Hearts and homes

Many years ago, when I was still a young newly married couple without kids, (yeah, that was a long time ago), I remember sitting in a class where Shaykh Hamza Yusuf talked about a Hadith of the Prophet peace be upon him. If I remember correctly, this was spoken when the Prophet peace be upon him entered Madina. Abu Yusuf ‘Abdullah ibn Salam said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, ‘O people! make the greeting common practice, provide food, maintain ties of kinship and pray while people are asleep and you will enter the Garden in safety.'” [at-Tirmidhi] After the shaykh elaborated, I realized, the last thing is the hardest to do while the first is the easiest, maintaing ties requires a response from another, but the one thing that our Ummah is losing and we need to hold on to is the act of feeding people. These days I see this Hadith in clear light as I notice how few people open their hearts and homes to feed friends and family! Having just come out of a month of fasting when the act of feeding people is an even bigger Ibadah, it’s saddening to see even masajids charge money to feed the community iftars!

According to another Hadith, Abdullah ibn ‘Amr reported that a man said, “Messenger of Allah, which aspect of Islam is best?” He replied, “Feeding people and greeting those you know and those you do not know.” Feeding people has been seen by all cultures as a means of getting close to God, a means of gaining blessings and a means of warding off evil from their homes. Whether we look at the traditional Indian custom of hospitality, highlighted by the Ancient Sanskrit phrase “Athithi devo Bhava“, (guest is god) or the warm and welcoming Spanish saying, “Mi casa es su casa“, or the Biblical command in Romans 12:13 “Practice hospitality, I can’t help but wonder what has happened? Why are so many people afraid of hosting a gathering? Do we scare ourselves by thinking we need to host a medieval banquet if someone comes home? Can’t we have simplicity in our food and focus on getting our hearts together? Are we afraid of critical looks and comments by our guests? Are we afraid the food will not be enough or good? What is the main reason behind turning away from this sunnah and cultural norm? Some of us descend from regions and traditions of legendary hospitality, yet we lose it in less than a generation. When did feeding our families and guests go from being an Ibadah to being a chore?

Growing up, I remember my grandmother’s house front door was never locked or even closed during the day. With the arrival of the milkman in the morning, the door would be unlocked and a mere curtain drawn for privacy. It let every passerby know that he is welcome and every one who entered did not leave without being fed. In my parents’ home on the other end of the continent, every Friday after prayers, a big pot of biryani was served to all those single, alone or impoverished souls my dad could find at the local masjid. It was understood that feeding people brought barakah into our lives and serving people was never looked down upon. It saddened me to hear a friend mention how her efforts at khidma of the community were seen as a way to fulfill a deficiency in her life! How our ideologies have changed, SubhanAllah!

Another friend shared this story of their family’s travel in a third world country and the hospitality they experienced shook me to the core. While traveling between cities by road, their car overheated and they stopped to let it cool down. While waiting, they decided to take in the sights of a village. As they walked towards a tiny hut, the woman who lived in it, came running out to greet her guests and quickly brushed off dust from her dusty floor to make them comfortable. Despite their refusal to impose on her, her efforts continued. She ran outside her hut beaming with excitement only to return disappointed. “My duck has not laid an egg today, so how shall I feed you?” said her sorrowful voice. Before they could respond that they didn’t need to be fed, her face lit up as she rushed out of the hut, “Please wait a bit and I’ll cook the duck!” I think back to this incident and often wonder, is it easier to give when you don’t have much? What causes this genuine concern for strangers whereby you can let go of your only worldly possession, when we in a world of endless comfort and indulgence can’t seem to bring a “main dish” to a potluck dinner with friends?

