Hospitality in Islam

Vol 2 -Issue 3 Hospitality in Islam

For a majority of us, who are over-committed, life moves in the fast lane, and guests are no less than a red light or worse – an interminable traffic-jam. The news of imminent visitors is frequently met with frowns or frenzied bickering.

The best guest is one, who does not burden the host. Failing to give a prior notice, visiting at inappropriate times, prolonging ones stay and burdening the host with expectations, on how one should be treated, disgruntles a host in our eastern civilization. A host is expected to be at the beck and call of his guests, stow away personal life and entertain the guest usually for an extended period of time.

The western world is tilted towards the other extreme. A guest must be prepared to depend as much as possible on himself, and might, occasionally, meet his host at breakfast, or may be dinner or any other time, when their schedules coordinate. For the visitor this may mean cooking for himself, doing his own laundry, taking the bus for errands or sightseeing, etc. The bottom-line is that the guest seeks his own comfort and thanks the host profusely for all the boarding facilities that would otherwise have cost a fortune.

These two extremes mar the spirit of hospitality meant to bring people together. The cultural baggage associated with each instance is far from the reasonable and pragmatic approach Islam takes to balance the guest’s and host’s needs.

Abu Hurairah (rta) reported the Prophet (sa) saying: “He, who believes in Allah (swt) and the Last Day, let him show hospitality to his guest…” (Bukhari, Muslim) Hafiz Salahuddin Yusuf in his commentary in Riyad-us-Saliheen states: “To honour a guest means to welcome him cheerfully, entertain him happily, according to our capacity, and have full regard of his comfort and rest.”

Abu Shuraih Khuwailid Bin Amr Al-Khuzai (rta) reported that he heard the Messenger of Allah (swt) (sa) saying: “He, who believes in Allah (swt) and the Last Day, should accommodate his guest according to his right.” He was asked: “What is his right, O Messenger of Allah (swt)?” He replied: “It is to accommodate him for a day and a night and extend hospitality for three days, and what is beyond that is considered charity.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

This Hadeeth deals more with the etiquette and scope of hospitality. On the first day and night, a guest should be offered the best entertainment. In the next two days, hospitality should be moderate. On the fourth day, the guest should leave for his destination. Yet, if the guest chooses to stay, he should not expect formal hospitality but rather seek to be as dependent on himself as possible. If the host willingly entertains the guest after three days, it will be considered charity on his part.

Allah (swt), the Exalted, says: “Has the story reached you, of the honoured guests (three angels; Jibril along with another two) of Ibrahim? When they came in to him and said: ‘Salam, (peace be upon you)!’ He answered: ‘Salam, (peace be upon you),’ and said: ‘You are a people unknown to me.’ Then he turned to his household, and brought out a roasted calf (as the property of Ibrahim (as) was mainly cows). And placed it before them, (saying): ‘Will you not eat?'” (AdhDhariyat 51:24-27)

The above Ayah from the Quran is an example of how the friend of Allah (swt), Ibrahim (as), entertained his visitors. He reciprocated their greeting, despite the fact that they were strangers to him. Furthermore, Ibrahim (as) quickly and discretely arranged for a meal without asking, if they would care for anything. The meal consisted of the best he could offer. Once the meal was ready, he placed it close to them and refrained from ordering them to eat; instead, subtly invited them to partake in the meal.

Jabir Bin Abdullah (rta) said: “Abu Al-Haitham Bin Al-Taihan prepared food for Allah (swt)’s Apostle (sa), and he invited the Prophet (sa) and the companions (rta). When they finished eating He (sa) said: ‘If some people enter the house of a man, eat his food, drink his drink and they supplicate (to Allah (swt)) for him, this is his reward.'” (Abu Dawood) It is, thus, commendable to utter a supplication for those, who provide hospitality or provide food for others.

Abdullah Bin Umar (rta) reported Allah (swt)’s Messenger (sa) as saying: “He, who does not accept an invitation, has disobeyed Allah (swt) and His Apostle (sa), and he, who enters without invitation, enters as a thief and goes out as a raider.” (Abu Dawood)

In another Hadeeth, narrated by Abu Hurairah (rta), the Prophet (sa) said: “A Muslim has six duties towards another Muslim: to salute him, when he meets him; when invited, to accept his invitation; when asked for advice, to give it to him; when he sneezes, to praise Allah (swt) and say: ‘May Allah (swt) have mercy on you;’ when he is ill, to visit him; and when he dies, follow his funeral.” (Muslim) Carrying out of these obligations is compulsory.

There are some instances, where it is recommended to decline hospitality offered.

