How to Begin
When a Muslim begins to eat, he should begin with the name of Allah. As the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: ‘When one of you eats, he should mention Allah’s name (i.e. say ‘Bismillahi wal’a barkathillah); if he forgets to mention Allah’s name at the beginning, he should say (when he remembers): I begin in the name of Allah at the beginning and at the end of it (Bismillah awwalahu wa Akhirahoo).”
The Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) explained that shaitan partakes in the food if the name of Allah is not recited at the start of eating. However if one forgets in the beginning and then remembers and says the aforementioned du’aa shaitan is made to vomit out what he has eaten.
The Manners of Eating
The best manner in which to eat food is with the fingers. The Prophet’s Companion, lbn Ka’ab ibn Maalik reported that he saw the Messenger (pbuh) eating with three fingers and when he finished, he would lick them. Sadly nowadays, the Muslims are choosing to imitate the disbelievers rather than the Prophet (pbuh) and are choosing to eat with knives and forks rather than the fingers. Although it is not at all forbidden (haraam) to eat with a Knife and fork, to consider this a better and more cultured or civilized way to eat is definitely wrong, since this is to consider someone else’s way to be superior to that 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 with the disbelievers. This is because to eat with the left hand is forbidden. The Prophet, (pbuh) said: “Do not eat with your left hand for shaitaan eats with his left hand,”
Another thing which the Prophet (pbuh) 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.
The Manners of Sitting while 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 (pbuh) would never eat from a reclining position.
His whole life was a model of modesty and humility and this was no less in his manner of eating. The Companion Anas, (ra) Anhu’ each reported that he saw Allah’s Messenger squatting and eating dates. Other times, the Prophet (pbuh) would sit on his knees, as reported by ‘Abdullaah ibn Busr who said that the Prophet was sitting on his knees upon which a bedouin said: ‘What is this sitting?’ The Prophet (pbuh) replied, “Allah has made me a respectable servant and He did not make me an obstinate tyrant.
Don’t Criticize Food
Aboo Hurairah, (ra) reported that the Prophet (pbuh) 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 criticize whatever we find on our plate. This is extreme ingratitude to Allah on our part and next time we think of complaining about food or maybe moaning that ‘there’s nothing to eat’ even though our fridges are full, we should spare a thought for all those people both Muslim and non-Muslims who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. So we should instead be grateful as instructed by Allah:
“O You who believe! Eat of the good things that we have provided for you and be grateful to Allah, if it is He you worship.” al-Baqarah(2):
Don’t leave Food for shaitaan
As Muslims we must be aware that shaitaan is around us wherever we are and whatever we are doing. Even when we are eating shaitaan is in our presence, waiting to grasp any opportunity he can to fill his belly. This is why the Prophet, (pbuh) commanded us never to waste food, because food that we waste is eaten by shaitaan. He (pbuh) said: “The shaitaan 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 finish, he should lick his fingers for he does not know in what portion of his food the blessing lies.”
So here, the Prophet (pbuh) 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 fares 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, (pbuh) said: “A Believer eats in one intestine, whereas a non-believer eats in seven intestines”
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.
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 taught us. He said: “One who has eaten some food and then says: ‘AlI 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. (Alhamdulillaahil-lazee at’amanaa haadha waraza-qeenee min ghairi hawlin minnee wala quwwah).”
SubhaanAllah! 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 Allah’s Mercy and Forgiveness?
A Means of Drawing Closer to Allah
The ahaadeeth mentioned here only cover some of the Islamic etiquettes of eating which the Messenger Muhammad (pbuh) taught us. Many more hadeeth on this subject are to be found in the books of hadeeth such as Saheeh al-Bukharee, Saheeh Muslim and others. But just a few narrations cited here give us some indication of the attention that the Companions paid to even the smallest details of the prophet’s Sunnah (example). 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.
His Mercy and this in turn will cause us to earn favour with Allah, for the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Indeed Allah 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.”
May Allaah grant us the ability to become His thankful servants. Aameen.
(Courtesy: From ad-Dawal ila-Allah)