How was the treatment of the prophet muhammad towards his guests? What is hospitality like in islam?
“Anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should entertain his guest generously” (Bukhari, Adab, 85)
Treating guests nicely is one of the moral principles of Islam. The Holy Qur’an speaks about Abraham’s treatment to his guests and gives him as an example for us in the following verse:
“Has the story reached you, of the honored guests of Abraham? When they came in unto him and said: Peace! He answered, Peace! And thought: Folk unknown to me. Then he turned quickly to his household and brought a fatted (roasted) calf; and placed it before them, He said, Will you not eat?” (al-Zariyat 51; 24-27)
According to a narration reported by Ibn Abbas (r. anhuma), Abraham’s guests were Gabriel, Israfil,* and the Angel Michael. (Qurtubi, XVII, 44) Abraham at first did not recognize that his guests, who came in the form of young men, were angels. He invited his guests in and with his wife Sarah’s help roasted a calf for them. In the verses that follow we learn that Abraham became suspicious when he saw that his guests had not been eating anything, and finally they let Abraham know their real identity.
Abraham’s behavior teaches us how to treat our guests. His response to his guests’ greetings, quietly preparing the best food in his house for them, and offering it to them are some of the principles which we can take as examples and apply in our own lives. Our Prophet (pbuh) who ordered:
“Anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should entertain his guest generously” (Bukhari, Adab, 85; Muslim, Iman, 74) and informed us that goodness and blessings would swiftly reach those who treat their guests nicely. (Ibn Majah, At’imah, 55) He warns those who abstain from hosting guests, even when they have the means, by saying:
“There is no goodness in those who do not want to host guests.” (Ibn Hanbal, IV, 155)
In a saying of the Prophet (pbuh) a guest’s supplication is stated among the prayers which will certainly be accepted. (Abu Dawud, Witr, 29; Tirmidhi, Daawat, 47)
It should not be forgotten that a prayer can be for or against another. In other words, a guest who is away from his home and whose heart is tender may pray for or against his host depending upon the treatment he receives. Therefore, one needs to please his guest and treat him nicely. Similarly, a guest should not be stingy and should say good prayers for his host for nice treatment.
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh), who encouraged his Companions to host guests through histraditions, became an example for them with his actions. Consequently, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) would spend some of his days hungry. (Ibn Sa’d, I, 409) On the other hand, when he had nothing to offer his guests, he would ask his Companions to host them.
It was narrated by Abu Huraira (r.a.):
“A man came to the Prophet (pbuh) and said:
“I am hungry.” The Prophet sent a messenger to his wives to bring something for the man to eat but they said:
“By the name of the One Who sent you as His Messenger, we have nothing except water.” Then Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) said:
“Who will take this (person) to host him as a guest?” A believer from Medina said,
“I will” So he took him to his home and said to his wife,
“Entertain the guest of Allah’s Apostle generously” She said,
“We have got nothing except the meals of my children.” He said,
“Prepare your meal, light your lamp and let your children sleep if they ask for supper.” So she prepared her meal, lighted her lamp and made her children sleep, and then stood up pretending to mend her lamp, but she extinguished it. Then both of them pretended to eat, but they really went to bed hungry. In the morning the Ansari went to Allah’s Apostle who said, “Tonight Allah the Almighty was pleased with your action.” (Bukhari, Manaqib al-Ansar, 10, Tafsir, 59/6; Muslim, Ashriba, 172)
Hosting guests and pleasing them especially during the times of scarcity requires elegance and courtesy. The hospitable Medinan husband and wife, who had just enough food for their children, extinguished their lamp and pretended to eat in order to give their guest the impression that they had enough food and so make him feel comfortable. They could have done the opposite and tell their guest the truth or at least make him aware of their situation. This would not only have made their guest very uncomfortable thinking that he was eating somebody else’s food, but more importantly, it would also have not pleased Allah the Almighty, but their sincere action gained His pleasure and the following verse was revealed about them:
“…but they give them [their Muslim brothers] preference over themselves, even though poverty was their (own lot)…” (al-Hashr 59; 9)
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) also presented us with some principles about being a guest. According to the narration of Huwailid b. Amr (r.a.) Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) told his Companions:
“Anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should serve his neighbor generously, and anybody who 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 Allah’s Apostle?” He said,
“(To be entertained generously) for a day and a night with high quality food and the guest has the right to be entertained for three days (with ordinary food) and if he stays longer, what he will be provided with will be regarded as Sadaqa (a charitable gift).” (Bukhari, Adab, 31, 85; Muslim, Luqata, 14)
“The reward” mentioned in this narration means to host a guest meticulously for one day and night and for the second and third day to offer him from the usual meals of the house and not to spend extra effort for hosting. If the guest stays longer than three days, he will not be considered as a guest and whatever is offered to him will be accepted by Allah the Almighty as charity by the host. Bidding the guest farewell at the door is also a Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh). (Ibn Majah, At’imah, 55)
Just as it is the host’s responsibility to show hospitality to his guest, it is the guest’s responsibility to accept what the host offers happily and to not despise it; because guests should be satisfied with what is given to them and should not wait to get what they expect.
If the host’s financial situation is not very good, the guest should try to keep his stay short in order to not put the host in a difficult position. In this regard, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said that:
“It is not permissible for a Muslim to stay with his brother until the guest makes the host sinful.”
The Companions said:
“O Messenger of Allah, how does he make him sinful?” The Holy Prophet said:
“He stays with him so long that he has nothing left to offer.” (Muslim, Luqata, 15, 16)
What we observe in both the Prophet’s sayings and practices is that hospitality and nice treatment of guests are very important moral principles. Because of this understanding, Muslims in Turkey call their guests “Tanrı Misafiri or the guest of God” due to their respect and devotion to the principles of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).
* The angel of death who will blow the last trumpet.
 In his book “Eski Türk Seciye ve Ahlâkı” İsmail Hâmi Danişmend presents the following quote about the Ottoman manner of hosting guests and travellers from the travel book of the famous French voyager Du Loir:
“Finally let me summarize the principle characteristics of the Turkish customs and traditions:
Their goodness and generosity embraces not only humans but also animals.
There are guest houses called “imarat” all around the Ottoman land. In these places, regardless of religious belief, those who are in need are helped in accordance with the conditions of the endower. All travelers can stay at an imarat for three days and they are offered a plate of rice for every meal during their stay.
In cities there are also public buildings on the side of the roads, called Caravanserai, whose doors are open to everybody.
Some Turkish people build fountains on the roads for thirsty travellers. In cities some others found buildings for free water distribution called sebilhane for the pass-byers. In these buildings there are employees responsible for the distribution of water.
Affluent members of the society visit the jailhouses and help those who are there with unpaid debts. People quietly and sensitively help those who are in need but could not openly express their needs due to their modesty.”