Monday, February 28, 2011

Following the Sunnah

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum.

These are some key ayaat from the Qur'an and ahadith that clarify the critical importance of following the Sunnah. It is only in accordance with the Qur'an and the Sunnah that a Muslim will have his deeds accepted.

Allah the Almighty has said in the Qur'an:

It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter, that they should have any option in their decision. (Surah 33, Ayah 36)

Allah also says:

Whatsoever the Messenger gives you, take it; and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain from it. (Surah 59: Ayah 7)

The obligation to follow the Sunnah is from Allah, subhaana wa taala.

Furthermore, Allah's Messenger, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said:

"None of you truly believes until his desires are subservient to what I have brought." (An-Nawawi - Forty Hadith)


"Whoever performs a deed that is not in accord with our affair shall have it rejected." (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) used to teach the Sunnah to his companions in word and deed, and urged them to follow it, as he said in his hadeeth: “Adhere to my Sunnah” and “Whoever neglects my Sunnah does not belong to me.” ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood (may Allaah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allaah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “There is no Prophet whom Allaah sent to any nation before me, but he had disciples from among his nation, and companions who followed his Sunnah and obeyed his commands.” (Narrated by Muslim, no. 71).

Please don't take the Sunnah as a side dish in your life or an accessory in your wardrobe. It is something that we should learn and live, bi ithn Illah taala.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Etiquette for Eating and Drinking

BismIllah wa as salaamu alaikum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

As the recent translation of the book Minhaj Al-Muslim by Abu Bakr Al-Jazairy is only available as a hard copy, I have typed out this section because it is thorough and truly a Sunnah we need to work hard to emulate inshaa'Allah. I have tried to go through my typing to ensure no mistakes are there, but please forgive me if you spot an error. I plan to expand on certain aspects herein in future posts, inshaa'Allah.
Etiquette for Eating and Drinking

A Muslim considers his food and drink means to something else. They are not a goal and pleasure in themselves. He eats and drinks in order to keep his body healthy so that he may worship Allah the Almighty. This is the worship that will make him qualified for the honor of the life and happiness of the Hereafter. He does not eat and drink for the sake of eating and drinking and its desires. Therefore, if he is not hungry, he does not eat. If he is not thirsty, he does not drink. It is narrated that Allah's Messenger said:

"We are a people who do not eat until we are hungry. And if we eat, we do not eat to our fill." Thereby, a Muslim must adhere to the manners of eating and drinking that the Sharia'ah has issued. These include:

Etiquette Before Eating

1. A Muslim should try to make his food and drink pure by preparing them from the permissible, pure sources that are free of any taint of the forbidden or doubtful.
Allah the Almighty said:
"O you who believe! Eat of the lawful pure things that We have provided you." (2:172)

The pure things are the lawful things that are free from any filth or being noxious.

2. The intention for eating should be to strengthen oneself for the purpose of worshipping Allah and to be rewarded for one's eating and drinking. The permissible act then becomes and act of worship that is rewarded by Allah due to the good intention.

3. One should wash his hands before eating if they are not clean or if he is not sure that they are clean.

4. The food should be placed on a spread on the floor and not on a table. This makes the act more modest. Anas said:
"Allah's Messenger did not eat upon a table or from a platter." (Al-Bukhari)

5 One should sit and eat in a modest fashion. He should rest on his knees and sit with the top of his feet on the ground (and his body resting on the bottom of his feet). Or he should put his right leg erect and sit upon his left leg, as in the manner that Allah's Messenger would sit. Allah's Messenger said:
"I do not eat while reclining. Instead, I am a servant, so I eat like a servant eats and I sit like a servant sits." (Al-Bukhari)

6.He should be satisfied by the food that is presented in front of him and he should not find fault with it. If he likes it, he should eat it. If he does not like it, he should leave it. This is based on the statement of Abu Hurayrah:
"Allah's Messenger never found fault with any food. If he desired it, he would eat it. If he disliked it, he would leave it." (Al-Bukhari)

