Rules of Eating and Drinking
All praise is due to God who conducts the whole creation in an orderly manner. Who gives provision according to a measure, Who increase the strength of animals by food and drink and Who nourishes religion and good deeds by good foods and drinks.
The object of the wise is the vision of the Lord in the next world and the only way to gain it is learning and action and there is not other way, but it is not possible to stand constantly on them without a healthy body which is also not possible without food and drink, such food and drink which are absolutely necessary and which are taken according to prescribed rules. For this reason, some learned sages said that food and drink appertain to religion. God said Eat pure food and do good deeds -23:51 Quran. If a man takes food for helping his learning and actions and God-fear, his food and drink are considered as divine service. For that, he should not spend his time uselessly and remain busy like a lower being which roams from field to field in eating and drinking. The modes and the ways of food and drink are the lights of religion. A religious man must stick to these ways and control his passion and greed for food and drink by weighing them in the balance of Shariat. They Holy Prophet (sal allahu alehi wasalam) said : A man can acquire virtues in all his actions, even in a morsel of food he lifts up his mouth and to the mouth of his wife.
Rules of eating alone:
The rules of eating alone are three kind — (a) rules before eating (b) rules at the time of eating and (c) rules after eating.
(a) Rules before eating: There are seven rules before eating. (1) The food must be lawful. God enjoined eating good and lawful food and prohibited bad and unlawful food. There is benefit in the former and harm in the latter. God says: O believer, don’t eat the properties of one another unjustly — 2:188. The root of religion is lawful food which is the basis of all religious action (2) The hand shall be washed before eating. The Prophet (alehi salam) said: Wash before eating prevents poverty and wash after eating prevents frivolous thoughts.” Dirts and germs that keep attached in hands as a result of manual labour can be removed by wash. So wash before eating is necessary as ablution before prayer is necessary. (3) Food shall be placed on the ground as it is the way of the Prophet (alehisalam). Whenever any food was taken to the Prophet (sall allahu alehi wasalam), he kept it on the ground as it is the sign of humility. The Prophet (alehisalam), used not to take food in any plate except in a big dish with others.
Four things were innovated after the Prophet (alehisalam) — (a) to eat on tables, (b) to sift food-stuffs by sieve, (c) to use soaps and (d) to eat to one’s heart’s content. These things, though not unlawful, are not good for an humble man. (4) One should take food sitting straight. The Prophet (alehisalam) said: I don’t leaning as I am a mere slave and I eat as a slave eats and I sit as a slave sits”. To eat leaning is bad for stomach. (5) One shall make niyyat before eating: I eat to gain strength in worship. He will take promise to eat little and not much as full belly prevents worship. The more the intention is pure for religion, the less is the greed for food. The Prophet (alehisalam) said: Such quantity of food is sufficient for a man which can keep his backbone erect. If he is unable to do it then one part of the belly is for food, one part of for drink and one part for breathing.” If the niyyat or intention is true, one should not extend his hand towards food if he is not hungry. (6) Be satisfied with the food served and don’t be greedy for varieties of curries. Food is honoured only when one does not wait for curry. The Prophet said: When the time of night meal and the time of night prayer come together, as there is blessings in it. The Prophet (alehisalam) used not to eat single. He said: The food in which many hand participate is best.
(b) Rules at the time of eating:
Being eating reciting ‘Bismillah’ – in the name of God and end it reciting ‘Alhamdolillah’ – all praise is due to God. Eat with the right hand and begin and end it with salt. Take a little morsels and chew each morsel well. Don’t extend your hand to a morsel till you swallow the previous one. Don’t speak to the defects of cooking. The Prophet (alehisalam) never did it. When he liked a food, he ate; and when he did not like it, he did not eat it. Except fruits, he used to take from the nearest side of the dish. The Prophet (alehisalam) said: Eat from the side of your front and not from every side, nor from the middle. Don’t cut bread and meat with knife. The Prophet (alehisalam) said: Cut meat with your teeth. He said: Honour the principal foods as God sent them from the blessings of heaven. The Prophet (alehisalam) said: If any morsel of food falls down, take it up and clear off the dust attached to it and don’t leave it for the devil. Don’t wipe out your hands with handkerchiefs till you like lick your fingers, because you don’t know in which food there is blessing.’ Don’t blow breath in hot food as it is prohibited, but be patient till it becomes cold. Eat odd number of dates, grapes and such other fruits which can be counted.
