Ten Sunnas Of Eating

Bismi Llahir Rahmanir Rahim

by Naielah Ackbarali

Allah Most High says: “There is indeed a good model for you in the Messenger of Allah – for the one who has hope in Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah profusely.” [Qur’an 33:21]

The Prophet ﷺ is the ultimate role model for all of mankind until the Day of Judgment. He ﷺ brought people from darkness to light through his ﷺ teachings and taught us how to behave in a way that is most pleasing to Allah Most High.

A believer should be avid to learn how the Prophet ﷺ lived and must strive to emulate his ﷺ honorable behavior in every way possible. Adhering to his ﷺ noble way – the sunna – beautifies our works and perfects them.

The easiest place to start is with learning the ‘everyday’ sunnas, meaning the proper Islamic conduct of the daily actions that we engage in the most.

What better place to start than eating?! Because we eat so often, it is all too easy to overlook the sunna actions related to it. Food is a blessing from Allah Most High and integrating the sunna along with its consumption will increase our blessings even more inshaAllah.

The following are ten actions the Prophet ﷺ did when he ﷺ ate:

1. Washing The Hands Before Eating

It is sunna to wash both hands before eating and to not wipe them with a hand towel after the washing as it removes the trace of washing from one’s hands which has been related to have blessing in it.

Washing the hands before eating cleanses them, and this ensures that the person will not be harmed by consuming any dirt that may be on the hands. 

The sunna is to wash both hands up to the wrists and it is not sufficient to wash one hand or merely the fingers of both hands before eating.

2. Sitting On The Floor

It is recommended to eat upon a tablecloth that is spread out on the floor – as opposed to a table – because this is closer to humility.

It is narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said: “I eat as a slave eats and I sit as a slave sits.” [Musnad Abi Ya’la]

3. Starting With Allah’s Name

From the sunna is to mention Allah’s name before eating (bismiLlah), providing that the food is from the lawful. Blessings are found in the food in which Allah’s name is pronounced.

Saying Allah Most High’s name before eating is a way of acknowledging one’s dependence on Allah Most High because nothing in this universe can function except by Allah’s decree. Allah Most High is the ultimate Provider, and it is only appropriate that He is remembered at this time. Doing so will increase a person in humility towards his Creator and save one from pride or arrogance. It will also attract blessing and contentment, as well as ward off greed.

In various narrations, the Prophet ﷺ mentioned that the devil and his accomplices eat with the person who does not mention Allah Most High’s name. The devil seeks to overpower believers when they are unmindful of Allah Most High in order to spread his mischief. Thus, it is crucial that believers adopt this sunna as a means of protection from any evil and the loss of blessing.

If one forgets to recite bimiLlah at the beginning, the Prophet ﷺ instructed his ﷺ Companions to say:

بسمِ اللهِ أوَّلَهُ وآخِرَهُ

bismiLlahi awwalahu wa aakhirahu

“In the name of Allah at the beginning and at the end.”

4. Sitting Humbly

When eating, one sits like those of humility. One avoids sitting on top of a pillow, leaning on one’s side, lying down, or reclining against something as it is the way of those immersed in luxuries and comfort. These positions can incite pride or encourage a person to eat more than necessary.

Some scholars say that there is no harm in sitting on a pillow while eating as long as it is not done out of arrogance, while others discourage it completely.

The sunna is to sit upright, bending forward towards the food. The Prophet ﷺ would sit on top of his left leg with his right leg propped up. He ﷺ would also eat by sitting on top of both legs, which were folded underneath him.

One should take the initiative to move closer to the food and not demand that food be brought closer to oneself since this entails belittling the blessing and high-handedness.

5. Using The Right Hand & Three Fingers

The Prophet ﷺ said: “When any one of you eats, he should eat with his right hand, and when he drinks, he should drink with his right hand for Satan eats with his left hand and drinks with his left hand.” [Muslim]

Thus, one only eats with the right hand. However, there is no harm in using one’s left hand to aid one while eating.

As for purposely eating and drinking with the left hand, scholars note that it is slightly disliked, except if an excuse is present like an injury to the right hand. 

The sunna is to eat with the hand itself and not with a spoon. When eating with the hand, one uses three fingers: the thumb, the forefinger, and the middle finger to scoop the food. The benefit of eating with three fingers is that one’s portions will be smaller in the mouth, which could aid in digestion.

6. Avoiding Distasteful Manners

It is imperative to avoid any action that will disgust others while eating.

As such, one does not brush off crumbs from one’s hands over a shared tray of food. If one desires to extract something from one’s mouth, like a date pit or a bone, one turns the head away and removes it with the left hand.

