This is one part of a two part series on etiquette, read the second part of the etiquette of a host.
Often times in our lives we have stood and will stand in the position of a guest at the door of the host who could be a relative, friend, colleague, or other members of our community. Sometimes the frequency of us being guests or knowing the host very well makes us forget the specific etiquette, protocols, and proper behavior that a guest should exercise when they are at the disposal of the host. I take this opportunity to walk through some of the logical etiquette that is also encouraged in Islam and is befitting for a believer to practice. It is important to bear in mind that being a guest is a privilege and not a right; hence, we should not take that right for granted. Rather, we should honor that privilege, give it its due right, and fulfill our obligations as a guest.
1. A guest should receive an invitation from the host and not impose themselves to become a “guest” at their home or location of meeting. Sometimes, when we get to know others well, we forget the proper etiquette and invite ourselves over, not paying attention that the host may have other arrangements or preferences of time, etc. In some cases, guests may pop in unannounced thinking they are giving a pleasant surprise, not realizing that the host may not be prepared to receive them at that hour.
2. When invited, the guest should make every effort to accept the invitation and not turn it down as it may offend the host. The holy Prophet (as) has said, “He, who does not accept an invitation, has disobeyed Allah and His Apostle (s), and he, who enters without invitation, enters as a thief and goes out as a robber.” (Makarim Al-Akhlaq)
3. When invited and discussing a possible time to visit, the guest should try to think about the position and circumstances of the host first, before thinking of their own.
4. If the guest is invited by the host and has accepted the invitation, they should avoid bringing other companions along who were not personally invited. The host may not be prepared to receive others unexpectedly.
5. If a host invites the guest for 4pm, that means the guest should be there punctually at 4pm and not an hour later. It is disruptive and disrespectful to come late (with exception to unwarranted situations) and it gives the feeling to the host that the guest is careless and not respectful. Coming too early also has it’s own implications.
6. A guest should be considerate to the time factor as well when they are spending time with the host. A good quality time which fulfills the purpose and pleases the host is sufficient; however, the guest should be considerate of his time spent, both qualitative and quantitative.
7. When a guest enters the home of their host, it is not proper manners or good habit to gaze around their property out of curiosity, stare, or pinpoint detail of their place, hence making the host feel uncomfortable.
8. If we desire something from the host, we should think twice before requesting our desire and make sure that we are not asking something that would be a burden on them. Perhaps they don’t have what we requested or are not able to fulfill our need, and hence, the host may feel embarrassed. We should make it our goal to please the host and be easy and non-demanding guests who would make the host feel comfortable to have come again.
9. When a host offers you a meal, accept and eat something even if you’re not hungry, for the host will be pleased to know that you have eaten from their food. Leaving the food untouched will only make the host feel that what they presented was not good enough or not up to standards. Don’t expect the host to follow a diet regimen or meal preference; one meal that is not on your preferred list will not cause any harm.
10. Although it is not required, it is recommended to enter with a simple gift as a token of appreciation and gratitude for an invitation.
11. If the host engages in a task while the guest is present, it is best to offer to help them and take the initiative to give them a hand in whatever they are doing.
12. A guest shouldn’t roam around the house without the permission of the host and if children come along, they should be as polite as possible. It is natural for young children to want to move around and make the place their playground; however, it is important that the host is not offended.
13. Respecting the privacy of any host is necessary, just as the guest expects privacy when they have invited people over. Inquiring too much about the host may make them uncomfortable and keeping in mind one’s own preferences for privacy may help the guest keep this in mind.
14. After leaving the host, the guest should not criticize, analyze, or condemn the host in any of their actions and should refrain from talking about them behind their back or making negative judgments about them, especially to other people.
15. On the way out, as a guest. we should thank the host profusely and make the intention to invite them over as our honorable guests in the near future.