7. One should eat along with others, either a guest, family member, son or daughter or servant. This is based on this Hadith:
"Eat your food together, for you will thereby be blessed in it." (Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi who said it is Sahih)

Etiquette While Eating

1. The person should begin his eating by saying, Bismillaah "In the Name of Allah." Allah's Messenger stated:
"If any of you is about to eat, he should mention the Name of Allah. If he forgets to mention the Name of Allah at the beginning, he should say, "In the Name of Allah over the beginning and the ending." (Abu Dawud)

2. He should end his meal with the praises of Allah. Allah's Messenger also said:
"If a person eats any food and then says, "Praise is to Allah who fed me this and provided for me without any strength or power on my part," all of his previous sins will be forgiven." (At-Tirmidhi)

3. The person should eat with three fingers of his right hand. He should take small portions and chew them well. He should eat the food that is close to him and not take from the middle of the plate. Allah's Messenger told 'Umar bin Salamah:
"O young man, mention the Name of Allah, eat with your right hand and eat from what is close to you." (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Allah's Messenger also said:
"The blessings descend from the middle of the food. So eat from the edges and do not eat from the middle." (At-Tirmidhi)

4. A Muslim should chew his food well and he should lick the plate before he wipes it with a napkin or washes it with water. This is based on the Prophet's statement:
"When one of you eats, he should not wipe his fingers until he licks them or has them licked." (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Jabir stated that Allah's Messenger ordered the fingers and plates to be licked clean. He also said:
"You do not know in which part of your food lies its blessing." (Muslim)

5. If a person drops some food, he should remove the dirt from it and eat it.
Allah's Messenger stated:
"If a morsel of food falls from any of you, he should take it and wipe it clean of any dirt and then eat it. He should not leave it for the Shaytaan." (Muslim)

A Muslim should not blow over hot food; instead, he should wait until it cools down. He also should not blow into a glass of water while drinking from it. Instead, he should breathe three times outside of the vessel. Anas narrated that Allah's Messenger would breathe three times while drinking. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Abu Sa'id narrated that Allah's Messenger forbade blowing into a drink. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Ibn 'Abbas narrated that Allah's Messenger forbade breathing into a drinking vessel or blowing into it." (At-Tirmidhi)

7. A Muslim should avoid eating to his fill or overeating. Allah's Messenger said:
"A human does not fill any container worse than his stomach. It is enough for a human to have some morsels to strengthen his back (keep his back straight). If he must eat more, then it should be one-third of his stomach for food, one-third for drink and one-third for breathing. (Ahmad)

8. Food and drink should be served first to the eldest in the gathering. Then it should go to those on the right. Allah's Messenger said:
"(Begin with) the eldest, the eldest."
That is, one should begin with the eldest at the gathering. However, the Prophet asked permission of Ibn 'Abbas to pass a drink to the older people who were on his left. Ibn 'Abbas was on his right and the older people were on the Prophet's left. The fact that he asked permission of Ibn 'Abbas shows that the one on the right should be given first. Indeed, in another Hadith, Allah's Messenger said:
"(Begin with) those on the right, and those on the further right." (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Allah's Messenger also said:
"The one who gives drink to the people should be the last of them," (Ahmad) that is, the last of them to drink.

9. One should not begin to take food or drink of there is someone else present who should go before him, such as an older person or a virtuous person. This is considered impolite behavior. The person may then be though of as greedy. A poet once said, "If the hands are stretched to the food, I will not be the quickest among them, as the greediest of the people is the quickest among them."

10. He should not burden his friend or companion by making them tell him, "Eat." Instead, he should eat what he needs to eat without shyness or trying to be shy. In that case, he troubles his companion or guest and it may also be a type of acting for show, which is forbidden.

11. He should be compassionate with his eating companion. He should not try to eat more than him. This is especially true if there is not much food. In that case, he may be eating the food that someone else has a right to.

12. He should not look at his companions while he is eating. He should not watch them, such that they may become shy because of him. Instead, he should lower his gaze to the food that is around him. He should not look at them as this might harm them and may make them mad, in which case he would be sinful.

