Monday, September 3, 2012

MANNERS OF EATING - by Imam Ghazali

What is Necessary for the Person Eating Alone Being three Sections: Before the Food is Served; When One is Eating; When the Meal is Over.

(a) On the manners to be observed before the meal :

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 Sunna 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 Unlawful regarding the meaning of what is unconditionally good.

God has ordered the eating of that which is good (al-tayyib), this being the lawful. He has put the prohibition of ‘wrongful eating’ (al-akl bi’l-batil) 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’kalu amwalakum) among yourselves in vanity...And kill not one another,’ to the end of the verse. The Prophet said : Hell is better for the flesh which has been nourished by unlawful food. 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 of worship, 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 sufra 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,’ for this is closer to humility. If not, then it should be on a sufra, as a reminder of travelling; 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 a sukurruja.’ Someone asked: ‘On what have you been eating, then?’ ‘On a sufra,’ he said.

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. For there is nothing about a table other than food has been raised from the floor and laid out on it for facility of eating and the like. And there is nothing abhorrent about this.

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 reclining 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 of food. 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 sixth [rule of conduct] is to be content with any sustenance and any food available. One should not strive for luxury (delicacies), ask for more or expect a condiment 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 Tradition enjoins holding bread in esteem, for every thing that keeps the spark of life alive and strengthens one’s capacity 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.’ Abd Allah 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.’ And the Emissary of God said, ‘The best food is that over which there are many hands.’


Begin eating after reciting 'Bismillah'-in the name of God and end it reciting 'Alhamdollah'-all praise is due to God [read the sunnah duas].

Eat with the right hand.

Take little morsels and chew each morsel well. Don't extend your hand to a morsel till you swallow the previous one.

Don't speak of the defects of cooking. The Prophet 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 said: Eat from the side of your front and not form every side, nor from the middle.

Don't cut bread or meat with knife. The Prophet said: Cut meat with your teeth. He said : Honour the principal foods as God sent them from the blessings of heaven.

The Prophet 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.


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 said 'Drink water sip by sip and not all at one time.'
Don't drink water standing or lying. as the Prophet prohibited it except for an excuse. Don't blow your breath into the pot or yawn.

The Prophet used to recite after drinking water: All praise is due God 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.


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 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 clean the teeth with a tooth pick and don't swallow what comes out of teeth with it. Thereafter gurgle, lick the dish and drink its water. It has been said that he who licks his dish and drinks its water will get the reward of the manumission of a slave.
Express gratefulness to God sincerely 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. 0 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. 0 God, let it not lead us towards Thy transgression. Don't rise up till the dining cloth is lifted up.

If you take food in the house of another person, pray for him and say : 0 God, give him abundant good and give him blessing in what Thou hast provided him.
 If you drink milk, say Give blessing in what Thou hast provided us and increase it for us.

Then wash your hand with soap.



(1) It 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 disturbed 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 observed . 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 vessel 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.

From 'Ihya ul Uloom'

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