Ibn Abbas (rta) said: “The Prophet (sa) forbade that the food of two rivals be eaten.” (Abu Dawood) This refers to those rivaling over hospitality to a guest. It is forbidden, because it involves the show and ostentation of one’s richness. Such an invitation should not be accepted.

Similarly, Safina Abu Abdul-Rahman said: “Once a man prepared food for Ali Bin Abi Talib (rta) and Fatima (rta) said: ‘I wish we had invited the Apostle of Allah (sa) and he had eaten with us.’ So they did. But when he came and put his hands on the side-ports of the door, and saw the figured curtain that had been put up at the end of the house, he left. So Fatima (rta) told Ali (rta): ‘Follow him and see what turned him back.’ So, Ali (rta) did and asked him (sa): ‘What turned you back, Apostle of Allah?’ He replied: ‘It is not fitting for me or any Prophet to enter a house, which is decorated.'” (Abu Dawood)

The Prophet (sa) left, because he disliked luxury and unnecessary decoration in the house. Thus, if an unlawful action is done in a house, where a guest is being entertained, he may leave or refuse the invitation altogether.

A Muslim should only invite the pious and avoid the evildoers. Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Do not be a companion except to a believer and let only the pious eat your food.” (Abu Dawood)

Also, a Muslim should not invite only the rich and exclude the poor. The Prophet (sa) said: “The worst food is that of a feast, to which the rich are invited and the poor excluded.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Likewise, a poor person’s invitation should be accepted.

The Prophet (sa) also clarified, which of the two invitations are more worthy of being accepted, when received simultaneously. Humaid Ibn Abdul-Rahman Al-Himyari said that a companion of the Prophet (sa) reported him as saying: “When two people come together to issue an invitation, accept that of the one, whose door is nearer to yours, but if one of them comes before the other, accept the invitation of the one, who came first.” (Abu Dawood)

Conclusively, just like every other aspect of Islam, rules of hospitality are also driven by wisdom and courtesy. Extending and accepting hospitality with grace gives believers reasons to rejoice. Lets not make it cumbersome for anyone and keep it simple and gratifying by Allah (swt) and His Apostle’s (sa) ways.

Hostility or hospitality?

If you are a guest…

  1. Do not disturb your host at odd hours; rather, visit at their convenience.
  2. Do not visit empty-handed. Gifts enhance love among people, even if it is only a single rose or a bar of candy.
  3. If your stay is an extended one, do not remain aloof. Mingle with the hosts and help them as much as possible in their household chores.
  4. Do not place unreasonable demands that burden your host.
  5. Do not use the host’s belongings irresponsibly. In other words, use them, as if they were your own.
  6. Do not backbite or ridicule your host, after you leave.

If you are a host…

  1. Do not lie deliberately to turn away visitors.
  2. Do not serve unwanted or stale food to your guests to make room in your refrigerator.
  3. Do not place expensive decorative pieces in your house, especially, if you expect young kids to accompany your guest.
  4. Do not embarrass the guest if he accidentally happens to break or misuse any of your belongings.
  5. Do not give your mood swings expression or ignore your guests altogether and make them feel unwelcome.
  6. Do not backbite or ridicule your guests, after they have left.

Sheikh Ahmad Deedat

Vol 2 -Issue 3 Sheikh Ahmad DeedatFamed Muslim preacher and debater Sheikh Ahmed Deedat died Monday, August 8, 2005, at 87, leaving behind a legacy of propagating Islam and defending it against missionaries. Known particularly for his work on comparative religions, Deedat was the founder of the Islamic Propagation Center International (IPCI), the largest Islamic Dawah organization in the world.

He was perceptive, fiery, and daring, with an insight of the Bible that made many Christians whom he came into contact with re-examine their faith.

From working in a shop in a remote area of KwaZulu Natal, to debating the famous American reverend, Jimmy Swaggart in the USA – the story of Ahmed Deedat is amazing.

Born in Surat, India, in 1918, Ahmed Hoosen Deedat had no recollection of his father until 1926. His father, a tailor, had immigrated to South Africa shortly after the birth of Deedat. The son went to South Africa in 1927 to be with his father. His mother passed away a few months later, back in India.

In a foreign land, not knowing the English language, his passion for reading helped him gain promotions until he completed standard 6. Lack of finance interrupted his schooling and at the age of about 16 he took on the first of many jobs in retailing.

The most significant of these was in 1936 when he worked at a Muslim-owned store near a Christian seminary on the Natal South Coast. The incessant insults of the trainee missionaries hurled against Islam during their brief visit to the store infused a stubborn flame of desire within the young man to counteract their false propaganda.

