The Etiquette of Eating & Drinking in Islam

by Ustaz Abdul Rahman Rahuni

Bismillah, all praise be to Allah, the Lord of the universes who provide for His obedient and disobedient servants. Allah has provided His servants with food and water as sustenance. As servants, we are obliged to be grateful for the favours bestowed.

Recite Dua

In our daily affairs, there are various supplications taught by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, including during meals. The prayer is very simple, but it gives significant meaning to the person who eats. It should be taught to children from an early age so that they grow up remembering Allah in every matter.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught Umar bin Abi Salamah, a child at the time, before eating: “O child, say the name of Allah…”. We call بسم الله then eat. If a person eats without reciting a prayer, the devil will participate in eating with him.

This is explained by the  Prophet Muhammad ﷺ: “When someone enters his house, and he says the name of Allah and eats in the name of Allah, Satan will say: I cannot spend the night and have dinner in your house…”

If he forgets to recite the prayer and then remembers it during the meal, then he should read بسم الله أوّله وآخره : “In the name of Allah at the beginning and the end.”

Using the Right Hand

City View of Dhu Jiblah, Yemen

The right has always represented virtue, while the left represents badness. We will be portrayed as guilty if it is referred to as the left. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught that one should use the right hand instead of the left when eating.

In the Hadith of Umar bin Abi Salamah, he was taught: “O child calls the name of Allah, eat with your right hand, and eat food near you.”

As for eating and drinking with the left hand, it is the devil’s habit. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “When someone eats, eat it with your right hand. If he drinks, drink it with his right hand. Indeed, the devil eats with the left hand and drinks with the left hand.”

[Narrated by Muslim]

Taking Food Nearby

When eating in a group from a tray, take the food closest to us. Similarly, the nearest meal should be consumed when the dish is served separately at a table. We should consult those close to the food if we want a distant dish. This is in accordance with the above Hadith, “And take the food that is close to you.”

Imam Malik was once questioned regarding a group of individuals who ate together. Some of them take the food that is placed in front of them, while others distribute the food. He said: “There is no good in such matters. And this is not a known moral in our society.”

Not Wasteful

Queen Arwa's tomb in Yemen

Waste is one of the reprehensible acts. Allah forbids a person to waste either food and drink or anything else. Allah said: O Children of Adam! wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: But waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ even taught us to collect food that falls from food containers and lick our fingers after eating. It is a sign of not wasting other than the search for blessings on food.

Imam Nawawi said when talking about the Hadith regarding licking the fingers: “The food before a person is indeed a blessing. It is unknown whether the blessing is on the food consumed, the food left on the finger, the food left on the plate, or the food that fell. In order to receive a blessing, he should have taken care of all of this.”

Recite Dua After Eating

Islam teaches us to be grateful for the gifts bestowed upon us. Consequently, it is a sunnah to recite a prayer before and after meals. We appreciate the blessings given before and after meals. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught us to recite dua after eating:

مُعَاذِ بْنِ أَنَسٍ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ”‏مَنْ أَكَلَ طَعَامًا ثُمَّ قَالَ الْحَمْدُ لِلهِ الَّذِي أَطْعَمَنِي هَذَا الطَّعَامَ وَرَزَقَنِيهِ مِنْ غَيْرِ حَوْلٍ مِنِّي وَلاَ قُوَّةٍ غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ وَمَا تَأَخَّرَ“‏

Narrated Mu’adh ibn Anas:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said: If anyone eats food and then says: “Praise be to Allah who has fed me with this food and provided me with it through no might and power on my part,” his former and later sins will be forgiven. [Narrated by Abi Dawud]

Not only is it just gratitude for favours, but even those who recite the prayer are forgiven for their sins. So here he gets two virtues; to fill his stomach and be forgiven for sins.

Contributed by Abdul Rahman Rahuni

Ustaz Abdul Rahman Rahuni. The author is a graduate of the Islamic University of Madinah  studying in the field of Islamic Sharia. He is currently a lecturer at Sekolah Menengah Ugama Islamiah, Tawau, Sabah.