13. He should not do anything that the others generally consider gross behavior. He should not shake his hand off over the plate. He also should not put his head close to the food such that if something falls from his mouth, it will land in the people's food. Similarly, if he bit off a part of his bread, he should not put the rest of that bread back into the food. he also should not discuss disgusting things while eating. In that way, he might harm one of his companions and it is forbidden to harm a Muslim.

14. When he eats with poor people, he should give them preference over himself. When he eats with his brethren and friends, there should be friendliness and happiness. When he eats with people of rank and respect, he should eat with the proper manners and respect.

Etiquette After Eating

1. One should stop eating before he becomes full, thereby following the example of Allah's Messenger. This will keep him from suffering debilitating indigestion and gluttony that takes away one's intelligent thinking.

2. One should lick his hand and then wipe it or wash it. it is best and preferred to wash it.

3. He should pick up whatever has fallen from his food while eating, as he has been exhorted to do. This is a way of expressing gratitude for one's bounties.

4. He should floss between his teeth and rinse his mouth in order to clean his mouth. This is because he uses his mouth to remember Allah the Almighty and talk to his brothers. Furthermore, cleaning the mouth will keep the teeth healthy.

5. He must praise Allah after eating or drinking. If he drank milk he should say:
"O Allah, bless us in what You have provided for us and increase it for us." (Abu Dawud)
If he breaks his fast at a people's place, he should say:
"May the fasting break their fast with you, may the pious eat your food and my the angels invoke blessings for you." (Abu Dawud)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

How To Distinguish Between Sunnah And Arab Culture

Bism Illah wa as salaam alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.


This is required reading for anyone who wishes to embark upon following the Sunnah of the Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam. It will enable us to understand the difference between the Sunnah which is a form of worship, those things that were his customs but played an integral role in his worship, those customs that were simply from his time and the time before him, and those customs that were of the time and nothing to do with the Prophet, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Not only will it make clear what we should be following, but also will set the stage for all the posts that will follow, where we will learn about the Sunnah of worship and those Sunnan that facilitate the correct worship, inshaa'Allah. It's a chunk to read, but well worth it wa al hamdu l'Illah.


The following is a summary translation taken from

May Allah bless you, what is the criterion according to the Islamic legislation for distinguishing between the Sunnah which is considered custom and the Sunnah which is considered worship?
Shaykh Albani:
The criterion requires a level of knowledge as relates to the one who wishes to distinguish between a Sunnah that is worship and a Sunnah that is a custom. And it has been mentioned that there are actions of the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him, that came from him and he did them seeking to get closer to Allah the Blessed and Exalted; this category is the Sunnah that is worship.

Its opposite is another category that also mentions actions of the Prophet, peace and blessings are upon him; and the least we can say is these actions don't have the ruling of worship, rather they have the ruling of customs or that the affair returns back to the desire of the person and they have no connection to worship. This category is clear that it has no connection to worship so it will be in the category of customs; and between these two are doubtful matters.

If we look at these doubtful matters from a particular angle then the person might lean towards connecting an action to worship, and if we look at these doubtful matters again we might lean towards connecting them to a Sunnah that is only a custom; according to the student of knowledge (who is investigating these issues). And it is sufficient for the student of knowledge to stop at the second category that is opposite the first category.

For example: The Prophet used to have sandals that had two straps1 , so what appears at first glance is that if the student of knowledge has sandals with one strap then they are opposing the Sunnah!! And the Sunnah is to have sandals with two straps!! It appears that this has a connection to worship, but it is only a custom of the Arabs, they used to wear this type of sandals. And they didn't wear the type of footwear known today as 'shoes' or what resembles that with the different names according to the different countries.

And what is left as relates to the student of knowledge is the category that can be linked to the first group or the second group, and this requires knowledge to distinguish or to determine that it is from the first group and not the second group or the opposite, such that it is from the second group and not the first group.

And with this we find the Scholars agreeing upon affairs that they are from the Sunnah of custom but differing upon the particulars of it, is it from the Sunnah of custom or from the Sunnah of worship.

