WHY DO WE EAT WITH OUR HANDS?

orange plate

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?

17 thoughts on “WHY DO WE EAT WITH OUR HANDS?

  1. S.a. can you show me one hadis about eating by hand is sunnet. You can not. Why don’t u travel with camel? Why r u driving car. Muhammed (s.a.v) was eating by hand. Probibly the other non muslim arabs were eating with the hand. I believe this is Arab culture. Noting to du Religion.

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    • asa Erric, In every thing you do you follow somebody’s sunnah (behavior) It just so happens that we as muslims believe Prophet Muhammad to be Insan e Kamil, the “complete/perfect” human being and if we follow his example it will lead to success. He also taught us to seek knowledge even if we have to go to China ( i.e. very far away) thus seeking knowledge had led us to the development of other faster ways of transportation than the camel, however in countries like Australia with large tracts of dry land only the camel was useful in transporting till recently so don’t make fun of the camel as a transport.
      As for eating with a fork and knife, who taught you that? whoever did it is his or her sunnah that you are following.
      Hope this helps.

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  2. What a load of nonsense! Firstly, there were NO knives and forks 1,400 years ago. Secondly, this is the 21st century, and in civilized societies eating with one’s hands at a formal table is NOT acceptable, nor is it good/polite etiquette. Thirdly, the general table manners of the ummah is appalling, to say the least! Even at “smart” weddings, for example, the tables look like there’s been a proverbial bun-fight after eating, with mess and spillage all over the beautible table-cloths and greasy hand deposits on the jugs and bottles on the tables. There certainly isn’t any “science” proving the benefits of eating by hand. That’s all old wives’ tales and untruths permeated by badly educated (in the broader sense) clerics. C’mon, brothers and sisters, start thinking for yourselves!

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    • ASA brother,
      When years of apartheid and colonialization has enslaved the mind, it is difficult to imagine another way of doing things other than what the white masters did, unless one frees the mind and heart (surah ballad says to Free the slave: free the enslaved mind.
      As for “formal table manners” whose manners?
      I have been to village weddings where people eat with their hands and there is no crap left anywhere after the dinner. As for a bun fight that is “israaf” of the unmah and negligence in reading and following the commands in surah baqara which tell us to eat the pure and halal food that Allah has provided and avoid waste, many of the Ummah follow the first part but not the second.
      There is emerging science in child development which demonstrates that the touch of feeding a child with your hands increases bonding and security in the child rather than thrusting cold steel in his or her mouth , there is also more on the neuronal response of the stomach to the touch and smell of food. Please update your science.
      May Allah reward you for your concern about the bad manners of the wedding guests and the waste of food, perhaps start with teaching your family surah Al baqara and the inshallah the rest will follow.
      Allah knows best!

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  3. I have no problem with eating with one’s hands, I think it can be sanitary, enjoyable, aesthetic, and utilitarian.

    I cannot argue with #’s 1 and 2 , they make sense.

    However, my complaint is about the fact that your list does not establish what it is said to establish, and 5 out of the 7 points are not advantages of eating with one’s hands, and 4 out of the 7 have nothing to do with etiquette.

    #3. You can sit in this position that aid’s digestion without eating with your hands, thus it is not a reason that supports it, nor an etiquette.

    #4. When the brain anticipates and intends on eating, those preparations are made without touching the food with your hands.

    #5. This is a fact about what this man did, it is neither an advantage nor an etiquette for eating with one’s hands. Prove that the left hand feeds the Shaytan.

    #6. Again, another fact about how this person ate that is neither an advantage nor an etiquette for eating with one’s hands.

    #7. A third fact about how this person ate and drank, it is a rule that does not provide any advantages to eating with one’s hands, though it does set up what can be considered etiquette depending on culture.

    Here are some advantages that I have come up with, I hope you enjoy them.

    1. Utensils can be clumsy and can cause spills and dropped food which can lead to stains. Your hands are much more reliable, and can provide greater safety for your food and tableware.

    2. Continuing your point from #1, your hands are easier to clean than utensils.

    3. You can save space in your home by having less things to store.

    4. There is more safety in the home without having many sharp knives for children (or adults) to injure themselves on while eating.

    5. Without utensils there are not loud clinking and cutting noises that can disrupt the peacefulness of the meal.

    Please understand that this is not a critique of you, it is merely a critique on the fact that the list you created does not establish what you claim it is for.

