Manners of Accepting Invitations

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What are the manners of accepting invitations? What are the conditions of accepting an invitations in islam?

“If any one of you is invited, he should accept (the invitation). In case he is fasting, he should pray (in order to bless the inmates of the house), and if he is not fasting he should eat.” (Muslim, Nikah, 106)

Islam declares that believers are brothers (al-Hujurat 49; 10) and attaches importance to the means of strengthening the ties amongst them. One of these means is to accept each other’s invitations. Because Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) counted it as one of the rights of Muslims:

“The rights of a Muslim over his fellow Muslim are five: returning greetings, visiting the sick, attending funerals, accepting invitations, and praying for him saying ‘Yarhamuka-l-lah’ (may Allah have mercy on you) when he sneezes.” (Ibn Majah, Janaiz, 1)

In another tradition, he commanded that “When any one of you is invited to a place, he should attend it.” (Muslim, Nikah, 99) and he also showed this in his actions by accepting invitations.

It was narrated by Itban b. Malik, who was one of the Companions of the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) and who participated in the (Battle of) Badr and was among the Ansar (of Medina), that he came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and said:

“O Messenger of Allah, I have lost my eyesight and I lead my people in prayer. When there is a downpour there is then a current (of water) in the valley that stands between me and them and I find it impossible to go to their mosque and lead them in prayer. O Messenger of Allah, I earnestly beg of you that you should come and observe prayer in my house so that I should then use it as a place of worship. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

“Well, if Allah so wills. I would soon do so.” Itban said:

“On the following day when the day dawned, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) came along with Abu Bakr at-Siddiq, and the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) asked permission (to get into the house). I gave him the permission, and he did not sit after entering the house. When he said:

“At what place in your house you desire me to say prayer?” I pointed to a corner in the house. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) stood at that place for prayer and pronounced ‘Allah-u-Akbar’ (Allah is the Greatest) (as an expression for the commencement of prayer). We too stood behind him, and he performed a two-rak’ah prayer and then pronounced salutation (marking the end of the prayer). We invited him (the Holy Prophet) for a meal that we had prepared for him. The people of the neighboring houses came and thus there was a good gathering in our house.” (Muslim, Masajid, 263; Bukhari, Salat, 45-46)

In the tradition mentioned above, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) accepted the invitation of his companions and went to Itban’s house on the very next day after the sun rose high. After the prayer companions offered Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) a dish called Khazira, which is made from thinly sliced meat and flour, and he accepted the host’s offer and ate from it.

Another incident which shows that the Prophet accepted invitations occurred while digging the trenches in the Battle of Trench. When Jabir (r.a.) witnessed that Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was suffering from extreme hunger, he thought about what he could do. He then went to his home. He narrated the rest of the incident as follows:

“I said to my wife,

“I saw the Prophet in a state that I cannot treat lightly. Have you got something for him to eat?” She replied,

“I have barley and a she goat.” So I slaughtered the she-kid and she grounded the barley; then we put the meat in a pot. Then I came to the Prophet when the dough had become soft and fermented and the meat in the pot over the stone trivet had nearly been well-cooked, and said,

“I have got a little food prepared, so come with me, O Allah’s Apostle, you and one or two men along with you (for the food).” The Prophet asked,

“How much is that food?” I told him about it. He said,

“It is abundant and good. Tell your wife not to remove the pot from the fire and not to take out the bread from the oven till I reach there.” Then he said to all his companions,

“Get up.” So the Muhajirn (i.e. Emigrants) and the Ansar (Helpers) got up. When I came to my wife, I said,

“Allah’s Mercy be upon you! The Prophet came along with the Muhajirin and the Ansar and those who were present with them.” She said,

“Did the Prophet ask you (how much food you had)?” I replied,

“Yes.” Then the Prophet said,

“Enter and do not throng.” The Prophet started cutting the bread into pieces and put the cooked meat over it. He covered the earthenware pot and the oven whenever he took something out of them. He would give the food to his companions and take the meat out of the pot. He went on cutting the bread and scooping the meat for his companions till they all ate their fill, and even then, some food remained. Then the Prophet said to my wife,

“Eat and present to others as the people are struck with hunger.” (Bukhari, Maghazi, 29; Waqidi, II, 452)

In this invitation which Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) attended, a miracle occurred and a thousand people and even some neighbors satisfied their hunger with food that was actually just enough for a few people.

Another example of the Prophet’s (pbuh) attendance to invitations is as follows: Anas b. Malik (r.a.) reported:

“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) led us in the afternoon prayer. When he completed it, a person from Bani Salama came to him and said:

“O Messenger of Allah, we intend to slaughter our camel and we are desirous that you should also be present there on this occasion. He (the Holy Prophet) accepted our invitation. The man went and we also went along with him and we found that the camel had not been slaughtered yet. Then it was slaughtered, and it was cut into pieces and then some of those were cooked, and then we ate them before the sunset.” (Muslim, Masajid, 196)

Our Prophet (pbuh), whose modesty and morality is proverbial, accepted the invitations of the poor and the slaves. Anas bin Malik narrated,

“My grandmother Mulaika invited Allah’s Apostle for a meal which she herself had prepared. He ate from it and said,

“Get up! I will lead you in the prayer.” Anas added,

“I took my hasir (straw mat), washed it with water as it had become dark because of long use and Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) stood on it. The orphan[1] and I stood behind the Prophet (pbuh) and the old lady (Mulaika) stood behind us. Allah’s Apostle led us in the prayer and offered two- rak’ah and then left.” (Bukhari, Salat, 20)

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) would sometimes say that:

“I shall accept the invitation even if I were invited to a meal of a sheep’s trotter, and I shall accept the gift even if it were an arm or a trotter of a sheep.” (Bukhari, Hiba, 2)

With these words Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) attracts attention to the significance of accepting invitations which establishes and maintains strong relations among the believers. The most valuable deed in this temporary world and the most acceptable one in the presence of Allah the Almighty are those which promote good human relations and pay attention to such actions that strengthen friendships.