An example of this is what is connected to the Hajj, and soon we shall be greeting the Hajj inshaALLAH. It is related that the Prophet prayer and peace are upon him, descended at Al Batha2 so some of the companions said, and I think it was Aisha, 'Staying at Al-Mahassab in not the Sunnah.'

And they only agree that he pitched a tent there and rested, but some of the people who arrive believe that resting at Al Batha is from the completeness of Hajj. And here there could be a difference of opinion because this affair requires something extremely clear in order to connect it to the first category or the second category.

Now we shall mention some current examples, because many of the youth and all praises belong to Allah, shorten their garments and don't allow their garments to flow long and they intend by this to follow the Sunnah, so is this a Sunnah that is custom or a Sunnah that is worship?

If we looked at this action (shortening the garment) of the Prophet, prayer and peace are upon him, separately from some of his statements then perhaps we would waver between connecting this action to the Sunnah that is worship or the Sunnah that is custom.
But when the hadith containing the statements of the Prophet, prayer and peace are upon, came such as the hadith where he said, 'The izaar of the believer is to the midway point of the shin and if it is longer then let it go to the ankles and if it is longer then it is in the fire.'

This (hadith) cuts off the wavering between whether this action is a Sunnah of worship or a Sunnah of custom and it is certain that this is a Sunnah of worship because when he described the method of clothing as it relates to the believer he said it is to the midway point of the shin and if it is longer then it is no problem, if it goes to the ankle but as for what is longer than that then it is in the fire.

Opposite to this is a Sunnah that has been establish for the Prophet prayer and peace are upon him, and it is that he used to have long hair.

Sometimes his hair would reach his earlobes and if it was longer then it would reach the top of his shoulders. Rather, it has been confirmed that when the Prophet, prayer and peace are upon him, entered Mecca he has his hair in four braids. Therefore is growing the hair long firstly, and then putting it into braids secondly, a Sunnah of worship or a Sunnah of custom?
The answer as I see it, there is nothing here that calls to or justifies or can be construed to cause any wavering concerning this Sunnah of custom.

Why? Firstly, because the Prophet, prayer and peace are upon him, was not the one who started this Sunnah. Rather this was present before the Messenger was born, not to mention before he became a Prophet, prayer and peace are upon him!!!

This was the custom of the Arabs; they used to grow their hair long. And some of the youth to this day, some of the youth in the deserts of Syria that we have witnessed, some of them bunch their hair and put it into braids.

So this is a custom that was not started by the Prophet, peace and blessings are upon him, rather he just continued upon the customs of the Arabs, and he let his hair grow and when he entered Mecca he put it into four braids.

There is nothing here that would hurt us if we considered this Sunnah a Sunnah of custom, as opposed to a Sunnah of worship.
Another example: The Prophet peace and blessings are upon him used to wear white; is this Sunnah of custom or a Sunnah of worship?

If his statement had not been narrated, "The best clothes for you are white clothes, therefore dress your living in white clothes and bury your dead in white clothes;" if it were not for this statement we would have said this was his preference. And the Messenger used to love white clothes just as he used to love honey for example and he used to hate lizard meat, this was his preference.

But when his statement came, 'the best clothes for you are white', and then he ordered with wearing it and at the least a command shows that it is recommended, so he said dress your living in white clothes and bury your dead in white clothes, then this left from being a Sunnah of custom and it became a Sunnah of worship.

And with this standard and with this criterion it is obligatory for us to weight the actions of the Prophet, prayer and peace is upon him. Therefore what he started and there is nothing in the context of it that can make us believe it is a Sunnah of custom then it is a Sunnah of worship.

But as for his actions prayer and peace are upon him, which are consistent with the customs of the Arabs then these actions are from the Arab customs and it is no problem for the one who does them and it is no problem for the one who leaves them.

And also his actions peace be upon him, that dealt with his disposition or his personal taste then this also has no connection to the affairs of worship.

