How Do We Eat?

How Do We Eat?

Islam gives us guidelines on how, when, and what to eat.

There are numerous traditions that warn of the consequences of excessive eating and inform us of the benefits of hunger and eating in small quantities. The Prophet has said that a man whose consumption of food is little has a healthy stomach and a pure heart, and a man whose food is plenty has a sickly stomach and a hard heart. Further warning us against excessive food, he has said it poisons the heart with hardness, slows the limbs in performing acts of obedience, and blocks the souls from hearing counsel. Imam Ali said that overeating is the greatest aid to acts of disobedience, and that when the stomach is filled with even permissible food, the heart becomes blind to goodness.

 

Islam gives us guidelines on how, when, and what to eat.Food, glorious food!

But is it just about the food? When we are concerned about our eating habits and diet plans, it usually has to do with what we should consume, in which proportions, whether or not our body’s nutritional needs are being met, etc. Whilst this is indeed important to learn, practice, and maintain, we must not allow our eating to become mindless beyond this point. For along with what we should eat there is a whole other dimension of how we should be eating. Let us explore some of the teachings of our Infallible Guides (peace be upon them all) with respect to this, making efforts within ourselves to transform mindless eating into mindful eating.

Time of Eating

If we only ever ate to satisfy hunger, the time of meals and snacks would not be such an issue. The problem arises when we turn to food on a daily basis not just to appease hunger, but for comfort, enjoyment, stress relief, and as a medium to socialize. Yet we must realize that these emotional tendencies need to be controlled and altered, and replaced with a mental attitude that will not only help our body but also our true selves, our nafs (soul).

Imam Ali (peace be upon him) has said, “A person who would like the food to not cause him harm should not eat until his bowels are clear and he feels very hungry. When he begins to eat, he should recite ‘Bismillah’. The food should be chewed, and when there is a little bit of hunger left to be appeased, he should stop eating.” Indeed Allah says in the Qur’an, “…eat and drink, and be not extravagant” (7:31) and the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) has said, “We are a people who do not eat until we feel hungry, and when we eat we do not satiate ourselves (we do not eat excessively).” A very simple narration of the Prophet that we can always keep in mind: “Eat when you desire and stop while you still desire.” (Bihar al-Anwar)

It is recommended to eat early in the morning, go without food for the whole day, and eat again for the second time after Isha prayers. If this is too difficult, it is a good idea to eat only fruits between breakfast and dinner. According to a reliable tradition, the nephew of Shahab went to Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) complaining of stomach ache and the heaviness of bowels. The Imam asked him to eat only twice a day – day and night – for Allah has said the same in the praise of food in Heaven: “For those whose abode is Heaven, they will get their food already prepared both times, morning and evening.” (19:62)

It is highly discouraged to eat in the state of Janabat, yet the rigidity of this is relaxed if one performs Wudhu or washes the hands, gargles, and puts water in the nose, or simply washes the hands and face and gargles. Traditions state if this direction is neglected, one may suffer from the disease of white spots.

Quantity of Food

There are numerous traditions that warn of the consequences of excessive eating and inform us of the benefits of hunger and eating in small quantities. The Prophet has said that a man whose consumption of food is little has a healthy stomach and a pure heart, and a man whose food is plenty has a sickly stomach and a hard heart. (Tanbih al- Khawatir) Further warning us against excessive food, he has said it poisons the heart with hardness, slows the limbs in performing acts of obedience, and blocks the souls from hearing counsel. (Bihar al-Anwar)

Imam Ali said that overeating is the greatest aid to acts of disobedience, and that when the stomach is filled with even permissible food, the heart becomes blind to goodness. (Ghurar al-Hikam)

On the night of Mer’aj (the Prophet’s heavenly ascension), the Prophet asked, “O Allah, what is the outcome of hunger?” He said, “Wisdom, protection of the heart, drawing closer to Me, lasting sorrow, less burden on the people, telling the truth, and lack of concern whether one lives in wealth or poverty.” (Ibid)

