A guest (Muslim or non Muslim) enjoys a special place in Islam.
In Islam all actions performed daily can be raised to the status of worship simply by doing them to seek the pleasure of God. Having a guest is an opportunity to earn God’s pleasure by showing moral excellence in how we treat our guests. Before all else, believers must offer respect, love, peace, and cordiality to each guest. A welcome merely based on food offered, without showing any love, respect, or peace, would not be pleasing.
Prophet Muhammad treated his guests with utmost respect and generosity. He anticipated their needs offered them the most comfortable room, the choicest food, took interest in their conversation and gave them his full attention. In Islam hospitality is a right rather than a gift, and the duty to supply it is a duty to God.
There are several examples in the Quran about hospitality. One is about a Prophet’s companion, Abu Talha who welcomed a hungry traveler into his home even though they had very little to eat. He asked his wife to bring whatever they had and gave it to the guest. While the guest ate his meal, they pretended to eat in the dim candlelight. The following day Prophet Muhammad gave them the great news that God had revealed a verse about them and their generosity.
Prophet Mohammed also gave the example of Prophet Abraham, how he treated his guests, which displays an important feature of hospitality. The Qur’an portrays this incident in the following manner:
“Has the story reached you of the honored guests of Abraham? Behold, they entered his presence and said: “Peace!” He said: “Peace!” (and thought: “They seem unusual people.”) Then he turned quickly to his household, brought out a roasted fattened calf, and placed it before them. He said: “Will you not eat?” [Surat adh-Dhariyat: 24-27]
The above paragraph from the Quran is an example of how Prophet Abraham, entertained his visitors. He reciprocated their greeting, despite the fact that they were strangers to him. Furthermore, he quickly and discretely arranged for a meal without asking, if they would care for anything. The meal consisted of the best he could offer. Once the meal was ready, he placed it close to them and refrained from ordering them to eat; instead, subtly invited them to partake in the meal. There are similar stories in the bible on hospitality.
In Islam the guest too has responsibilities. One of them is to announce their visit in advance whenever possible and not to over stay or ask for anything which might cause hardship or be a burden on the host. Another is to hasten to taste the refreshments offered and to pray for and ask blessings upon the host.
In Islam the extension of hospitality and sharing of meals offer opportunities to embody remembrance of God. Sharing of food among Muslims is a very important feature of their social life.
Submitted by Sofia Yaqub, Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities