Must We Always Follow the Sunna Etiquettes?
Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
Islam has taught us manners and etiquettes. Even while eating, there are sunnas we follow, such as licking your fingers after eating, licking the plate, or chewing the bones properly. These are some of the etiquettes I’ve heard of. It’s also sunna to eat with your right hand. But there are times and places when these sunnas may seem out of place.
For example, if I use my hands to eat in a restaurant where everyone uses utensils, I might be out of place there. The same could be said about licking the fingers or chewing the bones. In my culture, if I do these things in front of others, they will assume the worst of me.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.
The Legal Ruling
The Sunna etiquettes of customs, such as eating, drinking, dressing, etc… are recommended to follow. One is rewarded for doing them but not punished for leaving them. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
Knowing the above ruling is essential to be able to decide when and where one wants to implement them or not.
Many of the righteous may choose to eat with utensils, instead of with their hands, or at a table, instead of on the floor, for various reasons where they feel doing so is best in the circumstances.
On the other hand, many of the righteous, many of my teachers, and even some of the Companions chose to remain on the Prophetic Sunna despite the circumstances. Amongst these is Khalid bin Walid (Allah be pleased with you).
Ma’qil bin Yasar (Allah have mercy on him) narrated, saying, “While he (i.e., Khalid bin Walid) was taking his lunch, a morsel fell. He picked it up, cleaned it from anything harmful, and ate it. Some of the important people (amongst those present) made faces of disapproval. Someone said, ‘May Allah rectify the leader. These important people are clearly disapproving of your picking up the morsel while there is all this food before you.’ He replied, ‘I would never leave what I heard from the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) for these non-Arabs. We were commanded that if a morsel falls, to take it, clean it of any harmful things, and eat it; not to leave it for Shaytan.’” [Ibn Maja]
Regarding the Prophetic practices (sunan) of custom, the legal ruling is one of recommendation.
If one sees it more appropriate to leave such etiquettes due to other intentions that may seem to have precedence, this is permissible and may be equally rewarding based on those intentions.
If one still chooses to implement the Sunna action, and doing so does not entail harm to others, it is their prerogative to do so.
Outside of unique circumstances, we should all strive to implement every Sunna action of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace), even those of customs.
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch teaches Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York, where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences.
He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he studied for three years in Dar al-Mustafa under some of the most outstanding scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib.
In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Quran and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Quranic exegesis, Islamic history, and several texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.