Ahmed Deedat, by God’s will, discovered a book entitled “Izharul-Haq”, meaning the truth revealed. This book recorded the techniques and the enormous success of the effort of Muslims in India in turning the tables against Christian missionary harassment during the British rule of India. In particular, the idea of holding debates had a profound effect on Ahmed Deedat.

Armed with this newfound zeal, Deedat purchased his first Bible and began holding debate and discussions with the trainee missionaries. He published over 30 books and distributed millions of copies free of charge. He delivered thousands of lectures all over the world and successfully engaged Christian Evangelists in public debates. Several thousand people have come into the fold of Islam as a result of these efforts.

The first opportunity to go abroad arose in 1976, when a good friend, Ebrahim Jadwat, travelled to Riyadh for a conference.

“When I asked the people from Saudi television to interview him, they laughed at me, saying that they had 50 or 60 of the greatest scholars from all over the world, so why should they interview him?” recalls Jadwat. “So I said: ‘Give him two minutes of your time and I’m sure you’ll find something interesting.’ So they humored me and gave him the opportunity to come on television.” The rest, as they say, is history…

Sheikh Deedat with his entertaining approach, dynamic personality, deep knowledge of Christianity and unique ideas, swept the Arab world off its feet. Going to Riyadh opened many doors for him, and his dream of printing and distributing the Qur’an and other literature soon become a reality. He was awarded the King Faisal International Award in 1989.

On May 3, 1996, Sheikh Ahmed Deedat suffered a stroke, known as “lock in syndrome,” which left him paralyzed from the neck down. He was no longer able to speak or swallow. He delivered his last lecture in Sydney, Australia, in 1996, just before his chronic illness.


istikhara1Life is full of choices affecting our future and the lives of those around us: career options, marriage proposals, selecting a school for children and the list goes on. Often, decisions make us feel uncertain and uneasy, even after deciding on an option. Unable to predict the outcome of our judgement, we often wish for reassurance from someone, who has more wisdom than ourselves. Hence, our beloved teacher Prophet Muhammad (sa) instructed us to make Istikhara for all the important matters of life.

“Allah’s (swt) Messenger used to teach his companions to perform the prayer of Istikhara for each and every matter, just as he used to teach them the Surahs from the Quran.” (Bukhari)

The term ‘Istikhara’ means ‘seeking/requesting guidance in what is good’ – hence, it is a means of asking Allah (swt) (the One, Who knows the seen and the unseen) to guide us to the right decision concerning any affair in our life, especially, when we have to choose between two or more alternatives.

Performing Salat-ul-Istikhara

The Prophet Muhammad (sa) informed us: “If anyone of you thinks of doing any job, he should offer a two Rakah prayer other than the compulsory ones and say (after the prayer)…” he then recited the Dua of Istikhara. (Bukhari)

Thus, performing Istikhara is really very simple:

  1. Decide on the option you wish to take.
  2. Make Wudu and prepare for Salah.
  3. Pray two Rakahs of Salah, other than the obligatory ones. The intention of Salah should be made in your heart, without saying it out loud. This prayer can be performed at any time, when Salah is permissible.
  4. After completing the Salah, recite in Arabic the Dua of Istikhara, clearly mentioning the affair you are concerned about (the affair can be said in the language you are accustomed to, if you do not know, how to translate it into Arabic).
  5. Trust that Allah (swt) will now guide you towards what is best for your future in this world and the Hereafter. Then, act upon what you feel is the best choice in the matter.

Note: There is no harm in repeating Salat-ul-Istikhara, before acting on a decision. Every person concerned with a particular affair should perform this Salah individually.

Misconceptions regarding Salat-ul-Istikhara

Many people feel that Salat-ul-Istikhara should be followed by a feeling or a dream, pointing towards the correct decision. The Prophet (sa) has warned us: “Dreams are of three types: glad tidings from Allah (swt), whispering from the soul, or frightening thoughts from Shaitan.” (Bukhari) Thus, we cannot be sure about the source of a dream.

The Dua of Istikhara asks Allah (swt) to make the right direction smooth and easy for us, and also make us satisfied with the outcome. Sometimes, after acting upon a decision, we find the outcome different from what we had anticipated. Only much later we realize that the results were definitely in our favor. We are hasty to taste the fruits of success and feel restless and unsatisfied, when things do not seem to go the way we plan. This Dua asks Allah (swt) to give to us a feeling of content, no matter what the outcome is, for truly, only He sees the fruits of our deeds.