General Recommended Acts

According to Imam Hasan (peace be upon him), every Muslim should keep 12 points in mind regarding food. Four are compulsory, four are recommended, and four pertain to general manners:

The compulsory

  1. To know one’s Giver
  2. To know that all we have is from God and be satisfied with the food He gives
  3. To say “Bismillah”
  4. To thank Allah

The recommended

  1. To wash one’s hands before eating
  2. To sit by keeping one’s weight to the left side
  3. To eat with at least three fingers
  4. To lick the fingers

The general manners

  1. To eat the food placed before one
  2. To take small morsels
  3. To chew the food
  4. Not to look at others’ faces while eating (Wasael al-Shi’aah)

Other Recommended Acts

  • To eat with the right hand whilst sitting on the knees.
  • To wash the hands before and after eating, and not to dry them with a towel. Numerous traditions state that if a person wants his house to be blessed, he should wash his hands before every meal. This also prevents poverty and body pains.
  • Having a little salt before and after each meal. This has countless benefits; it is narrated that the Holy Prophet asked Imam Ali to do this, for a man who takes salt before and after meals is saved from 70 types of curses, a major one being leprosy. Imam Baqir (peace be upon him) has also said regarding salt: “It is the cure for 70 diseases, if people would know the advantages of salt they would not use any other cure except salt.”

General Discouraged Acts

  • To eat while walking, except when forced, as per the tradition of Imam Sadiq
  • To take very hot food, but if one does, (s)he should not cool it by blowing on it; rather it should be allowed to cool itself.
  • To eat while lying or relaxing; however, there is no harm in resting on the left hand while eating.
  • To eat alone. It is recommended to eat with one’s servants and slaves, sitting on the ground.
  • To leave plates uncovered. Imam al-Sadiq said, “Do not leave your plates uncovered, for Satan spits on uncovered plates and takes from them what he wants.” (Mustadrak al-Wasail)

Supplications at the Time of Eating

According to the Holy Prophet, when food is served, thousands of angels descend from heaven and surround the food. For those who start their food with “Bismillah”, the angels pray to God to send His blessings on them, increase their daily bread, and order Shaitan to leave them alone, as he is the one who broke the law of God; thus, he cannot join them. After having eaten, for those who say “Alhamdulillah”, the angels say these people are the thanks-givers, as they have thanked God for the good food He has given them. If they do not say “Bismillah” while eating, they invite Shaitan to have food with them, and if they do not say “Alhamdulillah” after their meal, the angels remark these people are those who are not satisfied with what good food God has given them, for they have forgotten to thank God for the blessing; as such, they are cursed.

Imam Ali has said one should remember Almighty Allah whilst eating and should not talk too much, as the food is a blessing from Him, and when one consumes that blessing, it is time to praise and thank Him.

According to Imam Sadiq, “While drinking water, whoever remembers Imam Hussain and his family members, and invoke the removal of Allah’s Mercy from his murderers and tormentors, 100,000 good deeds will be written in his record, 100,000 sins will be forgiven, he will be elevated 100,000 times, and he will be rewarded to the extent as though he has freed 100,000 slaves in the name of God, and on the Day of Judgment Allah will look towards his welfare.”

He furthers says it is better for one to recite the following while drinking water: “May Allah shower His blessings on Hussain and his family members and his companions. May He remove his Mercy from the murderers of Hussain and his enemies.”

Unless otherwise referenced, narrations in this article are taken from Allama Majlisi’s book Tahdhib ul-Islam.