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) advised Muslim women not to look down at the things offered to them by their neighbors; for a believer should be a modest person, and he/she should accept invitations without knowing what the offer will be. He/she knows that arrogance and despising others are characteristics against Islam and avoids them.

Accepting invitations and attending them occupy an important place in improving social relations and in socializing with other people. The attendance of wealthy, knowledgeable, and high ranked people to the invitations from poor people helps them to defeat their inner selves and earn Allah’s pleasure.

1. Accepting the Invitations to Wedding Ceremonies

Allah’s Messenger attached special importance to accepting invitations to wedding feast called walima and said that,

“If anyone of you is invited to a wedding banquet, he must go to it (accept the invitation).” (Bukhari, Nikah, 71)

“If any one of you is invited to a wedding banquet, he should accept (the invitation). If he is fasting, he should pray for the owner of the banquet, and if he is not fasting he should eat.” (Muslim, Nikah, 106)

The Messenger of Allah, who advised accepting invitations to wedding ceremonies, stated that one who refuses an invitation to a banquet without an excuse “disobeys Allah and His Apostle.” (Bukhari, Nikah, 72) Abdullah b. Umar (r. anhuma), who knew the Prophet’s sensibility in this regard, used to accept the invitation whether to a wedding banquet or to any other party, even when he was fasting. (Bukhari, Nikah, 74)

Imams of the four schools of Islamic law all agreed that accepting an invitation to a wedding banquet is obligatory. Other types of invitations are not obligatory like wedding invitations. This is why one should accept the invitations even if he/she is fasting. If it is an obligatory fasting, then he/she does not break it and just prays for the host. The decision of breaking or not a supererogatory fasting is completely up to him/her.

There is some wisdom behind giving so much importance to accepting the invitations to wedding banquets. Weddings are among the happiest times for people and they constitute the best moments for strengthening social relations. In such times people want to see their friends and family beside them. Besides the object of having a banquet is to let people know about the marriage. Announcing the marriage is the most essential part of it. The greater the number of the attendees is the more this object will be achieved.

Not to go to parties without an invitation or not to bring uninvited partners are also considered as among the manners of accepting invitations. In this context, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that, “He who enters without an invitation enters as a thief and goes out as a raider.” (Abu Dawud, At’imah, 1) If one has to take someone that originally was not invited to an event with him, then he/she should first ask the host for permission. The following incident is an exemplary one in this matter:

An Ansari man, called Abu Shu’aib, visited the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). When he saw that the Prophet’s face was pale, he figured that he had not eaten anything for some time. Shu’aib (r.a.) came and told his butcher son,

“Prepare meals sufficient for five persons, for I want to invite the Prophet along with four other persons as I saw signs of hunger on his face.” Abu Shu’aib invited them and another person came along with them. The Prophet said to Abu Shu’aib,

“This man followed us, so if you allow him, he will join us, and if you want him to return, he will go back.” Abu Shu’aib said, “No, I have allowed him.” (Bukhari, Buyu’, 21)

In the tradition expressed above, the Prophet’s (pbuh) explanation to the host is an example which shows what one can do in such a situation with invited guests but also with uninvited ones. This tradition also shows us how the host and the invited guests should deal with such situations.

2. Invitations which need to be accepted

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) would accept the lawful invitations; but if there was going to be something against the approval of Allah at the invited place, he would not accept it. Anas b. Malik (r.a.) stated that the Prophet (pbuh) would not eat food at the tables of arrogant people, where luxurious utensils were used. (Bukhari, At’imah, 8)

The Prophet (pbuh) never joined the tables of arrogant and despot people, who saw their tables as a means of showing their superiority over others. Such people have always been the representatives of waste, luxury, vanity, and impertinence. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) especially stayed away from imitating such people and non-believers and commanded his followers to do the same.

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) aimed to eliminate the gap between the poor and the wealthy and tried to provide equal opportunities to everybody in the society as much as possible. He regarded the means to achieve this goal very important and disapproved everything which might obstruct its achievement. One of such things is to invite the wealthy but not the poor to the feasts. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) expressed his disapproval in this regard as follows:

“The worst food is that of a wedding banquet to which only the rich are invited while the poor are not invited.” (Bukhari, Nikah, 72)           

In short, accepting invitations is a very important prophetic custom and a social act of worship. Believers must pay attention to it just like all the other manners. However it is not permitted in Islam to accept invitations and attend to events which are organized against the orders of Allah and His Messenger (pbuh); because a believer’s object in every deed he/she performs is to attain Allah’s consent. He/she should stay away from everything contrary to this object.

[1] The person mentioned as orphan in the tradition was Husain b. Abdullah’s grandfather Dumaira.

Source: An Excellent Exemplar, Osman Nuri Topbaş,  Erkam Publications

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