And as for the aforementioned example, the Prophet peace and blessing are upon him, used to love honey and it's possible that we will find some people that hate honey, but we don't say they have opposed the Sunnah! Because eating honey in its origin is not worship. Therefore if it is not easy for a person to eat honey or if they have no desire to eat honey then we don't say he has opposed the Sunnah, but he has opposed the disposition of the Prophet which was that he loved honey.

But from a different angle the Prophet peace and blessing are upon him, used to hate lizard meat and the Arabs used to find it pleasant. And when it was put on the table of the Prophet peace be upon him and it was said that it was lizard meat he didn't touch it.

And in front of him was one of the famous companions, none other than Khalid ibn Walid. And Khalid ibn Walid used to eat with enormous desire such that it would cause people to look at him; he would eat and the juices would stream down his beard. So when saw that his Prophet was not eating he said, "Oh Messenger of Allah is this (lizard meat) haram? Because he felt a shock inside of himself, he's eating ravenously and the Prophet is not reaching his hand towards the food; so he said, 'is this haram'.

The Prophet said, 'No, but this was not in the land of my people so I find that I detest it.'
Therefore we don't say to the person that loves lizard meat, 'You have opposed the Sunnah', because the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him, used to hate lizard meat and we also don't say this to the one who does not like honey.

And you will find those who don't like honey, and I have found that one of my sons does not like honey. I love honey and I love all sweets in general, but one of my sons hates honey; but I don't say to him, 'You have opposed the Sunnah', because this has no connection to worship.

And like this, it is incumbent upon us to look at the actions of the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him, and many of the people especially the students of knowledge during this time period are heedless of these specifics and some of them go to extremes.

So you find some of the youth intending to grow their hair long believing that this is the Sunnah of the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him. Yes I say this is from the actions of the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him, but there is no proof that this is better. Rather the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him, announced as is found in Sahih Muslim, 'Shave it all or leave it all'.

Therefore if the hair is grown long then it is not a Sunnah of worship rather it is only a Sunnah of custom. So if a person continues to shave his head his entire life it can not be said that he is opposing the Sunnah of the Prophet because the Prophet grew his hair his entire life; with the exception being during the Hajj and Umra because he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to shave his head during this time.

And you know the hadith that appears in Sahih Bukari and Muslim where the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, 'Oh Allah forgive those who shave their heads, oh Allah forgive those who shave their heads, oh Allah forgive those who shave their heads, they said and those who cut their hair short oh Messenger of Allah, and he said 'and those who cut their hair short. But those who only cut their hair short receive a lesser reward, and to shave the head in more virtuous.

Therefore if the person grows their hair long out of habit or because this is just his natural disposition then there is nothing preventing this, but as for the one who intends by this to get closer to Allah because the Prophet, peace and blessings are upon him, grew his hair long then we say verily this is in opposition to the Sunnah of the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him.

And there is a detail that attention has to be given to, by the one who grows his hair long because the Prophet peace be upon him grew his hair long, so he believes that he is following the Prophet peace be upon him by growing his hair long. But I say with all frankness that he is opposing the Prophet.

But his opposition is not apparent rather it is hidden on the inside. So from what is apparent it seems that he is following the Prophet by growing his hair long, so what is the opposition?
The opposition: It is obligatory upon us to pay attention to the statement of our Prophet peace and blessing be upon him, 'Verily Actions are (judged) by intentions, so each man will have what he intended. Thus, he whose migration was to Allah and His Messenger, his migration is to Allah and His Messenger; but he whose migration was for some worldly thing he might gain, or for a wife he might marry, his migration is to that for which he migrated.'

So the one who goes out with the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him, as a mujahid then the apparent is what? The apparent is that he is a mujahid in the path of Allah; but in reality he went out for some worldly gain or to marry a woman therefore he opposed the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, in his intention.

So will he be rewarded as a mujahid, when he opposed the best of the mujahids; opposed him in what, in his intention, the answer is no.