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Arsalan Rizvi

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26 Comments

  1. Mustafa
    August 03, 03:49
    Excellent Article! <br /><br />However one correction is needed. The salt that the Imams (A.S) talk about is not the conventional Table salt that we have today. That is human processed salt that is extremely harmful for the body. It is simple Sodium Chloride. The salt our ancestors used to consume including the Imams (A.S) would either be basic organic salt, or organic sea salt, or organic Himalayan Salt, that have massive benefits and are extremely healtthy . With these organic natural salts you dont have to worry about excess and blood pressure and hypertension like you would with convential man processed table salt. So keep this in mind. <br /><br />When they talk about healing 70 Curses/ Diseases , they are right, but they are not talking about the table salt we have today but about the natural organic salt made by God.
  2. Observer
    August 03, 04:54
    "To wash the hands before and after eating, and not to dry them with a towel."<br /><br />I have not come across where it says not to dry the hands with a towel. Can u please tell me the exact reference???<br /><br />thanks.
    • Re:Mustafa
      August 04, 10:15
      "Unless otherwise referenced, narrations in this article are taken from Allama Majlisi's book Tahdhib ul-Islam."
      • Observer
        August 04, 10:34
        Its a big book, can we get page numbers, sections, volume number etc etc???<br /><br />shukran
        • Assalam Alaikum<br /><br />Thank you for your comment. As has been previously stated, Islamic Insights has an unofficial policy of not including specific reference information besides the title of the book in articles. This is usually done to maintain the flow of the article, and also because most readers do not have access to these books anyway, so there is little purpose in including such detailed information.<br /><br />If you have questions regarding a particular narration, please send us an email at editor [at] islamicinsights dot com, and we will let you know the precise reference.<br /><br />Thanks again for your comment!<br /><br />Wassalam,<br /><br />The Islamic Insights Team
          • Observer
            August 04, 22:55
            Wa alaikum salam w/r w/b:<br />I was asking Farah Masood. If Farah Masood can't answer then there is something seriously wrong. Farah Masood wrote the article so Farah Masood should have the reference handy. Furthermore, its a simple question, why do I have to email u folks? Why cant u just state the refernce right here in the comments??? I know there is an 'un-official policy' not to include references in the article itself but I wasn't saying that :) I am asking for the reference here in the comments section for that particular claim "...Do not dry the hands with a towel..." Thats why im interested. <br /><br />Im sure Farah Masood can simply state the exact reference where she got it from.<br /><br />Shukran<br /><br />Wassalam w/r w/b:
          • Dot
            August 05, 10:09
            Observer, again, you are suggesting something is "wrong" with Islamic Insights. It's hard to think anything but that if you are really interested in finding the answer, there will be no need to put the publication under the harsh glare of your constant criticisms.<br /><br />Furthermore, you are suggested Sister Farah "can't" answer? Maybe she doesn't know you even wrote your note. It's not like the world revolves around you and should be ready to answer you just because you want that. Why don't you talk to an 'alim yourself and tell us what you find? If you don't believe in the importance of living ulema in comparison to first scholars, as you yourself indicated in previous posts, go look up the issue yourself.
          • zulfi
            August 06, 14:12
            [quote name="Observer"]Wa alaikum salam w/r w/b:<br />I was asking Farah Masood. If Farah Masood can't answer then there is something seriously wrong. Farah Masood wrote the article so Farah Masood should have the reference handy. Furthermore, its a simple question, why do I have to email u folks? Why cant u just state the refernce right here in the comments??? I know there is an 'un-official policy' not to include references in the article itself but I wasn't saying that :) I am asking for the reference here in the comments section for that particular claim "...Do not dry the hands with a towel..." Thats why im interested. <br /><br />Im sure Farah Masood can simply state the exact reference where she got it from.<br /><br />Shukran<br /><br />Wassalam w/r w/b:[/quote]<br /><br /><br />Here is the reference you wanted...http://www.islamic-laws.com/eatinghabbit.htm a good scientific explanation given as well about the high charge energy on wet hands......btw u wante dthe reference so badly ......reference ka achaar daloge kya....
