I am at a Muslim Wedding Reception in South Africa. The diamonds in the room would put Tiffanys of New York to shame. The dresses range from western styles (the bride) to the abayas and hijab, worn beautifully and elegantly.
Dinner is served. There is a large dish of Biryani which turns out to be one of the most delicious Biryani I have ever eaten. I look around for a fork or a spoon and there is none in sight. Surely it could not have been overlooked in this elaborately planned and elegantly executed wedding reception? Nevertheless, as I wait for someone to bring the missing utensils, it does not happen.
In a few moments one of the women at my table who has been introduced to me as an elected official in the Parliament, elegantly shod and in her south sea pearls and diamonds, serves the Biryani in her plate and begins to eat with her hands……………
I watch with fascination at the beauty and simplicity of eating with ones hands. Here in the muslim heart of South Africa, the Sunnah of the Prophet has survived the diamond rush, the apartheid and the invasion of the western fashions.
Returning to the question as to why do we eat with our hands?
Here is what I understand from what I have read in different sources:
Rasool Allah (PBUH) ate with his hands. Why he did do so, we know some reasons now and some will be discovered later as we become more advanced in science and sociology:
Advantages and Etiquette of eating with your hands:
1. If you have washed your hands before you eat you know that the utensil that goes in your mouth is clean.
2. Using three fingers to make a bite (sunnah) limits the amount of food in your mouth at the same time being aesthetically pleasing to the other diners and you end up eating less, and more slowly. These are all good things for the body.
3. He (PBUH) sat in a manner while eating that allowed less food to go into the stomach and give a feeling of fullness early in the food intake, thus preventing overeating
4. Recent research shows that when food touches the hands with the intention of eating, certain signals from the brain release digestive hormones that prepare the body to anticipate, receive, absorb and use the incoming food as needed.
5. He (PBUH) ate with his right hand (He said: the left hand feeds the shaytan)
6. He ate from what was in front of him, from the edge of the plate, not from the middle.
7. He (PBUH) passed the drink or dates to his right and to the eldest first; unless they were sitting on his left then he took permission of the child on his right to pass it to the elder first.
In the final analysis for me it is enough that I am eating with my hands with the intention to follow the Sunnah, (sometimes I forget and return to the western ways) others don’t have to if they don’t want to.
The finest aspect of this act is that if I eat with my hands because I am following the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings upon him, it becomes an ibadah.
Thus every time I begin my meal with Bismillah, eat with my hands and finish with Shukr Alhamdollillah, the act of eating which is other wise a mundane act of necessity becomes an ibadah.
Prophet Muhammad PBUH did things for a reason, he lived his life the way he did for a reason, Allah Subhanawataala guided him to live in a certain manner and behave in a certain manner, (Allah Subhanawataala says in Surah AL Imran and I paraphrase it: He (PBUH) does what We (SWT) tell him to do, so follow him(PBUH) and obey him)
I feel sometimes I may not know all the reasons right now due to my limited intellect and my inability to research everything before doing it.
Thus for me it sort of boils down to two choices: I can follow the way of life that corporate advertisers have chosen for me based on the product they want to sell, or I can follow the way of life chosen by Allah for us.
It is Allah SWT’s promise in the Quran that whatever He (SWT) has chosen for us is for our good and whatever He SWT has forbidden is harmful for us as human beings.
I believe in His (SWT) promise. Do you?
Do you eat with your hands?
What sunnahs do you follow?
What do you think of people who eat with your hands?