Now the one who grows the hair on his head long, emulating his Prophet, his example is like the example of the mujahid that went out with the Prophet as a mujahid, but his intention was opposed to the intention of the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him. (So the question may be) how is this related to the one who grows his hair long?
We say to him: Do you know that when the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him, grew the hair on his head long that his intention with this was to get closer to his Lord? If you believe that then your action is a blessing and if you don't believe this then you opposed the Messenger in his intention.

He did not seek to get closer to Allah by loving honey, and he did not seek to get closer to Allah by hating lizard meat, and also he did not seek to get closer to Allah the Mighty and Majestic by growing his hair long!! So you seek to get closer to Allah (by growing your hair long)? Then you have opposed the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him, in the strongest condition from the conditions of worship.

The first condition: The intention must be sincerely for the face of Allah the Blessed and Exalted.

The second condition: It must be in accordance with the action of the Prophet.
You are in accordance with him in his action, but you opposed him in his intention.
As relates to the Fajr prayer, both the Sunnah for Fajr and the Fajr prayer itself both are two rakats. So if a man prayed the two Sunnah rakat for Fajr with the intention that they were obligatory, was he in accordance with the Sunnah?

The answer is no.

And from the misguidance of the Qadianis is that they believe the two Sunnah rakats for Fajr are obligatory. So when they pray these two rakats the appearance is as though they are in accordance with the Messenger peace and blessings are upon him. But their heart and their intention opposed the Messenger peace and blessings are upon him. So the one who prays the two Sunnah rakats of Fajr with the intention that they are obligatory, this one is like the one who opposed the Messenger in his intention but agreed with him in the appearance. And the appearance doesn't have any value because the deeds are by the intentions. And the meaning of the hadith is the righteous deeds are only by righteous intentions.

Therefore if we don't know that the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him, sought to get closer to Allah by growing his hair long then it's not permissible for the Muslim to seek to get closer to Allah by something that the Prophet peace and blessings are upon him did not seek to get closer to Allah with; this is innovation in the religion.

As you all know the hadiths that warn with a severe warning against innovation in the religion. Whoever invents something into this affair of ours that is not from it then it is rejected. Therefore this is a newly invented matter because the person seeks to get closer to Allah by something that the Prophet did not seek to get closer to Allah with, peace and blessings are upon him. And this is the nature of the innovator, because they bring actions that the Prophet peace be upon him, did not seek to get closer to his Lord with.
And like that, we distinguish between the Sunnah of worship that which we emulate the Messenger in and between the Sunnah of custom, that which we have a choice to do it or to leave because it is only a Sunnah of habit.

Shaykh Albani continues, may Allah have mercy upon him.
This point, it is incumbent that we separate between this and that; meaning our following the Messenger peace be upon him, is in the affairs of the religion not in the affair of the worldly life.

And in this there are mistakes, severe mistakes from some of the ignorant people, those who do not separate between the Sunnah of habit and the Sunnah of worship.

The Sunnah of worship does not accept anything extra and for this reason the Messenger peace be upon him said, 'every innovation is misguidance and every misguidance is in the fire'.

The Sunnah of custom accepts an increase and it accepts a decrease and it accepts everything, because it's a custom. I will strike for you one example from the Sunnah of custom, from the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him.
He (the Prophet) entered Mecca with four braids, what do you all call them; Braids? (Translator's note: Here the Sheikh uses the word in Arabic for braids.)

Those present respond: Braids (using the same word in Arabic)
Sheikh Albani: Braids (Arabic word), or braids (using the other word in Arabic for braids)
He entered Mecca, opening Mecca the day Allah helped him against the people of Mecca, and he had four braids. This is the Sunnah of the Arabs, to this day you find this Sunnah with some of the youth from the Bedouin. I have seen them in the desert; until today this custom is present with them.

You are free with regards to this, if you see that it is suitable for you then you do it, and if you want you can leave it, and you have not opposed the Sunnah of the Messenger with regards to this. Why, because it is a Sunnah of custom not a Sunnah of worship.

This categorization is from the completeness of comprehension and understanding in the religion where many of those beginners in calling to knowledge and they are not scholars.