    Salaam

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    • firstly, “THIS MAN” u refer to happens to be our beloved Prophet (p.b.u.h) from whom you could learn quite a bit,.so a little respect would be appreciated. next time, be sure to direct your anger/ disagreement to the author and not to “THIS MAN”

      Referring to your #4, i would suggest removing all traces of imbecility from your home immediately, and that would certainly make your home a much safer place for your children.

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      • ASA Rouksana, I presume this response is to brother Asman? Beginning with salaam is always good and is mandated by the Quran and Sunnah that you advocate in your comment.

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  5. Actually yes, it happens a lot in western countries. I’m not a Muslim yet but I’m studying it, which honestly makes sense compared to other religions. When I’m ready, I’ll embrace Islam for sure.

    Speaking of the perceptions of westerners (which I am one), I totally disagree when they say it is dirty and ancient to eat with your hands. I mean it doesn’t make any sense for them to come up with that idea, in fact it backfires them.

    They say it’s dirty to eat with your hands. I always disagree with this. What makes it dirty is yourself, if you don’t have a good hygiene. If you’re so clean, why worry about eating with your hands, right? Commenting it’s dirty to eat with your hands just somewhat reflect the commentator is not clean, have a bad hygiene and dirty himself *shrugs*

    And what makes it so ironic is that, they use their hands to eat other certain stuffs like BBQ. So, it’s clean to eat BBQ with your hands, but it’s not clean to eat let say rice, with your hands? Doesn’t makes sense to me.

    Well of course, there is a time for everything. You can’t eat soup with your fingers. I’d just say, it’s not haram if you don’t to eat with your hands, so it’s not an obligation to do so. The more important thing is to behave yourself in eating, and make sure not to eat haram stuffs, right?

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  6. Shahina: Alhamdollillah!
    Anon: The study of Hadith is not that difficult, and there is loads of genuine authentic information about Hadith.
    Here is a prescription from the Quran:(SF Haeri)
    The Prophet(PBUH) reflects the divine perfection; he is gentle at heart, firm regarding truth, constant in conduct, just and fully accountable to Allah. He is modest courageous, wise and empowered by Allah, and can only act according to his Master’s will. This selfless being is illumined and illuminating.
    He is truly the ideal role model for a believer.

    Why would you not want to follow him?

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  7. It doesn’t matter what the Hadith says, follow the Quran and eat whatever way makes sense.

    If you want to follow Hadiths, then you must follow the bad ones too, not just the ones that suit you. But there are too many bad Hadiths to make it worth following.

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  8. Beautifully put. This explanation is good enough for me to eat with my hands. Alhamdulillah. May we all follow more of our Prophet’s SAW sunnah and may Allah accept it as ibadah and give us paradise. Ameen!!!

    JazakAllah Khair for taking the time to write this blog and educate me.

    Duas and love.

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  9. SubhanAllah! Thank you for sharing some beautiful sunnahs of RasoolAllah (PBUH) that you are following. Please share more as you adopt others.
    JazaaikAllah hu Khairan!

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  10. Yes I eat with hands. Even though my family was not overly keen on adopting sunnahs, eating with our hands was something that was taught to us during our childhood. Sometimes I do abandon this sunnah when I am at a restaurant or when I am having spaghetti or pasta. 😦
    I think people who eat with their hands are way cool.
    I try to incorporate the above mentioned sunnahs. Also when I sleep I sleep on right side, after reciting ayat-ul-kursi. I recite the dua’as before coming in and after coming out of the loo.
    I say bismilliahi when I when wear my clothes, right side first, when removing my outer garments, it’s left side first. I especially shower, and try to trim my nails and apply ittar( when I am within my home, I don’t want na-meharrams to be attracted by my fragrance) on Fridays.
    I can’t count all the sunahs I follow this means I need to elevate my level of taqwa by following more of Prophet’s(saw) sunnahs.
    Asalam o alaikum wa rahmatul lahi wa baraka tahu, blogger mom.

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  11. This post is dedicated to my dear friend S who by asking this question allowed me to reflect on it. It reminds me to earn hasanat and be in ibadah as many times as I eat, by following the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him.

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  12. ASAK this is very nice. I believe that whatever Allah SWT has said there is reason behind it that we don’t know. Our knowledge is limited. Jazaik allahukhairan
    salaam

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