The sunna when eating around shared platters is:

  • To not eat from the middle of the food platter when beginning to eat because the blessing descends upon its middle; rather one eats from its sides.
  • To eat from one place if only one type of food is present on a platter. If the serving dish contains different types of fruit or food, this does not apply.
  • To eat from what is in front of one because eating from the same place of one’s companion is poor companionship, especially with soups, gravies and the like.
  • To not sniff the food as it resembles the behavior of animals.

As for blowing over food to cool it down, it is not disliked except if it is accompanied with a sound like ‘uff.’ However, it is poor manners if the food is shared because it may disgust others. Scholars advise overall to not eat food that is piping hot as it may cause harm to one’s digestive system, mouth, and senses.

7. Speaking The Good

It is disliked to remain silent while eating. Rather, one speaks of the good, such as stories of the righteous and the sunna actions of eating. One refrains from talking about what people would find distasteful while eating, like the mentioning of death, the Hellfire, and sickness.  

Moreover, one should be grateful for the food and not criticize it. The Prophet ﷺ never criticized any food, but he used to eat if he liked the food and leave it if he disliked it. [Bukhari]

8. Eating Moderate Amounts

The Prophet ﷺ said: “A human being fills no vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for a human being to eat a few mouthfuls to keep his back upright. But if he must fill it, then one third for food, one third for drink and one third for air.” [ibn Majah]

The way of the sunna is moderation, especially with food. Whenever one eats, the intention should be to strengthen the body for performing worship, rather than merely intending gratification and enjoyment.

To learn more, read this answer: Is it permissible to eat one’s full? What about pigging out?

9. Licking The Fingers & Plate At The End

It is from the sunna to lick one’s empty plate and to lick one’s fingers before wiping them with a napkin so that no trace of food is wasted. One does not know in which portion of the food the blessings are and one should be avid to seek these hidden blessings.

If a piece of food falls on the floor, then the person eating should remove any dirt that gets onto it and eat it. Doing so is a sign of humility, gratitude towards Allah’s blessings, and adherence to the sunna.

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “When a morsel of any of you falls, he should pick it up and remove any of the dirt on it and then eat it, and he should not leave it for Satan. Nor should he wipe his hand with a towel until he has licked his fingers for he does not know in what portion of the food the blessing lies.” [Muslim] 

As a general guideline, one must not throw away any portion of one’s food because this is from wastefulness. A believer must appreciate the bounty of food from Allah Most High and consume every morsel of it.

If one is unable to finish what is on one’s plate, it should be saved for later consumption or given to someone else who will eat it. It is also possible to feed it to animals, like birds, cats, and the like.

After licking the fingers, it is also sunna to wash the two hands, in addition to wiping them with a towel so that any leftover traces of food are completely removed. This is especially useful for sticky foods.

10. Finishing With Allah’s Name

From the sunna is to say ‘praise be to Allah’ when finishing (AlhamduliLlah). The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Verily, Allah is pleased with His slave when he eats something and praises Him for it, or drinks something and praises Him for it.” [Muslim] 

Other sunna supplications are:

الحَمْدُ للَّه حَمْداً كَثيراً طَيِّبًا مُبَارَكًا فِيه، غَيرَ مَكْفِيٍّ، وَلا مُوَدَّعٍ، وَلا مُسْتَغْنًى عَنْهُ رَبّنَا

Alhamdu liLlahi hamdan katheeran tayyiban mubaarakan fihi ghayra makfiyyin wa laa muwadda’in wa laa mustaghnan ‘anhu rabbana

“Praise be to Allah, much good and blessed praise. O’ our Lord, You are not in need of anyone, and we cannot do without Your favor nor dispense with it.”

الحَمْدُ للَّهِ الَّذِي أَطْعَمَني هَذَا وَرَزَقْنِيهِ مِنْ غيْرِ حَوْلٍ مِنِّي وَلا قُوَّةٍ

Alhamdu liLlahi alladhi aT’amani haadha wa razaqnihi min ghayri hawlin minni wa laa quwwata

“Praise be to Allah Who has fed me this and provided me with it with no power or strength on my part.”

اللهمَّ بارِكْ لنا فيه وأطعِمْنا خيرًا منه

Allahumma baarik lana fihi wa aT’imna khayran minhu

“O Allah, bless it for us and feed us with better than it.”

It is recommended after eating that one digests the food with making dhikr and prayer. One does not sleep afterwards because it hardens the heart.

One prays two raka’at after finishing one’s meal to thank Allah for His blessing and remembers one’s accountability on the Day of Judgment because a person will be asked about their blessings.

Check out these related articles:

Is it permissible to eat one’s full? What about pigging out?

What are the sunna acts of drinking?


References:

  • Imam Ala al-Din Abidin, الهدية العلائية
  • Imam ibn Abidin, رد المحتار على الدر المختار
  • Imam Nahlawi, الدرر المباحة في الحظر و الإباحة
  • Imam Nawawi, رياض الصالحين

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