Rules of Drinking Water:
Don’t drink water at the time of eating except when thirsty. It is better and keeps stomach sound. Take the name of God and drink slowly. The Prophet (alehisalam) said: ‘Drink water drought by drought and not a time.’ Don’t drink water standing or lying, as the Prophet (alehisalam) prohibited it except for an excuse. Don’t throw breath into pot or yawn. The Prophet (alehisalam) used to recite after drinking water: All praise is due to Allah who has made it delicious and sweet by His grace and has not made it either saltish or distasteful for our sins. Drink water with three breaths and at the end recite ‘Alhamdolillah’ all praise is due to God and at the beginning ‘Bismillah’ — In the name of God.
(c) Rules after Eating:
Lift up your hand before the stomach is filled up and lick up the fingers. Then wipe them with a towel and then wash them. Lift up the remnants of food. The Prophet (alehisalam) said: He who eats what lies on the dinning cloth will remain safe, will pass his life in solvency and his children will remain safe’. Then make pick of teeth and don’t swallow what comes out of teeth as a result of pick. Thereafter gurgle, lick the dish and drink its water. It has been said that he who licks his dish and drink its water will get the reward of the manumission of a slave. Express gratefulness to God sincearly for what God has given you to eat and take food as His gift. God says: Eat of the good things which i have produced for you and be grateful for the gifts of God. 2:168. Whenever you eat a lawful thing, say: All praise is for God for whose mercy good deeds are completed and blessings descend. O God, give us good food and engage us in good deeds. If you eat doubtful things, then say: All praise is due to God under all circumstances. O God, let it not lead us towards Thy transgression. After meal, recite chapters like Ikhlas and Lailafe. Don’t rise up till the dinning cloth is lifted up. If you take food in the house of another person, pray for him and say: O God, give him abundant good and give him blessing in what Thou hast provided him. The Prophet (alehisalam) said: Hell is better for the flesh which has been nourished by unlawful food. If you drink milk, say: Give blessings in what Thou hast provided us and increase it for us. After meal, recite the following: All praise is due to God who provided us with food drink sufficiently and gave shelter to our leaders and chief. Then wash your hand with soap.
Rules for eating with others:
(1) If there any elderly or honourable man with you, don’t begin eating till he begins. (2) Don’t remain silent at the time of eating and hold talks. (3) Don’t wish to eat more than your friend. It is not lawful for you to eat more when food is equally distributed unless your friends give you out of their own accords. (4) Eat in such a way that there remains not necessity of saying to your companion ‘eat. eat.’ Eat according to your habit. (5) It is no fault for one to wash hand in the dish and for all in the same pot. If the same pot is used by all for washing hands, the following rules shall be obseverd. There should be no spitting in the pot, the chief guest should be honoured, beginning should be made from the right hand side. A servant should pour water upon the hands and throwing water from the mouth should be slow. (6) One should not look at the eating of his companions and should withdraw his hand before his companions finish eating. (7) One should not do what appears bad to his companions and talk not such words as may offend them.
There is a great merit in showing hospitality and in entertainment of guests. Hazrat Jaffar Sadeq said: When you sit with guests in the dining cloth, sit for a long time as no account will be taken of that time. Hazrat Hasan Basari said: Accounts will be taken of waht one spends for himself, for his parents or for any other persons, but not account will be taken of what one spends for food of his Muslim brethren as God will feel shame in taking its accounts. There are many traditions to this effects. The Prophet alehisalam said: Angels like one till there is food before him. He said..: When your Muslim brethren lift up their hands after they finish eating, no account will be taken of one who eats the, remaining food. He said: No account will be taken for the food which he gives to his brother Muslim. He also said: No account will be taken for three things —- (1) pre-drawn tiffin for fasting, (2) what is eaten for breaking fast and (3) what is eaten with a brother Muslim. Hazrat Ibn Omar (rd) said: To take good food in journey and to tive it to the companions appertain to generosity. Some companions said: To eat together is the sign of good conduct. There is in one Hadis: God will say to a man: O son of Adam, I was hungry and you did not give Me food. He will reply: How could I have given Thee food while thou art the Lord of the universe? God will say : Your certain brother Muslim was hungry, but you did not give him food. If you had given him food, it would have reached Me. The Prophet (alehisalam) also said: Honour one who comes to see you. he said: There are high places in Paradise, the outer sides of which are visible from the inner sides. These are for those who are modest in treatment, give food and pray at night when the people remain asleep. The Prophet alehisalam said: He who gives food is best of you. He said: If a man gives food to his brother Muslim to his satisfaction and gives him drink till his thirst is appeased, God will keep him away up to seven ditches from Hell, the distance of every two ditches is the path of five hundred years.
[Translated by Ihya al Ulum ad-Deen (revival of religious learnings) by famous Sufi Saint and Sage, Hujjatul Islam hazrat Imam Muhammad al Ghazzali (rahimaullahi tala aleh) Vol II]
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