Honor Guests

One’s etiquette in social situations is the key foundation to having strong relationships with others. This article is the twenty-second in a series taken from the On Demand Course: Discussion on Sulami’s Adab of Keeping Company.

If you invite someone to your house without an immediate appointment, then follow up with reminders, because they may have forgotten, and this could cause distance between you.

For example, if you encourage some cousins to come over, but do not set an appointment. Do not let arrogance come in, thinking, “I invited them, they did not bother coming.” That is having an ill opinion of the other party. 

If you give a general invitation, they may feel awkward: “They keep telling me, come over, but they do not set an appointment, they do not follow up. I do not know if they want me to come.” It can cause this sort of negative hesitancy in both parties. 

The Sunna is to actively follow up. But of course, without overdoing it and without burdening them. Be expressive about it, and show that you are keen for them to visit you. If you encourage people to come over but you did not set a time then follow up so that they do come. Be proactive in setting an appointment with them.

Just Say Salam

As for dropping by, if someone goes visit their parents, for example, and other friends are in the area, drop by. Ring the doorbell or say “I just wanted to come by and give salams.” Even at the door. That is a very neglected sunna. The idea that “I do not want to disturb them” is from other than the habits of the Muslims. 

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly said, “The best of food is what most hands eat from.” If people knew the harm of eating alone, nobody would eat alone if they could eat with another. 

Also, you do not mind if someone does not initially accept the invitation. If you are having a barbecue and you invited some friends over but someone could not come, just invite them again. 

Do not let this devil come if the other person is not responding. Do not let that be a cause of distance between you because they may be going through a difficult time, they may have certain health circumstances, some family circumstances or they may be attending to an elderly parent.

Invite People Home

“Whoever believes in Allah and the last day let them honor their guests.” Classically what would happen is that if you visited the house of someone noble, you would go and sit in their living room and they would make you wait. Part of the reason they would make you wait is to establish who is older, senior, worthy of respect, and those kinds of things.

That is from haughtiness and arrogance. This is not where someone is genuinely busy or they are finishing preparing the food. Even there, actively honor them. Do not stay away from them, because they feel kind of awkward, or “we showed up too early.”

Even invite them into the kitchen if you are still finishing up preparations. Give them your attention and be present with the guest. 

The gatherings of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) were such that he gave his complete attention to those present and he listened deeply to them. He listened deeply to them. Do not spend time as a host checking your phone and not giving your attention to the guest.

Eat Together

If you are at a meal, it is Sunna for people to sit together, to eat together. It is Sunna even if you have eaten, to partake in the meal, if you can, by eating. If you cannot, then at least take part of the conversation. 

There, too, there can be a sense of absence. Someone can be at the table yet absent because they are scrolling on the internet. These are times for connection. 

Any family should strive to eat as many of the meals as possible together. At the very least, have one meal a day that everyone eats together without fail.

One does not go to excess. Sometimes, the host is not able to give attention to the guests because they complicate the invitation. They make too many dishes or they do not plan it. 

Try to have the food ready in advance. Simplify, you do not have to make a lot of fancy dishes and so on. Make the guests feel comfortable.

The believer is keen to notice the good, particularly in people.