The first [rule of conduct]: that the food be lawful both in itself and in the means by which it was acquired; that it shall be in accordance with the Sunnah 1 and with piety. It should not have been gained through anything contrary to canonical law, nor through some evil inclination, nor deceit relating to debt – and agreeing with what will be presented in the Book of the Lawful and the Unlawful2 regarding the meaning of what is unconditionally good.
God has ordered the eating of that which is good (at-tayyib), this being the lawful. He has put the prohibition of ‘wrongful eating’ (al-akl bi’l-batil)3 before that of killing, in order to illustrate the gravity of that which is unlawful and the greatness of the blessing of that which is lawful. He said:
“O you who believe, squander not your wealth (la ta’kulu amwalakum) among yourselves in vanity … and kill not one another,” to the end of the verse (ta’kulu is from the same root as akl).
The basic principle with respect to food is that food must be good, this being one of the duties and fundamentals of religion.
The second [rule of conduct] is to wash one’s hands. The Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) has said:
“Ablution performed before a meal banishes poverty, ablution after a meal banishes minor sins.”
And in another version:
“[Ablution performed] both before and after the meal banishes poverty.”
Since the hand cannot escape dirt in the performance of tasks, washing it is the best way to keep it clean and unsullied. And because eating as a support for religion is a form ofworship, it is proper that one approach it in the same state as for prayers.
The third [rule of conduct] is to place the food on a sufra4 on the ground – for this is closest to what the Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) did – rather than to place it on a raised table. “When food was brought to the Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace), he would place it on the ground,”4A for this is closer to humility. If not, then it should be on a sufra, as a reminder of travelling;5 and travelling puts in mind travelling to the Afterlife and the need for provision in the form of pious deeds. Anas ibn Malik said:
“The Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) ate neither on a table (khiwan) nor in asukurruja.”6 Someone asked: “On what have you been eating, then?” “On a sufra,”he said.
It was said that after [the death of] the Emissary of God four things were introduced: tables, sieves, potash,7 and repletion.
Know that although we have said that eating on a sufra is more appropriate, we do not say that eating on a table is proscribed as either distasteful or forbidden, for no proscription of it has been established. As for the claim that it was an innovation7A that occurred after the Emissary of God, not everything innovated is proscribed, but only that innovation which is contrary to an established Sunnah, as it does away with the canonical law while not solving the problem. However, innovation may be required in cases where the circumstances have changed. For there is nothing about a table other than that food has been raised from the floor and laid out on it for faciliry of eating and the like. And there is nothing abhorrent about this.
The four things together regarded as innovation are not of equal importance. Potash is good because of its cleansing properties. Washing is desirable for cleanliness and potash perfects cleaning. People had not been using potash perhaps because they were not accustomed to doing so, or it was not easily available, or they were preoccupied with matters more important than indulging in excessive cleanliness. Thus they also used not to wash their hands [before and after meals], their [only drying] cloth being the hollow in the soles of their feet. This, however, does not preclude the desirability of washing.
As for the sieve, its purpose is to render food more pleasant. This is permissible so long as it does not lead to a life of excessive luxury. Just as the table is helpful in eating, it, too, is permissible so long as it does not lead to pride and haughtiness. Repletion is the worst of the four in that it arouses the passions and activates maladies in the body. Therefore, understand the difference between these innovations.
The fourth [rule of conduct] is that upon sitting at the sufra one ought to sit properly and remain in that position. Thus, “The Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) used often to squat down on his knees and sit on his heels for the meal. At other times he would raise his right leg and sit on his left.” He used to say:
“I do not eat when reclining … for I am but a slave; I eat as a slave eats and sit as a slave sits.”
To drink when reclining is also disagreeable for the stomach, and to eat lying down or recling is abhorrent except when munching seeds and berries. It was related concerning ‘Ali (may God ennoble his countenance) that he ate dry bread from a shield while lying down – [in another version], while lying prostrate on his stomach, which the Bedouin Arabs sometimes did.
The fifth [rule of conduct] is to have the intention, when eating, of strengthening oneself in obedience to God, so as to be obedient through food and not to seek gratification and luxurious living through food. Ibrahim ibn Shayban said:
“For eighty years I have not eaten anything for my own appetite.”
And yet he resolved to lessen his intake offood. Since he ate for the purpose of increasing his capacity for worship, his intention was sincere only when he ate less than what satisfied him, for repletion obstructs worship and does not increase the capacity for it. Thus for this intention it is necessary that one’s appetite be broken, and that one prefer frugality to being distended.
The Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) said:
“No human being has ever filled a container worse than his own stomach. The son of Adam needs no more than some morsels of food to keep up his strength; doing so, he should consider that a third of [his stomach] is for food, a third for drink and a third for breathing.”
With regard to this intention, the person must refrain from stretching his hand towards the food unless he is hungry, for hunger is something which must always precede eating. Then he must raise up his hand before repletion. Doing so, he dispenses with doctors. The benefit of eating little and of gradually reducing one’s food intake will be dealt with in the ‘Chapter of Destroying the Appetite for Food’,7B from the fourth section of those things that bring about a man’s end.
The sixth [rule of conduct] is to be content with any sustenance and any food available. One should not strive for luxury, ask for more or expect a condiment8 in which to dip one’s bread. In fact, it is a mark of the esteem accorded to bread that no condiment be served with it.
One Tradition8A enjoins holding bread in esteem, for everything that keeps the spark of life alive and strengthens one’s capicity for worship is of great benefit and should not be despised. In fact, when the time for prayer arrives, one should not put off eating bread [i.e., the meal] if there is sufficient time. The Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) said:
“If the time for evening prayers and that of supper coincide, begin with the supper.”
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar would often hear the Imam reciting [the Qur’an at prayers] and would not rise from his supper. So long as one does not yearn for food and there is no harm in putting off the time for food, it is more seemly to give preference to prayer. But if the food is ready and the time for prayer has come, and by putting off the meal the food will become cold or spoiled, giving it preference is more desirable when there is time, whether one craves it or not – according to most Traditions. This is because one cannot abstain from thinking about food that has been laid out, even when it is not very hungry.
The seventh [rule of conduct] is that one should try to have many hands partake of the meal, even if they be only your women and children. The Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) said:
“Gather together over your food and you will be blessed in it.”
Anas [ibn Malik] said, “The Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) used not to eat alone.”8B And the Emissary of God said:
“The best food is that over which there are many hands.”
On the manners to be observed when eating
One should begin the meal with the words ‘In the name of God’ 8C and end it with ‘Praise be to God’ 8D. It would be well if one were to say with every mouthful ‘In the name of God’, that greed may not distract one from mentioning the name of God (Exalted be He!). One should say with the first mouthful ‘In the name of God’, with the second ‘In the name of God the Merciful’, with the third ‘In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate’ – and loudly to remind others.
A person should eat with the right hand,8E commencing and ending with salt.8F He should keep each mouthful small and chew it well. He should not stretch out his hand for another mouthful before swallowing the first, for eating this way would be too hasty. Moreover, he should not decry any [food] being eaten. The Prophet found no fault in anything he ate; if he liked something he ate it, otherwise he left it alone.8G
A man should eat of that which is closest to him, save in the case of fruit, where he may let his hand rove around and choose. The Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) said, “Eat of that which is close to you.” 8H Then he circled round the fruit with his hand. He was asked about this and he said, “It is not all of one sort.” 8I
A person should not eat from the rim of the bowl nor yet from the centre.8J He should eat from the circumference of the loaf – unless it is only a small loaf which should be broken instead of cut with a knife.8K Meat, too, is not to be cut. [The Emissary of God] forbade it, saying: “Tear it into pieces.” 8L Neither a dish nor anything else ought to be placed on bread; only that which is eaten with it [may be placed on it]. The Prophet said, “Hold bread in esteem for God (Exalted be He!) has sent it down as one of Heaven’s blessings.” 8M Thus one should not wipe one’s hand with bread. He (may God bless him and grant him peace) said, “If a morsel falls from one of you, let him pick it up and remove what is harmful from it – let him not leave it for Satan. He should not wipe his hand with a cloth until he has licked his fingers, for he knows not which part of his food contains the blessing.” 8N
And one must not blow on hot food. This is prohibited. One should wait patiently until it is easy to eat.😯
Of dates a person should eat an odd number: seven, eleven, or twenty-one, or however many they may come to. He must not place the dates and their stones together in one dish, or bring them together in the palm of the hand, but should place the stones from his mouth to the back of his hand and then discard them. Anything that has a kernel or dregs should be dealt with similarly. Any food found distasteful must be left with the dregs rather than put aside in the dish, lest it mislead anyone into eating it.
A person should not drink much while eating unless he has choked on a mouthful or is truly thirsty, for it has been said that this is medically desirable, it being stomachic.9
As for the manners of drinking, one should take the jug in the right hand,9A say ‘In the name of God’ and drink it in sips rather than in gulps. The Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) said, “Drink water in sips, do not gulp it down – for liver ailments are brought about by gulping.”9B Do not drink either standing up or lying down, for the Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) forbade drinking while standing. It was related that sometimes he drank standing up; but he no doubt had a good excuse for doing so.9C
A person should be careful about the bottom of the jug lest it drip on him; and he should look into the jug before drinking. He should neither belch nor breathe into the jug,9D but move it away from his mouth, saying ‘Praise be to God’, and handing it back with the words‘In the name of God’.9E
After drinking, the Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) said:
“Praise be to God who has made it sweet and wholesome through His mercy, and has not made it salty and bitter with our sins.”
