Accepting Invitations

Musa Kâzım GÜLÇÜR

The Qur’an says,

O you who believe! Do not enter the Prophet’s rooms (in his house) unless you are given leave, (and when invited) to a meal, without waiting for the proper time (when the meal is to be served). Rather, when you are invited, enter (his private rooms) at the proper time; and when you have had your meal, disperse. Do not linger for mere talk. That causes trouble for the Prophet, and he is shy of (asking) you (to leave). But God does not shy away from (teaching you) the truth…” (Ahzab 33:53)

There are two basic elements that are important among the many aspects present in this verse. They are:

1. Waiting to be invited before joining a meal;

2. After enjoying a meal as a guest, not overstaying one’s welcome or talking too much.

The revelation of this verse was occasioned by some people who would come to the Prophet’s house unannounced at odd hours and stay, not wanting to leave until they had been served a meal. But clearly this is a general Islamic principle that is applicable to anyone who is a guest at someone else’s home. Therefore, one must not “invite oneself” or join a dinner or gathering without being invited. One day Abu Shuayb saw the Messenger of God among his Companions and understood from his face that he was hungry. He immediately said to his kitchen help, “Prepare a meal for five people, with me as the fifth. I want to invite God’s Messenger tonight.” Then he went over to the Prophet and extended the invitation. They walked back to his house together, but another man from the group followed them. When they reached Abu Shuayb’s door, the Prophet said, “This man has followed me here. If you want, accept him; if you want, send him back.” Abu Shuayb said, “No, O God’s Messenger; he can join us too.” [Bukhari, At’ima, 57, 34; Buyu, 21; Mazalim, 14; Muslim, Ashriba, 138, 2036; Tirmidhi, Nikah, 12, 1099]

In this hadith, if one looks closely, the Prophet was exercising Islamic adab. It is certain that believers take pleasure in hosting each other. But there are certain guidelines and boundaries that come with invitations and visits. An unannounced visitor can cause a host to worry, “What should I serve?” If they do not have much, this can in turn create financial hardship for them. At the same time, when a brother or sister in faith extends an invitation to a fellow Muslim for a meal or a visit, it should be accepted, as this will foster affection and closeness between them. This is stated in the hadith, “When you are invited, accept the invitation.” Nafi also said, “Ibn Umar accepted invitations to weddings and other invitations, even when he was fasting.” [Bukhari, Nikah, 71, 74; Muslim, Nikah, 103, 1429; Tirmidhi, Nikah, 11, 1098; Abu Dawud, At’ima, 1, 3736–39] When one is invited, it is not good manners to reject or to avoid acceptance. The following hadith shows that not accepting invitations and showing up somewhere without being invited are both examples of poor manners: “He who does not accept an invitation which he receives has disobeyed God and His Messenger. And he who enters without invitation enters as a thief and goes out as a plunderer.” [Bukhari, Nikah, 71, 74; Muslim, Nikah, 103, 1429; Tirmidhi, Nikah, 11, 1098; Abu Dawud, At’ima, 1, 3736–39]

What if one is invited somewhere by two different people on the same day or at the same time? This is also addressed in Islam: Humayd ibn Abdir Rahman al-Himyari heard the Messenger say, “If two people invite you at the same time, accept the invitation of the one whose door is closest to yours, for this is the closer neighbour. But if one invited you first, accept the first invitation.” [Abu Dawud, At’ima, 9, 3756] Another thing that close attention should be paid to is that forbidden foods or drinks should not be consumed when one is invited out. A Muslim should not even go to places where forbidden things are done unless they can put a stop to the forbidden behaviours or if the others cease doing it in their presence out of respect.

For the host, it is important that no one is brought to the gathering who will upset the other guests. When the guests get up to leave, the host should ask them to stay a little longer, without insisting too much. Gatherings should also be kept simple and not extravagant. When we are about to eat, if there are friends or relatives around who know we are eating, good adab requires asking them to join us.

It is also good adab to share with the person who delivers or brings the food we eat, as this narration shows: Anas (who worked in the Prophet’s household) said, “Umm Sulaym sent me to God’s Messenger with a basket of dates. But I found God’s Messenger out. Just before I came, he had left to accept the invitation of a former slave who had now been freed. So, I immediately went there. When I arrived, they were eating. They invited me to eat with them. The host had made a dish of broth with pumpkin and sop. I saw that God’s Messenger liked the pumpkin, so I put pieces of pumpkin before him, (so that he could eat what was next to him). After we ate, he got up and went back home. Then, I handed him the basket of dates from Umm Sulaym, and he offered dates to everyone there, including me. We finished the dates together.” [Ibn Maja, At’ima, 28; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 4/108]

Translated by Jessica ÖZALP

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