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The Etiquette of a Host

This is one part of a two part series on etiquette, read the first part of the etiquette of a guest.

Just like most of us have been in the position of a guest in many instances of our life, we have also stood in the position of a host.  There are certain etiquette and recommended behavior in Islam that a guest and host should abide by.  We have presented few logical and practical pointers on how a guest should carry himself, as well.  Here, we will place ourselves in the position of the host and explore what is the best behavior that is befitting for a believer.

1. A host should place themselves in the shoes of the guest and treat them as they would like to be treated if they were the guest. Imam Ali (as) has advised us, “You should desire for others what you desire for yourself, and hate for others what you hate for yourself. Do good to others just as you would like good to be done to you.” (Bihar Al-Anwar)

2. Be a gracious and welcoming host and make the guest feel comfortable from the moment they step in the door. The Prophet (s) says, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should be hospitable with his or her guests.” (Safinat al-Bihar)

3. A Muslim should only invite the pious and avoid the evildoers. In the Prophet’s (s) advice to Abu Dharr, he said: “Oh Abu Dharr! Do not be a companion except to a believer and let only the pious eat your food.” (Makarim Al-Akhlaq) Also, a Muslim should not invite only the rich and exclude the poor from amongst those believers. The Prophet (a) furthermore emphasized: “The worst food is that of a feast, to which the rich are invited and the poor excluded.” (Ibid)

4. Be prepared for the arrival of the guest. It is narrated that most outstanding virtue of Prophet Ismail (s) is keeping his promise. Once, he decided to meet a person somewhere and they determined a time. Prophet Ismail (s) went there on time but the other man did not. So he waited two days for the man. Allah (swt) honored him in the Qu’ran by this verse, “Also mention in the Book (the story of) Ismail: he was true to what he promised and he was a messenger and a prophet.” (19:54)

5. Show utmost generosity with guests. Imam al-Taqi (as) was very hospitable and generous. Once, a guest arrived at his place in the middle of the night. The Imam (as) asked him if he would like to have dinner. The guest said, “Oh son of Allah’s Messenger, though I am hungry, since it is such an odd hour, I don’t want to inconvenience you, I will sleep hungry.” The Imam (as) said, “Guests to do not sleep hungry at our place.” Saying so, he went inside and awakened one of his slave-maids and told her, “I am igniting the oven, you knead the flour.” When she offered to ignite oven, the Imam (as) declined, and said, “I also want to take some part in serving the guest.” Thus, the Imam (as) returned with food, serving the guest himself. Seeing such affection, the man began to weep and said, “I am crying at the thought that how the world has not recognized such godly people.” (Akhlaq e-Aimma)

6. When a meal is served, follow the example of Prophet Muhammad (s) and take the first bite to encourage the guest to join, and be the last to finish the meal so the guest does not feel rushed or embarrassed.

7. Give the guest the utmost attention. The holy Prophet (s) always gave a person he spoke with full attention. If someone addressed him, he wouldn’t talk to them over his shoulder or be distracted with something else. He would turn his entire body to face them to listen and speak.

8. Do not embarrass the guest if they accidentally break or misuse any belongings. In numerous traditions, it is reported that a child was brought to the Prophet (a) and while on his lap, the child urinated.The parent was embarrassed, but the Prophet (a) would say, “Do not do anything…” indicating a level of tolerance and patience that one is to have. (Training and Education in Islam by Murtadha Muttahari)

9. Do not backbite, ridicule, judge, or criticize our guests, after they have left. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.” [49:12] If they have caused harm during or after their visit, it is best and more pleasing to Allah (swt) to forgive and overlook the guest’s shortcomings. Try to give the guest the benefit of the doubt at all times.

10. After the guest has left, it would be kind to follow up with a phone call or message to ensure their safe return home and expressing gratitude for their visit.

In addition to these tips, it is important to review with the Qu’ran has said. In it, Allah (swt) presents the story of Prophet Ibrahim (s) who was known to be an excellent host: “Has the story reached you, of the honored 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’ and said: ‘You people are 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?'” (51:24-27)


About Jerrmein Abu Shahba

Jerrmein, originally from Egypt and guided by the grace of Allah (SWT) to the truth path of AhlulBayt (AS), obtained her bachelors degree in Biology and masters in Chemistry. She contributed as a writer in the past for the Islamic Insights, AIM, Muslims4peace, and Voice of Unity magazines. Jerrmein volunteers as an editor for the website, and translates Islamic literature.

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