As far back as history can take us, feeding people has been a divinely decreed responsibility. Perhaps today’s religiously devoid culture sees hostessing as a burden or perhaps our families have lost the meaning and intimacy of a family dinner altogether with the onset of fast food and tv dinners. I heard one woman proudly tell us that she only owns four plates, cups, spoons and forks in her kitchen for her family and refuses to get any more so her husband cannot expect her to entertain guests! Westerners have seen entertaining as an establishment of relationships, whereas in the East even strangers were welcome into homes. Today, we are moving towards a society which is trying to oust our own friends and family from the dinner table! Hospitality is moving away from the compassionate treatment of people into a money making industry which necessitates a degree to serve people and care for them. If you haven’t had someone over to share food with, in over a month, don’t wait any longer. Even if it’s just for a cup of tea and dates, invite a friend to share a drink, share a smile and share this sunnah. Let’s teach our children by living the Sunnah rather than necessitating a college classroom to educate them to have friends over.

I’ve heard from Imam Zaid Shakir that the best way to make your money grow is to give it away and the same is true with food! Isn’t the Hadith of the Prophet, peace be upon him, “The best food is that in which there are many hands?” Let us remember that the fear of not enough is from shaytan as Allah has promised each person his sustenance, so why should we not be eager to become the means by which our Lord feeds his slave?


1)Al-Adab al-Mufrad Al-Bukhari
by Imam Bukhari
Translated by: Ustadha Aisha Bewley

2)Riyad as-Salihin (The Meadows of the Righteous)
by Imam Nawawi
Translated by: Ustadha Aisha Bewley

3) Koenig, John. New Testament Hospitality. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985

About Soulful Studies

Home schooling consultant, home educator and mother of 4, blogger
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13 Responses to Hearts and homes

  1. Ladan says:

    MashaAllah, well said!

  2. Aishah says:

    Asalaamu Alaikum

    This is a great post but its not only people not inviting but the other way around . I invite people and they never accept my invitation. People are choosy about who they will eat with. Oh you are not from my country, from my ethnic group, from my social class…sorry you are not good enough to be visited. Been muslim for 20 yrs and pretty much given up on hospitality.

    • Salam alaykum Aishah,
      I’ve had that happen to me as well. It’s sad that people do not even know the sunnah of being a guest. I was always raised to never turn down an invitation unless there is a dire emergency. That was the way of the Prophet, peace be upon him, as well. I usually keep inviting people to my home, even though I know they may not accept the invitation, and some have finally come, out of sheer embarrassment of having turned down my offer so many times! Although some in my family may agree with you as they believe in the “three strikes and you are out” philosophy, I’d still like to think there’s hope- always.

  3. Areefa says:

    i agree with sister Aishah, its other way around.
    i always invite people and they never accept. people are very
    busy in their life’s and they like to meet and mix with people
    of their own groups. they don’t like a new person entering their group.
    2010 ramadan i invited 8 to 10 families and only one family showed up, i tried several other times to invite people and they always make excuses.
    this was very dissapointing to me and i completely lost interest in inviting people. looks more like they are doing a favour by accepting my invitation. may Allah swt guide me & all of us.

  4. Munira says:

    Salam Alaikum Shaheen,
    I love all your posts. Thanks for letting us know about new posts on bammoms and kinza yahoo groups. What should I do about social gatherings where women occupy themselves with mostly talk of the dunya: house, shopping, designer purses, sales, latest fashions back home… ?I have a social circle where women are mostly pre-occupied with these concerns only. And, btw, they are lovely women, who genuinely love each other as sisters, who will come through in time of need. So the spirit of kindness and sisterhood is there, but is mostly limited to each others’ previliged lives and the desire to help each other grow in faith is almost non-existent.

    • Salam alaykum Munira,
      SubhanAllah! We all know the situation you address here. The fact that you mention their beautiful hearts goes to show there is room for change, albeit slowly. It necessitates a change in priorities for your friends, but that can only happen with time, effort and Duas. It’s like Habib Umar Bin Hafidh (may Allah bless and preserve him) said, “Dawah is 90% dua and 10% effort).” Same is true with the Dawah of spirituality you need to do with your friends. Keep having them over and keep bringing up more soulful discussions, inshaAllah. May Allah grant us all sabr and tawfiq, Ameen

  5. This new movie and its accompanying activities really emphasizes the place of hospitality in every culture and society – it is a universal:

    Welcoming Gatherings

    Inspired by Welcoming America and the webisode below, Active Voice invites people nationwide to participate in our Welcoming Gatherings Campaign. By encouraging long-term residents to invite newcomers over for a meal and a conversation, or organize a simple potluck and break bread with their newest neighbors, we hope to inspire American-style hospitality and exchange.