The affairs Salat-ul-Istikhara can be made for

Istikhara can be made for all affairs affecting our lives, in which we have to choose between permissible alternatives. This includes making choices between obligatory matters, for example, trying to decide, whether to go for Hajj or postpone it in order to take care of a sick parent. However, it cannot be made for the following matters:

  • acts, which Allah (swt) has made obligatory on us, such as performing Hajj, giving Zakat, or fasting in Ramadan;
  • acts, which Allah (swt) has declared Haram (forbidden), such as drinking alcohol or giving bribes;
  • acts, which may involve harm or result in oppression of another Muslim.

Remember, making Istikhara does not mean that you should not turn for advice to those, who have more knowledge. Allah (swt) Himself instructs us, what can be translated as: “… and consult them in the affairs. Then, when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah (swt); certainly, Allah (swt) loves those who put their trust (in Him).” (Al-Imran 3:159)

Hence, make a decision after proper research and then put your mind at ease by entrusting Allah (swt) with the matter as “Allah (swt) is Sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs.” (Al-Imran 3:173)

Translation of Dua of Istikhara

“O Allah (swt)! I consult You, for You have all knowledge, and appeal to You to support me with Your Power and ask for Your Bounty, for You are able to do things, while I am not, and You know while I do not; and You are the Knower of the Unseen. O Allah (swt)! If You know that this matter (name your matter) is good for me both at present and in the future, (or in my Deen), in this life and in the Hereafter, then fulfill it for me and make it easy for me, and then bestow Your Blessings on me in that matter. O Allah (swt)! If You know that this matter is not good for me in my Deen, in this life and in my coming Hereafter (or at present or in the future), then divert me from it and choose for me what is good, wherever it may be, and make me be pleased with it.” (Bukhari)

Life after Ramadan

Vol 2 -Issue 3 Life After RamadanWe wait anxiously for Ramadan – and before we know it, it has come and gone; faster than the year before. Irrespective of how religiously inclined one is, most Muslims enjoy the spirit of Ramadan. The question is – what exactly do we enjoy?

Is it the atmosphere of peace and harmony or is it the fruit Chat and Pakoras? Is it the coming together of the community for Taraweeh or is it the lavish Iftar parties? Is it the knowledge of the extra reward or is it the quest for a short-cut to Jannah?

As quickly as the Blessed Month comes and goes, why does the zeal with which we connect to Allah (swt) start evaporating as well? Are we just ‘Ramadan Muslims’?

Ramadan should not be our cultural festival, where talks about food and Eid shopping rule our minds. Ramadan should not be mechanical worship, where we program our bodies to perform some extra Nawafil for a month. Ramadan should also not be a time for display, where we boast about our Siyam in the day and Qiyam in the night or revel in our accomplishments.

What we gain from Ramadan depends a lot on our intentions. Did we want to reestablish our connection with the Quran and its Author, or did we want to join friends in losing a few pounds? Did we want to train our Nafs, or did we want to put in some effort and then rest easy for the remainder of the year?

The actual purpose of Ramadan is to train ourselves by setting aside time from our fast-paced lives and recharging our rusty batteries, in order to be prepared for the whole year. Shaitan is chained, our lives are more disciplined, and our hearts softer. It might be unrealistic to expect the same level of enthusiasm throughout the year, as Allah (swt) has blessed these 29 or 30 days with His Special Mercy. Nevertheless, we can try to reap at least part of the benefits throughout our lives. Who knows, if we will be around next Ramadan?

“Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after You have guided us, and grant us mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower.” (Al-Imran 3:8)

Perhaps, wisdom behind the extra worship and reward associated with the last ten nights of Ramadan is to remind us not to slack right after Eid. We might reach our peak of Ibadah in search of Layaltul Qadr, but we must remind ourselves not to make our graph plummet soon after. Perhaps, the recommended six fasts of Shawal are also intended to keep our memories of fasting fresh.

Here are some tips to help us keep the spirit of Ramadan alive:

