Hadith · Kitab Al-Emaan · Knowing the Prophet · Saheeh Al-Bukhari

Hadeeth # 12: Feeding Others and Greeting those Known and Strangers

feeding others

Narrated ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr radhiAllahu ‘anhu:

A man asked the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, “Whose Islam is a good or what sort of deeds (or what qualities of) Islam are good?” The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam replied, “To feed (others) and to greet those whom you know and those whom you do not know.”

[Volume 1, Book 2, Number 12]

We all know that the foundation of Islam stands upon its five pillars: the Shahada, prayer, fasting, Zakah and Hajj. However, there are many other things required to maintain the building of Islam. Just like the buildings of this world require maintenance so does our faith. Likewise, just like our homes look beautiful only when we elegantly accessorize them so does one’s Islam require accessories to beautify its foundation. What are these? These are one’s conduct.

In the previous hadeeth, we learned who the best Muslim is and in this hadeeth we learn about the best actions in Islam. And they are:

1. Feeding People

Feeding people is a noble act. We find many ayaat in the Qur’an where we have been reminded to feed the poor. For example, in Surah Al-Fajr when man boosts about his honor and complains about his humiliation, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala reminds us of our duties toward other human beings. And one of the duties that He lists is feeding other people. Similarly in Surah Al-Balad, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala talks about man who says he has spend too much wealth. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala asks him in what path did he spend his wealth. Then He criticizes mans for not choosing the difficult but praiseworthy path. And among them one is, feeding others when there is starvation.

[Human Short-Sightedness]

If we look at our lives we spend too much on our own selves and give little to others. If we are careful with budgeting we can cook many dishes in limited money. Cooking many dishes does not mean satisfying our taste buds but rather it means feeding many mouths.

Notice that the hadeeth does not specify feeding the poor. It means that we can feed anyone, someone less in financial standing than us or of equal standing, and we can earn the rewards and praises of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Food is everyone’s need whether rich or poor, able or disable. This hadeeth teaches us that instead of making faces when guests arrive to our place or when a friend forgets her lunch at home we should thank Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for putting us in a situation where we can earn His rewards. We also learn that we are encouraged to host dinners and invite people to our house to share our meal with them. However, as sensibility advocates one should not exceed their limits i.e. not tire oneself so much that they are unable to pray or go beyond one’s budget and borrow money to host a feast. One should look at their circumstances as well.

[The Path to Moral Heights is Steep]

Why is this considered as one of the best actions in Islam?

It is because feeding others requires from us that we take out and sacrifice our time and other resources (money, energy, etc. ) in order to prepare the food/buy the food for others. Be it for one’s family, friends, or random strangers on the street. Not only does this gets counted as a charity but we are also helping others in getting nourished and energetic. When the need for food is fulfilled a person will stay away from haram (haram means of earning wealth, haram food, stealing, etc.). He will also be encouraged to go the Masjid and pray, read and study the Qur’an, work in Allah’s path and manage his worldly chores in a halal way.

[Combining Multiple Acts of Worship]

Women and Cooking

Some women dread cooking and for others it is a wastage of one’s time. Studying this hadeeth teaches us how much we overlook and underestimate this amazing deed!By merely purifying our intentions for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala our cooking can get us the reward of the best action in Islam. And that too every single day because we eat daily.

Food for thought:

The girls are told to learn cooking because they are going to get married. Mold this statement to: The girls should learn cooking because this will help them perform the best action in Islam. Is this not much more encouraging and rewarding?

[Making Use of One’s Time While Cooking in Ramadan]

2. Greeting those Known and Strangers

This means initiating salaam [Muslim greeting of peace] and/or responding to salaam whether you know the other person or not. This is a praiseworthy act because it teaches us that we should acknowledge other person’s presence. It also nurtures love and affection among the Muslims. So many times, unfortunately, we pretend other people do not exist. A Muslim should not live in isolation. Rather, he should take care of the people around him (whether Muslims or non-Muslims) and greet them whenever he sees them. He should not ignore people.

In the U.S. it is a norm to say hello to whoever crosses your path. It is common courtesy to ask after each other well-being and have a small talk whether you are at the grocery store or riding an elevator, you smile at and speak with people around you. Sadly, this is the teaching of our Deen which we have forgotten.

Despite being one of the best actions in Islam, the practice of salaam is significantly decreasing among the Muslims. People will look at you twice if they don’t know you and you have initiated salaam. They will doubt your intention and a storm of questions will hit their minds: Do I know this person? Is everything okay? Did I do something wrong?

Saying salaam is such a meritorious act in Islam that it is even required to be said to the inhabitants of the graves when passing by them. Then what about saying salaam to the living beings?

[The Sunnah of Meeting People]

Things to Do:
  • Make it a habit of greeting others. Earn double rewards by not stopping at assalaam o alaykum but say the complete salaam: Assalaam o alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh
  • Spreading salaam to all helps strengthen the bond of the believers and brings about peace and harmony and love among them
  • Helps to eliminate the feelings of anguish and jealousy
  • Last but not the least you get to revive a Sunnah and get countless rewards
[Adapted from the talks of Sister Taimiyyah Zubair]

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