Hospitality is a key Islamic value that was taught by the noble Prophet, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Entertaining a guest hospitably is a way of showing love, kindness, and respect toward him or her. Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said,
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should serve his guest generously by giving him his reward.” It was asked. “What is his reward, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “The guest’s reward is to be provided with a superior type of food for a night and a day, and a guest is to be entertained with food for three days; whatever is offered beyond that is regarded as a charitable gift. And it is not lawful for a guest to stay with his host for such a long period so as to put him in a critical position.” (Al-Bukhari)
Hence, hospitality should not be abused by the person receiving it. It is improper for a guest to behave in such a way as to become a burden on the one entertaining him or her. Such a matter should rather lie within reasonable limits for the two parties. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) reportedly said, “If you come to people who order for you what is fitting for a guest, accept it; but if they do not, take the right of the guest from them” (Al-Bukhari). It is also reported by At-Tirmidhi that a Companion asked the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), “O Messenger of Allah! If I visit a man, and he does not entertain me or show hospitality, and later this man visits me, should I entertain him or treat him in the way he treated me?” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “Entertain him.”
The noble Prophet also emphasized the idea of sharing with one another. People should eat together as there is more blessing in eating together than in eating separately, as indicated in a hadith reported by lbn Majah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is also reported to have said, “Good comes more quickly to the house in which food is provided [to the guests] than the knife comes to the camels’ hump” (Ibn Majah). In another hadith, he reportedly said, “When anyone of you is invited to a meal, he should accept it. If he wishes, he may eat; and if he wishes, he may leave the food alone” (Muslim). We are told in another hadith reported by Al-Bukhari that “The worst food is that of a wedding banquet to which only the rich are invited, while the poor are not invited. And he who refuses an invitation (to a banquet) disobeys Allah and His Messenger.”
Hospitable and Considerate
A man prepared some food, especially for the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and he also invited four other persons with him. However, an extra person who had not been invited also joined them. On arriving at the door of the host’s house, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to the host, “This man has accompanied us. If you like, he will join us; otherwise, he will go back.” The host replied, “O Messenger of Allah, I invite him” (Al-Bukhari).
This situation clearly shows how the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) respected each and everybody. He loved everyone regardless of his or her origin, class, or gender. If he were to behave like today’s leaders, he would have simply told the uninvited man to return, because they were going for “a special invitation.” He, however, decided to take him along with him.
Again, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did not behave like a king or monarch, imposing on the host to look for something additional for this man. Rather, he knew how embarrassing it could be to invite three people and four of them show up. So, in a most polite way, he told the host that if this situation would embarrass him, this man would have no other choice but to return. It was then that the host said he was willing to accommodate the man. Here again we see Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) behaving like a real human being who feels and cares for others.
Indeed, the hospitality of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) knew no boundaries. His house was often full of people, who were always treated generously. The Prophet did not discriminate between those who came to his house for hospitality. He would even serve them personally. In a hadith, we are taught by the noble Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that “He who serves drinks should himself be the last person to drink” (At-Tirmidhi).
As Muslims, we are commanded in the Noble Qur’an to give and be hospitable. Almighty Allah says:
(So fear Allah as much as you can; listen and obey and spend in charity for the benefit of your own soul; and whoever is saved from the covetousness of his own soul, such are the successful.) (At-Taghabun 64:16)
And He also says:
(O you who believe! Give of the good things which you have [honorably] earned, and of the fruits of the earth which we have produced for you…And whatever you spend in charity or devotion, be sure Allah knows it all.) (Al-Baqarah 2:267–270)
Heeding the commands of our Almighty Lord, we should assume an attitude of generosity and hospitality. And we should follow in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), who was indeed an embodiment of love, hospitality, and mercy toward all those around him.
By Dr. Ali Zohery