The jug and everything that is passed around to people should be passed to the right. The Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) was drinking some milk with Abu Bakr on his left, a bedouin on his right and ‘Umar alongside him. ‘Umar said, “Give it to Abu Bakr” – and the bedouin passed it over. The Emissary of God said, “To the right, then to the right.”9F And he would drink in three swallows,9G saying ‘Praise be to God’ after each one and ‘In the name of God’ before. After the first swallow he would say ‘Praise be to God’, after the second he would add ‘Lord of the Worlds’, after the third ‘the Merciful, the Compassionate.’ 9H
The above amounts to nearly twenty ways of behaving when eating and drinking for which the Narrations and Traditions of God’s Emissary furnish evidence.10
What is recommended after eating
One should hold back before becoming replete, and lick one’s fingers, wipe them with a cloth, wash them and pick up the [fallen] crumbs of food. The Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) said, “He who eats what has fallen from the table shall live in comfort and his children shall be kept healthy.” 10A
A person should use a tooth-stick but should not swallow what he extracts from his teeth with tooth-sticks except what he can collect from the base of his teeth with his tongue. Whatever he extracts with tooth-sticks must be discarded, and he should rinse [his mouth] after using tooth-sticks for about this there is a Tradition on the authority of the family of the Prophet.
One should also lick the dish and drink any liquid in it. It is said that he who licks the dish, washes it clean and drinks the liquid shall have the reward of someone who has manumitted a slave:10C and that the picking up of crumbs is the dowries of houris. And that a person should thank God wholeheartedly for what He has given him to eat, and regard this food as a favour from Him.
God has said:
“Eat of the good things with which We have provided you and give thanks to God.”
Whenever one has eaten lawful food one should say, ‘Praise be to God through whose bounty good deeds are accomplished and blessings brought down. O God, nourish us with what is good and make us act virtuously.’ If a person eats something dubious, then he should say,‘Praise be to God in any event. O God, do not make this something that strengthens our disobedience to You.’
After eating, a person should recite “Say, God is One” and “For the taming of the Quraysh” 10D and And he must not rise from the table until it has first been cleared. If he eats food [prepared] by someone, he should offer these words of supplication: ‘O God, increase his benefit; bless for him that with which you have provided him; make it easy for him to do good through it; make him satisfied with what You have given him; and make him and us grateful.’ If he has broken the fast at someone’s house, then let him say: ‘May those fasting break their fast with you, and may the pious eat your food, and may the angels pray for you.’ 10E
He should constantly ask God for forgiveness and grieve over anything dubious he may have eaten, so as to extinguish, through tears and grief, the heat of the Fire to which he is exposed – this by grace of the Prophet’s words:
“The Fire is most fitting for every piece of flesh that has originated from what is unlawful.”
One who eats [something unlawful] and weeps [in regret] is not like one who eats and is oblivious.
Let him who has drunk milk say: ‘O God, bless us in what You have provided for us and grant us its increase.’ When a person eats something else, he should say: ‘O God, bless us in what you have provided for us and grant us something better.’ In the former supplication the Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) singled out milk for its overall benefit.10F
It is recommended that after eating one should say: ‘Praise be to God who has given us food, drink and sufficiency, and who has sheltered us. O our Master and Lord, you who defend us from all, whose divine decree nothing can countermand; You have appeased hunger and protected [us] from fear. And so to You be praise. You have given refuge to the orphaned and shown the right path from the wrong; you have relieved people from impoverishment – to You then be praise, praise that is plentiful, everlasting, good, profitable and blessed. For you are worthy and deserving of it. O God, You have fed us with the good things, so make us act virtuosly, and let this help us be obedient to You. We take refuge in You should we make use [of food] in our disobedience to You.’
As for the washing of the hands with potash, the way to do it is to place the potash in the left palm, to wash the three fingers of the right hand first, to strike the fingers against the dry potash and to wipe one’s lips with it. After this, one should wash one’s mouth with one’s finger, rubbing the front and back parts of the teeth, the palate and the tongue. Then, one should wash the potash from one’s fingers with water. With the remainder of the dry potash one should rub one’s fingers, back and front. By doing this one is able to dispense with putting more potash on the mouth and having to re-wash it.sunnahonline.com