          • Observer
            August 06, 17:44
            LOL, thats ur reference???<br /><br />A secondary source? A website? Even the website doesn't state the exact reference. It says "Washing hands before meals is yet another concept in Islam and many other religions. Further admonition is not to dry our hands and proceed to eat with wet hands. This concept is now clear because if we were to wash our hands and then dry them with a tissue/towel, we are likely to introduce low charge energy into the energy fields of our hand. This towel is normally used for many other purposes and by different people, or even tissue/towel that is clean but filled with faults from the surrounding air, or the universal energy. The unadulterated and pure info-energy of water would also be contaminated or at least altered with the infoenergy in the towel. Therefore, to eat with those hands may be unhealthy."<br /><br />Thats not a reference. Also, what is isnad of the hadith, are there majhool narrators, is it a dha'eef hadith? whats the grading? And more Important, where is the hadith itself!!!!<br /><br />Pehle souch, phir jawab douh bachiii<br />yai merdo ke bath hai, choti bachi ke nai<br />jaw enya sai, werne me Taliban ko phone kerlunga<br /><br />Hehehehehehe<br /><br />I speak urdu too.
          • salam
            August 06, 22:34
            salam salam This is the month of Ramadan. The source that someone generously and kindly provided you, without any obligation on his/her part, is sound, and there is no reason for you to be dissatisfied with it if your point were really to know if the action is truly Islamic in its origins. Rather than thank someone for doing you a favor, you continue to criticize. <br /><br />You are of sound mind and body to do your own research and do not need to keep bullying and belittling people to do it for you. Go look up the hadith yourself if you want it so badly. Nit-picking needs no place during this month or any other time. You behave as if you want to prove to people how smart/good you are that you can drop words about hadith and use various languages and by trying to associate yourself with people of reknown in your comments. These characteristics, if you possess them, have nothing to do with your true status. If you are what you are trying to present, you would look up the hadith yourself and perhaps share it if you found it worthwhile rather than hounding others. If you think you are some kind of teacher, you have taught nothing but bad manners in your comments here.<br /><br />You are a troll on II and should know that your behavior is unbecoming and rude and contrary to the example of Ahlulbayt (as). If you were somehow unaware, then be aware from now on. Salaam salaam.
        • Re: reference
          August 07, 13:55
          [quote name="Observer"]Its a big book, can we get page numbers, sections, volume number etc etc???<br /><br />shukran[/quote]<br /><br />Salam br/sis Observer. It's not a big book, quihttp://www.islamicinsights.com/religion/religion/how-do-we-eat.html#te short actually. Allamah Majlisi mentions it on page 31, and also quotes a hadith on page 32-- "[Imam Sadiq (as)] states that when one washes one's hands before the meals one should not dry it but keep it wet for the food is blessed as long as the hands are wet..."
  3. Mustafa
    August 05, 05:21
    Thnx Islamic Insights admin and Observer. I missed that . Indeed Allama Majlesi is a credible source. Great article and great advice! Thanks!
  4. Mustafa
    August 06, 06:25
    hehehehehe<br /><br />well for both comments above , someone gave me a dislike so its on minus one. I would be happy if the concerned person would tell me what he found wrong about my comments. Dialogue and Discussion are always encouraged.
  5. Observer
    August 06, 23:34
    Salam Salam<br /><br />Amazing , I use a few words akin to hadith science and it seems u think I am a genius :) <br /><br />I am really bewildered at how high u think of me. Thanks :)
  6. Observer
    August 06, 23:51