  6. Ameeena Jandali says:

    That was really beautiful and so true. I think a lot of people are scared to open their homes these days for fear of not living up to standards that should not be there in the first place. 
    Everyone is also super busy and it does take time to entertain. But you are so right about its importance.

  7. waheed says:

    If we are doing things purely for the sake of Allah, then we must not reduce our expectations from people, stay consistent and avoid disappointment. If people consistently do not accept your invitation, it is time to look for new friends.

  8. Naseema says:

    What is mentioned about the selcetive acceptance of invitations is 100% correct. People like to accept invitations from people with similar habits and natures. Those who talk about glamour of life will not like to sit with simple people of Quran and Hadith. I have seen people never care for the feeding of others or the invitations of others as they see it a great waste of time and money. I have seen it always but we cannot have barakah in lives like this.

  9. Karima Umm Rami says:

    Hospitality is a changing aspect of our lives. The IMAX film on Arabia shown next to the 1001 Inventions in LA gives an outstanding description of hospitality starting from the nomadic desert people who still live practically the same life style as centuries past.
     I know this type of hospitality you speak of and that we are encouraged to  show exists in all cultures to some extent. And it has changed a lot because technology has changed the definition of community and the way we live. I notice that everyone in our community is giving and feeding  the travelers.  Usually these are family or close friends but they are welcomed and fed, alhamdulillah.
    Our homes are not near the masajid and so we often provide a lunch at least on Friday’s in our local masjid. And we ask for a donation. The masjid itself is not a person and is not maintained by the state and so it itself cannot provide unless its members give first. I think that they do a wonderful job of giving which provides at least a large safe meeting place which has bathrooms and is clean for guests to visit and that takes a lot of donations from the community right there.  It is up to the regulars who can afford it to invite those who cannot and pay for their lunch. People do do this a lot. 🙂
    I do not see a problem of charging for iftars. There are fire and safety regulations(I imagine the masajid must get special municipal permission for huge iftar dinners and overcapacity.)  We should know those in our community who cannot afford to pay and it is up to us to invite them and buy their tickets. This works out very well. Individuals can buy tickets and tell organizers to donate to those in need.
    It is hard to know who needs but in the collective experience of maintaining the masajid we have noticed that when we don’t charge a minimum($5.00) then people show up and take many pre boxed meals away.  Greed is not unknown. This also helps prevent waste.  SOOOOO many mothers take whole meals for their kids and then toss the leftovers.  So sad 😦

  10. Kareem Zayed says:

    One of the many casualties of the texting, Twitter, iPhone “like-whatever” zombie generation. On another note, one can also point out the disappearance of plain common courtesy (how many people smile and say “good morning” these days?), normal human interaction, and simple contentment, which are being replaced by narcissism, individualism, and the “me, myself & I” mindset.

    Part of the fault is the public school environment, which builds a generation of consumers that centers around getting what you want, however you want, nothing is ever enough no matter how much you have, and everything is about the immediate gratification and not building things that are everlasting. The other factor is in all those parenting books and magazines that focus on raising “go-getters” rather than givers and contributors and – with all their charts and “milestones -shifts the focus on competition, getting what you want, rather than inculcating genuine values of compassion, concern for others, selflessness, and sacrifice. Add to this the self-help juggernaut, which makes everybody focus inward (towards the self) and not outward. Even the very notion of “self-help” implies emphasis on self, which is the root of selfishness.

    The end result of all of these and many other factors should not come as a surprise. On the contrary, the entire Deen of Islam (and of many traditional cultures) is rooted in selflessness and sacrifice. The only way for things to change for the better is to raise a generation that is rooted in such values as selflessness, sacrifice, and being dutiful to others as an act of worship.

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