descends upon food in its middle, so eat from the sides of the vessel and do not eat from its middle” (At-Tirmidhi and Sunan Abi Dawud)
• Have patience and wait your turn for taking food.
The party is meant to be a social gathering, not a race. Although you should hasten to break your fast as soon as its time! Furthermore, do not stare at the food as it doesn’t remind you to appreciate the experience of fasting.
• Take only as much as you can eat.
Prophet Muhammad said:
“No man fills a container worse than his stomach. A few morsels that keep his back upright are sufficient for him. If he has to, then he should keep one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for his breathing” [At-Tirmidhi].
If you are uncertain about how much you can eat, it is still wiser to take small helpings of food so that if you want, you can take some more later. This Hadith does not mean that one must literally fill their stomach up!
• Do not eat greedily.
Which entails smacking the lips, tearing apart bits of food ravenously, wrestling with food, etc.; and whilst it seems like a silly thing to do, it does happen!
• Interact with others.
The gathering is for making du’aa together, bonding with others, and exchanging noble ideas. Therefore, do not focus only on eating. In Sahih Muslim, it is narrated from Jabir ibn ‘Abd-Allah said that the Prophet asked his family for condiments and they said: “We do not have anything but vinegar.” He called for it and he started eating it, saying: “What a good condiment, vinegar is; what a good condiment, vinegar is.” An-Nawawi said: “This shows that it is mustahabb to talk whilst eating, so as to put the diners at ease.” (http://islamqa.com/en/ref/142516)
• Avoid talking while you have food in your mouth.
Doing so provides an unpleasant sight for others; however, this does not negate the point made about complimenting the hosts dishes or hospitality.
• Look after the people sitting next to you.
Inquire if they need anything and always offer food to others before taking it yourself. You can also help them take the food by serving it yourself or at least, holding the bowl while they take it.
• Maintain hygiene.
Wash your hands before and after handling food, and rinse your mouth after eating. Apart from that, take a regular shower to prevent body odor, wear clean and ironed garments, maintain proper oral hygiene, and have a pure mind and heart.
• Avoid doing anything peculiar at the table.
Such as touching your nose, flossing the teeth, yawning (as it suggests boredom, but if you are overcome by it, put a hand over your mouth), spitting, burping (if you have to do this, at least make it inaudible by doing so with your mouth closed!), reclining while eating, reading books or doing anything which suggests boredom/seclusion, etc. Prophet Muhammad said: “I do not eat while I am reclining” [Sunan Abi Dawud].
• Don’t commit your sins/bad habits.
Whether you consider smoking as haraam or makrooh, it should not be done in the presence of those who do not want to be passive smokers (people inhaling second-hand harmful smoke) or even in the presence of kids and companions who will pick up your unhealthy and harmful habits.
• Avoid extravagance/wastage…
…of all forms, related to food, decorations, eating-utensils, etc.
Prophet Muhammad said:
“….Do not drink in gold and silver vessels…” [Sahih Muslim].
I hope the above tips help you in preparation for dining at iftaar this Ramadan, we’ll continue sending more tips for manners at the table in the next part insha’Allah!
About the Author:
Khadeejah Islam is a writer at http://www.habibihalaqas.org