    Assalam all,<br /><br />U know what, this site isn't academic enough for me. This will be the last comment I post on this site. <br /><br />It is truly sad the lack of knowledge that our writers have except a few. For the most part, the articles here are opinion pieces and if u ask the writers what are the gradings of the hadith they use, they will look at u with a blank face.<br /><br />So here is my advice for all of u writers:<br />1) Learn Arabic<br />2) Learn Hadith Science<br />3) Crack open the following and read for yourself:<br /> - Al Kafi<br /> - Majma Al Bayan<br /> - Man Laa yadhurul faqih<br /> - Wasail al Shia<br /> - Tahdhib al-Ahkam<br /> - Al-Istibsar<br />4) Understand the concept of Rijaal and who are our major narrators, who is thiqa etc.<br />5) Now u can appreciate a book with gradings such as Mir'aat ul Uqool by Majlisi.<br /><br /><br />When the authors of this website have done the following program (~5 years duration) then they should come back and then start writing.<br /><br />Sunday school Madressah doesnt qualify u to write nothing. Also, we have a notoriously bad habit of pumping up reverts to levels that make them feel special. Just cause u reverted, doesnt mean we should bow down to u neither does it make u special. Just get in line like everybody else.Uneducated writers are causing more harm then good and u will be accountable on the Day of Judgement for misleading ppl.<br /><br />This is my amar bil Ma'roof to you.<br /><br />Ill come back in 6 years to see if there is any improvement to the quality of the writers.<br /><br />Of Course the above comments are not aimed at our esteemed Ulema who contribute to this website. There words are a shining guiding light and I have the ut most respect for them.<br /><br />Shukran<br /><br />Wassalamun alaykum w/r w/b:
    • RE:Observer
      August 07, 00:03
      WS,<br /><br />Thanks for all the recommendations. Here is a book you could try cracking open:<br /><br />Grade 1 Akhlaq
    • Lost_Principles
      August 07, 00:37
      When it comes to tact, the score goes like this:<br />Islamic Insights Writers: 1<br />Observer: 0<br /><br />When it comes to spelling:<br />Islamic Insights Writers:1<br />Observer: -10<br /><br />Good riddance.
    • Dot
      August 07, 09:40
      Whatever good points you have made have been lost between your insults and harsh attitude, and all you have succeeded in doing is making a mess with your fighting and leaving other people to clean up the hurt feelings and misunderstandings. <br /><br />If the prophet and his ahlulbait had taken such an attitude to leave because others werwe below them, then none of us would have been guided. Yet you go against their example. You also always ask other people for their reference but never give any yourself, like when you say people need to know arabic and know the work of certain classical scholars. What is YOUR proof for such a stance. Oh, sorry, you don't need one, that's just for everyone else.
    • Hadid-e-haq
      August 07, 10:20
      I pray to Allah to protect us from bad akhlaq....especially arrogance, as it's certainly akin to "ibleesiat"<br /><br />May He (SWT) grace us.
    • Ali_rizvi
      August 07, 17:51
      Salam brother.<br /><br />If you don't mind can we talk in private. I find you to be knowledgeable. I am from Pakistan too. irtiza.syedrizvi on gmail.com
  7. Observer
    August 07, 00:37
    Oh ya I wanted to add one more thing.<br /><br />Please, in the name of Shahr Ramadhan, if I have offended you, please forgive me. I wanted to only try and improve the quality of the site.<br /><br />Again, sorry if I have offended any of you. You don't have to worry about me anymore, I will no longer post comments.<br /><br /><br />Khudahafiz and Wassalam
    • real observerr
      August 07, 08:48
      [quote name="Observer"]Oh ya I wanted to add one more thing.<br /><br />Please, in the name of Shahr Ramadhan, if I have offended you, please forgive me. I wanted to only try and improve the quality of the site<br /><br />Again, sorry if I have offended any of you. You don't have to worry about me anymore, I will no longer post comments.<br /><br /><br />Khudahafiz and Wassalam[/quote]<br /><br /><br />Seems like you were not commenting to know the reference but commenting to make out a specific point ...or showing ur unhappiness upon something else .....look into urself and find out what is causing you to be so arrogant.....and then later apologising.....which makes no sense.....any problem.....read quran....or supplications if you dont mind taking advices<br /><br />The Hadith however does not make a difference to you...does it...either u want to show ur anger or u want to show ur esteemed knowledge....either of which is unethical...... time to reflect....and observe urself dudey....
  8. Dearest
    March 06, 04:58
    Salaam Alaikum,<br />I have a question in regards to this part of the article I have quoted below.<br /><br />"If this is too difficult, it is a good idea to eat only fruits between breakfast and dinner. "<br /><br />Are dried fruits and also vegetables, included??? Response would be much appreciated. Thank you.<br /><br />-Salaam Alaikum

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