  • Instead of storing the Quran in a velvet cover on the highest shelf for the 11 months following Ramadan, or feeling that you have done a lot in this month, Imam Ghazali says: ‘Our heart should be like a pendulum – swinging to and fro, praying and hoping that our worship was accepted. If we were able to achieve some goals, it wasn’t because of our strength but rather the Bounty of Allah (swt), Who gave us the opportunity, willingness, and ability to do so. Without all three, we would not have been able to reap any benefits from Ramadan.’
  • When one is  sent on a one month training course, one is expected to return with knowledge to make ones work productive, as well as pass that knowledge on. So, evaluate what you gained from Ramadan, practice it in your daily life, and spread the word.
  • Don’t waste all your efforts on Eid day. For instance, if you intended to dress more modestly in Ramadan, don’t let your Eid attire and make-up wash it all away. If you shared meals with the less fortunate in Ramadan, don’t let your Eid party guest list include the affluent friends only.
  • If you are unable to continue reading as much of the Quran after Ramadan, don’t just abandon it because you consider too little of it to be pointless. The Prophet (sa) recommended deeds that were small but regular. Understanding five Ayahs daily might make more of a difference than five chapters read speedily in one night. If you do not have the time for a week-long Aitekaf, make Niyah for a mini-Aitekaf lasting a few hours, when you disconnect with the world to connect with your Lord.
  • Islam is a Deen of moderation; therefore, set realistic and achievable goals and take it from there. Try to start fasting Mondays and Thursdays as was the Prophet’s (sa) Sunnah, or add just two extra Nafl in your prayers.
  • Maintain ties with your buddies from Taraweeh and remind one another to keep check of each other’s good deeds. Organize a weekly study circle or a monthly Islamic book club, where you all meet to discuss a particular book.
  • Strengthen the relationship you established with your Rabb, the Quran, and the community. Do not say good-bye to the Masjid after the Eid prayers.
  • Our Ramadan training course is meant to ensure we adhere to our manual – the Quran- throughout the year. We are not just Saturday or Sunday worshippers. Consider Ramadan as the down payment on your house. Regardless of how hefty the down payment may be – if we fail to keep up with regular monthly installments for several years, our house can be taken away from us.

Ramadan is like the spring of good deeds, when acts of kindness are in full bloom, and certain fruits and vegetables are at their peak of ripeness.  They are there for us to reap and enjoy their goodness in numerous ways.

Let us add some preservatives to our Ramadan Ibadah to make the rewards last throughout the year.

Beautiful Names

Vol 2 -Issue 3     Beautiful namesAl-Ghaffar – the One, Who is full of forgiveness and forgives again and again.

Allah (swt) is the One, Who forgives sins. He is also the One, Who conceals the sins of His slaves. He makes manifest the beautiful and conceals the ugly. He lets a cover fall over the bad deeds of His believing slaves. By understanding this attribute of Allah (swt), we can be sure that all our sins can be forgiven by the will of Allah (swt). Calling upon Him by this name with sincere repentance, we can hope to be among the people of Paradise. This hope will further drive us to do more good deeds and keep away from sins.

We should also try to imitate this attribute of Allah (swt) by forgiving the mistakes of other Muslims and hiding their sins. This attribute will develop a strong bond of Muslim brotherhood and strengthen the broken threads of the Muslim society.

Al-Qahhar – the Dominator.

Allah (swt) is the One, Who dominates over all His creation. He breaks the backs of His enemies and suppresses them. He conquers the conquerors of this world – no matter how powerful we may be, we cannot make anything happen, unless Allah (swt) wills it to happen. The most ruthless tyrants ultimately meet their death and cannot postpone it even for a moment.

In Surah Al-Baqara verse 258, Allah (swt) has mentioned the story of Namrood, who argued with Prophet Ibrahim (as) about his land. When Namrood claimed that he is the one, who gives life and causes death, Ibrahim (as) replied that if Allah (swt) brings the sun up from the East, Namrood should bring it up from the West. Ibrahim (as) challenged Namrood to prove that all he has is but a limited dominion over people, while Allah’s (swt) domination is absolute and encompasses all His creation.

The dominator among men is the one, who subdues his enemies. Our biggest enemy is the desires of our souls (Nafs), which can lead us to sinful deeds. If we are in control of our desires, we actually dominate over all mankind, because no one can lead us to do bad deeds. Only by having a complete control over ourselves, we can conquer Shaitan, who takes advantage of human weaknesses.

Al-Wahhab – the Bestower.

Allah (swt) is the One, Who bestows upon His slaves gifts and grants their wishes without seeking any recompense. While we all are in need of Allah (swt), He needs nothing. No human being by nature can be an absolute bestower because, if we present someone with a gift, we expect a return either from people or from Allah (swt). When we are in need of anything, we should call upon Allah (swt) by this name and ask Him to bestow it on us. In our hearts, we should be absolutely certain that Allah’s (swt) treasures are infinite.

Allah (swt) has said in a Hadeeth Qudsee: “O my servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the Jinn of you to rise up in one place and make a request to Me, and were I to give everyone, what he requested, that would not decrease, what I have, anymore than a needle decreases the sea, if put into it.” (Muslim)