Hosts and Guests – [Etiquettes to Learn From Ibraaheem’s (alayhis salaam) Hospitality]
In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Allaah (The Most High) stated:
هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ ضَيْفِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ الْمُكْرَمِينَ
إِذْ دَخَلُوا عَلَيْهِ فَقَالُوا سَلَامًا ۖ قَالَ سَلَامٌ قَوْمٌ مُّنكَرُونَ
فَرَاغَ إِلَىٰ أَهْلِهِ فَجَاءَ بِعِجْلٍ سَمِينٍ
فَقَرَّبَهُ إِلَيْهِمْ قَالَ أَلَا تَأْكُلُونَ
فَأَوْجَسَ مِنْهُمْ خِيفَةً ۖ قَالُوا لَا تَخَفْ ۖ وَبَشَّرُوهُ بِغُلَامٍ عَلِيمٍ
فَأَقْبَلَتِ امْرَأَتُهُ فِي صَرَّةٍ فَصَكَّتْ وَجْهَهَا وَقَالَتْ عَجُوزٌ عَقِيمٌ
Has the story reached you, of the honoured guests [three angels; Jibrael (Gabriel) along with another two] of Ibrahim (Abraham)? 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, so brought out a roasted calf [as the property of Ibrahim (Abraham) was mainly cows]. And placed it before them, (saying): “Will you not eat? Then he conceived a fear of them (when they ate not). They said: “Fear not.” And they gave him glad tidings of an intelligent son, having knowledge (about Allah and His religion of True Monotheism). Then his wife came forward with a loud voice, she smote her face, and said: “A barren old woman!” [51:24-29]
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim (rahimahullaah) said:
Firstly: Allaah described his guests as being honoured. They were either honourable in the sight of Ibraaheem or honourable in the sight of Allaah. The verse carries both meanings.
Secondly: Allaah [The Most High] said: [ إِذْ دَخَلُوا عَلَيْهِ- When they came in to him.] So there is not a mention about them seeking permission to enter and in this is proof that he was known for being generous to guests. His house was open to guests and frequented by the one who could find it without the need for asking permission. This is a highest level of generosity.
[فَرَاغَ إِلَىٰ أَهْلِهِ -Then he turned to his household]: He went to his family in secret without the knowledge of the guests. This is an act of nobility – the leader of the house goes away secretly [to bring something for the guest] in such a manner that the guest is unaware, lest [the guest] becomes uneasy and shy; so he is made unaware until [the host] comes along with the food, as opposed to the one who says to his guest or those who are present: ‘’Wait, so that I bring you food’’ or a similar statement, which makes the guest feel shy and embarrassed.
[فَجَاءَ بِعِجْلٍ سَمِينٍ – so (he) brought out a fat roasted calf]: This is an indication of his hospitality to his guests. Allaah (The Most High) did not say that Ibraaheem ordered for them, rather Ibraaheem went away and came back with the (roasted calf) himself. He did not send his servant to bring it and this is the highest degree of hospitality to guests.
He came with a full roasted calf and not half of it. This is perfect hospitality. The calf was fat and not skinny, and it is well known that this was among the best of their wealth. The likes of it is given particular attention and nurturing, and Ibraaheem (alayhis-salaam) chose it for his guests.
He himself brought the food close to them and did not command his servant to (do) so. He brought the food close to them and did not make them come close to the food. This is the highest level of generosity- bringing the food close, carrying it to the guest and not placing it at a distance and then asking the guest to come close.
He said to them [أَلَا تَأْكُلُونَ- Will you not eat?]: This is generous and soft speech, and it is better than saying ‘eat’ or ‘extend your hands’ and what is similar to it. He spoke to them with this generous and soft speech when he saw that they were not eating, because his guests are never in need of his permission; rather they eat when he presents food to them. So, when these guests did not eat, he said to them: ‘’Will you not eat?’’ He felt fear of them but did not reveal it. [Ref 1]
Some Etiquettes a Guest Is Required to Observe
Allaah (The Most High) said:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتَ النَّبِيِّ إِلَّا أَن يُؤْذَنَ لَكُمْ إِلَىٰ طَعَامٍ غَيْرَ نَاظِرِينَ إِنَاهُ وَلَٰكِنْ إِذَا دُعِيتُمْ فَادْخُلُوا فَإِذَا طَعِمْتُمْ فَانتَشِرُوا وَلَا مُسْتَأْنِسِينَ لِحَدِيثٍ ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكُمْ كَانَ يُؤْذِي النَّبِيَّ فَيَسْتَحْيِي مِنكُمْ ۖ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي مِنَ الْحَقِّ ۚ وَإِذَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُنَّ مَتَاعًا فَاسْأَلُوهُنَّ مِن وَرَاءِ حِجَابٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ أَطْهَرُ لِقُلُوبِكُمْ وَقُلُوبِهِنَّ ۚ وَمَا كَانَ لَكُمْ أَن تُؤْذُوا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَلَا أَن تَنكِحُوا أَزْوَاجَهُ مِن بَعْدِهِ أَبَدًا ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكُمْ كَانَ عِندَ اللَّهِ عَظِيمًا
O you who believe! Enter not the Prophet’s houses, except when leave is given to you for a meal, (and then) not (so early as) to wait for its preparation. But when you are invited, enter, and when you have taken your meal, disperse, without sitting for a talk. Verily, such (behaviour) annoys the Prophet, and he is shy of (asking) you (to go), but Allah is not shy of (telling you) the truth. And when you ask (his wives) for anything you want, ask them from behind a screen, that is purer for your hearts and for their hearts….. [Soorah Al-Ahzaab Ayah 53]
Imaam al-Qurtubiy (rahimahullaah) derived ten benefits from this Ayah, and the sixth of them is that a guest eats what the host is able to provide and not what he expects to eat, because Allaah said: [فَإِذَا طَعِمْتُمْ فَانتَشِرُوا And when you have taken your meal, disperse]. Therefore, neither has he [i.e. the person] been given more food nor something other than what is given. So the asl (i.e. basis in this affair) is what is provided by the host. [Ref 2]
[Ref 1: An Excerpt from بدائع التفسير الجامع لما فسره الإمام ابن القيم -(Vol 3. Pages 45- 46). slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 2: An Excerpt from ‘Al-Jaami’u Li-Ahkaamil Qur’aan Vol 17; Publishers: Ar-Risaalah Publishers; 1st Ed 1427AH (Year 2006). slightly paraphrased]